Monday, February 28, 2011

Claude Rains... Brook Trout Aficionado?

Actor and brook trout lover Claude Rains
I got my Google key word news alerts today for "brook trout," which usually involve something pretty predictable, like a bit of information from the conservation community working to protect brookies in their native waters, or a fishing report from some impoundment that contains a cookie-cutter population of hatchery char.

But this one was different. It was a detailed movie review of the film "Deception," posted by Jacqueline T. Lynch at Another Old Movie Blog. I couldn't help myself. How could an old Claude Rains movie released in 1946 turn up in a Google search for the term "brook trout?" I clicked through to find out.

Well, as I learned from reading the detailed review of the film, dapper old Claude (you might remember him better from is role in Casablanca opposite Humphrey Bogart--if all of these names and movie titles are completely foreign, it's time to tweak your Netflix subscription, or raid your parents' VHS collection) mutters the line, "A nice brook trout, not too large, from a good stream," when his character is ordering a meal from a waiter.

So, in "Deception," Rains' character professes a love for brook trout (well, indirectly, of course). And in "Casablanca," Mr. Rains' character, the corrupt Captain Reanault, takes one look at at Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman, and says, "I was informed that you were the most beautiful woman ever to visit Casablanca. That was a gross understatement."

At the very least, Mr. Rains chose characters with impeccable taste.

The outcome? I added "Deception" to my Netflix list (Bette Davis was a looker, but she's no Ingrid), and I'm now now following Another Old Movie Blog, hopeful that Jacqueline will be able to uncover more little nuggets about my precious brookies from the hey dey of the silver screen.

Now, THIS is ice fishing...

I'm a huge BBC fan... I just think the work they do is so relevant to the real world outside the insolar boundaries of the United States. And, occasionally, something so amazing is caught on film that I can't help but admire the resources the network expends to bring such imagery to the world's viewers.

This is one such event. Enjoy.

Friday, February 25, 2011

When Field and Stream talks...

Well... let's just hope Congress listens.

Kirk Deeter, the renowned outdoor writer who pens for Field and Stream, the Fly Fish Journal and Angling Trade, among others, just posted a blog at Fly Talk exposing the cuts Congress is proposing to conservation programs as symbolic and political. I couldn't agree more.

Join Kirk, and all ethical sportsmen who understand the vital connection between habitat and opportunity, and tell Congress to cut where it counts, not where it makes political points with donors.

If we can't save this, we're lost...

I've never had the privilege of fishing for salmon and those storied rainbows in Alaska's Bristol Bay drainage, but I hope to, someday.

But my opportunity, and the opportunity of thousands of anglers who dream of casting flies in one of the most storied fly fishing destinations on earth, might be slipping away thanks to the stubborn plans of an international mining company that seems determined to put an open-pit gold mine at the top of the drainage.

Despite the protests from the commercial and recreational fishing industry, natives living in the region and thousands of sportsmen who live all over the country, the plans to create the world's largest-ever open-pit mine in the worst possible location continue. Thankfully, as of Feb. 7, the issue will get a thorough EPA review, but more must be done to protect the world's most prolific salmon runs, and undoubtedly the world's greatest rainbow trout fishery. Yesterday, sportsmen went straight to the top and asked President Obama to step in and get involved in the issue.

As a new advertisement from the coalition to stop the mine says, "The Real Gold Mine is Already Here." This basin sees the most productive commercial return of sockeye salmon in the world. Add the four other Pacific salmon species, and the native presence of Arctic char, Dolly Varden, rainow trout, Arctic grayling and northern pike, and the drainage is an angling Mecca that will pay dividends for generations to come. The resource the area offers now will never play out. It won't pollute the landscape. It won't be subject to the booms and busts of the commodities markets. It will simply pay out, slow and steady, forever. If we let it.

Open-pit gold mining is a nasty business that uses chemicals like cyanide to leach gold from ore. The track record of existing mines is poor, at best, even in arid climates where runoff and spills aren't the factors they would be in the wet and wonderful Bristol Bay drainage. The mining company swears it can do things correctly, but given that sketchy track record and all that's at stake, it's simply not worth it.

This is simply the best of what's left of our natural world, and we're fortunate enough to know the ecological bounty it possesses. If we're lucky, we'll get the chance to fish this amazing place one day. If we're not, it could be because some international mining conglomerate has trashed the best of the Last Frontier to get at a finite resource and pad a bank account or two.

If you're interested in keeping Bristol Bay just as it is today, and protecting the long-term, renewable resources that swim up the rivers and streams of this remarkable place, please visit, and take action.

Time is short.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Remembering Summer

Damn, it seems like a long time ago, when the trees had leaves and rivers ran free. It seems as if this winter will never end, and that spring will never show up to release us, and our waters, from forced hibernation.

I find myself looking forward to dripping icicles, cold sunshine and steam rising off the asphalt. As much as I'd love to rush headlong into summer, I know I must first endure spring and all its false promises and its frequent reminders of the Rocky Mountain winter.

But if I can just get through it, to those long, lush days when socks are, more or less, optional, I think I'll be all right. For now, reminders in pixels will have to suffice. Do me a favor. Cheer summer on with me... maybe, if we all root for it, it'll come just a little faster.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Salmon Thought to be Extinct Rediscovered in Japan

From the "How Cool is This?" Department comes this little tidbit of information about a freshwater salmon species thought to have gone extinct 70 years ago, when a power plant constructed on its native Lake Tazawa altered the water chemistry and zapped the fragile fish.

Apparently, though, about 100,000 kunimasu salmon eggs were relocated to Lake Saiko at the foot of Mount Fuji before the power plant went in, and the eggs hatched. The fish, also called the black kokanee (which probably means the salmon are a landlocked variety), have apparently been swimming around in Lake Saiko for decades, unbeknownst to the rest of the world.

In celebration, the Kyoto University Museum is hosting an exhibition of the rare fish, which grows to about a foot long. Scientists say the fish's population is Lake Saiko is stable, so long as the current environment is maintained. There is hope, though, that anglers will leave this special critter alone.

Here, here.

Brookies Where They Belong

I remember my first real brook trout–the first one I caught in the Hughes River after a long downhill hike off the spine of the Appalachians into the innards of Shenandoah National Park. To be clear, I'd hooked hundreds, maybe thousands, of diminutive brookies in the streams and beaver ponds all over the Rockies. But catching a brookie where it actually belonged ... where it was native ... that was new to me.

That first brookie, pulled from the river within sight of Corbin Cabin, an old homestead that was eventually absorbed by the national park, was pure September gold. I remember snapping the photo shown with this post and then sitting by the stream staring into the display screen of what now would be considered a dinosaur of a digital camera. The fish was tiny, as expected. But it was full of life, and having plucked it from behind a rock in a little slick draped by dogwoods, oaks and mountain laurel, it quickly became my favorite brookie of all.

And that's why I was so excited to read this story in Garden and Gun (link provided by my good buddy Tom Sadler at Middle River Dispatch, via his Facebook Page) about President Hoover and his own passion for brook trout in what would eventually become Shenandoah National Park.

Years ago, as a student, I learned quite a bit about Herbert Hoover's presidency, and how it was marred by the Great Depression. He took a lot of heat for the events of the day, and he was vilified greatly for the economic times that saw things like food lines, villages of homeless squatters and the general depression that was ... the Depression. One of my favorite anecdotes from the textbooks was the assignation of Hoover's name to a host of items. For instance, newspapers quickly became Hoover Blankets; Hoovervilles were the tent cities that sprung up in urban centers, particularly on the East Coast. With inflation, the dollar became the Hoover penny.

So you can imagine my surprise at how seemingly progressive Hoover was, at least when it came to brook trout in the nearby Appalachians. Read the article, if you get a minute–you'll learn something new, and gain an appreciation for the lofty status the brookie held when Hoover graced the White House (and the Brown House–his Shenandoah retreat that is now part of the national park, not unlike Corbin Cabin near that little river where I was lucky enough to catch my first native brookie).

The story proves a couple of theories that I've always held to be true. First, national parks were perhaps the greatest idea we, as a nation, have collectively conceived. And, second, anyone, even downtrodden presidents who would kill for a little good news, can appreciate native fish for what they are–indicators of purity and resilience, should we be smart enough to leave their habitat alone. Happy reading...

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I've stood on the shores of Jenny Lake and marveled at the Tetons as they climb to the sky, seemingly before my very eyes. It's a severe view. Intimidating, yet stunningly beautiful. It's a fitting final view, and I know I'd be sated if my eyes closed with that image burned on my brain and they never opened again.

I've come over Galena Summit and been forced to pull the car to the side of the road just to take in the splendor of the Sawtooths. On frosty spring mornings, when the sun hits them just right, I'd swear they were among the most beautiful of God's creations, and that, if He stole my last breath right there, I'd be OK with it.

But, perhaps it's my Colorado roots, or the fact that each time I see them I'm stunned into speechless pause, the San Juans have my heart. Mount Sneffels on a cold and clear day, with its scores of jagged little sisters pushing their way into the heavens, never disappoints. Never.

Now, I'm sure the trouty goodness hidden in the creases of these mighty mountains has a lot to do with my infatuation. But mountains all over the West shelter backcountry fishing bounty. I suppose the winding mountain passes with names like Engineer, Cinnamon, Red Mountain and Lizard Head have a little grip on my soul, but there are sketchy high-country biways all along the spine of the continent.

I think the logic behind my attachment to these mountains, though, has to do with the attachment so many others have to those other rocky monoliths. It's almost as if they've forgotten this wild corner of Colorado, with its history, its crystalline waters and the alpenglow just as the sun sets. They've overlooked the funky little mining towns that will never again see such prosperity, at least not at the doing of the pick and the shovel.

To these romantic souls who, like me, find magic in the viewscape and the marvels mountains ferret away for the adventurous to uncover, I ask one favor. Look again at the San Juans. And before you turn your back on them, I think you'll believe, as I do, that the endearing image of these mountains stretching  before you will snatch a corner of your spirit and tug on it, endlessly.

You won't overlook them again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Winter Images

Winter fly fishing is an exercise in faith. It's an endeavor, an event.

It's not something to undertake with expectations, reasonable or otherwise. It's done with the understanding that the payoff comes not in the form of willing trout, although they're a welcome and all-too-infrequent surprise.

Rather, the rewards come in cold silence, in the savored sight of an eagle against a cold, blue sky, and the protest of thick, February water running with a purpose downhill over time-worn rock.

The rewards come in chosen company, white campfire smoke, footprints in the streamside snow and elbow room.

God bless winter for what it delivers, and for what it doesn't. For both are worth immeasurable gratitude, don't you think?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Day on the Water

Enjoying a little of Fetzer's finest ... through a Twizzler
straw. Tough day on the water.
By Liza Hunt
EMBT Guest Blogger

I held hands with my love.

I felt the water push on my legs.

I saw an immature bald eagle coast overhead.

I made some beautiful casts.

I threw a snowball.

I ate a hot dog cooked over a campfire.

I drank some wine.

I got back in the water and fished to the bridge.

I saw the mama eagle fly over me.

I took a picture of the moon, chalky white in a bright blue sky.

I told a secret.

I heard some gossip.

I laughed at a joke.

I hugged my son.

I cast again.

I smelled the water.

I ate some Twizzlers.

I felt the sun on my face.

I looked at the Tetons.

I watched the sun set.

I did NOT catch a fish.

I must have had a terrible day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Winter's Warming Chill

Winter's chill turned my breath into frosty cigar smoke around my head, and a thin layer of mist rose from the black, icy water that snaked around my knees in a seductive embrace.

Gloved hands stripped line from a reluctant reel–at 18 degrees, nothing moves willingly–and I began to cast. It had been a while, but it felt good to fall into the pattern that had been so familiar before the visit to the surgeon. It felt ... natural.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gear Review: Redington Crosswater Y Fly Rod

Several weeks back, the folks at Redington sent me a Crosswater Y fly rod to review–or rather, they sent it for my 12-year-old daughter to review.

Unfortunately, it's been so frigid here in eastern Idaho this winter that finding a good day to get out on the water has been a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, last Saturday, we braved the chill and ventured off into the 18-degree fog for a bit of fishing with the Redington rod.

Here's Delaney's review:

"The moment the Redington Crosswater Y arrived at my door I couldn't wait to try it. Unfortunately the weather was not permitting.

Finally, we just couldn't wait for Mother Nature to cooperate–last week, we drove to the Warm River, which is just outside of Ashton, Idaho. I was so excited. I could not wait to catch some fish!

When we got to the river, the temperature had dropped well below freezing, so we had little hope in actually catching any fish. After my had set up the fly rod, I happily tromped through the snow in my new wading boots and neoprene waders to the water. I hopped in and started casting.

I loved how it felt to cast the Crosswater Y. It was smooth and light, like holding an extra large drinking straw. It was so easy! By the end of the day I had successfully caught two sticks! They were very pretty.

I had a great day and did not have that sore feeling in my right arm like I do when I use one of my Dad’s rods. I would definitely recommend this rod to other youth. It really is great!"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Craig Mathews can suck it! (Kidding ... mostly)

By Liza Hunt
EMBT Guest Blogger

Leave it to Craig Mathews to make it look easy and fun.

It has been a frigid January in Idaho with the temperatures dropping well below zero many, many times. The Tenkara rod I got for Christmas didn’t even have a fly line attached to it, and I really had no intention of taking it out until the snow was gone, the roads were clear and the flowers were blooming in the spring.  

But there was Craig Mathews, fishing in January, on the Madison, no less.

My husband doesn’t like to fish big water. He likes to hike into the backcountry and cast flies in streams my 8-year-old could jump across. I see big, slow, snakey "S" turns in Yellowstone National Park and start to salivate. Chris won’t even slow the car down. 

"I'll fish there when I'm old," he mutters.

AND he says that my new beautiful 13 foot Tenkara Fountainhead rod isn’t for big water–and it certainly isn’t for big fish.

So there is Craig January...on the Madison...with a Tenkara rod–well, what’s a girl to do? I decided we were going fishing.

In the Craig Mathews video the sun is shining, he’s cracking jokes, and he manages to catch two very nice fish in about two minutes. 

The Liza Hunt video would feature an hour of driving on icy roads through dense fog with a cranky 12-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy who keeps asking how long things can hold their breath (alligators, whales, Bear Grylls).  

In my video, we arrive at Warm River, circle through a parking lot packed with snowmobile trailers, park on the road and spend 40 minutes cramming ourselves into six layers of clothes and new neoprene waders. We then stand around for another 20 minutes waiting for Daddy to rig up everyone’s gear. By then, two of us have to pee. I’m not sure Craig Mathews had the same challenges.

  • The dog got tangled up in my line and managed to bury the nymph in my left index finger.
  • The 8 year old fished for a total of 20 minutes before his reel fell off and he went into the river up to his neck to retrieve it. Keep in mind, it's February.
  • My brand new Tenkara rod broke into three pieces.
  • I cursed Craig Mathews.

At one point in every fishing trip, I find myself declaring, “I’m never going fishing again!” 

But then, I tell myself to give it five more casts–my Sweet Baboo puts down his rod and gives me a little direction (“The fish will be in the deeper water. Show me where Cameron fell in”). 

Moments later, I end up with a nice little rainbow trout. It might not be a fish that YouKnowWho would be proud of, but that little rainbow saved my day, and will keep me coming back for more.

God Bless you, Craig Mathews.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Heart of the Gila

Photos courtesy Garrett VeneKlassen
Huddled next to the fallen tree, Kirk Deeter and I looked at each other, our eyes wide with surprise and a touch of fear. The bullet had missed us by a wide margin, but the fact that we could hear it as is zinged overhead after the ricochet was ... unnerving.

"Wait for him to reload," Deeter said. "Then we'll get over that little rise and out of range."

A few more shots rang through the trees along the creekbottom, and we could hear the lead crashing through the cottonwoods just a few dozen yards away. With each shot, we sank lower to the ground, making ourselves as small as we possibly could.

Finally, the shots ceased, and we popped up from the shelter and sprinted about forty yards over a small rise and out of the spray of handgun shots coming from the unknowing shooter. We hollered and yelled as we ran, but we suspected the target shooter was wearing earplugs as he or she clipped the trees from a nearby stretch of private land along the remote little creek, deep in the hear of southern New Mexico's Gila country.

We'd spent a couple of hours driving a deeply rutted gravel road into the backcountry during the July monsoon season, and then hiked a few miles up this tiny creek that holds one of the last stronghold populations of native Gila trout–one of only two trout subspecies native to the far southwest. The other native–the Apache trout–swims a bit farther to the west in Arizona. Both are rare, but efforts to recover them are moving along nicely.