Monday, February 28, 2011

This Week in FR....

Just a quick post to prep you for the week.  Tomorrow I'll continue my Anglers Year series, then Wednesday will be a new feature I hope becomes regular- Give-Away Wednesday!!, so stay tuned for that, then Friday is the next big article on catch and release, my take, kind of scary- you'll have to be the judge.  I'm trying mix fun and interactive posts with the "hard" writing.  It should be a fun week, this weeks give away is for all you steelheaders and spring trout fishermen out there, so be sure to check back Wednesday and sign up.

Here's a pic from my place on the weekend.

And yes, I made it out after steelhead once this week, the first time in TWO MONTHS.  Definitely not on track for that 100 day mark I mentioned earlier.  I managed to roll two fish first thing, but no love.  Great to be back on the water on a sunny afternoon.  Here's my knuckle buster- note the hard steel where a handle should be. (Note to Ross- I love your reels, but can't believe you couldn't send a handle instead of me having to mail my reel to you in the middle of salmon/streamer/fall steelhead season... tsk tsk.)

Finally, for you internet purists out there, please note that I pulled the ads- they weren't doing anything for me anyhow.  Hope it cleans up the look and enhances the experience for you.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Good Takes- Trout Unlimited Miller VanWinkle chapter president Brian Kozminski

TU chapter prez, and the sharpest canoe in Northern Michigan, does life get any more charmed?

In this, my first interview, I got the chance to sit down with Brian Kozminski, the Trout Unlimited Miller VanWinkle chapter president.  We had breakfast at a fairly new establishment, the Twisted Olive, which has a stunning view of Little Traverse Bay.  Brian has lived in Petoskey for 5 years and has been the chapter president for 4 years.  Known locally as Koz, he was good enough to answer my questions.

FR:  The economy is bad- how do you get people to care about Trout? And TU in a recession?

Koz: I think especially in this area (Petoskey) there is a lot of philanthropy, a lot of people doing good things.  Organizations like the Tip of the Mitt Watershed council.  What makes it difficult is that the regular guys- they’re either unemployed, or working 2,3 jobs to get by- it’s hard to get them involved.  A lot of people see TU as a good old boys club and we need to change that.  But to get younger people involved- that’s the challenge.  I’m trying to balance between the free events, and the gentlemen who donate to our cause.

FR:  We can all go read TU’s mission statement on the website- what do you see as TU’s role in fishing and conservation in Northern Michigan?

Koz:  My biggest goal is getting the kids involved, it’s all about the next generation.  The days we grew up in, of growing up outside are over, it’s all about Wii, Nintendo, PS2 for kids now.  We’re stewards for that next generation, but I’m afraid we’ll find ourselves asking, “Why didn’t we do this, why didn’t I mentor a child?” If all we are is a bunch of guys sitting around telling stories and tying flies- I mean, that's what the FFF is for.  We have to get them outside and involved.  Between the lines, you have to realize the TU is about the fish for the sake of the fish, about healthy watersheds.

FR: It seems like everyone in Michigan loves to bash the DNR- how would you grade them?

Koz:  What a tough job.  I volunteer for various programs with the DNR and I see the dilemma they face- too many conflicting parties to please, person A wants them to stock more, person B wants habitat improvement and so on.  Then they face budget cuts- they don’t even know if they’ll have jobs next year.  Last year they were merged with the DEQ, which led to shake-ups, this year they are split again.  We’re trying to push for more gear restrictions on local streams, but the push-back is amazing.  I’d give them a B+.

FR:  Dries, wets, or streamers?

Koz:  Big streamers, definitely, but I’ve been learning some other things, tying some steelhead flies.  I’m working on nymphing, but in the end- it’s all about that topwater bite isn’t it?  I mean, to fool a big Brown on a bit of fur and feather you tied yourself- that’s where it’s at, that’s what keeps you coming back.

FR:  What conservation issues in N. MI keep you awake at night?

Koz:  Banquets and dollars! (laughing) but it’s true, trying to walk the balance and get people involved.  I drive around here all the time and I’ll see a stack of Christmas trees at the recycling center, or a stack of pallets at the News Review and think “We could be using those for bank revetments, for improvement projects”.  I also hope we don’t look back at things we’ve done 20 years from now and ask “What were we thinking, I mean, sand traps- they need to be 500 yards long and straight in order to work- what river do you know is straight?  At one point the thinking was “Stock everything” but as that book (An Entirely Synthetic Fish) points out, VHS (viral hemorrhagic septicemia) changed that- we had to stop, stop stocking.

FR:  As president of the local chapter, what do you hope to accomplish?

Koz: More awareness, more youth involvement.  We’ve grown 14% in the last 3 years, our chapter is 3rd in the state for growth, which is excellent in this economy.  TU is experiencing a certain level of attrition.  I’m trying to get people involved who wouldn’t normally, not on their own.

FR:  Does MVWcTU have any stream improvements or other projects in the pipeline it would like to flog here?

We’re mapping the Maple River Watershed for the DNR- substrates, width, depth, all of it.

FR:  Do you think there needs to be some stocking done?

Koz: No; habitat improvement, definitely.

FR:  What accomplishments are you proudest of?

Koz:  the membership improvement, certainly, but especially the Salmon in the Classroom program- going to talk to the kids.  Did you know the principal told me that when the kids come into class, that’s the first thing they do, they go check on those fish?   And that’s what it’s about- lighting them up, getting them involved.  Take a kid fishing!

FR:  Without giving away the farm, What fishing opportunities locally or in the state do you find to be the most exciting?

Koz: The Upper Manistee is great, but the Au Sable is where it’s at.  There again, it’s a catch-and-release fishery, they’re managed for the fish.  Why do people want to go there? Because they know they have a chance at a big fish, or several.  You can go to those streams, and almost forget you’re in Michigan, you’d think you’re out West somewhere- that’s what makes it so special.

FR:  What opportunities locally or in the state would you like to see expanded?

Koz: More people need to get outdoors, take a float down the Jordan or Sturgeon.  I’m not talking about fishing, just getting out there, see it, connect to a watershed as a whole.  That’s what will make people care enough to protect them.

FR:  If you could change one thing in N. MI what would it be?

Koz: There needs to be more interaction between groups, they need to work collectively towards a similar goal, keep communications open.  We’re working with CRA and Little Traverse Conservancy, and the LTTB on watersheds in our area, which is a good start.

FR:  What would you like to preserve forever?

Koz:  The Great Lakes- it’s our calling card, it’s what we are.  It’s the worlds largest freshwater resource, and it needs to be protected.  Which leads me to your next question about asian carp…

FR:  There’s been a lot of hype over the threat of Asian Carp- any comments?

Koz:  The Great Lakes just aren’t being protected.  Here’s the funny thing- Salmon were brought here to control the alewifes, which came in ships ballast.  Now the alewifes are gone, the salmon are starving, but the steelhead and lakers are thriving on the gobies and ruffe.  We’re hoping that the zebra and quagga mussels are filtering the lakes too much for the carp (asian) to take hold, but if they get into the river systems- the Kalamazoo, the St. Joe and so on, we’ll never get them out and it will be a disaster.  I mean, look what’s happened to Illinois.

FR:  Would TU- or you, like to see more stocking, or less?  More salmon, or more steelhead?

Koz:  Well, certain rivers need stocking- the Pere Marquette comes to mind, or the Manistee below Tippy.  They support good natural reproduction, but also see a lot of pressure.  Those fish are starting to come back, but it’s all cyclical.  So yeah, stocking is necessary in some places.

FR:  Fly fishing has gone from idle backwater to big business- any words of wisdom or requests for the industry?

Koz:  Don’t lose the local fly shops- the Big Box stores and Internet can’t tell you what’s hatching, can’t tell you why THAT 5 weight is the one you need.  This is the era of Walmart and Kmart, they’re not going away, but we need to support local business, and so does the industry.

FR:  Open mic- any questions or issues I’m not covering that you would like to address?

Koz:  Think back to when we were kids- I’d see these huge schools of minnows in the great lakes.  Where are they?  You just don’t see that anymore, it’s like the whole middle of the food chain is empty.  Is it possible for us to practice some minnow management?  Could we stock insects or macro-invertebrates?  I don’t know.  I mentioned this to someone and his response was that it would be way too expensive, but I can tell you, it’s not cheap to bring a Lake trout to stocking size.  Again it gets back to, how much can we control in this big aquarium, the Great Lakes?

"Our knowledge of trout is like man's tenancy on this planet: precarious and tentative."
 -R. Traver

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blogs I have known (Briefly)

I am woefully, embarrassingly new to the blogging world, and my pokings and proddings in that area have been fun and refreshing.  I'm doing this post in part to show off some new graphics, and in part to put some page distance between the male odor jokes and my next big post.

I've added a list of my favorite blogs on the sidebar.  I'm not sure how blogspot goes about listing them in the design features- it's not alphabetical, and not in the order I follow them, so I'll tell you about some of them.  Some you are familiar with, some you've never heard of.  All are worth a look.

The blog I have followed the most and longest is Steve Fraley and John Karakashian at Baldwin Bait and Tackle.  Technically not a blog, but a fishing report, they've been doing for years what I wish all the shops and guides would do- well-written, frequent, informative posting on actual conditions with lots of fish pictures and great scenery.  Karakashian's tying video's were basically my tutorial.  A couple of years back Steve started adding fishing videos, and I have to tell you- they made me quit watching outdoor Television.  They are exactly what I want to see.  His videos from Alaska last year were riveting and even alarming.  My words can't express how much I like watching these, so you'll have to check them out yourself.

To show you how little I've poked around the blogosphere, the blog I've followed second most is April Vokey's over at Flygal, and that for only about a year.  A lot of her posts are trip updates, but every now and then she comes out with a real gem, and what's not to love?  Lovely gal and awesome pictures of wild steelhead in their native waters set against that BC backdrop? Yeah, you're following it too.

After that come my recent discoveries.  Kirk Werner at  Unaccomplished Angler- probably my favorite. Unaccomplished Angler? Maybe, but definitely an accomplished blogger. Great writing, cool graphics, and his understated sense of humor keep me coming back.  His "Fly Fishing Needs Dirty Harry" post is perhaps the funniest thing I've ever read.

Most Things Custom is done by an old friend of mine, and it's worth a look.  Coyote Luke is a die-hard do-it-yourselfer who has recently discovered fly fishing and tying for steelhead and is killing me with all the fish he's catching this winter.  He makes beautiful custom musical instruments and writes about his various innovations.

Jay over at The Naturalist's Angle seems like the kind of normal person you could just go fishing with and have a great time- no drama, no pretenses, just a couple of guys fishing.

I think Owl Jones gets the nod for funniest and craziest; if you're not following his stuff you should be, but then again, you probably already are.

Everyone knows or follows Troutrageous, and for good reason- he gets the nod in the All-Around Entertainment department.  Skillfully done, and always interesting.

I really like the writing over at Fishing for Words.  A lot of his posts are about rod building, but when he waxes on it's always enjoyable.

Someone had to be mentioned last, and I've been enjoying Cofisher over at Wind Knots and Tangled Lines.  I think it's the attitude.  He's like that old guy who was grumpy with you but took you fishing and showed you a lot of stuff.  I've had a couple of those in my life, gone now, and reading his work and comments brings that back to mind.

There's a lot of great blogs out there I'm not mentioning- Eat More Brook Trout comes to mind, or how about this one- TFM?  If I have to spell that one out you've been hiding under the same rock as me.  There's plenty of others that I've checked out and love (The River Damsel etc.), you'll all eventually make it on the list, but I had to start somewhere, and now I have to go to work.

Tight lines!


Monday, February 21, 2011

TU2: Greta's Revenge

 Greta was very angry this week, but it must not have been with me.  I went to my second local TU event held in their secret dungeon (City Park Grill).  She only checked to see if the scarifications were healing on me and let me walk right in.  Then I saw what had distracted her.  They had this poor sap chained to the table, forced to tie flies at mace-point, while the members in their dark robes and slippers interrogated him.  He was forced to answer questions such as "Do Steelhead like those?"  and "Why is the head on that popper square?"  He even got accused (rashly I thought) of using more flash in one night than certain members use in an entire year (we won't say any names, but his initials are John Sheets).
In case you're wondering his name ("HE HAS A NAME!!") was Matt Zudweg, allegedly a guide with Feenstra Guide Service.  The High Council will appoint a barrister to defend his honor on that count.

 Matt put on a very entertaining presentation despite the cold sweat and constant questioning.  His flies are simple yet well tied; I suspect they may even catch fish.  Remember, folks- all suspects are presumed innocent until proclaimed guilty by the High Council.  Matt is also a graphic artist.  Not too graphic, just graphic enough.  He had with him a selection of stickers of his design including the one at right that should save me a lot of money on boat insurance.  Discovery in this case can be viewed at his website I wouldn't buy anything there if I were you, Greta may find you in contempt and it will be you chained to the table, and you're not as good a tyer as Matt.

Lastly I want to state: I WON! I WON I WON I WON!!.  Take that Unaccomplished Angler, take that OBN, Take that Montana Fly Company! It was my turn finally, to win something.   I won the drawing for the TU Chief Interrogators shirt- I mean, what were the odds that out of the 12 people there I would win?  I can sense it now, things are really starting to turn around for Fontinalis Rising, things are looking up, a new start.  Zis time eet vill be me asking ze qvestions.

Tonights meeting with Mr. Zudweg does lead to some interesting questions, such as- "Could there be a line of swag in the future of Fontinalis Rising?"

Only with Greta's permission.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Clearing the Air

Chili, the breakfast lunch and dinner of champions
 Sorry ladies, but the outdoors has always been a manly pursuit, full of testosterone and muscle.  Fly fishing is a robust, lantern jawed, bare-chested activity, best pursued after a day of lumberjacking.  Just ask Brad Pitt.  We know that this is why more and more women are joining us out there, following us around like lost puppies- you've discovered the studliness of it all, and in some feminine fit of knee weakness you've bought some waders, thrown on some lip gloss and joined us out there.  Don't ever call us dogs again- we know what you're up to.

As a man of the male species I do need to address a certain manly issue, that of male personal odor, so ladies- be a dear and run to the kitchen and grab us a beer.  Is she gone?  Good.
Being manly, we men don't like a lot of frou-frou- we want things plain and simple.  Yet personally, I don't want to stink.  The notion of perfume is too feminine, and cologne- do you really want to wear something named after a German city with a French name?  Do the Germans smell that good that we want to emulate them?  I think not.  Body spray? Please, it sounds like a bad encounter with a skunk.
My proposal- introduce a line of masculine scent products known as manfumes.  I mean really, this is perfect- it has the word man right in it, in case anyone had to wonder where that aroma was coming from.  Manfumes- the very word conjures up the image of studly aroma and all that goes with it.  My eyes water just a little thinking about it.
Now I'm sure you're saying to yourself-  "this has already been done- I'm already working on it".  Of course you are.  Why hasn't it hit the marketplace then? 
Honestly, my brother may be the originator of manfumes.  He's working on them constantly, usually after some chili, brats, and cheap beer.  Why this is necessary to the creative process is beyond me.  Still, if you're around him, you never have to wonder if he's got his manfumes on.  My brother is a very generous person and loves to share his manfumes with anyone near him, but he is also very modest, so I don't see him going into mass production any time soon- at least I hope not.  That kind of fame could ruin a guy, as could the groupies.
In the end, I don't think that manfumes are something that can be manufactured in a lab- you'd lose that essence of man, and all you'd have left would be fumes.  I think it's something some guy is going to have to stew up over the course of several weeks in the wilderness, eating bad food, tramping miles in his old hiking boots, wearing the same clothes, sleeping in them in his ratty old sleeping bag.  It's only this kind of process that can result in true inspiration.  Let's hope he doesn't inspire too deeply.

I'll have to end it here- your woman is probably back with your beer.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Outdoor Voice

Same shirt, different fish

"We're using our indoor voice."  I've actually heard some mothers say this to their kids.  Luckily, my parents never used that kind of ineffectual droning on me, which saved me an early hobo life of grifting.  Instead they just sent us outside.  I grew up outside literally- my step-mother worked nights as a nurse, so I spent entire summers outdoors all day long, until I turned 14, at which time I started working outdoors.  Even when I grew up and moved away to New York City, I ended up working outdoors, doing exterior building maintenance on high-rise buildings for my first four years there.  New York was a tremendous adventure.  I yearned to escape the tediousness of rural life, what I saw as a predictable timeline and foreseeable future- the menial job, a wife, children, the unchanging-ness of rural life.  While it was one of my most formative episodes, working outside in New York those four years may have saved me from the more hellacious aspects of city life- the noise and stench, the crowds, the constant awareness borne of being in a predatory environment.  The bubble-boy narcissism of a society completely absorbed in itself.  Working outside in New York was the closest thing to fresh air you could get, and I regularly saw hawks or even peregrine falcons bombing by.  I recall once sitting, drinking my tea from the top of a very tall building overlooking New York Harbor, and upon hearing some low musical notes behind me, turning to find a mockingbird, watching me from ten feet away, quietly singing to himself while I enjoyed my tea.  For that moment I could no longer hear the BQE.  Quite often I would look out onto New York Harbor only to recognize the signs of breaking stripers and bluefish- the wheeling terns and gulls, the frothing water.  The way to tell which was breaking was easy, by the way- if it was bluefish, the birds would refuse to dive into the water, not wanting to risk a bite from their piranha teeth.  All of it ignored by this world of commerce.  But I digress.

I'm not The World's Greatest Angler, I'm a novice fly tyer, my roster of angling accomplishments is woefully threadbare.  One could say "distinctly Unaccomplished" but that pseudonym has been taken and I've ridden those coat-tails far enough.  I may have reached the "average" level in the casting department.

another cast gone wrong

But my not being an "expert" may be a good thing for you the reader- I'm able to offer you a ground-level, boots-on perspective.  In half of the outdoor writing I read, I can't tell if I'm getting the authors thoughts or I'm reading a gear catalog or travel brochure, bought and paid for by their sponsors.  I respect all those authors- it is a trade; I certainly know the compromises I've made in my business, some good, some bad.  What I bring to you is an over-abundance of enthusiasm coupled with extensive time spent in the outdoors.  A do-it-yourself work ethic, 45-50 days a year bow hunting Michigans 90 day season, several years of 100+ days spent on the water, that without being a guide; I've organized and led multi-day kayaking excursions for my friends in remote places, driven hundreds of thousands of miles on road trips across this country and Canada in pursuits both pleasurable and professional. I've fished many dozens, if not a couple of hundred miles on my local trout streams.  I've taken a lot of pictures along the way.

more than just fly fishing
I've done all this as a working man with a business and family obligations like you, bills to pay, friends to keep in touch with.  I've made do with the gear I have and could afford- none of it the latest and greatest.

I'm writing this in celebration of the 1000th page view of my blog- I'm not sure how great a distinction this is, but it indicates at least some interest- you are listening.  I have always been a writer at heart; my teachers in grade school leaned on me heavily to pursue it, and I've always been an avid reader.  Until now I've kept it all bottled up, kept my voice low.
I hate the state or our media-driven, 24 hour news cycle, Top 40, politically correct, pundit laden discourse.  I want to offer an alternative voice in the outdoors, hopefully a refreshing voice of reason. 

What I'm hoping is that you'll continue to tune in- take a break from your job, read my blather over your morning coffee, or turn off the television, put the kids to bed and escape outdoors with me.

I'll be here, using my Outdoor Voice.


my front row seat to the outdoors

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Skunked!- or The Most Effective Fly You're Not Fishing

who's skunking who?

I might just as well throw up a quick how-to what-to.  This fly, hands down turned and caught more fish than any other for me last summer.  Introduced to me by a good friend a couple of years ago, it's an easy tie and makes for some fun summer fishing.  While it catches a lot of small brookies and rainbows, on some days the browns won't leave it alone, and on an overcast day I've turned some browns that would have made my season.  The next skill I'll learn is hook-setting.

I've been tying them on #10 Mustad Salmon Fly hooks, which is absolutely the wrong hook, I'm looking for another, but I do like the up eye.  I need a thinner, sharper hook for trout, but it will have to do for this post.
I like using 100 denier black GSP, as it is very strong and lets me reef down on it w/o breaking.  I anchor my thread, then working from the head back wrap in two sets of round white rubber legs as pictured. 

Tie in a bit of white kip tail then tie in some medium black antron or bugger chenille.  I like the extra flash of the bugger chenille, but either will do.  Palmer the chenille forward, wrap it in, give it a whip finish, position the legs so they look nice and criss-crossy, and voila- you'll turn more fish with this than anything else in your box.

tail trimmed and legs positioned- Mr. Skunk

I typically fish this across and downstream, with short little strips  to give the legs some twitch and wiggle. Sometimes, if I've turned fish that don't commit on the strip, I'll dead drift it back through the same run or hole- this often triggers the biggest fish.  If you're already familiar with this fly, then you know what I mean, If you're not- it's an Au Sable river classic that still catches lots of fish.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Let's kick this discussion off right, set the stage a little.  Please play the video, just for a little mood music.  As long as we're talking hardcore, we may as well have some.

As an angler, I am distinctly not hardcore.  I hear this phrase tossed around a lot- what it means to various parties, to be "hardcore".  It always gets thrown around like some kind of compliment. I don't buy it.

Among steelheaders, the hierarchy seems particularly distinct- the hardcore guys and everyone else, with some of that ground being divvied up between spey casters and the winter steelheaders- whose cross weighs the most.

What does it mean to be hardcore?  Does fishing all night for a week make me hardcore, or fishing for steelhead all day when it's 20 degrees outside?  Do long road trips in a work van, fishing by myself, sleeping on the floor, eating God knows what, hiking for miles to get into some remote access?  Does the fact that I'm a night fisherman, or the fact that I've fished a couple hundred miles of my locals streams on foot make me hardcore?  I don't think so.  It may make me determined, I may be stubborn, I may not be afraid of the dark- I'm not hardcore.  That all just sounds like a vacation to me.

my fly line, somewhere in the Cascades

Sometimes I hear or read the exploits of so-called hardcore fisherman and I get the idea that if I don't have crampons and a sat phone in my pack I'm not hardcore.  That I would have to parachute in behind the front lines in Afghanistan to fish the Hurgistan Reticulated Trout in order to be hardcore.  I think I could scale Everest, build a shelter out of my waders for the little Nepalese children, catch Reticulated Trout to feed them with fly line I wove myself out of yak hair, and still not be hardcore, not in the eyes of some. Those guys in that Metalhead movie seemed pretty hardcore- it certainly had the soundtrack,  but I've only seen the trailer, and for all I know they went and set up a back country nail salon- they can do a lot with editing.  Does having the full line of Blair Wiggins action figures make me hardcore, or does it just make me a grown man who still plays with dolls?

Hardcore definitely is in the eyes of the beholder- one man's hardcore can be ho-hum to the next.  When is it just stupidity, desperation, or lack of experience, at what point is it just unnecessary flogging? I guess being hardcore- fishing any weather and conditions, or going to audacious extremes to find fish or new water, has some merit, perhaps some appeal, but part of me can't help thinking "What's the point?"  To stretch the analogy to its extremes, in mountain climbing circles, the difference between someone being daring and audacious, or simply stupid, can be whether they survived or not.  Is this necessary or even desirable in fishing?

I guess my view of what hardcore is, is colored by where I live- Trout Country.  I live within an hour of over 100 miles of trout stream.  That being the case, I go whenever I feel like it- the nearest water is less than four miles away.  I'm not planning for weeks, blocking out the time, then traveling for hours, having to make do with whatever weather and conditions occur- I live here, and if the weather is bad, I can do something else.  I'll go tomorrow.  The same with winter steelheading- I'll fish all winter long, but when it's 5 degrees outside I just don't feel like fighting the ice in my guides.  I have flies to tie.  I have fished all kinds of conditions here, for days at a time, but typically I go home and sleep in my own bed when it's over.

you bet that's snow in the background and one awfully small fish

When I think of hardcore fishermen, I think of Larry Dahlberg.  Sure, he's got the TV show and the endorsements, but when I see him, he's not being ferried around by some high priced guide, he's out fishing the worlds nether parts in order to film a five minute show segment for ESPN.  Was it really worth going to Papua New Guinea to catch some esoteric bass so they can distill that trip down to five minutes?  My conclusion is that he really does love it that much, and merely found a way to subsidize it.  If you think otherwise, go book that flight and tell us all about it when you get back, including the part about the shots they made you get in order to get back into the country.

No, I'm not hardcore.  I fished 100 days last year, fished winter steelhead, fished a gorgeous March week, fished the peak of the run in April on a remote stream, fished nights, fished the snow, rain, fished any time I wasn't working or otherwise engaged.  I fished eggs, soft hackles, streamers, dries, Hexes, mice, leeches, skunks. I fished 15 different streams in the state. I fished alot.  Then I went home and went to bed.

If you have a thought on this, please leave it in the comments- I'd be curious to see who or what you think is hardcore.

I think I'll go play with my dolls now.


Friday, February 11, 2011

The Anglers Year- February

Almost there, but still some work left
 I'm starting this series in what may be the hardest month of all for the fly angler, so it should all be downhill from here.  After all, by now we're getting sick of snow and cold, your enthusiasm for tying flies, creating new patterns, or just perusing catalogs is starting to wane.  I'm well into my reading list, and my short little span of attention is starting to fade.  It's way too early to start dusting off your summer gear, it will only be in the way.  It seems as if we're as far from fly fishing as it's possible to be.  If you've got the scratch you may be reading this from Belize or Andros Island, maybe even Chile or Argentina (I hate you all), but perhaps I'm being overly optimistic about my readership.  My guess is that 98% of you are in your mid-winter funk, testily waiting this one out, grousing about the cold and delay.

All is not lost.  If you're paying attention, you'll notice that the days are measurably longer than those darkest days of December.  The sun shines more- it lifts my mood.  The ice on the lakes is at its thickest, which tends to make for some slow ice fishing, but also allows for some decent walking or cross-country skiing conditions.  If one was so inclined, it's the mating season for coyotes, so February is the month for coyote hunting.

For the fly fisher and tyer- knuckle down, it's time to flex that work ethic.  Look at your boxes- you started the tying season doing the fun stuff- your favorite patterns, creating streamers, perfecting that difficult dry.  Look at your box and figure out what you really need.  Are you ready for steelhead season?  I go through a couple hundred flies in steelhead season alone, and I give away a lot.  So, love or hate it, it's time to do an inventory and set a schedule, so you don't get caught pants-down in April.  I don't know about you, but spring is my busy season- I won't have time to tie in May, so you might as well look at your summer boxes and get to work on those.  Be professional and analytical about it- give yourself assignments, set goals.
Two of my hardest worked planning tools
It's also time to get serious about planning your angling year.  Get out those maps and start planning.  The State of Michigan has an excellent resource, the coloring book guide to Trout Streams. 
Pick out one of the color coded streams you've never fished, research it, research the local resources- fly shops, hotels, campgrounds, local guides, and make a solid plan to try something, someplace new.  If you're a steelheader and haven't figured this out yet, the blue colored streams in the book are managed for steelhead.  Pick one.  Go.  Inventory your gear and figure out what you need, or how you'll get by with what you have.  Patch those waders, clean out the fly boxes.  Clean out the candy wrappers, old leaders, tattered flies and that peanut butter sandwich you forgot about in your vest or pack.
It's also time to tend to other non-fishing matters.  Take care of the honey-do list.  Take your wife to Florida (sneak in that travel rod). Paint the kitchen.  Do anything you can now that could interfere with your fishing season later- those days will be precious enough.  Rent chick flicks and watch them with your significant other (if you're a chick, you're going to be making him do this anyways, so I have you covered in that sentence.)
mid-winter steel, size 16 micro egg
 All is not lost on the fishing front either- despite the recent cold, we will still often get some warmish days, perhaps even 40 degrees, days that just may roust up a couple of steelhead.  By late February the first hatches of Black Winter Stones come off, peppering the snow banks and providing a meal for chrome fish biding their time in the holes.  The water being quite cold, small nymphs, green caddis and micro eggs are the order of the day.  If you live in Trout Country, don't make it a death quest- go for a couple of hours on a nice day and enjoy it.  Quit when it's no longer fun.  It will feel good just to have the rod in your hands again, listen to the river, see a fish or two, and, who knows, catch one.  If you don't live in Trout Country and have to pick a day and just go with it, you have my pity.  You wish you were me, don't you.

So it's February, so what? Deal with it.  Brace up your mind for the rest of the year.  Get ready- the frantic pace of spring and summer will be here soon enough; you'll wish then that you had a moment to breathe.  If you don't prepare carefully now, another spring and summer will flip by with you being only half prepared, frustrated at the missed opportunities and disorganized gear, the expensive flies you're buying instead of smugly fishing your own.

It's February.  Get cracking.

Are you ready for this?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

San Juan Dreaming

Fontinalis Rising after some San Juan Oncorhyncus Mykiss

I'm dedicating this post to my buddy Tim.  He's heading out to the San Juan river in Northern New Mexico today, without me.  We went there together for the first time two years ago, a trip I would like to make an annual one.  I had to sit this one out, for many reasons.
Tim and I grew up together, were best buddies.  We learned to fly fish on the same northern Michigan river, in the same manner: Hexes in June, back before the Hex hatch became the Rotary Club International Annual Convention and Pig Roast.  Our lives have drifted, mended and changed over the last 20 years, both of us doing stints in New York City, me moving from there to metro Detroit, to metro Ohio, then back to Detroit.  Tim's sojourn to NYC only lasted a year; he married his childhood sweetheart and went back to northern Michigan to work at the family business. Shortly after  I moved back to Trout Country 11 years ago they moved out to Arizona, which spawned some adventures of its own.
I had spent a dozen years away from my beloved fly fishing and took it up again shortly after returning to Trout Country, but my participation and growth was fairly stagnant.  It was a few years back  that I got the call from Tim with the big announcement- he was going to return to the sport and ply the delicate waters of the Grand Canyon State.  It was through the constant back and forth with Tim that I started trying new things, researching more, buying better gear.
Two years ago I spent the winter in southwest Colorado, working for some friends.  Tim came up with the brilliant idea of us meeting up to do a fishing trip- the original plan was to fish Lee's Ferry but in the end we settled on the San Juan.  Perhaps I shouldn't say 'settled', as it was a perfect choice.

Tim, with a San Juan brown caught at Tim's Hole
I've heard the San Juan denigrated as a glorified trout pond.  I don't buy this argument.  If only more of our waters had such a healthy population of protected, fat, sassy, overfed slobs of trout.  It's a tailwater fishery, a western tailwater fishery, meaning size 18 flies are probably too big, and 5x tippet is out.  The name of the game is 6x, size 22-28 midge larvae and emergers on two-fly rigs under indicators, a set-up and method that was new to both of us.  We went, we learned, we adapted, we fished from sunrise to sunset.  We caught a few fish.

While the San Juan is in the west, it is not what non-westerners think of as a western river.  The mountains are not the highest, or snow capped.  The desert is not the most picturesque.  The towns seem seedy and sad.  But the river itself is beautiful, an aquamarine gem flowing through sandstone cliffs.  Wide, powerful, but with plenty of braids and flats to explore, spread out in, to get away from the crowds at the Texas Hole.  As usual, if you walk more than 200 yards from the launch the crowds thin out. It's all about the trout, ohhhh, the trout.  Rainbows, browns, cut-throats and cut-bows, by the thousand, munching midge larvae by the million.  Trout measured in pounds, numbers measured in the tens of thousands per mile.  You can fish broad, muscular flats, or find your own small stream fishing in the Braids.  You'll find fish that average 18-24", in large, hungry hordes.
Tim has been after me since the fall to join him again this year.  I waffled back and forth, but in the end I've had to bow out.  So Tim, buddy, I wish you a good trip, that you catch some fish, and learn some new techniques to teach me.  I'll buy my ticket this summer.

FR and the battle of the 'bow.
San Juan cut-bow, one of the smaller fish of the trip

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ve Vill Tie You Now

This is just to share some pictures of my first TU event ever, the  Miller Van Winkle chapter Tie One On event in Petoskey Michigan.  I enjoyed it alot; being my first TU event, I was a little nervous, what with all the secret initiation rituals and all, but my hair is starting to grow back and the red marks are fading.
Brian Kozminski, standing left chairman and organizer of the Tie One On event.  Notice the Medieval setting.
As I said, I was a little nervous, so I just set up my vise and started tying after meeting the other guys.  I am in no way in the same league as these other tyers.  My philosophy is to tie only for what I actually fish, and buy only for what I tie, otherwise I would already have $2000.00 worth of Whiting capes and saddles.  Despite my weakness for feathers, I don't fish a lot of dries- I work outdoors in summer, and am busiest during the major hatch periods.  Most of my fly fishing consists of spring steelhead, streamer fishing, and summer time terrestrials.  So I tie egg and other steelhead patterns, a variety of streamers (my zoo cougar is pretty good, at least the trout think so), skunks and other assorted junk including some very effective soft hackles.

Did I tell you I'm not in the same league as these guys?  Here's a shot of John Sheets (sp?)- notice the intense concentration

John Sheets ties one on

John was tying an extended body callibaetis, or so he says, I had to use the eXtreme Stop Motion on my camera just to get these fleeting images.  Ah, the wild fly tyer in his natural element.  There was some talk about a post, some hackle whirled in circles and then he handed me a fly which he said was a reject.  So I stole it.

Also there was Kevin Foerster of Lovells Fly Tyer fame.  He was tying up some Au Sable Skunks, which I should have been paying attention to as I fish this pattern a lot, and his was different from mine.  It was well tied.

Kevin Foerster, far left, the Lovells Fly Tyer, holds court.

All in all it was good low key fun, I learned nothing as I refused to set down my bobbin and watch, and Greta, the keeper of the Armory says I can come back when I learn not to cry out in pain.


Saturday, February 5, 2011


photo courtesy Corby Walsh

 I've only fallen through once, on a small lake north of here.  We had gone out ice fishing, three friends and me.  We didn't have snow machines, and had trudged a mile and a half to the far side of the lake to where we thought we could find some jumbo bluegills.  We managed to catch a few that day.  While it was only late December, quite early here in the ice fishing season, we had drilled a couple of holes to check the thickness and quality of the ice, to find that there was a good twenty inches- normally enough to drive a pickup on.  I'm a hole puncher, I get bored watching a rod do nothing, and so was walking around keeping myself occupied, when suddenly, the ice gave way.  I'm not sure how I had the presence of mind, but I managed to lunge forward instead of straight down and only got one leg wet.  We fished for another hour after that, but I had to walk that mile and a half back, with the clothing on my left leg freezing solid, swinging my leg because it didn't want to bend.  Other friends of mine have gone all the way in- the one saved himself only because he held on to the rope of his sled, and had attached a couple of short screwdrivers or awls to his coat which he was then able to stab into the ice edge and pull himself up.  I can't imagine those awful moments- the terrible shock of the cold, like being hit by a sledgehammer, the terror of staring up at the green bottom of the ice, the struggle to haul yourself back out as your muscles begin to instantly stiffen, the ghastly frigid walk back to shore, fumbling with your keys at your vehicle with fingers that no longer want to work, desperately trying to get the doors open, the truck started, the engine warm enough to get some heat.

Storm on Little Traverse Bay
My friend Terrance has some of the worst ice fishing tales I've ever heard.  He used to fish Sturgeon Bay, back when it was justifiably famous for limit catches of jumbo perch-a distant memory, by the way.  You could catch some fish near shore, but the best fishing was five to six miles out into Lake Michigan, near the pressure cracks.  He would ride his three wheeler out there and load up on perch that were 15 to 18 inches long.  His tales are of the cold and wind, whiteouts on the ice, weird mirages reflecting off-shore islands in mirror image, fog so thick they had to navigate by sound, getting home by dead reckoning, his three wheeler spinning crazily across the wind scoured ice when he would burst through the drifts, hands numb from cold, frostbit from having to keep a thumb on the throttle.  He talks of motoring all the way to the edge of open water where the bite was best, out to the outer edge of the islands.  How in spring the surface ice and snow would melt, turning the ice road into a river of water, and finding a hole or crack, the water would eat away at the ice until it would become open whirlpools four feet across.  They called them the Black Holes.  He told me about the day that the wind shifted to out of the east- lake ward.  They hadn't felt it yet, but even the slightest draft pushes on the ice like a giant sail.  The first sign of trouble, he says, was that their lines no longer pointed straight down the hole, but back toward shore.  Everyone started shouting at once, pulling lines and tossing gear onto their machines.  He yelled at two men fishing nearby who were still busily pulling jumbos out of the water, but they ignored him.  Terry then had an hour long, white-knuckle race to shore, first finding the separation crack, and, seeing blue water between him and shore, speeding parallel to it until he found a place to cross.  Those other two men weren't so lucky- the Coast Guard had to fly out and rescue them.  They only rescue people, not gear or machines, and they lost everything but what mattered- their lives.
Terrance is a bit of a practical joker- I won't even tell you what he did last week to the visiting nurse.  (It involves a urine sample and coffee). One year, some clients hit him up to get them in on that jumbo perch action on Sturgeon Bay.  He had a jeep then, and when he got a little ways off shore he stopped, took the doors off and then proceeded to put on a life preserver.  They asked him "Do you really think that would save you if we went through the ice?"
"No" he replied, "I just want them to be able to find my body so my wife can collect the life insurance."

some first ice jumbos

First and last ice are the most tempting, as the fishing can be almost feverish at those times.  I'm never the first one out- I like to see activity for at least a week before I'll go.  Seeing snowmobiles out there is reassuring.  Last ice can be even more problematic- how long do you push it?  In April here, the ice can be 20 inches thick, but needled up and punky.  It firms up at night when temps dip below freezing.  Ice that was solid at sunrise can quickly become hazardous by 10 a.m. On the Big Water the stakes are even higher- ice that stretches to the horizon can blow out in a day, leaving nothing but a few bobbing floes to remind you.  Terrance had this happen to him once- he was fishing Little Traverse Bay near Harbor Springs with a realtor friend (yes, realtors are people too) in April, when the wind came up and the ice started breaking up all around them. It was another frantic race to shore, jumping from floe to floe; by the next day the bay was nothing but open water.

My memories of ice in Michigan are not so much of danger and drama, but of beauty.  I used to visit my mother when she lived in Elk Rapids, at the north end of Grand Traverse Bay.  Winter gales with waves up to 25 feet had pushed the ice on shore, piling it 20 feet or higher.  Subsequent wave action and freezing sculpts sea caves big enough to walk into, some complete with blowholes, just like the ones in Hawaii.  Once the storms subside the lake will freeze solid, allowing safe inspection.  Waves, cold, and windblown rime conspire together like some demented sculptor, leaving goblinesque statuary, crenellated towers, and icicles that defy gravity, growing sideways, guarding the entrances to these caves.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the ice over the years.  Spearing pike through the ice is a popular- and legal, winter pastime for many.  It is actually more interesting and challenging than it sounds.  You have to black out your shanty entirely.  You have a hole the size of a big-screen TV, the light coming through the surrounding ice making it look like you’re watching, well, TV.  Schools of fish parade by, bugs you never knew existed twitch their way across the hole, foot-long salamanders crawl through on the bottom.  You lower a wooden decoy on a string and twitch it occasionally to attract the pike.  You can watch it for hours waiting for something to happen.  It’s all very sudden- they’ll streak right in and grab the decoy, shaking it savagely, other times they slide in right up to the decoy and inspect it, or cruise right through and keep going.  Most often they just materialize, a large menacing head in the corner of the hole.  Carefully you lower the entire head of your spear into the water- it only takes a quick flick of the wrist to connect, but if the spearhead makes the slightest bubble or splash their lateral line will sense it and they will always, ALWAYS, dodge your throw. 

Breakwall in Petoskey, Winter '07

 My favorite form of ice fishing is for whitefish on Little Traverse Bay off of the break wall in Petoskey.  Great Lakes whitefish are a local delicacy served at the best restaurants; delicious fried, baked, broiled, poached or smoked.  They grow to 14 pounds, but average 1 ½ to 6 pounds.  They typically stay in deep water- we’re fishing a hole that is 90 to 110 feet deep.  They have tiny sensitive mouths and large eyes that see everything.  This means that you need light fluorocarbon tippet, not more than four pound test.  While not blazingly fast, they are extremely strong and long-winded; between the light line and their papery mouths you can’t horse them in.  I’ve had battles go on for 45 minutes, and have lost most of those.  You’ll get a large fish almost in only to have them make a run and peel off more line than you’ve started with. 

But the fishing is never the point- it’s the drama.  Sometimes the bay will freeze, only to be pummeled by wave action and ground into slush which in some years is 12 to 18 feet thick; it can take 2 hours or more to clear a hole.  A lot of your fish become lodged in the slush and are lost.  Other years, the bay has frozen up solid only to have it broken, windrowed by the storms and refrozen.  Slabs of this ice freeze in place vertically and through your hole you can see broken shards of it extending 20 feet down in the clear water, like icebergs.  My first winter out there, a couple of abnormally calm and cold weeks produced extremely clear ice 24 inches thick.  It buckled in places, but wouldn’t break.  We then experienced a freak warm spell that dumped large amounts of rain on top, and it puddled in the low spots.  During the day the ice was eerily clear, the closest I will ever come to actually walking on water.  At night it was a horror, the ice being invisible under the layer of water, the puddles ankle deep over ice crystalline in its clarity.  Walking off at midnight, I had to remind myself constantly that I was treading on over 20 inches of solid ice, hard as stone, and not stepping into open water.

Ice also “sings” and nowhere does it belt out a chorus better than on the bay.  Deep water must make for great acoustics.   Think of the ice as a giant diaphragm, or a drumhead.  It flexes with wind and barometric pressure changes, and in the process, it cracks and creaks and groans like an old wooden ship.  On clear, calm nights when the barometric pressure changes it sings with a metallic whine; if you’ve ever heard someone tapping on the far end of a piece of sheet metal, metal pipe or culvert, you know what this sounds like.  Whitefish bite best at night, and for years I’ve worked all day and then driven straight to the bay to fish until midnight or 1 a.m.  There is typically a sundown bite, then a lull, then a bite that seems to come in building waves. Speaking of waves, one of the most alarming events I've experienced out there was a seiche- a barometric low preceding a storm that produces a bulge in the lake and, subsequently, waves.  I was having an outstanding night, catching fish after fish.  The weather was calm, but suddenly the ice began to heave violently, and continued to do so for about fifteen minutes.  Water gushed 15 inches high in and out of the holes, flooding my portable shelter, soaking my clothes.  I was too afraid to leave, and when I did step out, one of my rods jerked down the hole.  I did what any reasonable person would do- I reeled in the fish, and then reeled in several more, riding the ice like a bucking bronco.  It ended just as suddenly as it began, and so did the bite.

the whitefish hole in a slush year

Recent years have been too warm- I don’t expect that the bay will freeze up enough to fish for my beloved whitefish this winter.  There has been an alarming upward trend of deaths on the ice- lakes that freeze up later and later, and anglers both novice and experienced, who lose their lives going out on ice that in years past would have been solid.  At least one vehicle has sunk to the bottom of Burt Lake this year.  My father told me that once, while finishing work at a house on Little Traverse Bay, he happened to look out on the ice and see a snowmobile idling on the ice off shore, next to a hole.  The locals knew that the ice had just formed that week and was thin, fragile.  A light coat of snow made the surface look like any other lake or field in the area.  He was from downstate and the body was not found until spring.  On a lighter note, another one of Terrance’s Tales O’ Sturgeon Bay is about a man who tried to drive out despite warnings that the shore ice was no good.  His truck went through the ice about 60 yards off shore in water that came up to the level of his seat.  Soaking wet and cold, he somehow got a wrecker to come out; they then had to bring in a back-hoe to break up the ice around the truck.  The wrecker winched it out all right, and in the process managed to destroy every body panel, the exhaust, the suspension.  Terry says the man then got his key out as if he was going to start it up and drive off, but a wave of water poured out once he opened the door.  Cautionary, is it not.
I don’t ice fish much anymore.  Like I said, I don’t think the bay will freeze enough to fish. I don’t enjoy sitting on the inland lakes when I know the fishing is slow.  Fly fishing has consumed my attention outdoors:  I tie most of my own flies now, so if the weather is bad, I tie and dream of the coming steelhead runs, or things that go bump in the night.  If the weather is good I’ll go out after winter steelhead on any stream open enough to allow it.  I still try to get out and experience the ice from time to time, even if it’s just to go for a walk after dark on the local lake, the sky lit up by the ski resorts and the Aurora borealis.  I’ll follow the coyote tracks until I’m tired and cold and then head home.

Sturgeon Bay, early spring.  Photo courtesy  Corby Walsh

Friday, February 4, 2011

Writing Prompt; What Was I Thinking?

I'm afraid I'm posting this at the risk of treading on the turf of Rebecca and Joe.

I had a couple unexpected weeks off, and decided that, having lots of material and hooks, I'd sell a few flies on Ebay.  No this is not a plug.  I'm not very Ebay savvy YET, and therefore have sold 19 dozen flies for an average of about $3 a dozen.  Now I'm tying dozens of soft hackles for the sheer what of it.  I bought a couple of those cheap packs of Hungarian Partridge, and alot of the feathers seem to still have the bird attached; I sorted through one whole bag of airborne fluff just to get 3 dozen feathers.  What was I thinking?

my cell, with ipod

So, If you've ever had one, if not many, of those moments, please feel free to share.  It can be anything, from buying a puppy to inviting that traveling companion when you knew better, whatever.

And if this is a job better left to the Powers that Be, maybe offer it as a suggestion.  If the couple of members who are keeping in touch want to participate, maybe follow the same format of writing it, posting it, and sharing a link in the comments.

Sorry Gals

In my comments yesterday on the subject of the other bloggers I'd like to meet, I mentioned about Rebecca Garlock that I don't personally know any outdoors women, as in, women who hunt and fish.  I had my Eureka moment last night while mulling this over.  It occurred to me that we hunters and fishers have absconded with the mantle of "Outdoorsperson", when in fact there are a lot of sports that occur outdoors.  You can all argue and piffle with me if you like over what defines an outdoors sport, but I know this- it rankles me to this day to be pigeon-holed as just a hunter, or just a fisherman.  I feel that the outdoors, and my activities throughout encompass so much more than that.  I love hiking, biking, outdoor photography.  I'm a kayakaholic and have the T-shirt to prove it.  I love to practice survival skills, knot tying, making and breaking camp. I'm an avid bird-watcher and it distressed me to no end when a friend, observing my interest in some ducks on a lake said "You know, you don't have to shoot everything."   I love outdoor cooking, long walks on the beach.. oops, wrong ad.  I have had a subscription to Outside Magazine for 18 years, but only intermittent ones to so-called "outdoor" magazines.
My Eureka moment was this- I am friends with several very good outdoors women, and it has been disrespectful of me to not think of them as such.  They love to hike, camp, canoe, kayak and some of them spend more time outdoors than I do.
Fisherman and hunters are bemoaning the loss of participation in outdoor sports, and there has been a definite movement to try to involve women, minorities and the young to try to promote the things we love.  My pledge from now on is to try to be less myopic in my view of the outdoors.  To acknowledge the validity of these other activities.  If we can think three dimensionally, broaden our own horizons, perhaps this is the key in bringing others into the sports we love.

Just a thought.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More Trout, Less Cud

The tag-line to this blog being "Ruminations from Trout Country", thus the title here.  Fontinalis Rising was started one week ago today, so it's time for a review of our progress, successes, examine mistakes made, and set goals for the next week.
First of all, I'd like to thank all of you for your overwhelming support.  I had hoped that my friends would take a look and be entertained, and that maybe, MAYBE, some of my Facebook friends would take a look, chuckle and then get back to work.  50 hits in a week would have been nice.  Imagine my surprise when I installed the view counter today and had over 370 hits in just the first week.  So again, I thank you.  I also would like to thank Joe and Rebecca for starting OBN and including my drivel.

For all of you who may be keeping up on this, I have gotten an EPIRB signal from the Unaccomplished Angler, and we at FR have dispatched a garbage truck from Chicago to the rescue.  Oprah's garbage truck, so it smells like jasmine and honey. We'll let you know if it's just a tattered survival suit or if he's still breathing.  Whether, after a lengthy hospital stay, and years of rehabilitation he's able to return to the blogosphere remains to be seen.
found, maybe, sort of, and OWM is on its way

Fontinalis Rising Mission Statement and drumroll
Now to the point of this post, I am here going to make my commitment to excellence, my vision for Fontinalis Rising.  I promise to you the reader, that this blog will be about outdoor writing excellence, that on a regular basis you will find entertaining, informative, and above all, well-written posts that even my non-outdoor friends will enjoy.  Yes, I will have to do what I've been doing, which is sitting down and banging out these 20 minute missives, and yes, it appears that I will have to use this as a means to stay continually engaged with the rest of the OBN blogosphere, but on a regular basis, I will post thoughtful, well-written posts (to the best of my ability) that I have actually put some work into.  I will share as much of my outdoor experiences with you as I can, I will diligently photograph and share, I will do some outdoor reporting, I will strive to make this a place you look forward to checking each week.
And the next time I am tempted to say something negative about another blogger or their work, I will ask myself WWAVD: that's right- "What Would April Vokey Do?".  Which is of course, is to be nice as pie and go fishing.

The Rest of This is OBN Business, for Those Of You Who Have Better Things To Do

This is in response to the OBN writing prompt concerning "Meet Your Favorite Blogger"

It's a little embarassing to admit that before last week, about the only blogs I had ever read anywhere were flyshop/guide fishing reports.  Finding OBN and clicking around this last week has been like finding a home; the down side of all this is that  I'm still getting to know you all and trying to figure out who I've even read so far.  I'm apologizing in advance to all the great writers and bloggers on this forum who I haven't gotten to.

My List, such as It Is.
1.  Kirk Werner ("I demand satisfaction") of the Unaccomplished Angler.  I could sit and read his stuff all day, the kind of writing that I really enjoy.  I'm hoping he'll write a book for grown-ups.
2. Rebecca Garlock of the Outdooress- it was your post last week about OBN that got me into this; and I must admit that I'm a little fascinated by women who love the outdoors of their own volition, and wonder if the motivations are the same.
3. Joe of- you know, Joe, the other founder of OBN, in gratitude as well.  I'll figure out which blog is yours and read it soon.
4. Harold Levett of Wind Knots & Tangled Lines and
5. Jay of The Naturalist's Angle for their early support, they seem like nice guys.
6. Mike Schmidt of Angler's Choice Flies, so I can steal some tying ideas.

My apologies to Coyote Luke of Most Things Custom  for not making the list- I see way too much of your scary hide as it is.

So, who knows what the next week will bring.  Will this blogger slide back into the oblivion from whence he came?  Will there be an uprising of the OBN bloggers to overthrow the regime?  Will Rebecca and Joe go quietly, or will they serve out the rest of their terms and not run for re-election?

Wait, that's Egypt


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Talking to Myself

I've been living alone for the last 12 years, and fishing alone for much of that time.  The auto-conversations
 started soon after this lengthy exile, and continue to this day.  I'm so used to it I don't pay it much mind.  At home I know I'm talking to myself, but on the river, I'll often pretend I'm talking to the fish, cursing the bugs, or blessing the river. But it's all just one long note to self. 
That's not to say that I don't have friends and fishing buddies.  There's Stevie, the Mad Captain, Terrance, the Terror of Echo Valley.  There's Phil the boatbuilder.  Keith the Kayaker. Tim, Andy, Eddie, Al- you all know who you are.
Most of the time it's just me, wandering off to the woods or rivers to do my thing.  I've done this since early childhood, and am grateful to have lived in a time and place where it was ok to send your eight year old outside to play for the entire day with no one asking where I went, with the only stipulation being that I be home by dinner time.  So I'm pretty sure the externalization of inner thoughts started then.

I'm not talking to myself as much anymore, and sometimes it bothers me.  Sure it's nice to be heard, listened to, even acted upon.  But really, who ever paid attention?

I'm blaming the Internet.  I've joined Facebook, for instance.  At first I connected with people I knew personally, and all seemed swell.  Then one day I decided to start networking in the fishing community.  Fairly early on I exchanged a couple of posts with a well-known guide about where we had fished the night before, and man did I hear about it.  In the past, I've told all kinds of people where I go, what I use, the size and number of the fish I catch- no one ever seemed to care, and I certainly never ran into these people parked in my favorite spots.  Now to hint of anything I do seems to land me in hot water.

The same with this blog.  I'm used to talking, and not being answered.  So Imagine my surprise when Kirk Werner, the Unaccomplished Angler himself, commented on my blog post of yesterday.  I had hinted at a negative reaction on my part to his children's books, and he called me out on it.  Awkward! It never occurred to me that he might actually bother to read something I wrote.

I'm used to reading books, watching TV, buying magazines, consuming their contents, bloviating in my self-important manner, and moving on.  Until now, those people never heard me.  They were Other, they dwelt in a realm apart from my existence and certainly couldn't be bothered with my thoughts.

Much is made of the internet, of globalization, networking, communicating.  I go to the outdoors to escape all that, and I come back and share it with you because I would like you to join me.  I want you to see how wonderful and peaceful it all is, a shelter from the pundits, politicians, 24-hr news, Friending, Tweeting, traffic, Survivor, and that Theater of Horrors, American Idol (comments from Simon Cowell will automatically be deleted).  My mind, our minds need a rest from all of that, and nothing soothes it like green leaves, flowing water, the smell of watercress, red and black spots on an electrum flank.  I need to go and talk to myself.
don't you feel better already?

I'm trying to adjust to this great interconnected world of ours and keep my sanity.  It's thrilling to be able to communicate with anyone anytime- especially with anglers, guides, TV personalities, tiers and authors I admire.  I'll just have to remember that nowadays, it seems like everyone is listening.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oh Brother, Where art Thou?

I feel like an old man waking up in the middle of a conversation.

I've just found out who Kirk Werner is.  And now he's gone AWOL.

He's the author of the above blog, and the author of this post: which is about the funniest thing I've ever read.

At the risk of alienating my readership, I'm going to do a little speculating as to his retirement and whereabouts- there's a $50 gift certificate at stake.  Feel free to let your eyes glaze over and roll back in your head.  Or better still, click on the link above and get some actual entertainment.
From the couple of posts I read besides the above, I take it Mr. Werner loves to write and fish, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.  Steelhead seem to be high in his list, which rules out the Great Lakes, which are frozen solid this winter and currently recieving the worst blizzard in decades.  Plus, it's easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than get a left coaster to fish steelhead in flyover country.
Mr Werner is also the writer of a series of childrens books- Olive the Woolly Bugger.  I've actually seen these in my neighborhood bookstore, and must admit that my thoughts about them were a little uncharitable.  This was before I had read any of his work.
My guess- that he's disappeared into some remote valley to write Judy-Blumesque novels for adolescents.  Something along the lines of "Rose the Steelhead Smolt".  It will of course be along the lines of the changing life of a steelhead parr as it smolts, abandoned by its parents at birth, dodging predators, joining a school, then heading to an urban area to eat or get eaten.  Along the way she makes friends, meets some young bucks, experiments with dioxin.  Through it all she never gives up her dream of returning to her home waters with lots of silver.  Or chrome.
He could just be laughing himself to sleep knowing that somewhere out there, people like me are staying up trying to finagle fifty bucks in his name.

Curses on you Kirk Werner, you'd better be working on that Dirty Harry script.