Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Water and Women

Fly fishermen have had this almost trite compulsion to compare the rivers they have known to beautifull young women they have known, or hope to know. It is understandable...the clear, moving water in a trout stream is intoxicating. The hemlocks or cottonwoods along the banks are graceful and inviting. And the pools and boulders are sultry, hidden and mysterious. Fishermen are attracted to these places just as men are attracted to beautiful young women and there is a large overlap there, so the overuse of the comparison is understandable. As a man and a fisherman I am no different, but I prefer to compare the waters I have known to older, matriarchal women...both real and imaginary. Especially the homewates I have had in my life. The bass ponds that, like caring mothers reminded me that I was still a clever boy even after a bad day in the confines of a public school house. Or the rivers like strong grandmothers who rein in our sanity when home on leave from the Army. Or the oceans that remind us when we are at or worst that life is not always clear and still has limitless possibilities. Yes, homewaters are like beautiful women...old, wise and there for us.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ten Ways to Increase Your Time on the Water

It is customary in a fly shop to ask someone if they have been getting out fishing lately. I ask almost everyone who walks into the shop…just to get conversation going. It’s a bartender asking, “what’ll it be?” The overwhelming trend in replies to this question is not positive. More often than not it instigates a gripe session about not being able to get out on the water nearly enough. Now, I am aware that this response is sometimes just the weekend worrier or nine-day-a-year superstar attempting to sound like their incredibly hectic and busy life is keeping them from spending every waking moment on a trout stream…purely for the benefit of the committed trout bum asking the question. I get it, and thanks. But this article is for those seriously trying to devote more time to fishing.

10: Get Fired. Right? Who has more time to fish then the dudes under the bridge with the dirty stocking caps and abandoned shopping carts? I always stop and ask if anything is biting…and they spit and cuss at me. Then ask for change. Alright, in all seriousness, loosing your job is not a fun time, but if you do find yourself in a “between jobs” part of your life take advantage of it! It could be the lag time between a change of jobs, or the free-wheelin’ month after high school or college or military discharge. Don’t waist time stressing out…do what you can or need to do and spend the rest of the time fishing. Trust me, it will do you good. But, most of you are not at any of these young stages of life anymore and jumping up onto the conference table and doing the chicken dance with your suit pants around your ankles at the next Monday morning meeting to insure unlimited amounts of fishing time is not really a good life option. Sure, I understand. But you don’t have to take these suggestions to any extremes. Maybe you can find a way to let your fishing habit infiltrate the office. Throw up a flag with your colors in the prison yard, so to speak…hang your best “grip and grin” photo on the wall or on your desk. It will attract fellow addicts and let them know you are one of them. Or take your boss fishing. Convert those above you. If you can pull this off there are untold treasures that await. In the end, weather it be reducing your overtime hours or taking a lower paying job in a state that has better fishing opportunities…it is quality of life that trumps all else.

9: Convince Yourself Golf Balls Are Evil. Because they are…they will suck out your soul and your will to live, not to mention countless hours you could have spent floating down an amazing river casting fat grasshopper flies to hungry browns the size of footballs, or hiking to some high lake above tree line in search of your first 20-inch cutthroat! A lifetime’s worth of this given up for what? A single digit handicap? Really? Do you wake up in the middle of the night obsessing about the seventh hole at your local manicured golf course? Are your den walls covered in framed score cards and grip and grin photos of you holding a slightly scuffed Titleist? Sure, I poke fun for fun’s sake…and in the end remember fly fishing is a needy mistress and needy mistresses are only happy if they are the only needy mistress.

8: Get Better Friends. Keep your single, non-golfing friends and do your best to alienate those friends who invite you to church breakfasts or their kid’s high school plays. Get rid of them FAST…they may smile a lot and say encouraging things, but they are not out to help you. They want to see you married and driving a mini-van with dumb bumper stickers as soon as possible. Misery can’t stand that you get to go fishing on the weekend. On the other hand, veer away from those friends who pull into your driveway on a week night and do everything they can (to the dismay of your recently sleeping neighbors) to loudly goad you into going out on the town to “find some trouble”. These people—although they are a great deal more fun than the former—are equally counter productive to the fisherman. Foster the relationships with those who show up at 4 A.M. with fly rods already strung, coffee for two in a thermos and a wild look of possibility in their eyes!

7: Become a Teacher. Seriously…don’t they get the entire summer off? Well, they do, but most are paid so little they have to take part-time jobs during their off time. What I meant was become a teacher of fly fishing. You will be surprised at the increased motivation and drive you have when there is someone under your wing. You want to show them all those favorite spots that you may have unintentionally become bored with years ago. And you want them to see for themselves the sun rise on that one particular lake where the trout start rising like popcorn. Teach a best friend, or a new loved one…or, good grief, your kids.

6: Time Management. This I write mainly for myself…as it is the bain of my fishing life. Some of the tricks I have learned over the years of attempting to wedge as much time on the water as I can are deliberately prioritizing things I have to get done vs. what can wait until…well, whenever. And learning not too agree to anything on the spot. “When will you be arriving at your best friends wedding?” Yeah…I’ll try to make it… “But, you’re the best man!” Yeah…so…like I said… You really should be showing up for that one, but…it still allows for an out if you suddenly get word on some good fishing. You know, priorities. Besides, if “the word” is that good your best friend may join you! There are other things that will undoubtedly increase your time on the water. They are small things that eat up large chunks of time…hangovers and television. Do whatever you need to do to minimize or eliminate both of these monsters from your life. Get used to waking up early (sober) and not instinctively flipping on the idiot box. Remember boredom, above anything else, is what breeds fishermen.

5: When Nature Calls. This might be a delicate subject…I don’t know. If you are squeamish and never actually admitted to having a bowel movement, then maybe this section is not for you. Outdoorsmen, as a whole, tend to be fairly open about the subject. It is something we all have to think about and prepare for if we spend any amount of time more than a short, awkward jog back to the luxuries of indoor plumbing. You need to become comfortable taking the crouch behind a tree…sorry, but ya just gotta. Nobody is going to be putting up with you making a sudden run back to town. If you are in a drift boat all day this can cause even more severe time nuisances. Some “locker-room” advice I have heard being passed around is Limit Your Morning Coffee Intake and Jam Yourself Up With Pepto. Take these tidbits for what they are…and good luck.

4: The Spouse Situation. My best advice to you is stay single! Short of this…do your best to marry rich. Ha. Ha. Ha. Okay…we have that out of our system, moving forward. Assuming you have already upset all your best fishing buddies and gone and done the unthinkable…let’s make this all work out. The best and fastest way to get permission to spend time away from the house and family is to get on your spouses’ good side. Do favors without being asked (nagged) and go out of your way to make their day easier. This will usually make them more receptive to your follies. Also, regardless of how the fishing trip turned out, always come home in a good mood. Up until now I have been writing under the assumption you have not married a fellow fly fisher. That, of course, is the ideal situation. If you can find someone who really digs you and wants to spend every day off on the water…well you obviously have it all figured out, don’t you? But it doesn’t have to be that perfect to be that perfect. If your “significant other” has a reason to join you a field and you make them feel unobtrusive in doing so, you will end up having a much happier relationship and spending a good deal more time fishing. I have a friend whose wife got into nature photography. He goes fishing a lot now. He is happy. And he always has great photos of himself with fish!

3: Be Brave, You Sally. When you boil it down there are really only two types of fishermen: those who own fingerless gloves and headlamps, and those who don’t. Yes, I do mean there are hard-core fly fishermen and there are fair-weather fly fishermen. If you are serious about getting more time on the water you will consider the merits of going out at night and during the winter months. Fly fishing at night presents its own set of challenges. The biggest hurdles to overcome are the casting and line management. All your casts will have to be done by feel. There is no turning your head to watch how your back cast is doing. The best practice is to stand out in an open yard blindfolded and flail about. The upside is it will make you a much stronger caster. You will be forced to cast correctly; by feeling the rod load and knowing when to bring the back cast forward and when to release the line to shoot it ahead on your final forward stroke. Winter fly fishing is an entirely new bag of awful and in many cases—because of location—the average fisherman is spared the opportunity to subject themselves to the full brunt of awful. But, if you live within a days drive of a tailwater (created by a bottom-release dam) that offers year-round trout fishing…well, get yourself a pair of good gloves.

2: Become a Homer. Fish local. Easy as that. Too many fishermen have the idea lodged in their heads that they are not fly fishing unless there is at least a two hour drive involved. I guess it is the notion that fly fishing is done only in remote, or scenic, or somehow exotic places. Many times a guy wakes up next to an amazing little trout stream or bass pond, packs up all his gear and heads to a larger, more famous (and way more crowded) river—driving over a half dozen pristine, un-touched creeks—to have a mediocre day on the water and a long drive back home. The biggest problem with this scenario (even if the fishing had been great) is that it involved the entire day. If this is what every day on the water entails, then you are loosing out on all those half-day trips and after-work special places. You will most likely have to check your ego and settle for smaller water and smaller fish, but you will often find your favorite new place. And that is another thing…if you want to improve your fishing and increase your time out, you really ought to diversify. Chase whatever fish species you have available to you. You will be amazed by how a new twist in your long-practiced sport will infuse new excitement and enthusiasm. Be open to bass…and even carp. Don’t snicker. Carp are arguably the most challenging and addictive freshwater fish, not to mention most numerous and available. A fly fisherman with healthy species diversity can let the time of year, time of day or the weather direct the days’ fishing to improve the odds of success. If the weatherman is calling for an overcast, dreary day…head to a trout stream! If it promises to be a bright, bluebird day with no wind…stake out the nearest mud flat—you can sight cast to 10-pound cruising carp while pretending they are bonefish and that you are in the Bahamas, not a reservoir in Longmont. Or, maybe it is the end of a long, blistering summer day and you finally have a couple hours free from yard work. Bet the bass are hittin’!

1: Be Better Prepared. Always expect to have a chance to fish…and you will. Carry your rod and gear with you to work, on business trips and vacations. You never know. You can even plan your family vacations strategically. Hey, who knew our hotel was going to be right next to a trout stream? And hey, ho…I packed my rod! There are other, less conniving ways to be prepared. Dress more appropriately when heading to the river. Just because there is no wind and rain being called for doesn’t mean the weatherman don’t lie. It can shorten your day and cut into your fishing time…unless you’re prepared. Also, pack a lunch. This saves you some money for gas and flies, as well as coveted fishing time. You will always fish better and more effectively when you have energy. With a lunch in a bag up at the truck you can stop as soon as you start feeling weak from low blood sugar and get your grub on. And be back at it soon as you see the next trout rise! Unarguably, the best way to increase your time on the water is to live longer. So, prepare for the long run. Prepare to be healthy enough to fish hard when you retire. Do whatever it takes…get better sleep, quit smoking, exercise and eat better. The immediate upside to a healthier lifestyle is increased energy and ambition. Just don’t let this new-found enthusiasm get you killed during high water.

(Look for more stories like this in Jay's book The Top Ten Guide to Fly Fishing, Lyons Press. Click Here to Order a Copy!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Little Brown Stones

Little brown stone flies...I should say. You already know the local trout streams are practically littered with...oh nevermind.  So, as spring progresses and the creeks start to open up farther and farther you will begin to see more diversity in the active bug life. Midges will still be the prime activity, but you are almost certain to see some tiny stoneflies crawling on your shirt collar. These bugs will be smaller than some of the smallest caddis you will see later in the year, but they will act as teasers to the resident trout who have had nothing to chase all winter. You will find that larger dry flies will begin to work consistently, as well as larger nymphs. Use a size 14 hairwing dry with a size 16 bead-head nymph dropped off behind.