Monday, December 31, 2012

Dumb Shit Asked At The Fly Shop (2012)

He who said "There is no such thing as a dumb question" has very obviously never worked in a fly shop. I love talking to those who love to is my job and I look forward to it every day. The things I enjoy the most are the questions. I never know what I am about to get. I take it as a challenge to have the answer. Like playing "Stump the Band". Often I am clueless, and I will admit defeat (instead of lying or making something up) but more often than not I am able to help, or redirect the fisherman and that gives me great satisfaction. But sometimes I am left speechless...  This past year was an exceptionally good one. I collected (verbatim) all of my favorites! Enjoy!

"I heard animals act weird when there is a lot of smoke in the air. Do you think the trout in the Big Thompson are being bothered by the smoke from the High Park fire?"

"Do you guys sell salmon fly midges?"

"I want to stick a couple flies in my hat. Are there special flies for that?"

"I'm constantly loosing flies. Do you have flies that don't keep coming off?"

"This leader is new! I've only been fishing with it for a month or two!"

"When you say this bead-head fly will sink...what does that mean?"

"Is this Colorado fishing license good for other states?"

"Hey, will you guys honor a $100 Cabelas gift card?"

"I need a new leader. My last one was had one end that was really thick and the other end was really skinny."

"If my dry fly is dragging on the surface, does that mean I have on too much floatant?"

"So...the dry fly hooks you sold me. I tested them at home and they all sink."

Woman pointing to photo of a tigerfish hanging on fly shop wall: "Is that a snapping turtle?"

Favorites from past years:

"Why do you guys sell a snowshoe rabbits foot...for good luck?"

"I'm fixing my septic system. Do you guys rent waders?"

"What fly should I put the floatant on? The dry fly or the leech?"

"Why is it so important that waders be waterproof?"

Best of all time!

Dude: "Excuse me, this may be a dumb question..."

Me: "Aw hell, dude...I guarantee it won't even make top three of the week! Shoot!"

Dude: "Is this the Frying Pan River and am I in Basalt?"

Me: " That is Boulder Creek and you are in Boulder."

Dude: "Oh shit. I was supposed to be at my buddies wedding in Basalt ten minutes ago."

Me: "I take back my previous statement."

Dude: "But...I was in Aurora, typed it into my phone and Google sent me here."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The View From Coal Creek (Reflections on Fly Rods, Canyons and Bamboo)

Noted blogger and fly fishing writer Erin Block just had to make a bamboo fly rod from scratch. As she writes:
Although I couldn't put my finger on just why, exactly. This, unlike most emotions regarding fly rods, wasn't a want, it was a need. To find out for myself why people fish bamboo, and why when they do, it verges on a religious experience. And also, to discover why, in a society that measures worth from profit and efficiency, do people still build bamboo rods. Bamboo rod makers appeared to take the long way around -- putting more miles on the odometer, so to speak...But as I came to find out, they also happen to have very rich eyes, and very full hearts. And as George Black writes.."Once they've put down roots, they tend to become trees."
What resulted is a personal, passionate, and unique journal of not just how a bamboo fly rod is made, from culm to varnish, but the motives of the people who make such works of art. The View from Coal Creek is a reflection on fly rods, fishing, and life seen from the vantage of a canyon in Colorado, but these are props in a larger story about life, love, and tradition. Erin Block is a young, powerful voice carrying the torch and passing on lessons, values, and history of this great, literary and vibrant sport.
If you love fly fishing, bamboo fly rods, and the long way home -- you will love this book.

December 2012, Hardcover, Limited Edition
$44.95 Retail Price -- SPECIAL $39.95

December 2012, Softcover
$21.95 Retail Price -- SPECIAL $17.50

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Big Thompson Mid-November

Erin Block, David Goodrich and I fished the Big Thompson River yesterday. David came up from Colorado Springs the day before and spent a half day fishing the Thompson directly below the dam at Estes Park. He had a good day, so we went into our day with a fresh and reliable fishing report. Small stuff below the surface. Water way low…17 cfs. David had stayed up high, so I figured we would mix it up a bit and drift farther down the canyon (along highway 34). It would prevent a boring repeater day for David and possibly avoid other fishermen.

We spent the majority of the day on the water, and it was low and cold and the trout wanted the smaller stuff sunk down to them. For the brief period during the day when the sun was reaching the water a nice cloud of midges appeared over the pools, but I only saw two trout rise. Two different fish, neither one came up a second time, which would have possibly tempted me to discard my nymph rig. The water was a tad off-color, due—according to rumor—some construction going on in or around Estes Lake, so a midge pupa with a bit of flash seemed to work better.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Demons and Promises

Not long ago I was asked if I believed someone could be possessed by a demon. I shrugged and wondered where exactly the conversation was going and if there was enough wine left for me to get drunk or if I was going to have to move along. There was enough wine so I stayed for the story that followed the question. A spooky, first-hand account of a young man suddenly jumping to his feet and yelling during a Sunday school lesson. I guess the lesson was being conducted in an old, remodeled trailer and the room had gotten suddenly chilled before the outbreak...all poltergeist like...and the man's voice was deep and sinister and not his. It was a chilling story and I think I said something dumb to ruin a perfectly great ghost story, like most atheists do...did he have tourette's or something?

I then promptly forgot about the story. As most drunks do...

I forgot because I had to move on. I had a promise to keep. To take a friend out to catch her first carp on a fly rod. We had made vague plans earlier in the summer but, because her and her husband were busy running a well-known meadery in town, we just danced around the idea for so long that summer turned into November before we locked down a date. Friday morning. The day before a whopper snow storm was scheduled to slam into Colorado, so it was then or never...or, at least next spring, that may as well be forever away. But I had already hung up my carp gear for the year, at the end of October before the last bout of cold weather hit us. And I waited a bit too late the night before to go down into the basement to resurrect my carp rod and find my box of carp flies. I couldn't find it and I was tired and impatient and in a hurry and got tangled up in a pile of loosely-tied bags for recycling and next thing I know I'm curled up in the fetal position with my right leg sticking out at an odd angle.

My right knee has haunted my entire adult life. As I squirmed around on the cold, concrete basement floor trying my best not to pass out/scream like a dying rabbit/chew my own leg off...I had one of those movie montage flashbacks. My last year in an Army airborne unit, when I successfully convinced everyone around me that I was healthy, when I had only one knee. The right one had no ACL or meniscus left. I stayed drunk as much as I could and when I couldn't be drunk I would act so crazy no one noticed when I sprawled out under a log obstacle or on a darkened drop zone writhing around and making horrifying animal noises. It was just "Zee" and that fucker's crazy! Neither I nor the Army new any better and they let me back out to try to make a go of it in the civilian world as...basically a one-legged, violent drunk. My temper wrecked any relationships I made. My drinking destroyed my pickup truck and an innocent ash tree. And my intolerance for idiocy caused all of my G.I. Bill to get wasted on classes that meant nothing to employers. I did manage to survive, make enough money to eat, ending up in strange places with odd jobs. A carpentry gig for a log home company... hoisting 20-foot logs, hoping my legs would hold. Sometimes they wouldn't. Kodiak Island on a fishing boat, where I would have to tie myself to the gutting table to keep from being thrown from the fish-slimed deck into the Gulf of Alaska and a sure death.  And remote villages along the Yukon with one-armed native postmasters and dark-eyed meat thieves... guiding moose hunters.

Standing beside the Kateel—
rod in hand, wool hat on head
and chilled through to the core.
Crunchy tundra underfoot.
Snow dressed domes of beaver huts.
Frozen chunks of river foam.
The meat pole is standing bare.
The canned beans have long been had.
And the grayling won’t bite anymore.
Stuck alone with a wall tent
somewhere north of Galena—
closer to Russia than home.

It was at the end of the last moose hunt that my right knee finally ended my run. The freeze had come earlier than expected and we had to pack up camp into a couple boats and journey down a remote Alaskan river in search of a straight enough and deep enough piece of river to safely call in a float plane. In a day or two we did, but when hauling the boats up into the tree line above the high water line, to chain them to trees for the season, with the sound of our ride out getting louder and knee gave out. That demon reared its horrid head and shook me until I swore my leg had been torn completely off. As the float plane could only handle half our gear, the pilot and one passenger, I was forced to be on the first flight out, limping into the swift, frigid river with nothing but a two-piece fly rod tube for support. I was drenched, hypothermic and in total agony. But the pilot still had to taxi down river a ways, turn around and blast off back up the straight-away. It was when he tried to turn around that the floats got caught on a shallow gravel bar. He did his best to erratically gun the engine, rocking us back and forth to free us. But to no avail. The pilot turned to me and did his best to clearly explain what the situation was. It was simple; I get out of the airplane, unload gear on my own until we were light enough to rev off the sand bar…and then reload all the gear. Accomplishing this by crawling from the float plane to shore with loads of gear because I could not walk. Or I could real quick learn how to drive a float plane. He was serious. He was prepared to teach me to operate his cab. Right then and there. I considered it, but seeing as I had larger balls than a brain and that the effects of hypothermia had already begun to effect my hearing and other acute functions (and, the last time I drove I wrapped the vehicle around an ash tree) I elected to face the ice-cold river on my wounded knee. My memory of the event becomes blotched at best from this point forward. I remember being dropped off at a dock somewhere and low crawling down a dusty gravel road. And I remember attempting to bathe myself in a sink before catching a ride in the bed of a truck to the village tarmac. And being hit on by a native girl at the Anchorage airport. She was tending bar, but apparently was willing to do anything for a box of moose meat. I had no moose meat and doubt I could even understand English or Athabaskan at that point.

I, again, did learn to survive. With help. The VA hospital in Cleveland spent seven hours on my knee and sent me back out into the world with crutches and a bottle of pills. But they had exorcised at least the one demon.

That was nearly a decade ago.

I remembered all of these things lying on the cold basement floor…once again not able to stand. And it terrified me. But I had a promise to keep. A girl and a carp. And some lost box of flies somewhere on some shelf to find. Because, through agonizing trials comes perseverance. And endless tribulations comes stubbornness. And the best way to deal with promises is to keep them. And the best way to deal with demons is to, well…deal with them.

Madoka Myers with her first carp on the fly! 
(Helped only slightly by her gimpy guide on crutches.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tip of the Week

Your fishing partner already knows how "amazingly pretty" these little wild rainbows me. Now back your ass out of the pool she is trying to fish!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Last October Carp?

Last carp for the season...maybe? Last ones for the month of October, for sure. For me. And last aggressive fish in the shallows willing to turn on a fly and strike it like a bass. Being aware of what loomed on the weather forecast (snow, ice and cold) it was tops on the docket for the last day off before the cold front. Squeezing a few more in before the snow comes down.  

The water was low and clear and not as warm as what the sun on my neck suggested it could be. And the carp were spooky and not as stoked about a presumably easy to catch meal as I hoped. Not at first, anyway. But as the morning progressed and turned into the afternoon the sun warmed the water and the cold-blooded carp enough to boost their appetites and lube them up socially a bit. Like a generous swig from the Stranahan's bottle. I write this now (glancing out the window at a pile of snow) sounds really, really good.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Park is Still Burnin'

The Rocky Mountain National Park (Fern Lake Fire) hit 1000 acres last night. Getting very close to my favorite part of upper Forrest Canyon...come on rain and snow and all you hard core fire fighters!

Learn More

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tip of the Week

When showing a friend that nasty line burn you got from your new Sharkskin fly careful how you present it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tip of the Week

As tempting as the warm, black asphalt can be after a cold morning on the your best to abstain. You can cause some serious damage to someones front wheel alignment.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

This Might Be The Dude...(Jessica Ridgeway Abduction Suspect?)

Arvada Police are investigating two reports of child enticement where a child was approached by a stranger offering candy and asking them to get into the stranger’s car . These incidents took place on Sunday, September 9 and Wednesday, September 12. 

The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5’9”, thin build, sandy or brown hair and late teens to late 30s in age. The second victim described the suspect as not having facial hair, but the first victim described him as having a thin beard and mustache.

The vehicle used in these incidents is described as a royal blue – similar to the blue worn by the University of Kentucky – 4-door sedan, possibly from the mid 90s. It may have dents on the passenger side rear door and may have half of the rear wheels covered with a "skirt" similar to those seen on a 1996 Cadillac Deville.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Northern Pike on a Cold October Morning

 Erin and I chose a path to the water through the thick cattails before light. We had rigged our rods and even tied one big pike fly apiece the night before...and rose early. We donned waders for the drive and blasted the heat in the truck. There would be ice on our rods and guides this morning. It was 24 degrees. I led the way through the cattails, but not without turning to Erin and having a silent, moon-lit "go team!" high five. Once I reached the edge of open water I stripped off several feet of the seven-weight fly line, unhooked my five-inch pike fly and heaved a cast down the right bank. Tight to the weed line. Strip. Strip.That was it. Two strips and BOOM. A three-footer blew up on my fly like a car bomb buried in the cattails. The fish came completely out of the water with my fly in its mouth. I pulled back on the rod like a school girl backing away from a fresh booger. Meekly...and startled. And the pike came unbuttoned. I was in no way ready for that. So I stood there in the waist-deep water...the black silhouette image of the fish, upside down, tail in the air, burned onto my retinas.

Two more times that morning I would have similar experiences. All in tight to the cattails. All completely unexpected. All explosive and viscous. And, for whatever reasons, I could not hook or hang onto the fish. I would stop only to break ice from my guides that were impairing my ability to retrieve line, and to try to warm my hands. My back was aching from being hunched over, shivering...and I had burned two nasty, bleeding grooves into my right middle finger from gripping the line too tight as I stripped in line, cast after cast. My hand being too numb to feel the damage I was causing myself. Eventually I haul an errant cast deep into the cattails and break off my entire leader in the temper tantrum that ensues. But not before I hit Erin's fly rod with a sloppy back cast and break    two inches off the end of her 7-weight. Oh, bad! 

I tuck back into a sunny spot in the cattails and do my best to re-rig a new leader and fly. Relinquishing the lead to Erin, who has been following me down the weed line. Can you manage to still cast that without the tip?  She nods and bombs a cast past me and dunks her fly right where I was hoping she would...and a pike attacks immediately! We are both too cold to properly celebrate  so we take a quick photo of the pikes head peering out of the inky, smooth water and shiver and smile at each other.  But I learn my place and let Erin take point. And I follow her...hand on the camera and pride hanging back on some random cattail stalk. And once the sun comes up we warm our hands and get some better photos. So, yeah...go team!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tip of the Week

Never disrupt another fishermen...even if he's just noodlin'.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Early Morning Mayhem

The nights have been getting colder and most days have come with at least a brief episode of rain. The slow, autumn rain that makes you want to duck back inside and put on a sweatshirt. Maybe have a little mid-day whisky and talk about splitting some more wood and cleaning the you peer out the window at all the bright yellow aspen leaves glistening cold and wet.

And it made me wonder if the weather was getting the water in my local pike lake down to a more comfortable temperature. Cool water that brings these primordial hunters in close to cattail-laden shores. Fall fishing for northern pike is never as crazy or lights-out as it can be in the spring, but is worth the effort if the drive ain't too far. Which, for Erin and I it is under an hour from the mouth of our canyon and it usually is not too much effort to get up early enough to be on pike water before first light for some early morning mayhem and then back to the cabin before, you know, get on that chimney and wood splitting. And the Broncos game on the radio!

Sunday Morning Movie

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Calling it Early...

 The reports from friends where good. Tons of carp with their backs out of the water all morning...two days ago. And the weather reports were good, too. Sunny, no wind in the morning with a high of 90 degrees. All was lining up for a great day off. The Broncos game started at 2:30 and I could lay waist to the September carp flats all morning and them enjoy a few Millers in the early afternoon watching Peyton lay waist to the Texan defense...

The first sign the day was not going to pan out as I had planned was oversleeping. Erin and I didn't get our boots muddy until almost 9:00 and the sky was hazy and we could not see into the water very well. Remnants of the smoldering wildfires way up north most likely. But we made due. The carp were active even if they were hard to see. And the water was way down, exposing endless flats easy to walk and land fish. Glaring into the grey, poorly lit water strained the eyes, but we found and hooked fish regularly. Things were turning around. But I decided to call it early. Decided to leave an active mud flat to go back to the cabin and watch "makeshift mountain TV" and have a cold beer.

As it turned out...we could not live stream the game on Erin's computer. I had to resort to a radio station. And then, for the second week in a row the Broncos fell apart right out of the gate. I had to shut it off and go outside and split wood just to avoid breaking something. Wish I could blame it on poor officiating...but I can't. So let my day be a learning lesson. NEVER leave feeding fish. Not ever.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Doing it Right

"There are many ways to screw up carp fishing but only one way to do it right"

Sounds accurate...and that is why I walked into Rocky Mountain Anglers and asked for a guide. It is no lie that carp fishing is ridiculously difficult. One has to be extremely stealthy and shrewed fisherman if Carp is your game. Not only one has to know how the fish behave, what he eats, what he don´t eat, how to strip (trust me on that last one, the carp stripping technique is way different than salmon stripping) and last-but not least-how to hook these bad boys. One can see a lot of carp without catching a single one, not even be close to it. But man its worth spending hours chasing these gunners when it all works out!

Contributed by: Orri Gunnarsson

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Off the Injured Reserve

In the world of baseball it is called the IR...injured reserve. A much nicer way of categorizing your fellows than in the Army. Broke dick. Fucking profile. But then again, even the Major Leagues ain't the wolf pack an Army airborne unit is. Come up gimpy you get eaten. It is why I went two years without telling anyone my leg was broken.  But I live in a much different world now, so when I chopped up my casting hand in blender a week or so ago I felt comfortable telling the world about my idiocy as well as my disability. I was out of the game for a bit. Soon to return, if all went and healed accordingly.

Today was my first day back. And it felt oddly bittersweet. Like the onset of hunting season when I was a kid...which also meant having to go back to school. I have been tending to my nearly severed right thumb and it has only been the last few days that I have been brave enough to attempt some casting out behind the fly shop. The first time I screamed like a rabbit in a Victor leg-hold...and then bled through my bandages. But was happy as hell. I still had the strength and ability to throw a straight 60-footer. Good enough for any type of fishing, by god!

I hurt a bit today. But not too bad. Landed ten carp. Nothing of any size...but reassuring none-the-less. But it was bittersweet, like I said. Because now I have to start splitting wood and doing my share of the dishes again...

Sunday Morning Movie

Monday, September 10, 2012

The View from the Back Seat

Many years ago I attempted to teach myself to cast a fly rod with my left hand. I think I was in the Army at the time and must have had a brush with my own mortality. It wasn't too severe, but it made me wonder how I could function if disabled. I guess I had enough respect for the irony of Murphy's Law to know that if I were ever to lose the use of one of my would be my right. My casting hand.  So, when I held on tightly to the eight razor-sharp blades of a gifted food processor and, for reasons unknown to me now or at the time, promptly turned it on...I was at least semi-prepared for the inevitable consequences.

I came out of the mishap without too much permanent damage despite the entire kitchen and parts of the living room being temporarily transformed into the Reservoir Dogs movie, of course, doing my best impression of Mr. Orange writhing around spurting the red sticky all over the warehouse loading ramp. Being of a certain ilk (tougher than I am smart and more stubborn than gifted) I elected to stay away from the ER and Camp Medicate instead. With Erin's help, we dosed my "stump" (as we are now calling it) with hydrogen peroxide and wrapped all my mangled digits up tightly with gauze and duct tape and hoped for the best. My self-prognosis, aided by large amounts of alcohol, was good. Within a day or two I fully intended to be back on a creek somewhere with fly rod in hand. My left hand, but none-the-less fishing.

As it turns out...thumbs don't completely reattach overnight. And no matter if you can out-cast the Dalai Lama with your good arm, (big hitter, the Lama) you immediately regain your newb-certificate once the rod is put in your other hand. And you can't drive stick. And you need to ask your girlfriend to tie your flies on. And...can you come take my fish off for me? Erin did drive me to one of our favorite small trout streams, but I took along no rod of my own. I exchanged fly boxes for wild mushroom identification books on loan from the library, wore work boots instead of wading boots and donned the comfortable flannel I like for around the cabin, instead of a quick-dry fishing shirt. And I settled for poking around stream-side, watching Erin fish and attempting to ID some toadstools. Occasionally she would beckon me over to a particularly promising pool and hand her bamboo four-weight over to me. Have a go! And I did manage to catch one small cutthroat and an equally small brookie. Erin did have to tie the fly on for me, as well as all the rest. A fine guide. Hey, about a little something, you know, for the effort? But I guess eventually we all have to see what the view is like from the back seat. And, if you have good people around you it ain't so bad...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tip of the Week

Try not to be the one holding onto the blades of a Ninja Master Prep QB1004 Food Processor when it is suddenly turned on...because, among other negatives, it will seriously limit your ability to tie flies.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Lake With No Name

On the first part of the journey, I was looking at all the life. There were plants and birds. and rocks and things. There was sand and hills and rings. The first thing I met, was a fly with a buzz. And the sky, with no clouds. The heat was hot, and the ground was dry, but the air was full of sound...
The entire walk in (the first part of my journey) I had this America song stuck in my head. It was early in the morning and the only other soul on the mountain was a bow hunter making his way back down. The three of us, heads down, kept up the pace. The first miles where to be on trail, but from there our travels took us on our own. Off trail. Bushwhacking up to a high-elevation lake that I had never fished before...and never heard of. I had not heard of any reports from the lake because it had no name. It was on most maps, but just that. There. A dab of blue ink surrounded by lots of thin black contours.

You see I've been through the desert on a horse with no name...
As alluring as it sounds, I don't necessarily trust a lake with no name. Not a high lake that takes the good part of a day to get to and may or may not hold trout. Or even really be there. It could have just been a cartographers typo or fabulous practical joke. I don't mind little ditches in town or warm-water ponds behind barns that are too small and private to warrant a name. They will have a carp or a few bluegill, at least. If not, oh well. Drive on down the road to something familiar. But high lakes. With no names. Like guys with no names. Don't trust them. He goes by Butch. What's his real name? Dunno...just calls himself Butch. Good with an ax, though...
Joe had promised there at least used to be trout up there. Good trout. Big cutthroat. Back in the day. What does that mean, exactly? How long ago? Five years, maybe? Oh...that's not so bad. Now how far off trail is this again? There did turn out to be fish, the same big cuts Joe had seen before. And there was no trail in, and no sign of other fishermen--or climbers, or hikers. Just the one bow hunter. So it ended up being perfect and totally worth it...which, really, doesn't take that much. But the trout did not show themselves at first. It was many hours after we arrived before the first rise was spotted. Later, as we were picking our way down the scree fields on our way back to civilization, Joe admitted to Erin and I that for awhile he was afraid something bad had happened and there truly were no more trout. Winter kill, or something. But Joe (and Erin, too, for that matter) persisted and never gave up hope that it was weather or time of day keeping the trout down deep and that given just the right turn of events a big, red-bellied cutthroat would point its nose at the surface and attack your fly. Which is exactly what did happen and it was fitting that it was Joe's fly being targeted. Because he had been the one keeping on. Not me...I tapped out early in the second round. Poor conditioning? After a few hours of casting into this lake with no name and not trusting it and not seeing hide nor hair of a trout (or should I say skin nor scale?) I got distracted by the the boletus mushrooms and the bouldering possibilities for those of my friends looking for new problems. Like the little boy I once was being distracted by the butterflies and pretty rocks when Dad wanted me paying attention to the end of my catfish pole.

So, I did feel a bit silly and juvinlie when, out of the deep blue, big cutthroat began to rise...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Tip of the Week

When in doubt, and if life gotcha down...climb the nearest mountain, pretend your life is set to an 80's action movie soundtrack and strike a pose, bitches!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Goodie Boxes

There was a time, you may remember (long before internet shopping sprees and weekly Amazon book deliveries greeting you at the front stoop) that receiving a package was out of the ordinary enough to send you into Christmas-morning-like excitement. Remember when ordering things from a catalog sometimes meant up to thirteen weeks for delivery? You would get something and be excited about it...but have no memory what-so-ever what it was supposed to be. But it was still a package and it was for you and that was cool.

A similar, but very different package was the "goodie box" that every so often would have your name on it during mail call in the Army. Mine would come with my mothers handwriting in black sharpie on well-taped brown grocery bag wrapping. Usually a letter that would make me homesick, some field notes from a hunting trip torn from a small yellow note pad (sometimes with camo face-paint stains...and blood) but always a large batch of chocolate chip cookies. The ones mom makes. With real butter.

But I have not received a goodie box in a long time. Which made the package I got from a friend in Arkansas the other day all the more awesome. A sampling of some of the cool things he has been doing on the vise this summer. I opened it up and felt like a kid at an odd sort of haunted house...rats, soft hackles, space frogs...and spiders. Oh my. Almost better than cookies!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Double Digits, Mirrors and Other Milestones

Every life has milestones; eighteenth birthdays, first black eyes and retirement parties. Some just come along with age and these are more a tribute to your ability to stay alive or gainfully employed, but they can be equal when held up to the other achievements in life that are actively sought after. Other milestones are really more rites of passage, maybe inevitable pitfalls that come only if you are doing the right things for long enough...even if it means taking a nightstick to the face from time to time. In fly fishing things are more straightforward and usually less muddled by arguably misguided acts of civil disobedience. Many of the achievements in the sport are those that are a result of any number of things; skill, patients, persistence or just dumb luck. But time alone means not much. No one is impressed by the man who claims to have been fly fishing for forty years...yet can not cast well, tie a knot or tell the difference between a caddis and a crane fly. The first brookie caught on a big, bushy dry fly that was tied by your own cause for high fives at your local fly shop, even if you are not thirteen. There are a lot of these milestones in trout fishing. Landing a 20-inch trout on a #20 dry fly. A grand slam (taking a brown, brookie, cutt and rainbow all in the same day!) And, of course, taking a trout on a fly you tied yourself. These waypoints are well known and commonly recognized by trout fishermen around the well as other, more regionally excepted achievements in fly fishing.

In carp fishing things are a bit different. Taking carp on the fly is not necessarily a new thing, but certainly newly excepted as an integral part of mainstream fly fishing, on equal footing as steelhead and redfish. But, because it has only recently become common practice amongst a larger portion of fly anglers across the country, it has been fun to witness and be a part of the rapid evolution of the sport...and watch the Carp Culture begin to emerge. With any new culture comes new language...often borrowed bits and pieces from similar tribes. The language of saltwater flats fishermen have made its way into the conversation (which makes sense as they have such similar styles). But there is some other very colorful terminology in carp fishing that is new and very unique. "Counting leans" is a phrase we use, usually in the spring when the water is still cold and no fish are hooked, but a couple carp turned on the fly ever-so-slightly by god! So, when asked how the mudflats were that day we say we got a couple hard leans! Another favorite is getting "bass blocked". This happens when you have spotted an actively feeding carp, made just the right cast, but before the carp can intercept your fly a young largemouth zips in and steals the show. Now every serious carper is also an unapologetic bass fisherman, as well...and would, under any other circumstances, celebrate the catching of a bass regardless of size. But not in lew of a sure shot at a carp. Dammit! Got bass blocked!

Then, of course, with the budding culture comes the creating of the milestones, the way points along the far bank that one strives toward. There is the landing of your first catfish on the fly, your first koi, your first mirror carp (a genetic mutation in a common carp that leaves the fish with a bazaar scale pattern), your first grass carp, your first double digit day on the mud flats and hands down my personal favorite, the carp slam...which is a bit different than a "grand slam" in saltwater. A carp slam is is achieved when you take a carp in three different bodies of water in one day. Fun...only if self punishment isn't masochistic enough.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Maurice, you were a friend. And will be missed.

The Funeral Mass for Maurice Blackmon will be Thursday at 6:30 pm. See Please do not eat before you come -- save your appetite for a dinner-wine-dessert reception immediately after the Funeral Mass. There will be a slide show of Maurice's life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Instinctive Fly Fishing

In fly fishing, as in life, the very simplest things are the most important, and the easiest to overlook. Streit, in this important new book, reveals what he has learned in more than twenty years of guiding fly fishing trips.

Streit has witnessed thousands of clients catch trout over the years, and their successes and failures often boiled down to a few elementary rules: keep the sun at your back, keep your silhouette off the water, keep your fly in productive water, think like a predator, and so on.

With an almost Zen-like scrutiny, Streit discusses his distilled techniques for fishing pressured trout. He looks into what separates the beginner from the expert caster, and dissects the mechanics of the perfect strike.

Other chapters include Streit's novel approaches to: drift-nymphs-dries-swing-bluegills and bobbers-reading water-riffles-eddy fishing-hiring a guide-fighting fish-wading-catch and release--maps

The result is a refreshing take on how simple this complex sport really is.

Buy A Copy Now!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tip of the Week

Colorado Roshambo 
Rock always wins

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to the Wheelhouse

I don't care how long you have been fishing, how many fish you have landed in your lifetime...or how many memorable days you have nailed to the den wall. Bad days still hurt. A skunking can make you feel pathetic and depressed. Maybe these days hurt me more because I make my living teaching others how to catch fish. After a horrible day on the water I must march right back into the fly shop and do my best not to miss a beat. I will be asked technical fly fishing questions by hundreds of other fishermen, some who are undoubtedly better anglers than I am. But, it is my job to help and I do it as well as I can. On these days following a solid nut punch, however...I feel more like saying, "Hell, I don't know what fly you should have been using! I didn't catch shit either!"

Sometimes we are spared some of your embarrassments and allowed a shot at redemption. Sometimes we have another full day to fish following one of these bad days. A day to brush off the dust, tighten up the saddle and  fling our leg back over the horses back. Now, I don't recommend gearing up and trekking back to that same high-elevation lake that beat you down the day before (as was my case) or into the same river that showed you no color...or the same mud flat that shut you down. Because it most likely wasn't you who caused your bad day. It sounds like a carpenter blaming the hammer for not driving a nail straight, but more often than not it was the weather, the water temperature, the bugs or some other fisherman pounding the water a day or an hour before you arrived. Some of these factors that cause bad days are totally unforeseen and can, at best, only be speculated about. So, choose a fresh pony. One that has yet to be beaten raw by your own riding crop.

Today I needed a feel-good day after suffering absolute humiliation yesterday. I could not take any chances,, I decided to go back to the wheelhouse. The sweet spot in my strike zone where I know I can ding one into the seats almost at will. Callin' my shots like The Babe. A high pocket water trout stream. It is not one particular creek I like going back to when times are tough and moral is low, it is just how I feel about these types of waters. I absolutely love them. There is a certain treacherous and physically demanding aspect to this type of fly fishing. It caters to the fish obsessed or the overly hungry that, for whatever reason, feels like they have something to prove and the only thing to quell the burn is to hook as many trout as possible. Picking these high mountain pockets is like stealing wallets on the subway when the lights go ain't a matter of how good you are, just how damn fast and nimble. And the rewards are countless and beautiful. And you can't help but feel good about yourself again at the end of the day...and toasts will be raised at the dinner table. Good fish. Good day. Good times!