Monday, January 31, 2011

So Proud to be the 23rd Best Fly Fishing Blog!

First, of course, I'd like to thank God, because that's what you're supposed to do when you win something this prestigious. Then, I'd like to thank my agent, and I will, when I get one.

After that, I'd like to thank all the little people who made this award possible. Without them (and they know who they are), this honor would not be mine to boast of. It's on their shoulders that I stand as I accept this award for ... the Twenty-third Best Fly Fishing Blog.

That's right. You're reading one of's 50 Fantastic Fly Fishing Blogs. You know, The outfit that brought you the 50 Best Baseball Blogs, the 100 Greatest Sports Podcasts and the 94 Most Rabid Sportsfans Blogs (yes, I'm serious).

I have no idea why compiles these lists, but I'm truly touched (and a little jealous–I took a look at some of the blogs rated higher than Eat More Brook Trout, thinking I could make a decent case for this blog being better, but I just couldn't).

Finally, I want to thank my kids... who better in bed by now. It's late.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Top Parrothead Fly Fisher Lives to Sing–and Cast–Again

Most everybody knows that Jimmy Buffett can belt out the beach funk and put just about anybody in a good mood. But not everybody knows that Capt. Buffett is also a hell a fly fisher. Just a few days back, Jimmy took a gnarly spill off the stage during an encoure in Sydney–all the Hollywood gossip gurus reporter he was knocked cold for a good 10 minutes or so.

Parrotheads the world over–myself included–collectively exhaled recently when it was reported that the old pirate was just fine, save for some bumps and bruises. He had to cancel his shows in New Zealand to return back to the states to convalesce (I'm sure, if he read that description of his recovery, he'd cringe), but otherwise, he's on the mend.

God bless, Jimmy... thanks for all the music that circles the inside of my skull. I'm glad you're all right. I'm tipping a margarita your direction as I type this. Fins up, brother.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gear Review: The Boxes

So, I'm feeling a little guilty.

A few weeks back, I agreed to do a gear review–or, rather, coopt my 12-year-old daughter into writing a gear review–on the new Redington Crosswater Youth fly fishing outfit. The folks at the Outdoor Blogger Network arranged for the delivery of the fly rod here to beautifully frigid Idaho Falls, home of the South Fork of the Snake, the Henry's Fork, the Teton, the Blackfoot, et al, so I could get my daughter out on the water with this new product.

As of yet, the rod has yet to see the water. But, of course, neither have I or my daughter. It's cooooold out there, folks, and I'm a believer in trying new equipment in more optimal conditions. If your nostrils freeze shut when you walk outside, a fly line doesn't stand a chance.

But the box in which the fly rod arrived is sure nice.

And, in a break with their tradition, the wonderful folks at Redington aren't requiring that we return the rod to the manufacturer–they're letting me donate it to a good cause in hopes of getting more kids out on the water. I've already lined up a Cub Scout den for a little bluegill fishing in May. Not only will kids get to fish with this rod, but they'll get to catch fish with it. And that's important, in my book.

Oh, and the the Crosman Benjamin .22 caliber, Nitro Piston air rifle I was fortunate enough to win (thank you, OBN Random Number Generator)? It, too, sits in its handsome box awaiting its first use. Ground squirrels should start making an appearance in a month or so, and by then, the kids will be itching to get outside (and so will I). You'll hear more from me on the assets of this finely crafted weapon soon.

I have a feeling this gun will be well-used in our little family of outdoorspeople. The kids have their own BB guns, but this rifle is the real deal, and I'm sure we'll all be fighting over it during our frequent family target-shooting outings.

So, thank you to OBN, Redington and Crosman. I can't wait to give these products the thorough testing they deserve. Stay tuned to EMBT for results.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Montreal's Brookies are Remarkably Well-Adjusted

This just in ... it seems brook trout and other fish living below Montreal's enormous sewage treatment system are getting an unsubscribed dose of anti-depressants, thanks to the medicating masses in that Canadian city.

According to a study by the Universite de Montreal, the city's treatment plant doesn't remove the chemical waste from sewer water, which leaves traces of drugs like Prozac free to be ingested by trout and other fish that swim downstream from the outflow.

Take two and call me in the morning.
First, this story explains a lot. I've never met an unhappy Canadian, and now I know why. I'm guessing the brookies in the Montreal River happily come to hand with a similar, "How's it goin', eh?" Although Montreal is in Quebec, so it's probably more of a "Comment ça va?"

Second, it's another alarming way our day-to-day activities are impacting the natural world. This issue isn't entirely new–we've all heard the stories of smallmouth bass along the East Coast being found to have both male and female genitalia. Scientists believe this has to do with the large amount of hormone-laden birth-control medication that works its way through the sewage treatment systems in eastern cities.

And, whether it's posted or not, it's another reminder that you should really know where your food comes from. I doubt there's much, if any, commercial use of fish below Montreal, but certainly some folks do eat the fish they harvest from those waters. Here's hoping the only side effect they incur is turning out as remarkably well adjusted as the fish they consumed.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Beauty of the Sport

Sometimes, we get so caught up in all the intricacies of fly fishing that we forget to step back and just enjoy the beauty of the craft. For this, I give you ... Girls and Their Fish.

I know, I know... another sexist a-hole blogging away, right? Sue me...

Save Yellowstone, Kill a Lake Trout

Get your T-shirt today!
Over at my companion blog, Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing, I'm going whole hog in an effort to promote the idea of killing lake trout in Yellowstone Lake in an effort to save the dwindling population of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the lake.

The National Park Service announced its plans to cull the laker population, and it's seeking public comment on that plan, which might be the saving grace for native cutthroats in country's largest, high-elevation lake. Please read the plan if you have time, and comment in favor of netting and removing invasive, non-native and predatory lake trout from Yellowstone Lake.

While you're at it, buy my newest T-shirt–any profits will go toward getting the word out about the need to kill lakers in Yellowstone lake.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Save the Yellowstone Cutthroat

Yellowstone cutthroats, like this one caught from a small stream in eastern
Idaho, are in real trouble in Yellowstone Lake. Please take the time to
comment on National Park Service's plan to save the West's signature fish.
So, you know I have this unhealthy fetish for brook trout, right? And I admit, my devotion to this shady little denizen of small water is a bit of a mystery. I like to think it stems from my fly fishing upbringing, where brookies were often the target for the camp kitchen. That, and they lived in some of the most amazing places on earth, as far as I could tell.

They still do. But, unfortunately, they live here in the West at the expense of native fish–like the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. This subspecies of cutthroat might be the West's signature fish. It once teemed in unfathomable numbers all across the Yellowstone ecosystem, from northwest Wyoming to southwest Montana and into eastern Idaho. At one time, Yellowstone cutts were found in the Snake River drainages of northern Utah.

It was so populous that the National Park Service maintained a hatchery on Yellowstone Lake, and it shipped Yellowstone cutthroat trout eggs all over the country for stocking elsewhere. I've caught them in Taylor Reservoir in Colorado, and they've been planted just about anywhere coldwater fish were able to survive. Some of those transplanted populations still exist today, and others mingled with the native cutthroats in their new drainages, creating an odd cutthroat hybrid. Chances are, if you managed to catch cutthroats in the Rockies as a kid, you were probably catching Yellowstones, or at least a hybrid, that got its genesis in Yellowstone Lake.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Eat More Brook Trout Cabin Fever Fishing Tour, Part Deaux

Last year, around the middle of March, I launched a three-day whirlwind tour of southwest Montana's trout water, just to prove to Mother Nature that winter, even if it was going to last forever, wasn't going to get me down. I started on the Beaverhead, hit the Madison and the Gallatin, and then I had an amazing day on the Henry's Fork on the way home.

I stayed with friends and in cheap hotels, ate poorly, drank much and generally put all my cares on the backburner just to feel a little sunshine on my face ... and the pull of wild trout on my fly line.

I had such a great little trip that I'm doing it again. I'm thinking mid-March–dates aren't firm in the fishing realm, and won't be for a bit. I'm starting in Idaho Falls, and heading north. Here's the kicker–I'd love to invite my fellow bloggers along for the experience.

If you have a few days to spare in March, and want to hit the road for a fly fishing/greasy spoon/questionable tavern tour of some of the best trout country on earth, let me know. We can split expenses, get a little crazy and blog our way through the center of the fly fishing universe.

Drop me a comment, or an e-mail, and we'll make a plan... Could be a hell of a good time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

OBN... the Bloggers' Clearing House for Great Information

I wanted to send a long little note to the Outdoor Blogger Network crowd–and all its users–to say thanks for the vital service the OBN offers and to congratulate Joe and Rebecca on sticking to a project that could easily have fallen by the wayside in light of their already busy lives.

First, and I know I speak for a lot of us who have gained both exposure and some new perspective in recent months, OBN is simply an ideal "clearing house" for outdoor blogs and information. As a professional in the conservation arena, and a freelance writer and blogger, the OBN has probably doubled my digital Rolodex. Second, since I've become a member of OBN, I've managed to win a William Joseph chest pack, and be selected to review a Redington youth fly rod and a new Crosman pellet rifle (reviews coming soon, folks–the weather has been TERRIBLE). The folks at Redington are allowing me to donate the rod (normally, they ask that review models be returned) to a local Trout Unlimited chapter for fundraising, and the gun is mine to keep (ground squirrels, beware). These are the tangible benefits of being on OBN member.

A nice brookie like this might be in your future
if you're able to attend at TU conservation tour
for OBN members this coming summer.
But it goes so far beyond that. I've had really great phone conversations with both Joe and Rebecca on how to better involve the outdoor blogging community in conservation–something all of us need to convey to our readers (because, as I've said before, intact fish and game habitat equals stellar hunting and fishing opportunity). With that in mind, stay tuned over the next couple of months–I'm having talks with the OBN brass about a "blogger tour" that we at Trout Unlimited's Sportsmen's Conservation Project might put together in July or August of this year. A handful of select bloggers will be chosen to attend a conservation and fishing tour in southwest Montana (details to come soon, I promise), where they'll be given some very good information on land use and natural resource issues, and how those factors impact hunting and fishing access and opportunity in the region.

It'll be a laid-back, informal adventure in a wonderful part of the country, particularly if you like to fish the backcountry (as I do). We'll take good care of you, and likely handle all expenses upon arrival. Again, more details to come.

So, thanks again to Joe and Rebecca for launching OBN and sticking with it. While I'm sure they're getting a certain amount of personal satisfaction out of it, I know the real beneficiaries are those of us who blog and share the stories of our sporting adventures. Keep up the great work, you two... we're all very grateful.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Will Go Home

Your mind wanders during late-night vigils around airport departure signs.

The schedule seems to be written in something resembling ink, but Mother Nature possesses that digital eraser, and she's not afraid to use it. She can go from "on time" to "delayed" in seconds flat, and she doesn't seem to give a rat's ass who's life she sends into chaos.

"Try it again," she says. "Only this time, show your work."

It's snowing as I write this–the first real dump of the winter for a city that has seen much worse, and will again, I'm sure. But it's enough to throw off our timing here in the human realm, where clocks and scheduled departures and moving walkways and Homeland Security threat levels (it's at "orange" right now, in case you're interested) depict our every move. We can show up at the airport with plenty of time to spare only to learn that all we really possess on days like this is time. And a credit card.

But the bar is long since closed, and the moving walkways carry no cargo this time of night. The airport is dormant and unnaturally quiet. I know that, in a matter of hours, it will spring to life once more. My challenge–should Mother Nature choose to cooperate–is to get the hell out of here before that happens.

A dormant airport on a snowy night in Denver.
This is the kind of thing that happens now and then to frequent travelers. It beats hours on the tarmac, I suppose–the hibernating concourse is actually somewhat pleasant. It beats the dreaded "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but we have to return to the gate" announcement.

I've been pretty lucky over the years. Sure, I've had the occasional night like this one, where, realistically, I'm probably here until the weather clears a bit. I've been a plane that circled Boise for an hour because it couldn't get its landing gear to close. I've also been forced to turn back with our destination in sight because a combination of low fog and an obsolete turbo-prop prohibited landings with such questionable visibility. I've been in turbulence so rough that overhead bins popped open and spewed their contents all over terrified passengers.

I'll take tonight for what it is. Mother Nature wins one, now and then. Good for her.

Encouraged by the Show Turnout

The Trout Unlimited team at the ISE--that's me on the right.
Thanks to Tom Sadler at Dispatches from Middle River 
for the dead sexy photo.
I spent the last few days at the International Sportsmen's Expo and the Fly Fishing Show in Denver, and if attendance at these events is any indication, I'd say the economy is starting to return to respectability.

Both shows, at least from my perspective, did very well in the target-rich environment of Denver. What's more, I had some really great conversations with anglers and sportsmen on a number of conservation topics. It's heartening to see folks actually willing to give back and talk about the need to protect what we have left for the next generation.

I had a great weekend in Denver. Now, of course, it's snowing and my flight home is touch-and-go. Cross your fingers for me ... could be a long night.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I'm honored ... I think

So, I was perusing the blogger news items on OBN, and I discovered a new blog, "The Political Sportsman," which immediately piqued my interest.

I was even more interested when I read the blog post title: "Foaming at the Mouth." That's one of my favorite phrases to describe the folks who are little (or a lot) over the top. So, I clicked through to the blog, and imagine my surprise when the blogger, someone using the initials RC, gave me credit for the phrase "foam at the mouth." I'm sure I'm not the first to use this descriptive phrase, but it sure comes in handy now and then.

What's more, the blogger is a firm believer in another of my more strident beliefs–"habitat equals opportunity." Now, that said, "the Political Sportsman" doesn't pull punches. You'll either love what he (or she?) has to say ... or not.

I, for one, am glad, however, that I'm not the only one out there who understands that if we want to have the chance to fish wild country a generation from now, we're going to have start protecting the best of what's left right now. 

I enjoyed the post, and look forward to more... if, as is the challenges of most blogs, he can stay on top it and keep it going. It's not as easy as once believed. I wish him (or her) the best of luck.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Eat More Brookies drops in on Denver show circuit

The International Sportsmen's Expo and the Fly Fishing Show are both in Denver this week, and I'll be going back and forth at both shows working booths for my day job with Trout Unlimited.

I'll take a few photos with the Droid and post them on the site, particularly if I see something noteworthy. The "show circuit" is in full swing this time of year––in addition to the Denver shows, the Dallas Safari Club has a show under way, and there's another ISE in Salt Lake City later in the month.

Add the big Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) in Las Vegas in a couple weeks, and January might be the best month of the year to go and look at new outdoor gear, cash in on a bargain with a high-end hunting or fishing lodge and rub elbows with some of the more noteworthy names in the outdoors community.

I'll be manning booths off and an on at both the ISE and the Fly Fishing Show for TU, so if you're in the neighborhood, swing by and say hello.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lucky Reminder of Days Gone By

I found out today that I am to be the lucky recipient of a new Crosman air rifle––an item I'll have the chance to review and keep thanks to my membership in the Outdoor Blogger Network. As great as my little stroke of luck made me feel this morning, the announcement spurred some memories of years gone by that are, today, bittersweet.

I remember the East Texas woods I trampled as a kid, my trusty Crosman 760 Powermaster cradled in my arms. The little .177-caliber pellet rifle/BB-gun combo was my prized possession in my formative years, and I took great care to ensure it remained in good working order.

I walked the deep woods along the Sabine River with that gun, scanning the branches of oak, hickory and sweet gum for squirrelly prey. My brothers were my constant companions during those sultry summer days, when the air felt so heavy, but the freedom of river bottoms felt so right. We floated the murky brown waters of the Sabine in a commandeered canoe for days at a time, shooting at squirrels and sparrows and plinking pop cans and the floating milk jugs left behind by trot liners.

At times, it felt as though we were the only three kids on earth, off on a grand adventure through an unspoiled jungle far from home. The river teemed with life, above and below the water. In its murky depths swam enormous catfish and the behemoth, toothy alligator gar. On land, we'd see giant nutria and the occasional fox would run from our path. While walking through the dense woods of the Big Thicket, we'd step lightly to avoid disturbing the copperheads that crawled along the damp forest floor. We'd carefully watch overhanging limbs as we floated the river, for fear a cottonmouth might come unhinged and land in the tipsy aluminum craft.

We swam naked in the dark water against our better judgment (but a dare is a dare), and against the will of our mother, who warned us of gators and leeches and toothy critters that were only rumored to exist. Armed with cheap fiberglass casting rods, we drowned worms and smelly catfish bait for the river's fishy denizens.

We ignited enormous, smoke-laden campfires at night to keep the bugs at bay (because it was too damned hot to burrow into sleeping bags), and when the mosquitoes continued the assault, we coated our naked arms and legs with foul-smelling mud, and slept through the worst of it.

We laughed. We played. We dreamed the dreams of boys with nothing but time on their hands and their lives lying open like the pages of unwritten books.

I miss those care-free days in the East Texas sticks, where the river provided three boys with a lifetime of adventure. And I miss my brothers, most of all.

Today, we're separated by hundreds of miles, but when we find the rare opportunity to get together, it's truly special. It's almost like it was, but not quite. The youth of our past can't be recaptured or relived–only remembered and relished as adults looking back on the those foolish days.

I don't know what became of my old Crosman 760 after I left home for college. Hopefully, through Providence or a good garage sale, it landed in the hands of a wide-eyed boy eager for adventure. Hopefully, that boy was able to experience all that came with walking through the woods with such a modest, yet effective tool in his hands.

Hopefully the feel of cold steel against his cheek as he aimed down the sights at his quarry remains with him today, as it does with me. Maybe that sweetly satisfying little kick that came with squeezing the trigger of that tough little gun stuck with him, as it stuck with me.

But most of all, I hope he remembers the sheer joy of being young and able to wander free in the woods, scanning the treetops and chasing adventure. Those days are short–something you realize one day, long after life gets in the way and sends you down untold paths to far-away destinations for unknown reasons. Years later, though, those memories remain.

Damn. I miss that little gun.


2010 ... the Year that Was

From Montana's border with Canada to a stone's throw from Mexico, with stops all up and down the Rockies, 2010 was a year for the fly fishing ages–at least in Eat More Brook Trout standards. While traveling this region is a gift, the travel itself can be a bit of a chore. Working to protect fish and game habitat on public lands–or working to protect public lands, period–is a taxing endeavor filled with lots of hope and the occasional stellar result. Thankfully, the journey is marked by opportunity, which is really what public lands are all about in the first place, right?

I'm fortunate enough to get to experience the best of the West at a time when resources–although imperiled–are still wonders to behold. And I'm fortunate enough to get to see other destinations throughout the country that, while not what they once were, still offer plenty for the angler willing to stretch his legs and walk a bit. In 2010, I cast to wild and native trout in the upper Midwest, chased redfish (and avoided alligators) in south Texas, and worked with some of the finest people who understand the need to protect habitat today if our kids are going to have opportunity tomorrow. Enjoy a glimpse of these experiences, and take them with you the next time you venture into the backcountry that belongs to each and every American.

Here's to a fruitful 2011. May it see more of our public lands–our hunting and fishing opportunity– safeguarded for generations to come.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Resolving to disagree, without being disagreeable

A post on a fellow blogger's page today got me thinking about something I heard former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson say once, a few years back. At the time, I was still a practicing journalist, and I was honing in on some important natural resources issues facing the West–most notably the plight of native cutthroat trout in the face of ever-increasing development and urban expansion.

Simpson, a strident Republican, was speaking at an event sponsored by former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus (also the Secretary of Interior under President Carter). Simpson and Andrus, despite being from opposite sides of the aisle, had forged a long and strong friendship–perhaps, both being from the West was enough to bridge opposing political ideology.

Anyway, Simpson's speech was particularly moving because it occurred during a time when we were all realizing just how polarized our nation was becoming (and I look back on that day, not even a decade ago, and think about just how prophetic Simpson's words would be).

"We've lost the ability to disagree," Simpson said, "without being disagreeable."

Enter blogger Owl Jones, who runs a host of blogs, including one I'm particularly fond of–Fly Fishing the Southern Blue Ridge (I'm a brook trout fanatic, and brookies are native where Owl lives). Over the course of the last few months, I've been able to decipher Owl's politics, and, politically speaking, I've determined he and I aren't terribly compatible. He's a pretty conservative fellow. I'm, generally ... not.

But, his blog informs and entertains me, and I think, if we knew each other personally, we might actually be friends–maybe even fishing buddies. I like to think we could we could tolerate our opposing political views in favor of our shared passion for backcountry fly fishing.

Owl wrote a post recently about some hate e-mail he received from a reader who felt the need to reach out and directly criticize one of Owl's blog sites. First, one has to wonder how angry a dude has to be to take the time to trash a blogger running a fly fishing site. Second, one has to question motive.

I like to call such folks "foam-at-the-mouthers." They can't really assign logic to their vitriol, but they feel compelled to channel their discontent nonetheless, regardless of their politics. This, in my opinion, is cheap and below-the-belt.

Here's to Owl, and his unique perspective on things. We likely won't agree on much, but I can honestly say I think our shared passion for fly fishing will one day provide us with a common launching pad for any discussions we might have involving politics. And, I would wager, if we couldn't come to some sort of understanding on our politics, we could at least enjoy a day on the water chasing trout.

In other words, we could disagree without being disagreeable. There's a lesson to be learned there, thanks to Sen. Simpson. I just wish folks would be more inclined to appreciate political differences and look for what we have in common, rather than what we don't.

Is that too much to ask?