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!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Choking Down A Dud

You can have the best intelligence... delicious rumors of un-pressured trout from the most reliable of sources. You can check the charts...plan the best route in and have a perfect plan. But sometimes you can drop a 60mm mortar round right into the fire ring of the enemy camp and nothing happens. Dud. The fish are there, but they ain't eatin' big boom. Just one big dud. So you suck it up, strap on the ruck, tell the dog it ain't his fault and you hike your sorry ass back across the miles of scree and out of the mountains. Back to the cabin for a cold beer, because they do make choking down a dud just a tad bit easier...

Sunday Morning Movie

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tip of the Week

How stealthy you are when sneaking up to a pod of feeding fish is, after all...entirely up to you.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Mountain Ghetto Good Time

This is the busy season in the fly shop. The rivers are easy to wade and the heat is pushing everyone who owns a rod up into the high country—first with a pit stop into their favorite Boulder shop to see me and Randy. So, our hours “on stage” start piling up fast.  By the time my days off roll around I have put up close to sixty hours rigging reels, teaching fly tyers and doing cast work in the turn lane out front. And doing my best to keep a straight face when asked, You know of any lakes up near Breckenridge where I can go and let my girlfriend flick it around a bit?  You mean a fly…right? Uh…yeah. Why, what did I say?  (Insert a Beavis and Butt-head chortle).

Most free days I am up at the ass crack (of dawn) and off with Erin and Banjo (the dog) with rods in hand. Off to find adventure and maybe some fish. Even longer hours. No rest for the wicked…or the addicted. But today I treated myself with a proper sleep-in. You always feel so good to catch up, but this moment of blissful relaxation is only short lived. Soon you are laying in bed feeling like the worst sort of garden slug. You have missed the best fishing. Your buddies have been on the water for hours and are undoubtedly having their best day of the season so far… Your self loathing festers until you feel like a forgotten single uncle rotting into his mattress. TODAY is gonna be a GOOD DAY!

I jumped out of bed and did my chores. Watered the tomatoes and split some firewood. Winter in the mountains is creeping up on us…crouched on top of the Rockies waiting for the day to jump down on us while we are still hanging laundry outside in t-shirts.  Now, adding to the wood pile does work up a good sweat (heats ya twice, they say) but, more emotionally important, the work erases any guilt about not being the first one on the river or at the mud flats. The carp are for sure long off the flats by now…damn. But, as I swung the maul I got to thinking. I know a hidden and mostly secret flat way outta town that is so good it can sometimes fish well even in the rain or the middle of the hottest day in August. TODAY is gonna be a GOOD DAY!

Erin and I geared up and drove down out of the mountains at about noon. We stopped at a grocery store and bought some grub. She went with a bag of organically grown grapes (and washed them with a bottle of water right there in the parking lot…weirdo!) I, on the other hand, sprung for a plate of cold crispy fried chicken and a 32 oz. Miller…’cause I was lookin’ for a piece of the High Life…yeah! TODAY is gonna be a GOOD DAY!

And it was a damn good day. We rolled the windows down, basked in the wind and the sun and blasted some Dylan…people are crazy and times are strange…I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range…I used to care, but things have changed…The mudflats were baking in the sun and the carp were lurking in close…eager to chase down anything that moved. Erin and I wet waded through the thick cattails and swampy muck and hunted carp like they were Viet Cong…hooah!  Lot of water under the bridge, Lot of other stuff too…don't get up gentlemen, I'm only passing through…

Do you have a Blue Ribbon fly design?

The Denver County Fair, a new urban twist on traditional county fairs, is this weekend, August 10-12 at the National Western Stock Show Complex.

One of their famously non-traditional County Fair competition categories happens to be Fly Tying. Deadline for online entries was July 31st but some categories, including Fly Tying, are open for late "Walk-In" entries. Since competition categories with less than 5 entries that cannot be combined with another category will not have a cash prize for 1st place, the more the better!

All competitions are open to all residents (12 years old and above) of Colorado!
Walk Ins can only be entered on Wednesday - August 8th from 3pm-7pm.