Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From father to son ...

For clarity, let me just say I'm not much of a hunter. In my house, we have a grand total of three "firearms," one of which is a .177 caliber air rifle (and that's the one we use most). I do enjoy bird hunting, but mostly I'm a fly fisherman--a gift handed down to me from my two grandfathers, who stood over my shoulder as I caught brookies, browns and rainbows from black-bottomed beaver ponds high in the Colorado Rockies.

A few years back, as I got the itch to join friends of mine here in eastern Idaho in the fields and on the waters each fall in pursuit of upland game birds and waterfowl, I asked my dad if he'd send me his old shotgun, a Remington 870 Wingmaster. He'd stopped using it, and I figured I'd be able to put it to good use.

After a couple years of fruitless bird hunting--remember, I'm an angler by preference--I finally came home from a hunting trip with a couple of ducks. It was my second duck hunting trip of the fall--the first ended as I watched trout rise on the South Fork of the Snake, and cased the shotgun in favor of the fly rod. This last trip, though, I made a commitment to stick with it, and work my way through the Snake River bottoms with the shotgun at the ready. A couple hours later, after jumping a few dozen birds, I managed to hit a couple of mallards that foolishly remained within range.

While the success of most of my outdoor pursuits can be credited to two old men who reveled in the idea of their grandsons taking up fishing, the first two ducks I shot with that old shotgun can be credited to my dad.

Just wanted to say thanks, Old Man.

Friday, October 9, 2009

And you think we can fly fish ...

As adept as many of us become at chasing trout and salmon with the long rod, we've got some serious competition from some of Nature's more charismatic creatures--dolphins.

Take a look at the photos in this story from The Sun in Great Britain. Amazing. Goes to show you, no matter how good you get, there's almost always a better fisherman out there able to bring a little humble pie to your angling ego party.

In the British Isles, where Atlantic salmon fishing is a long-standing tradition, and where salmon runs are significantly depleted, it must be driving a few of the more die-hard fly anglers nuts to see a pair dolphins enjoying a game of catch with the prized game fish.

The photos are incredible ... enjoy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Foaming at the mouth over otters...

My friend Brett Prettyman, outdoor writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, posted a blog today about the fervor over otter reintroduction on the Provo River--one of the West's best trout fisheries (my humble apologies to Brett for not even giving Utah a nod when it comes to the real Top 10 places to cast a fly in a recent blog--the Middle Provo belongs on that list, as does the Green).
Otters eat fish, so it's not surprising that a vocal minority in Utah are threatening deadly action against the native critter, even though the fish they'll be dining on are actually non-native. What the foam-at-the-mouth crowd is missing is that introducing otters to the Middle Provo will likely improve the overall habitat for trout, native or otherwise.

How so?

Otters will take a bit out of trout numbers. Literally. But, like any predator, they're opportunistic. They'll feed on the fish they're able to catch, and weed out the weakest and sick. By trimming the numbers of fish from the river (something the catch-and-release ethic has made almost non-existant--and, largely, that's a good thing), otters will improve fish growth rates, meaning those who fish the Provo will likely see bigger fish... and more bigger fish.

And let's a bit wholistic about this. Anything we as humans can do to make the ecoystems we fish less ... um ... human, is probably worth doing. Yesterday, for instance, I visited my favorite fall fishing haunt on the South Fork of the Snake, where I knew I'd see lots of rising fish and that I'd probably hook into at least one trophy cutthroat or brown trout while I was there. Predictably, the fishing was excellent--nice trout on top virtually all day long. It was amazing.

The highlight of the trip, though, wasn't the fishing. In early afternoon, as I was casting to a pod of working trout, I heard a noisy splash behind me. I turned around only to see a massive bull moose stepping into the river. I was downwind of the big animal, so it didn't know I was in the water, a scant 20 yards away, until it stepped out of the willows and into the river.

The moose stopped and toook a good look at me. I turned, and kept my eyes on him, just to be certain he wouldn't do something unpredictable. Apparently, deciding I was no threat, he slowly worked his way across the river channel and up to the opposite bank. I watched his antlers disappear into the fall foliage.

I can imagine that seeing a rare northern river otter while casting to a pod of rising trout on the Middle Provo would be just as exhilerating, if not moreso. Maybe the message is this: For most of us, fishing truly isn't about the fish. Keep that in mind before you poopoo the idea of bringing otters back to their rightful place on the foodchain.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A "Top 10" world...

It was only a matter of time before Forbes Magazine came out with its list of "Top 10 Fly Fishing Towns," seeing as how the magazine has resorted to this kitschy technique to drive online readers for the last decade or so.

I remember, as the former editor of the daily newspaper in Pocatello, Idaho, a few years back, when Poky made the magazine's list of top small cities in which to do business. It's an honor, certainly, and Pocatello is perhaps the most underrated small city in the Northwest. But after the city appeared on the list a few years in a row, I caught onto Forbes' gimmick. By naming Pocatello and other small cities across the country (Sioux Falls and even Duluth) as great places to do business, the magazine essentially assured itself of some free advertising (which chamber of commerce president ISN'T going to put that in the relocation guide?) and tons of regional web traffic. Lists are gold mines in the Internet Age. Simple as that.

So back to the latest Forbes list--the best fly fishing towns in America. It's pretty predictable, but also a bit wacky. Sure, Missoula and West Yellowstone made the list, as they should have. So did Glenwood Springs (I'm sure the folks in Aspen are PISSED). Then there's Grayling, Mich., which the magazine incorrectly identifies as the "birthplace of Trout Unlimited--TU was founded in Traverse City--and Roscoe, N.Y. Also appearing on the list is Asheville, N.C., and State College, Penn. Redding, Calif., made the list, presumably because of the Sacramento River running through town. Mountain Home, Ark., thanks to its trophy tailwaters, is on the list, and then, in a tip of the cap to our Canuk friends, Calgary made the Top 10.

So, two in Montana, one in Colorado, two in the South, one in the Midwest, two back east, one in California, and one in Canada.

Folks... this isn't a Top 10 list. It's a geographically skewed advertising ploy performed deftly by a savvy media machine--Forbes. While places like Rosco and Asheville have their fly fishing charm, should they really rate in the Top 10? Think about the 10 places on your list of "some day" fly fishing destinations in North America. If Asheville's on your list, your priorities are whacked. Granted, there are native brookies (and you know how we feel about brookies, right?), but if you'd rather fish near Asheville than, say, Gunnison, Colo., or Idaho Falls, Idaho, or even Reno, Nev., then you need to get out more.

And the list is skewed completely toward trout. There are great places to fly fish for other species that will put a deeper bend in your fly rod than trout--how about Islamorada? Corpus Christi? Cabo? All are officially in North America. Oh, and there's that one place ... up north ... Alaska.

Don't be fooled by Forbes and its lists--they're great for the towns on which they shine light, but if you're itching to make travel plans, you have better options.