Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Morning Coffee- July 25 2016

Yyyyyerrrrrgggggpppphhhhttttt!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- It's Monday so let's have some coffee.

Well, I've been back from Labrador for a week now. It has taken this long to catch up on sleep, do my laundry, air out my car and collect my thoughts. I had a run-up post for the trip on Gink and Gasoline, and I'll be sharing a follow-up post there soon.

Suffice it to say that we caught fish there from the first few moments that we started fishing until the last moments of daylight of the last day. Our first fish was an Atlantic salmon that hit a dry fly, and my last fish was a fifteen inch brook trout that took a large mouse pattern tied by Zach Ginop. We caught fish all week long, and there were times we changed tactics in order to catch fewer, or bigger fish, or to target specific  species.

Due to the constraints imposed by such a trip my fishing was severely limited in the weeks leading up to it. I had too much work to do, too much to do at home. I was also on a tight budget and spent considerable time tying flies for the trip. The crazy part was that I actually had sufficient materials to tie everything from dries, to the streamers I needed for the trip. I'll probably do a post soon on the flies I tied for the trip, all of which caught fish at some point. You know you've bought too much tying materials when you can look at a pattern, walk upstairs, and find everything you need to tie a reasonable representation of the fly in question.

What is sad looking back, is the dearth of good photos from the trip. I didn't shoot nearly enough, and with Dave being on assignment, when we got a good fish I deferred to his need for photographs. We treated all of our fish with the utmost care, and when Dave did a photo session with a good fish I was reluctant to haul out a second camera and put a fish through another round of manipulation, dunkings and time in the net. I'm sure you'll be seeing a variety of shots from the trip through Dave's social media and published outlets.

So we went, we caught a ton of fish. We caught landlocked Atlantic salmon, Northern pike, brook trout, whitefish and lake trout. To be honest, the salmon were the most fun, the brook trout were the most challenging and the pike were the most plentiful. You could catch Atlantics by trailing a fly over the side of the boat, and catch pike by making a cast to the wrong spot. Brook trout took work and dedication. The Atikonak is a big river, a half mile wide where we were fishing, but we didn't really get into the trout until we got out of the boat and started tearing apart the water piece by piece, working the shoreline like a small stream, parsing it out until slowly the trout began to show themselves. We were also fighting exceptionally high water for the time of year.

a decent landlocked Atlantic. I could catch these all day long
The folks at Riverkeep Lodge were excellent- they overfed us hearty home-cooked meals and desserts each day. The guides were knowledgeable, and affable, the kind of guys you want to be with 100 miles from civilization, where anything can and does happen. We had thunderstorms blow up daily out of a clear blue sky, and one day lightening started a forest fire a few miles from camp. Luckily the wind was blowing away from us, and a couple days later a water bomber showed up, landed on the lake to fill up, then doused the fire in a few runs. It was quite a show.

Well, I don't know much else. Look for my follow up post on Gink and Gasoline. My coffee is done and it's time to go to work. Let's get after it. Here's a couple more photos for the road.

gateway to the backcountry

Dave with a decent pike. Note the look of astonishment

What we came for

landing a fish at sunset

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday Morning Coffee- May 23 2016

Errrgggggppphhhhhttttt!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat. It's Monday so let's have some coffee.

It's crazy how fast time flies when you're busy, and crazier when I look at the blog and see it's been weeks since I posted. To be fair I have written several pieces for Gink and Gasoline (you can check them out here and here) and I'm working on more.

I also have started a new job and business opportunity, one which makes this Georgia move feel a little more sane, something that now feels sustainable and able to fuel other adventures and goals in life.

You may (or may not) notice I've removed the Jealousy Counter from the sidebar. It was how I tracked all those days I spent fishing while you were stuck at the office or in city traffic. Things down South are different- I don't cross half a dozen steelhead and trout streams every day to and from work, and don't have a trout stream five minutes from the house. So that's a downside, the fact that I have to work harder to get to fishing. The upside is the stunning mountain scenery I get to fish in, the beautiful mountain streams, many of which cascade endlessly down the rugged ravines, and the opportunity to explore a whole new region. The trade-off is less fishing, which made the Jealousy Counter a bit superfluous.

I still have yet to catch a bass down here, which is simply for lack of concerted effort. I've been informed that the striper run is on down here and we'll be going out after them soon. I also have an epic, EPIC brook trout adventure coming up, one I've been keeping under wraps, but I can tell you it doesn't involve small streams and six inch fish. Keep an eye out for it here over the next couple months.

I did get out with Marsha (my girlfriend) a couple weeks ago to hike in to a pretty little waterfall, and caught a few nice rainbows in the process, so I'll leave you with a couple pics from that trip. My coffee is done and it's time to go to work.

Let's get after it.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hillary Clinton Unable to Enter Fly Rod Giveaway Due to Email Questions

Hillary Clinton testifying about her contest entry.
Vermont- In a stunning move, the Pembroke Company has announced that Hillary Clinton is ineligible to enter their rod giveaway due to questions surrounding the legality of her email server at home. Pembroke is an outdoor lifestyle company specializing in outdoor lingerie, fly fishing, and high end cat litter boxes. Their contest to give away an expensive fly rod was designed to gather emails for marketing purposes. You entered by submitting a valid email address.

According to Pembroke spokesman Pete Schoenauer “We really regret having to make this decision. We really wanted Secretary Clinton to be a part of our contest. But rules are rules, and not only does the email address have to be valid, but it also has to be from a legal server. Her home email server does not meet up to the high standards we set here at the Pembroke Company. She is hereby disqualified.”

When reached for comment Mrs. Clinton seemed sad but resigned. “It’s all part of being a political figure. You’re a target all the time. It’s a shame too- I know it’s campaign season right now, but the bull reds are in down in Louisiana, and I have a couple campaign stops to make there.” 

She continued “I really would have liked to win that rod. Bill and I were broke after we left the White House, and the rod rack is pretty bare.”

We also reached Bill Clinton for comment. “The questions you should be asking,” he said in his trademark rasp, “aren’t whether her home email server is legal, but whether she thought it was legal at the time she signed up for the contest, and the answer is ‘yes, absolutely’, and I back Hillary 100%. She deserves a fair shot to win that rod.”

When asked if he had entered the contest the former president answered “I love spring break as much as the next guy, but every now and then you just need to get offshore and throw deceivers.”

We also contacted rival presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “I know what I said about her emails, but you have to draw a line somewhere. She deserved to be disqualified.” said the self-professed Socialist. When asked if he had entered the contest he winked and said “Somewhere in Vermont there’s a brook trout pond named after me.”

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager Levi Feinstein added “We really just want to get all this behind us. It would have been nice for her to win that rod AND the presidency, but we would have been happy with winning the fly rod.”

All may not be lost for Hillary Clinton. In a stunning change of fortune, when it was discovered she is a fly angler, over a dozen companies stepped up and added her to their pro staffs.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday Morning Coffee- March 28, 2016

Eeeeeerrrrrrrrpppppphhhhhhhttttt!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- It's Monday, and I don't have to start work for a couple hours, so I thought I'd give the Monday Morning Coffee a stir. Go on, have yourself a cup.

Well, as you all know, Jim Harrison died this weekend, which makes me kind of sad. He looked to me like he had one foot in the grave anyway so I guess we knew it was coming, but even looking old as dirt, smoking like a chimney and drinking like he stole it, he still exuded a vitality that you couldn't miss. I may be partial to Mr. Harrison's writings due to the fact that he's from Grayling Michigan, or that his Brown Dog Novellas so accurately captured the northern Michigan and UP haunts I love, but to be sure he was a damn fine writer and poet, a national treasure, someone who will be missed, whose writings will be forever treasured.

If you can't tell from my last post I got out fishing last week (the ONLY benefit of unemployment) and caught a brook trout. My girlfriend Marsha and I went back up to the Coleman river on Saturday and I caught a few rainbows and browns. The Coleman is a tributary to the Tallulah River. The Tallulah had been stocked last week and was a total shit show, the kind of circus I associate with the Pere Marquette or Tippy dam during the steelhead and salmon runs. The nice thing was that the "Artificial Lures Only" sign at the entrance to the Coleman thinned the herd out to just me. We hiked in to where the trail ends in a steep gorge at a thunderous waterfall. Now I need to go back and figure out a way around that.

I'm on a bit of a tying tear lately as my boxes are sadly depleted. My last round of ugly misshapen pheasant tails and soft hackles caught a lot of fish. This round looks a lot better - I could almost sell them. I need to tie up a bunch of Clousers for the local bass, and have some other trips to tie for too. My streamer box looks like hell and I've found muddler minnows to be hyper-effective here in Georgia, so I need to tie those too. I'll try to share some pics.

I lived most of my life in Northern Michigan, but all my grandparents were from the South. My Grandma Tucker used to tell me that what she missed about the South was spring- the fact that they had a nice, long, pleasant spring. I understand what she means now. It's full on spring here in Georgia and I'm loving it. Hopefully the summer doesn't beat me up too bad.

Well, my coffee is done and I need to hit the vise for an hour before work. It's going to be a great week. Let's get after it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

From One Stream to Another

Up, up the gravel mountain road. Onward and upward. Both are good right? Like most human endeavors, rivers are cleaner, more pure, BETTER at their source. As they, and we, wind through our respective courses, we grow, expand, pick up tributaries, impurities, baggage. I figure now I'm the equivalent of a valley stream, no longer clear and cold and babbling, but well defined, log-jammed and dirty. I'm never going to leave this place.  I'm definitely not the Mississippi, or even the Ohio, just a mid-sized stream meandering, but set in its course, no longer clear. It's a metaphor you can ride too hard. People are not rivers. Rivers aren't so simple.

These mountain streams are heart-breakingly beautiful; endless cascades beset by mountain laurel and rhododendron, both evergreen but dormant, waiting for their chance to flower, to shine, like actors waiting in the wings to play their bit part before fading into the background. This particular stream is also beset by people, and about every half mile I slow my pace. Almost all of them carry spinning rods. A woman stares at the place where her line disappears into green water, her thumb on the button of her reel, staring so intently, as if her universe has compressed into that tiny sphere and I'm just a passing comet.

A couple miles up the road I discover the reason for all this frenetic activity on such a tiny stream- a truck blocks the road, forcing me to stop. A man standing on the back, eyes me suspiciously, so I get out and greet him. He takes a net, scoops deeply in a tank on the truck, and then hurls a dozen or more ten inch trout into the stream. He is the fish stocker.

My ensuing interrogation uncovers the following facts. He stocks this river once a week with between 2500 and 2800 trout. The fish are mostly 10-12 inches long. That's about 11,000 trout stocked into this tiny stream a month. It's a feed trough that people line up to partake of each week, a grand tradition of the oldest entitlement in America- hatchery fish. I hope the State of Georgia buys quality pellets.

I resist the urge to ask him to scoop me out my limit of fish.

I ask the man how far to Buckskin Creek. He says that not only is the road closed, but that you couldn't get a tank up it. Only mountain bikers and hikers go there. Sounds good to me. Part of me- that part tainted by silty run-off from muddy creeks, actually considers staying there and fishing, but fishing for stocked fish has as much appeal to me as roping newborn lambs.

Onward and upward, hoping to find some purity.

I'll save you some miles and switchbacks, the dead end, a hiker named Crunchy, and others on the Appalachian Trail seeking purity on their own terms. By the time I figured out where I was not and reconnoitered it was afternoon. I followed a path alongside the wild stream I wanted to fish, and when it veered far from the river I followed a tributary rill into a steep gorge to the stream, where it roared from pool to pool through vertiginous jungle. Just once, while crossing the top of a waterfall, I saw a wild brook trout holding in the current.

I followed the stream back up, fishing where I could, bushwhacking where I couldn't, sweating in the cold humidity, hoping that sound I heard wasn't thunder. It was.

Then, in a pool where a single rock split the flow into mirror images, I caught my first Appalachian brook trout, it's colors dull with the season, but still beautiful. It was the only trout I caught, though I saw many more. Perhaps they sense that I am tainted, a visitor from the valley, a rude voyeur.

When the skies opened up and the rain finally came I stepped out of the stream, found the trail, drove out over the pass and down, down, downward, back to my valley.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Fantasy Fish

I'm sitting around on a sunny Saturday morning with a bad chest cold, perusing social media for some good reads. I found this thanks to Cameron Mortenson over at The Fiberglass Manifesto and it got me thinking- what are my fantasy fish?

I have a lot of dream destinations I want to fish for various familiar species- northern Ontario/Quebec/Labrador for big brook trout, or the Innoko river in Alaska for pike, but those are familiar species I catch on a regular basis.

But that article in Scale magazine got me thinking- what species make the fantasy list? Species so exotic that they set the imagination on fire. Something you can't catch in your backyard. Fish that live in an exotic setting, fight hard and take you to a whole new level.

Mahseer in Thailand

I may as well start with the fish in the article. It is claimed, as with so many fish, that mahseer fight pound for pound harder than any other freshwater fish. I'd like to test that claim. But when you couple them with such an exotic location- a jungle river, wild elephants, Asian tapir, pythons and cobras AND a mayfly hatch- now that is something you have to experience at least once.

Milkfish, Indian Ocean

Ah, the Seychelles, Maldives, and all points thereabouts. To fly to a location in the Indian Ocean that takes two days to get to, then to chase a plethora of flats species on those distant shores- bonefish, permit, Grand Trevally, and the elusive and hard to hook milkfish, which subsequently proceeds to give your drag a much needed cleaning. I could really go for that.

Peacock Bass, Amazon Jungle

I have a Heart of Darkness fascination with the Amazon jungle and it's fishes. Perhaps it's due to my late father's travels down Ecuadorian rivers on native rafts, in search of such fish. He was after catfish; I want to chase Peacocks. In a lot of ways the Amazon is the new Dark Continent, with hidden tribes, big predators, big hard-fighting fish, and lots of mystery. I want to go.

Tiger Fish, Congo Basin, Africa

And so to the real Heart of Darkness- Africa itself. Much of it is still little explored by the outside world. I recently read Peter Capstick, in which his camp cook's son was killed and eaten by a leopard, and then they had to hunt the cat over the boys dead body stashed in a tree. And it is in this landscape in which I want to fish for a creature with huge fangs, one that has been seen snatching birds out of the air. It lives in malarial jungles, in areas prone to Ebola outbreaks, and the much more deadly civil and national wars. Throw in an active volcano or two and you have the perfect Indiana Jones fly fishing adventure, which I am jonesing for.

There is no limit to the dreams of a fly fisher. Social media can make it all seem so immediate and real. Most of us will take our adventures on brook trout streams, with social media and the internet to fill in the gaps. But once, just once, you need to pursue the monsters that dwell in your dreams. I hope we all get the chance.

All images were stolen fair and square off the internet.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Search for Balance

Catch and release, catch and release, catch and release. Say it with me three times.

Catch and release, catch and release, catch and release. Feel better?

Catch and release is good. Catch and release is beneficial. Catch and release brings good Karma. A trout is too valuable to be only caught once. The more you say it, the truer it becomes.

Catch and release.

All of life is a search for balance, and they say you don't really figure life out until you're about 80 years old. Then you die of course. A fly fishing blog is hardly the place to find truth and Zen. Fly fishing of course, is a spiritual journey, even before you are aware of it. Fly fishing is by definition an expansion of awareness, mindfulness, a balm to the soul, a healing of the psyche. You only get good at fly fishing when you learn to use all of your senses, when you slow down, relax, become AWARE. When you finally let go of ego and self, stop listening to the internal voice and start listening to what the natural world is trying to tell you.

Last year I ate a brook trout. I caught it on a fly, cut it's throat, watched the life drain out, and then took it home, skinned it, fried it in butter and consumed the delicate orange flesh. It was delicious and good. It was communion. It was satisfaction, the completion of a task. It was finished business. It was the essence of a stream on a plate. To be trite, it was the circle of life.

I also ate a young steelhead last winter, as an act of rebellion. I caught it on a warmish day when the ice did not collect in my guides. It was a very fat fish, about twenty inches long, with a white belly, gleaming silver sides with just the hint of pink, and a blue gray back. I took it home and filleted it out, then cooked the fillets in olive oil. The flesh was a deep crimson in the pan, and absolutely delicious. It was a very satisfying meal.

We live in a world of polarization- politically, religiously, ideologically. It's ingrained in our culture- "Go Wildcats!" Be true to your school. My country, right or wrong becomes "my thinking, my way of life, right or wrong, but your thinking and way of life are definitely wrong." As individuals and families we gravitate toward moderation, but as societies we adhere to the worst forms of tribalism, wanton gluttony and avarice, and ultimately violence. This alone may explain fly fishing, the need for the individual to find balance in a world that demands zealotry.

For some reason abundance in the wild engenders bad behavior in humans, as if we as a species get filled with a primal lust unexplained by hunger or the desire for wealth. We lost our minds when we saw herds of bison stretching to the horizon, when passenger pigeons darkened the skies, when the cod on the Grand Banks swam so thick they slowed the progress of boats, and we systematically exploited them to the brink of extinction, or beyond.

There's an entertaining passage in the Bible in which the Israelites, recently freed from Egypt and wandering in a barren desert, began to complain that there was no meat. Some suggested that returning to slavery in Egypt would be preferable- at least they had food. According to the passage, God sent quails into the camp and the people went gathering them by the bushel basket. God killed a certain number of them for being greedy rather than taking what they needed to sustain themselves.

Regardless of your religious bent or lack thereof the lesson is instructive. At the very least the author had a keen insight into human behavior, and our baser tendencies when faced with natural abundance.

I'm not against catch and release, having practiced it for the most part for a number of years now. I'm not against keeping fish for a meal, having partaken on a number of occasions in the same period. Food is what originally brought us to the streams, and it is only in the last few decades that the notion of recreation has even entered the equation. Historically recreation was always a part of angling, but with the goal of a meal at the end of it, and not as the ultimate desired end.

Catch and release will increasingly be a tool of conservation, but it is just a tool and a rather blunt instrument at that. It is not a guarantee. Fish still die from being caught. An angler who catches and keeps two trout may do far less damage than an angler who releases thirty trout and kills five through bad handling, or fishing when the water is too warm.

This for me has been my journey thus far. A search for balance, some peace of mind, connection to the natural world, and every now and then, some fillets on my plate that I caught and cooked myself.