Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm in

I'm fishless so far this year. It's a combination of two solid skunkings and the fact that two is the sum total of all trips to the river. I'm way behind on my time on the water but life and weather have conspired as they normally do. All is not lost on the war against the drone of work. I did manage to slide in a weekend trip away with Ann and the President's Day long weekend provided an opportunity to stoke the hearth and sit with my toes warming. But that said, I'm still fishless so far this year.

I think Jonny is feeling the same even though I know he found stocked trout last week. Fortunately he is brilliant enough to actually take some initiative and plant a seed.

Yes, he got the dates wrong, but I knew what he meant.
His email caught me on a particularly trying day and went into the file "Too crazy to even think about this now!", but that seed struck fertile soil.

Stress has an insidious way of denying you all pleasures including a sound night's sleep and so I found myself awake late on Monday or early on Tuesday depending on what side of midnight you found me. Pacing about sipping scotch I could not solve any of the myriad problems that denied me sleep, save one. With a simple email I could at least put to bed the wrangling over chasing Steel.

I am not a Steelheader. I know you just read that and thought "Poor chap, he's in denial".

No, really, I'm not a Steelheader.

Do I like the tug of large fish on the line, you bet. But I'm not constantly and obsessively thinking about nickel-bright slabs of rainbow trout shimmering as they cruise the flows upstream from Ontario.

Honestly, I'm not.

Maybe just a little.

But only interlaced with the thoughts of wild browns finning under the ice of a local stream. There's an obsession for ya.

I'm not a Steelheader but I do enjoy the trip. Pulaski, New York is about as strange a place as you can travel to without getting on a plane. It's always a cultural adventure and they do have Steelhead. And while I'm not there for the Steelhead per se, I do very much enjoy the Steelhead gear. How often to you get to tie swivels on leaders or buy split shot by the gross? As a trout fisherman, never.

So, I'm going to Pulaski. I'll drink some coffee (we'll bring our own). I'll sip scotch. Smoke a few cigars. Jon and I will share inside jokes (such as they are). We'll drift heavy nymphs in deep pools and wait for a tug, a tug that dispels stress, baptizes us against the evil swirl of the workaday world and gives a squirt of adrenaline like only hurtling Steel can do.

One last go before the end.

I'm in.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The National Map

The USGS has some invaluable tools for anglers. The streamflow gauges are something that I use to divine what the flows will be like on upcoming trips. And I've long downloaded topo maps to scope out blue lines, especially when I'm going to new locations.

The USGS maps division has now digitized a lot of it's content and now that's available via the National Map Viewer. Think of it as the Google Maps of all the USGS Map stuff. Not quite a slick and fast as Google Maps but it's a whole lot more detailed and has tons of information.

The full map

A topo map overlay. None of those rivers hold fish

You can zoom in to "normal" topo map scale

Also, don't miss the historic maps collection.

1930 Map of Long Pond
None of those streams hold fish either.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quick Sips: Blog Posts of Note

As I sat drinking coffee this morning I had the pleasure to read a few blog posts below that I thought were quite excellent. I hope you enjoy then a much as I did  

From The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond, an action-adventure tale.

From River Mud, a tale of a journey home

Brandon hates losing fish.


Blogger, Ugh!

This blog is hosted on the Blogger platform. Blogger has been okay as far as a tool to work with but I'm getting ready to jump ship to Wordpress. There are two reasons:
  1. Try to comment on a Blogger blog using any sort of iDevice (esp. the iPad) or some of the Android tablets and you'll find that it's buggy as hell. I'm sure I lose comments on this blog due to that crap.
  2. The new Blogger Captcha is unreadable to humans. The whole point of the Captcha is to be readable by humans!
I'm turning off the Captcha for now. Hopefully the spam will stay at bay.

Anyone have experience or similar problems with Wordpress?


New Impressions

During the past month or so, Georg Miciu seems to be everywhere. In a couple of recent fly fishing magazines, Gray's fly fishing issue and American Angler, for example, you've seen his work illustrating several pieces. 

An Austrian who has lived most of his life in Argentina, Georg studies the landscapes that are familiar to his region. Family, ranching and, of course, angling feature prominently in his work. Stylistically it's impressionistic and the technique of using a knife or spatula when painting is a stunning effect. The canvases are thick with the image.

Georg Miciu, Pilo Lil

Georg Miciu, Boris

Equally impressive (perhaps more so, just don't tell his father) is his son's work. Emaus Miciu has followed in his father's footsteps. They seem cut from the same cloth both stylistically as well as subject matter. I understand there's another son who is a photographer. Quite the artistic clan.

Emaus Miciu, Got One

New Literature

Along the journey of researching this article,  I also stumbled across a new (to me) online magazine, The Contemporary Sportsman. Worth a read though for your iDevice users it seems it's flash based so you'll have to go dig up your computers.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Steelhead in the State of Jefferson

I haven't been fully bitten by the Steelhead thing but had my path turned down this road a quarter century ago I could clearly envision how my life would have been consumed by standing in swift water swing flies on long rods waiting for the tug that seldom came.

A stunning video about one man's experience (via Gary W.)

One in Winter from ryan peterson on Vimeo.

For those of you unfamiliar with the State of Jefferson, you can find out more about this crackpot We the People interesting idea on the Jefferson State website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A New Fly Shop

I went to the pharmacy on the way home from work yesterday to fill a scrip. While wandering the aisles waiting I noticed that I could also stock up on Wooley Bugger and soft hackle supplies. Of course, the convenience of a nearby source comes with a high price, but when you're in a bind one doesn't always have a choice. 

They even have classic Salmon fly colors


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

One Trout

Saturday morning began with a drive north in the snow. When Sam and I pulled out of the driveway I could have taken a few shortcuts over hill and dale to get to the river quickly but instead stuck to the better traveled and better salted avenues. A prudent precaution given our previous experience but at the end of the day the snow just wasn't; the storm threatened more than it was capable of delivering.

The snow has generally been elsewhere this winter though I know not where. It's certainly not been in the mountains of California though it recently made an appearance in Colorado. Saturday morning it took a passing shot at the northeast but the hand wringing of weathermen was warrantless. There was enough white stuff on the road to make one worry about black ice and hitting the turns too fast but the drive was otherwise eventless.

I enjoy fishing with Dan Harrison and his brother Tom. They're guides who have mastered the art of telling you to correct your drift without making you feel like you're doing something wrong. They row a boat in all conditions without complaint. They also find fish.

Dan's been taunting me with photos of large trout during the past week or so. There's this one river up north that fishes well during the colder months. I fished with him last year and managed my largest Brown to date, something beyond twenty inches as I recall. Well worth the discomfort of mid-winter fishing.

I'd been looking forward to this trip for the past few days. Even though the weather threatened to make it miserable it was one of those trips that would only be postponed by something catastrophic. January was the first month I had not fished in quite some time, perhaps it's been years. While the demarcation of calendar months might be a false metric for the tempo of some things it's a significant measure of time for most things and its passing fishless was noted.

The day was cold as promised by the calendar but the wind was mild in the morning and we fished in relative comfort. Tom had come along with Dan and so both Sam and I got our own boats. While we both appreciated being up front I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to fish with Sam directly. This was especially poignant when about an hour into the trip Tom and I heard a "whoop" downstream.

As we rounded the bend we saw that Dan had the net in the water and gave us a wave to come over; clearly the signal for a good fish. We were not disappointed. I don't recall the measure but this was a fat, football of a fish that pushed twenty inches. Sam was pretty pleased with himself as was I.

It's hard to smile when your lips are frozen.
This turned out to be a carbon copy of the trip from last winter. A large fish early followed by slow fishing through lunch and into the early afternoon.

Sam had another nice fish on an hour or so later though it came unpinned after a couple of minutes. I had two on that I can recall - saw a flash of one before popping the hook and the other came unhooked after charging the boat.

That seems to be common behavior in water that's in the mid-to-low thirties. As an angler it seems like the fish is charging the boat but in all likelihood we're probably just dragging the lethargic trout towards us until he wakes up and decides it's something he'd prefer not to do. A proper fight thus ensues.

This particular trout allowed himself to be dragged towards me though in the current at the tail of the pool I struggled to keep tension. I was further foiled by the fact that, despite a majority of the overhanging trees being swept downstream in fall floods, there was this one Maple hanging just above me which prevented me from moving the rod tip farther back. With a quick shake, the trout returned to his deep hole. That was my one real shot at a trout.

By two o'clock the wind began to pick up and Sam started to turn into a Popsicle. Dan rowed him downstream while Tom and I moved quickly from hole to hole doing a few quick drifts and moving on. There were no further bumps or tugs and by the time we got to the take-out the wind was starting to do its damage to me as well.

I'm still fishless for February but it looks like the weather will continue to be mild and I'll get out again, perhaps even this weekend if all goes according to plan. At least Sam is on the board for the year and started it in style. Now all we need is another inch or so of mercury in the thermometer and maybe a mayfly or two in the air.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Big Heart

Yet another Hallmark holiday is upon us.

Ann and I have a fair amount of irreverence for this day though that didn't stop me from calling her this morning and wishing her a Happy Valentine's Day. She even snuck me a card that I opened this morning in my hotel room in Atlanta. It was a delightfully snarky card that was everything that Valentine's Day isn't. I guess even the irreverent can't avoid the entreaties of the good Saint.

The bulk of today will be spent in a large conference room working through the problems du jour; nothing piscatorial. I crossed over two small rivers this morning on the way to the office. They looked more like drainage canals than rivers proper; something that a brownliner might appreciate. But they were clearly not single hearted, much less big two-hearted and I fear by the time I return to my local trout streams mid-week rain will do what it's done for the past twelve months -- namely, ruining weekend fishing.

We anglers have a patron saint -- Zeno of Verona. Our big day is apparently April 12th which is darn close to opening day in most places. Unfortunately, Zeno hails from the arid regions of Africa so most likely he's a saltwater angler though tales are told of him fishing the banks of the Adige which originates in the Alps. Are there trout up that way?

I know my casting has been, at times, affected by demons and apparently casting out demons was one of Saint Zeno's specialties; the man must have slung a mean line. And like Zeno, and most of you, I'm regularly baptized by the waters, healing my soul, giving me hope, sustaining me for a while as we make our way in this world.

I hope your Valentine's is sweet.

He looks like an angler who
was just skunked.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weather Conspiracies

Last year both major and minor fishing ventures were spoiled by the weather pulling a fast one on me. Given the mild weather this winter I was hoping for a change in 2012; finally I'd be able to fish when I want to!

I'm fishing Saturday. Unlike my stalwart friends out west, just the suggestion of snow seems to shut down our state (though probably with good reason).

We'll see.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fornicating on a bridge

I thought I heard Barry White on the wind
One would think that spring is in the air, but it's not.

Sure it's warmer than most early February days but it's nowhere near spring. Last week, Ann came in and mentioned that there were bugs in the air but I was too busy on conference calls to cut away.

This afternoon I was standing by a stream and saw bugs in the air - clearly a cloud of midges taking advantage of the sunny, winter afternoon - with an occasional careening fly of some sort. I thought it was some random caddis out on a lark, I was wrong.

As we walked back across the bridge Ann and Chris pointed out stoneflies on the railing of a bridge. I'm not sure which of them saw it first, but there was some serious stonefly love on that bridge.

Little Black Stoneflies crawling on stark, white snow is one of the late winter signals that the dismal weather will soon end. It's something I look for each season around this time. Unfortunately, there's been no snow to speak of this year; no black on white.

Later, Chris and I walked a small river. I took a rod along. I did some prospecting on a stream that floods had made unfamiliar. No sign of any fish. Chris found three golf balls embedded in the sand of the flood plain. Strange finds far from where golf balls normally roam.

The water temperature was forty-two degrees, a bit on the cool side for trout to be looking up. I wasn't expecting much but I was hoping that those stoneflies roaming about would have made a cold, hungry trout move a bit for a snack. No such luck.

I lost two flies - a Bomber and a BH Hares Ear - to a streamside bush. The light was moving on and Chris was cool in his sweatshirt. At least he had agreed to wear a knit cap. We headed back to the car.

Those afternoon stoneflies have raised some hope. I would have preferred to see them crawling across the snow but stoneflies alone are a good sign. They're the first bug of the season. A season that now seems a whole lot closer.