Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tom Stienstra v Tom Chandler: Blogger Wins Suit

Tom Stienstra Loses Lawsuit v Chandler
Trout Underground Claims Victory in Tom Stienstra Lawsuit
A couple of months ago I learned that blogger and fly fisherman, Tom Chandler, was being sued by a well known California outdoor writer. In March 2010, Tom Stienstra, was arrested after the Siskiyou County Sheriff "seized 60 marijuana plants, 11.1 pounds of processed marijuana, scales, packaging materials and other paraphernalia from the barn and the home" of Tom Stienstra, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

At the time, the arrest garnered significant attention from local media. Tom Chandler also posted a story about the arrest in April 2010 on the Trout Underground blog. Tom Stienstra was not ultimately charged with a crime according to an article on (The Record Spotlight).

Earlier this year, Tom Stienstra took exception to Tom Chandler's post on the Underground. Tom Stienstra filed a lawsuit seeking $10,000 in damages.

The results off the suit were announced last week and the ruling was in favor of defendant Tom Chandler. Yesterday, Chandler wrote about his point of view on the victory. It turns out that the ruling turned on the fact that the statute of limitations (1 yr in this case) had expired. No ruling was made on the facts presented though one might infer from the ruling's discussion of the merits that things would have ultimately gone in Chandler's favor.

I was watching this case because it presents a close-to-home example of First Amendment rights associated with blogs. Clearly, one can't go spreading lies about someone and expect to walk away free from harm. But what was reported on the Trout Underground appears solidly rooted in fact and was in all ways similar to what other media outlets (including the ones quoted in the Chandler article) were reporting.

The First Amendment lives on to fight another day.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

give me Mountains for my Horses

Not Connecticut Horses
I don't get horses. At least I don't get horses in the Connecticut sense. In suburbia, especially at it's rural edges, you'll find all manner of horse farm. Everything from a 100 year-old shambles of a barn with a tiny ring of half-rotted fence posts to houses of splendor, havens of investment bankers, with acres of mowed paddock and gleaming rails.

I've ridden a few times while on vacation stopping at a dude ranch sort of place to satisfy my youngest son's desire for a saunter horseback. It's enjoyable but not something I'd got out of my way to do save to make my youngest happy. Around here horse riding seems to be the realm of middle-aged women and girls; legion of which can be found wearing buff colored breeches and riding boots while waiting in line at Starbucks on a Saturday morning.

On a trip to Idaho this past summer I had the opportunity to fish with a bunch of guys from Trout Unlimited. They were good company and the fishing was excellent. After the fishing the talk meandered over beer. One thing I discovered was that Tom Reed kept horses and that he had recently lost a special one. I didn't quite get it though I suppose losing a good dog was as close as I'd come to understanding. Later, while sitting having a beer with Bruce and Kat - the Smithhammers of Victor - I mentioned my fishing companions. Kat immediately stated that I should read Tom's book - give me Mountains for my Horsesand Bruce seconded the notion.

In the moment, a book related to something I was ambivalent about was set aside but later the enthusiasm of the recommendation gnawed at me. Amazon obliged in delivering the book to my doorstep by the time I got home.

I was expecting a "boy loves dog" sort of thing and was pleasantly surprised to find something else. Tom's book is a series of short stories that chronicle his early interest in horses, the mortgaging of his future to acquire that first four-legged beast and the lifelong obsession it kindled.

Those of us who prowl the stream in search of sport will understand the parallels between what we seek and Tom's journey. His dreams of living in Big Sky and traveling across the back country on horseback have as much to do with his passion for these animals as they do for that search for something else. Some of those things are tangible - elk and trout - but in the long pauses that exist in any search there's time to appreciate the solitude and grace that the journey affords. It's one of those books that ends too quickly leaving you wanting for the next chapter.

As I read the review copy for Pulp Fly: Volume 3 I was pleased to see another tale from Tom. It reminded me how much I enjoyed his writing about the journey. Maybe there's something to be found on horseback. Maybe on a ride to a trout stream.

You can find give me Mountains for my Horses on Amazon for $8.96. Pulp Fly Volume 3 should be on sale in the next few weeks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I recently looked at my Instagram account. It creates a montage at the top of the page comprised of photos, presumably randomly selected, from the photos in the account. For some reason, this collection speaks to me.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hot Water

I like coffee. That might be a bit of an understatement. I'm an addict. And a snob. After a frigid morning of not catching Steelhead, there's nothing I like more than to fire up the Jetboil and french press a fine cup of coffee streamside. Very civilized. I should bring along biscotti.

By buddy English Jonny alerted me to this gear opportunity. While it does seem like a lightweight, inexpensive option to the Jetboil, honestly, who could wait five minutes for boiled water?

How To Turn A Beer Can Into The Only Camping Stove You'll Ever Need from Tom Allen on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pure Trout

Greenback. Sort of.
I visited the Front Range last year. During that trip I became enamored with a popular lake that was home to Greenback Cutthroat trout. Well, not so much. It appears that there's only one place you can find pure strain Greenbacks, in a sliver of water along the flanks of Pike's Peak called Bear Creek.

Bear Creek contains what has been verified through genetic testing as the last known place where pure strain Greenback Cutthroats live. The population is estimated at 750 fish. That's a slim population. And when you see how small the stream is, that portion of your brain where catastrophes and natural disasters live becomes very active.

State and local conservation groups, including The Greenbacks, are rallying to put in place protections for this critical resource.

They're trying to raise $10,000 to fund work to protect the drainage.

If you can spare $10, $20, or more, head over to their site. They've got a video that explains the effort and the drainage. Donating gives you access to some great swag from Fishpond, Vedavoo and others along with the satisfaction of helping to protect this important resource.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Steelhead Camp

First and Only
Steelhead Camp is not a luxurious place. It's chosen solely because of proximity to slate grey waters and the sweet tedium of swinging and chucking and ducking. Out before first light and back, exhausted, when the sun sets prematurely the sport leaves little time to enjoy niceties. Thus, Steelhead Camp has only the basics. Beds. A hot shower. A functional crapper. Perhaps a perfunctory kitchen. In the worst places the owner is either a rambling boor or an obnoxious half-wit.

While we complain about its lack of comfort and food the rest of the year, when you're in Steelhead Camp, none of that matters. Each day is ended with the fueling of the mortal shackle, the tilting of bottles, and a rapid decline into slumber so as to be prepared for the next day's toil in cruel weather on cruel waters.

The first year I fished for steel I landed one. I hooked a bunch but it was only the one that came to hand though another got close before coming unpinned. The frustration only made success that much more delectable which is probably why the sport is so intoxicating. I was told that it was a good outing for a rookie. I was also told that I should have been there last year. “Last year” the digits were double, the grins painful to maintain, the memory cards full.

That first outing ended with the sense of satisfaction one has when things start to make sense. But I was also left with something else. It was the gnaw of the addict’s craving. I went two years without landing another; plenty hooked, but no grip and grins. These were also lean years for the more experienced anglers in the troupe, so the sting of failure was mild though it did leave a scar on the part of my brain that noodles the steel. The touch of steel, cool and strong, cannot be shared with words or images. It defies understanding without suffering; endless casts, cold, stiff limbs, cheekbones scoured by frigid winds.

This year, because important non-angling matters pressed, I missed Steelhead Camp. The vagaries of managed water flows, barometric pressure, and perhaps something divine aligned in the unknowable mind of the west coast transplants and they ran upriver into diminishing flows. The fishing was good; great, even. Forum scorecards flaunted the success of the players. This year has now become a “last year”. A really good one.

I'll get to steelhead water for a few days next month. I feel like I’m going through the motions, yet my imagination partners with memory and calls me to action. The desire to feel the strength of bright chrome on the line and in the hand is strong. Without the grins and backslaps and jealous glances of my Steelhead brothers it won't be as good, but it could be good enough.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Too much slack!

I couldn't help thinking, "I hope a fish doesn't hit the fly cause there's no way he's going to get a good hookset."

Mind the slack line.

Almost Perfect.trailer from on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I have no steel

Photo: English Jonny
I missed this past weekend's steelhead trip. My buddy TJ Brayshaw would say that's a good thing. I was feeling kinda smug last week when the river was a barely fishable 2,000 cfs. They dropped it to a trickle over the weekend. The steel had run in. The water was perfect. Many fish were caught.

I think this may become one of those "you shoulda been here last year" kinda things.

It seems to happen every time I don't go.

Maybe TJ is right.

Mending the Line

Looking forward to this one.

Mending the Line - Trailer from Uncage the Soul Productions on Vimeo.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Writing about sport is often not about the sport at all. The metaphors for the rest of life are easy to discern though finding the right turn of phrase to make the writing poignant is a challenge. I suppose that's what makes the sport interesting. Perhaps the writing too.

I finished a piece of fiction over the weekend. I've been working on it for the longest time even though it's only 1,600 words. It's almost done. The story attempts to connect the experience of our sport with the those of the warrior. It's been a difficult piece to write.

Writing fiction requires you to pull something from your life or the lives of others and stretch it to fit another framework. It forces you to draw emotions that were experienced or witnessed in one context and in some way make sense of them in another. This piece, about a warrior home from battle, requires me to rely upon the experiences, ideas, and emotion of others in ways that seem very different from previous writing. The ground is sacred. It feels as if I am trespassing.

Service to one's country is a high calling. The call comes to those who serve for myriad reasons. In my family the calling came twice from a court order; young men guilty of minor offenses offered the choice between jail or service made an obvious choice. Others sought adventure, or at least a release from boredom, and flew to places in Texas and Illinois and South Carolina to transform themselves.

I never served. My dad, who racked up thirty-three years of service in the Air Force and Air Guard, cautioned me against the life. As a son of a father who was never home I sought a different path to try and leave that legacy behind. But I have always carried the sense of the brotherhood, sacrifice, joy and pain of the life my father lived though only as a spectator.

On this Veteran's Day I carry in my heart a thankfulness for all the men and women who wear a uniform in domestic and foreign lands. I am deeply humbled by your choice and thankful for the selflessness by which you lead your lives. It is a sacred act. God bless you and your families.

Monday, November 4, 2013


It's been thirty days since I saw one of these.....
Where the hell did the sunlight go? More importantly, when is it coming back?

Gone are the opportunities for a quick trip to the water after work. Hell, there's not much water in the streams that are close at hand, so I suppose nothing is lost. It's still depressing as hell. Especially with the change of the clocks. More darkness during the seasons prime non-work hours.

I was out to the river twice in October which is roughly half the pace I was managing in mid-September -- on a weekly basis. Skunked both times. I suppose I deserve it for trying to stretch a good thing too far.

It's the time of Steel and I need to be plotting though November is already gone and committed. The first weekend in December looks promising. Perhaps a day or two in Pulaski.  I'll call for reservations in the morning.

I suppose I should just succumb to the reality. This time of year is increasingly filled with the administrative tasks of our sport. At some point I'll have to sort through fly boxes to see what's what. I am a compulsive buyer of Parachute Adams, a pattern I hate to tie, so I'll not worry about those. But PT nymphs are in short supply, the spot where Hare's Ears are stored is sparse and the Wooley Buggers and Worms of New Mexican descent remain only in less desirable colors. But if I try to tie any more Sulphur Sparkle Duns, shoot me. I have more than I'll use in four seasons. There's something about that pattern that I like. Maybe that it catches fish. I also have a fetish for fine deer hair.

My fly lines need attention as well. I know at least one has a nick in it from a boot stud and there are probably others that are in need of replacement. I may even clean them. I'm sure I've bought some doodad for fly line maintaining though I'd be hard pressed to find it at this point. I suppose there's a place where lost angling trinkets collect. It's probably adjacent to the home of lost socks.

I could also do something about that black duffle I keep in the car. It's a crazy mix of spare reels, winter gear, lost flies, cigar wrappers and twenty other random things. Of course, it always seems to hold just the right piece of gear at the right moment. Probably best not to over think it and let it alone for now. Mojo counts and I think there's a fair amount encrusted in that battered bag's weave.

I still have to plot out some fishing over the coming weeks in between all the personal commitments. I did start November with a quick trip. I tried to catch an Olive hatch on Sunday. A front had moved through Saturday and Sunday afternoon the clouds were scattered causing the hatch to be sporadic and put the trout in a bitch of a mood. I was getting refusals on #20 and #22 Olives. I suppose I should have tied up a few #24s but then I don't have an electron microscope to see the damn things.

Back to the tying bench for now. I've brought the nymph box inside for a proper inventory. And I did find a box of #24 hooks. Of course, I do have some reading to get caught up on. So maybe the vise can wait for a bit. I'll probably regret the procrastination in the spring.

At least there are dead trees to be perused.