Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mess with perfection ... at your own risk

Some things are perfect left just like they are. No improvement necessary.

My Scott 3-weight 'glass rod, for instance. It's the perfect small-stream brookie-buster. PBR just out of the ice after a hot day on the water. Crunchy Cheetos. Jessica Alba.

And, of course, salmon.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Brookie Christmas

Mostly, it's just cold. Freezing cold. The water, black against winter's white, reluctantly follows its given course off the shoulder of the mountain.

There, finning quietly in the deepest, darkest pool in the tiny backcountry creek, a brook trout rests on smooth gravel. The spawn is over. The fall feed is done. Now, as the stream flows thick with chunks of ice, it's time to rest.

What little light there is filters through the cloak of winter in a blue-gray tinge. Days are short this time of year. Nights are frigid and calm, silent, save for the footfalls on snow above, which tremor into the midnight water just enough to keep the char on edge.

These are the nights that remind the fish of better days ... of warmer days when stoneflies hatch and caddis dance on the water's surface. When lunch is a tailslap away. Winter is long in the Rockies, where this imported salmonid thrives in borrowed waters. Proof of its resilience lies largely in its ability to displace the natives that evolved here ... thrived here.

The brookie's life force is undeniable. The diminutive exotic of scores of Western waters has the heart of a Russian weightlifter and the spirit of a nimble ninja. It might be the perfect coldwater denizen.

For now, as near-frozen water tumbles reluctantly by, the brook trout simply holds on, nose pointed into the current. Its heart beat slows. It moves only to breathe. Food is a distant afterthought. It nearly hibernates.

Above, the cold, clear sky soaks up the winter sun–what moisture lies in the air freezes in tiny crystals and falls to the ground. The meadows of high-country trout streams are fields of white, unbroken, unmolested.

In time, the snow will melt, and the brook trout will once again rise to the fly. For now, during the shortest days of the year the brookie rests. Warmth will come again, and the char will dance on a tight line in good time.

In good time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Secretary Salazar Takes a Swing at Bad Policy

Hey, it's really pretty simple. Habitat equals opportunity. Without one, you really don't have the other (unless you're dunking worms in a pay-by-the-pound trout pond or "hunting" behind a high fence, that is). Fortunately, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar understands this most basic of equations–today, he announced that the Bureau of Land Management would once again consider high-quality federal land for potential wilderness designation.

The Alpine Triangle in Colorado–some of the best BLM
land in the country.
For clarity, Salazar can't actually create new wilderness areas–only Congress can do that, and lately, that's no easy task. But Salazar can direct the BLM to once again identify the best of its 245 million acres of public land and designate these fine chunks of federal real estate as "wilderness study areas." This practice was trashed in 2003 when then-Secretary of Interior Gale Norton caved to industry and the extreme political right–she decided she knew more about the BLM's land than the folks on the ground and decided then and there that no new WSAs would be created. Period.

Kudos to Salazar for scrapping that wrong-headed idea. In the "habitat equals opportunity" department, anglers and hunters are among the first to be appreciative of the move.

"Whether they are called wilderness study areas, roadless areas or wilderness, sportsmen know that the best habitat for fish and wildlife and the best hunting and angling opportunity is found in the backcountry," said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited.

Indeed, the "controversy" surrounding wilderness (and wilderness study areas, for that matter) is largely due to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. My guess is that you'll hear a few folks from the foam-at-the-mouth crowd talking about being "locked out" by wilderness, or that Salazar's new policy restricts their "access" to public lands. That's simply not true. In fact, very little–if anything–will change. It would be largely inconceivable for Salazar or BLM Director Bob Abbey to approve a new WSA that would alter existing uses, including those designated for motorized access.

But what this new practice will do (and pay attention, hunters and anglers) is identify the very best of what's left and protect our access to some of the best fishing and hunting left on public lands in this country. You won't be locked out, but instead, the goodness that accompanies intact habitat will be locked in–you know, things like excellent water quality, diverse and native flora and fauna and high-quality sporting opportunity.

For that, Secretary Salazar earns a pat on the back. Good work, sir.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eat More Brookies ... simplified

Just a heads up for frequent visitors: The URL for Eat More Brook Trout is now simply eatmorebrooktrout.com--I've gone and sprung for an official domain name and am off the Blogspot nipple! It shouldn't matter much, however--typing in the old URL, complete with the Blogspot moniker, will still get you to the same old place, where brookies rule the roost and always will.

Happy Holidays to all in the blogosphere, and have a safe, healthy and prosperous 2011!

–CH

Save even more on Shin Deep

Eat More Brook Trout readers already get a 20-percent discount when they order their copy of "Shin Deep: A Fly Fisher's Love for Living Water" online. If you're looking for that last-minute holiday stocking stuffer, I've got more good news--the retail price of the book just dropped, meaning you can save even more. Just visit the book homepage and place your order--you can choose expedited shipping and have the book in your hands before the end of the holiday season.

Also, don't forget to enter the discount code (see the link to the right), and you'll get that additional 20 percent off the purchase. Enjoy the book, and good luck on the water!

–CH

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sarah Palin ... the huntress?



Sarah Palin, the ideal example of an American sportswoman?

Uh, no.

Well, for clarity, let me just say she's not the complete package, anyway. And that's coming from a very casual hunter who appreciates the opportunity to get outside and chase game, but is more tuned into fly fishing the backcountry.

Take a look at the video above--it's a fairly accurate depiction of a novice sportswoman on a guided stalk-and-shoot hunt for caribou in Alaska. I'm certain Sarah and her hunting party were dropped in the remote tundra thanks to a TLC-funded helicopter ride (seems to be the preferred mode of transportation for the aspiring leader of the uber-conservative movement and the subject of that network's "reality" show focusing on Sarah and her family). And the hunt itself is probably not unlike any guided hunt for caribou in Alaska (save for the purists--and I know a few--who stalk and kill these noble animals with traditional longbows, not scoped rifles). Forgiving what looks to have been a poorly-sighted gun and the five shots Sarah takes to bring down the animal that showed virtually no fear of humans, I was actually moved by her father's exclamation when Palin finally connects with the caribou and kills it: "Der ya go, Baby! Der ya go!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Redfish memories...

I have no idea why Capt. Danny Wray decided to wait for us at the Bridgeside Marina in lonely Grand Isle, Louisiana, that chilly December morning. I just know that he did, and I’m thankful for that.

“You ought to be here by seven,” he said to me over the phone the evening before. I was bellied up to the bar with a pair of drinking buddies at Pat O’Brien’s in the heart of the French Quarter, and there’s a chance, given the two empty Hurricane glasses resting in front of me (you know, you really can’t taste the alcohol), I was overly optimistic when I said, “No problem. We’ll be there.”

I’m not sure what it says about my friends when, after hearing exactly when we would have to leave New Orleans in the morning in order to get to Grand Isle by 7 a.m. (4:30 a.m.--it's a two-and-a-half-hour drive) they both echoed my words to Capt. Danny. “No problem.”

So, when the three of us finally made our way south to Grand Isle and lurched into the marina parking lot at 9:30 a.m., I half expected Capt. Danny to tell us to take a hike. Late for a plane? Fine. Late to work? Easily explained. Two and a half hours late for a fishing trip? Get a rope.