Monday, March 31, 2014

When a guy walks into a fly shop....

Asshats don't catch nice trout

....he should not be an asshat.*/**

I've given fly shop owners a hard time now and again for their lack of customer service. I think it's a fair complaint and one that certainly has struck a chord with fly shop customers. I get more traffic and comments related to fly shop posts than most anything related to actual fishing. Maybe that also says something about my skills as an angler.

One of the great challenges of owning a shop is beating the competition. This used to be a simple matter of knowing who was upstream or downstream of you. But the internet has stomped into town and made things cheap and abundant and easy to get without going outdoors to prepare for one's outdoor sports.

Just last week I noticed I was getting low on Comparadun hair. I suppose I could have driven an hour or so to the nearest fly shop on the off chance that it would have something in stock. I could even have called ahead to check stock before I showed up. But the internet has made it easy. Sadly, the sample of Comparadun hair that arrived was substandard. The hairs are all very short, not good for anything bigger than #16.

HRO. One of the better ones.
The prime difference in shopping experience between a fly shop and the internet*** is the ability to fondle the goods. With something variable, like deer hair, if I want what the shop has I have to buy it from the shop. I can't scope out the best feathers or hair and then expect to get something identical from the intertubes.

But when it comes to mass produced items - rods, waders, boots, etc. - one can fondle locally but purchase globally. Now this behavior isn't unique to fly shops. I've walked into Best Buy, fondled the goods then scoped out the web for the best price; sometimes right in the store.**** More often than not the best price is from Best Buy or some other big box retailer. I don't feel so bad doing this with large retailers because that's the game these guys play.+

But I think it's a different game when you do this to a small retailer. Sure, they've signed up for the Russian Roulette of Capitalism, but the game is much different for the small guys. Volumes are low. Margins are slim. Cheating them of a well earned sale is cold. If you walk into a shop, scope out the goods, take the rod for a test drive, make the clerk answer twenty questions and then go buy on the internet to save a few beans, then you're an asshat.

Shop owners aren't operating a charity and they don't get commission when some other guy rings the register. If you take the time to visit the shop and scope out the goods, then you should dance with them that brung ya. Heck, amortize those internet savings over the number of fishing trips you're going to have during the lifetime of the product and you're probably talking about chump change per trip.

Shop on the internet or shop in a shop. But don't showroom. Showroomers are asshats.++ Don't be an asshat.

* Gals can be asshats too
** I was tempted to use the term "douchebag" in this article but restrained myself because it is too vulgar for family audiences. I do, however, love how the word feels rolling off the tongue.
*** Well, besides the generally apathetic sales force.
**** Referred to by professionals as "showrooming"
+ At least that's what I tell myself.
++ Except for the previously mentioned exclusion

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

So Damn Close

The calendar lies. It speaks of Spring and that bullshit about out like a friggin' lamb but the thermometer is spot on. Thirty-two degrees and heading south.

I was tricked into feeling the joy of the coming season last week. When I left a meeting Wednesday night fat rain drops were steadily falling. I was almost giddy with delight at the absence of gently swirling snow. Over the next few days air temperatures taunted my misery melting the last of the snow cover. Piles still sit below the eaves and in places where the sun can't burn it to nothing but the end of grubby snow is here.

Except for tomorrow. One last jab from the menace.

Two Saturday's ago I swung a purple Wooley Bugger in muddy flow. The melt had just begun and road sand coupled with farmland tailings made it difficult to see much of anything beneath the surface. It was one of those days that less infected individuals were sitting by the fire. But I am deeply affected and tired of sitting. I inhaled deeply the odor of the striped one and was as satisfied as a mad man.

Suffering through the week's toil I escaped on the Sabbath for something that my hopeful brain phrased a scouting trip though I knew it was more. The muscles of my forearm had forgotten the pressure applied through three yards of graphite and I desired a refresher. 

I hiked water I had not fished before spying those places we all recognize. This thin ribbon on a map, no more than three strides measured by cleated boots, displayed little though I did catch glimpses of a few sleek objects balanced on splayed wings edged in white. They knew my game and were not playing.

Twenty degrees. And falling. I can feel the freezing water. In my bones. At the bottom of the stream, anticipation. Ready to spring forth as soon as the unknowables align.

This shit has to stop. Soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bad math

"Ten, maybe fifteen, pounds of salmonid on three-pounds of floro. That’s bad math."

I wish I was in this math class. Check Mike's report. I bet Marc's knees are still shaking.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: Flies for the Greater Yellowstone Area by Bruce Staples

I won't be getting out to Yellowstone this year. After three blessed years of wandering the greater Yellowstone area a variety of events have conspired to keep me elsewhere this year. I will still savor memories of tight lines in the pocket water of the Lamar, casting between willow lined banks on trickles in the back country and otherwise staring slack jawed at the majesty of the place.

As part of my Yellowstone therapy I'm already plotting next year's return. One the things I realized by wandering the fly bins in West Yellowstone fly shops is that they do things differently out there. Hoppers are much more important than they are here in the east so the number and variety are stunning. And even the familiar bugs, Drakes for example, are different patterns than you'd find in a shop in Pennsylvania.

The folks over at Stackpole sent me a copy of Bruce Staples, Flies for the Greater Yellowstone Area ($29.95, $23.75 Amazon, $14.99 Kindle) This book is just what is says it is, fly patterns for the Yellowstone area.

This isn't a "how to tie it" sort of book. It's a pattern book. 220 pages of patterns. Each pattern has a paragraph or two with a wide variety of commentary. Some of it is the "why" of the pattern. There's some "where to" and some recommendations on variations that work.

The book is organized into roughly bug-based sections: Caddis, Stonefly Mayfly, Damselflies (or Dasmelflies), True Flies, Scud/Shrimp with sections on Streamers, Terrestrials, Worms and Vertebrates and Attractors.

The variety of patterns is stunning. When you have this many patterns, some of it feels like variety for variety's sake. But much of it leaves you thinking "yeah, that could work" and digging through your materials for something that matches.

The challenge of the practical application of this book is that when you put together 220 pages of patterns with a land mass the size of "the Greater Yellowstone Area" it's much like walking into a fly shop with 300 fly bins and try to figure out where to start.

So, I see this book as a great place to match pre-trip intel (river + hatches + fishing reports/ tall tale factor) with some patterns that might be found effective on the water.

I also like about this book because of the stunning variety of patterns. The combinations of materials and styles gets the fly tying juices flowing. Already I'm thinking of a version of a cripple emerger I tie that might be better with a CDC wing instead of a deer hair wing.

And these flies aren't just for Yellowstone. I cleaned up one afternoon using a yellow sally on a small river in the Blue Ridge foothills and there's a yellow sally pattern in the book that I'll tie for later this season.

If you're looking for ideas for patterns, this is a great place to start. And if you're lucky enough to be heading out Yellowstone way this year, well, get tying.

Full Disclosure: Stackpole Books sent me the book free of charge for review.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A dearth of me

Bloody Bastard. Courtesy of Me.
My buddy TJ Brayshaw has posited that once one has twice achieved success in a given arena one has achieved sufficient expertise to counsel others with authority. I cannot deny that his logic leaves an indelible impression upon the mind. It is both mystifying and liberating at the same time; the explication of the profundity of angling expertise on the intertubes is at once revealed.

Last November I missed a trip to Pulaski, New York. It was an annual event that I missed for the first time in two years. During my absence an otherwise mundane journey turned into the most successful Steelhead trip in recorded memory. Not only were the fish numerous, but they were large and strong and firm and brightly colored. Nickels and Kardashians were by comparison dull. Tales of this epic will be told for years to come. I'll be sitting on the sidelines nodding and smiling wanly as the stories are retold. I will pretend that I understand one iota of the awesomeness that I missed. I will be wrong.

As I pondered my misfortune through the bleak, frigid days of the season I wondered if there was anything to be taken away from this. I even ventured to the water myself to try and find some connection. I couldn't. There wasn't.

As the year turned I received another invitation. This time to journey to the Blue Ridge to find a connection to mild weather, flowing water and brook trout as long as your arm. But as a minion I was not able to sever the strings. The clan gathered and they drank their shine and fished lines in the mists of waters curling around hillocks smooth and firm like the Kardashians while I dialed into conference calls.

The first text I received about this trip seemed to be error of auto-erection. Sitting around the fire, sipping shine and bourbon the host passed to me a story told in less than one hundred and forty characters of brook trout exceeding eighteen inches. It was too fantastical to comprehend and I fell asleep pondering such mystical creatures.
Grrrr..... You're welcome

The next morning, I was awoken from a mid-meeting doze by the urgent buzzing of my smart device. This genie beckoned me and taunted me with the news of a rainbow trout measuring thirty-five inches. I swore that I was bewitched by some demon of labor. Yet the characters told of the insufficiency of brodin and 6x and of the escape of the beast. Surely this was a tale from Quill Gordon or Twain! The story was repeated yet still I doubted. But the words and the emotion and the certainty eventually led me to believe that it was, disturbingly, true. Epic fishing, alone a grail, had been eclipsed by the discovery of the Castle Anthrax and its willing inhabitants.

And I wailed at the injustice and doubly painful pain.

Until the argent fringe was revealed.

In my absence I had twice granted bounty which was unexpected and undeserved and yet it did manifest itself. There can be no explanation other than my expertise in the matter of the dearth of me and its effect on angling success.

I am unavailable for your next adventure. I await your invitation. And your gratitude.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ten bucks and a taco

UPDATE: The website seems to be a pit pokey due to volume of users. Don't give up if you don't get in. Give it a try a bit later. Also, you don't need to post below to get entered into the drawing. As long as you allow TU to see your contact info, you'll be entered into the drawing.

An odd title for a post to be sure.

What it is, is a request. For ten bucks. Not for me. For them. And you can get a chance to win a Simms taco!

There's a online fund raiser going on today, Friday, March 7th and only today.

This fund raiser is unique. Bank of America and the Fairfield County Community Foundation provide prizes and matching grants to organizations that reach certain milestones. Most of those awards, up to $25,000, reward the number of donations gathered, not the dollar amount. That's where your $10 comes in.

You can help the Candlewood Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited continue to provide the regions largest Trout in the Classroom program (31 tanks, 1,000+ kids), Youth Education Day, and conservation programs with a donation of $10. I think we can easily win the $1,000 matching grant. The bigger grants are within reach as well. But only if you help.

If you can spare $10 for a great cause, you'll make a lot of kids happy. And maybe you'll put a smile on your own face. And, I'll enter you in a raffle for one of the most innovative products to come out of the Simms laboratories: The Headwaters Taco Bag.

First, give ten bucks. It has to be today.

Second, let me now that you've given ten bucks by putting your full name (or first name and zip code) in the comments section below. I need some info to match with the donation records. I'll pick a winner at random on Saturday.

Thanks for your help!

No, you don't get waders and boots too. It's illustrative, dammit!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Good day! I said, good day!

Even as an adult, I approach an early season snow storm with a bit of wonder. It's probably nostalgia. I also think that it gives purpose to the cold weather. And the white makes the gray of winter a little less shabby.

It's March. My wonder and nostalgia are gone. This weekend's storm, named by sensationalist morons at the Weather Channel, will pass to our south. Flurries today. Less than an inch overnight.

Good day, Winter. You are dismissed.