Friday, September 30, 2011

20 Questions: Cameron Mortenson

The first time I realized just how influential Cameron Mortenson has become in the fly fishing world, I was attending a Trout Unlimited chapter meeting outside of Canyon, Texas, on the banks of the Guadalupe River. The TU chapter down there is one of my favorite chapters in the country, because those guys have such limited trout-fishing opportunity. That doesn't stop them from loving their river, though, and the Guadalupe is a very respectable tailwater trout destination, made special by the caring group of TU members who work constantly to ensure habitable conditions for trout that actually enable year-round trout production (if not fishing) on this river in the middle of the searing Texas Hill Country.

The "glass geek" himself.
Anyway, at the chapter meeting last spring, I noticed a TU member sporting a Fiberglass Manifesto t-shirt, and we struck up a conversation that led to some fascinating talk of hidden creeks bristling with wild and native Guadalupe bass, a species that's on my "to catch" list, hopefully in the coming years, and hopefully on a supple and sensitive fiberglass rod. The Fiberglass Manifesto is Cameron's blog, and over the course of the summer, I noticed a couple other TFM t-shirts out there, the last of which I found on the back of Mike Sepelak of Mike's Gone Fishing ... Again, while chasing trout in southwest Montana.

Finally, in New Orleans, of all places, I got to meet Cameron in person at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show, where a lot of the fly fishing movers and shakers gather each year to gawk over geer and share a drink or two. We chatted briefly over a bowl of gumbo and beer, and promised to stay in touch. This blog post is the first realization of that promise.

Cameron's a self-described "glass geek," a devoted angler who fly fishes with fiberglass, an old-school material that has faded in the minds of the fly fishing masses (unfortunately) with the advent of graphite and all the new materials the big manufacturers are finding ways to fuse into finished rods these days. But glass maintains a following (I am among them). If you like to feel fish on the line and you like a softer, slower cast that makes delicate and accurate presentations, glass rods have a place in your quiver. If you're like me, and you cut your fly fishing teeth on old, bulky glass rods, you also know that nostalgia and fly fishing go together like Brad and Angelina. 

Cameron gets the glass attraction, and has devoted his blog to glass and the people who help it persist. As an aside, he's also a husband, a father and a vice police detective. Cross him at your own risk. 

Enough chatter. On with the questions:

Saturday, September 24, 2011


If you look closely, it's red, white and blue.
It wasn't an intentional oversight, and when it dawned on me that I was spending the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks fly fishing for native brook trout instead of honoring those who did nothing more insidious than show up for work that awful day a decade ago, I felt a little guilty.

I even drove right by the Pentagon on my way out of town and didn't give the date a second thought, or the giant concrete behemoth off to the left a second glance. I had brookies on the brain.

I was to meet up with one of my best friends in the world and boulder-hop along storied Appalachian waters in search of late-summer brook trout in the waters in which they belong. But it hit me as I got out on the freeway and turned on the radio. The haunting din of bagpipes coming over the airwaves washed through the rental car as NPR broadcast the memorial service live from Ground Zero in New York. Moments later, "Taps" played, and my eyes watered up.

And as I exercised the freedom so many have sacrificed so much to achieve, and drove a few miles per hour over the speed limit on my way to a Sunday fly fishing trip–because I wanted to go fishing, and because I could–I said a quiet little prayer in my head for all those still dealing the senseless loss inflicted upon our country 10 years ago. I reminded myself that it was that freedom, that liberty, that made us so vulnerable to those who are blinded by hate and fueled by uber-religious despots with evil agendas.

And, 10 years after the attack, and in the midst of the most divisive political atmosphere I can remember, we were all Americans again. Some of use were mourning next to the places where the zealots found us vulnerable one sunny September day and others were simply busy being the Americans we've always been. In our own way, we were honoring those who died without cause and showing the rest of the world that our way of life isn't something they can change with a few hijacked passenger jets.

And, later, as I cast to rising brookies and plucked the gorgeous fish from the cold, clean waters of Shenandoah National Park, I remembered again that fateful day a decade ago, and was thankful that those attacks didn't alter our lives enough to keep me and my friend from the water on this particular day, or to keep those in such pain from being at the sites of the attacks a decade later.

The unity, unfortunately, proved short-lived, but in today's heated, partisan environment, I'll take the day.

God bless those who died on Sept. 11, 2001. I didn't forget. And I never will.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

20 Questions: Rebecca Garlock

Photo courtesy of Grant Taylor.
Like a lot of people over the last year or so, I first met Rebecca Garlock through what has become a vital clearing house of outdoor blogging information, the Outdoor Blogger Network. It's no coincidence that Rebecca, along with Joe Wolf, created this virtual hang-out for outdoor bloggers, and I like to think that it's Rebecca's drive and passion for the outdoors that made the OBN what it is today–highly relevant, informative, entertaining and an irreplaceable gateway into the outdoors for both bloggers and blog-readers.

But Rebecca, aka "The Outdooress," is much more than just the creator of this important new (it started 11 months ago) tool for the outdoor blogging community. She's a successful blogger herself, and she's a very influential outdoorswoman in her own right (we'll forgive her for the chucking hardware for salmon--nobody's perfect, right?). I have the utmost respect for Rebecca, and I've enjoyed getting to know her over the last year or so. I look forward to working with her again soon.

Now, onto the questions:

Friday, September 16, 2011

20 Questions: Craig Mathews

Craig Mathews
Craig Mathews is one of my heroes, so when he agreed to be the second victim of the Eat More Brook Trout 20 Questions challenge, I couldn't have been happier. In addition to being one of the country's fly fishing elite, Craig is a staunch conservationist who, over the years, has been able to speak truth to power in a way that is constructive and helpful. And he puts his money where his mouth is--in partnership with Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, Craig helped start the "1% for the Planet" program, where businesses and industry could earmark 1 percent of their profits to conservation-centric the non-profits of their choice. 

To date, the effort has contributed over $100 million to the environment. 

When I first moved to Yellowstone Country in 1999, Craig's book (that he wrote with Clayton Molinero) was one of my first purchases, and I kept that copy in the glove compartment of my truck for years, until one day, during a sudden rainstorm at Cave Falls, the book just fell apart on me. Craig was key to me venturing into the Yellowstone backcountry, and I'm forever grateful for that education. 

Craig lives near West Yellowstone, Mont., with his wife Jackie and stable of dogs. You can find him most any day at Blue Ribbon Flies in West, sharing information with anglers. He'll be the guy with the smile on his face.

Now... on with the questions:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Twenty Questions: Owl Jones

Here at the worldwide headquarters of Eat More Brook Trout (you should see the little space the staff and I have carved out of the store room), we're constantly looking for content that will keep followers coming back for more. And, frankly, unless I'm either on a fishing trip or just back from a trip, it's tough to keep the blog updated with fresh information. With that in mind, I thought we'd start a new weekly feature that requires precious little effort on my part, and a lot of thought and contemplation on the part of the folks I plan to pick on for the next 52 weeks.

It's called "Twenty Questions," and it's inspired by one of my many vices--reading the back page of Vanity Fair magazine while "browsing" airport newsstands. With apologies to the wonderful magazine, I rarely buy it, but I often "steal" it while I'm waiting for a plane. The back-page profile consists of a Proust questionnaire (made famous by French writer Marcel Proust, who delighted in questions like those below, and answered several such queries over the course of his brilliant career).

Jeff "Owl" Jones.
I thought it might be interesting to take that venerable Vanity Fair questionnaire, trim it down somewhat, and present the questions to a handful of folks in the fly fishing world, just so you, as readers, can get a better handle on the folks who are moving and shaking in our tight little community.

For the first victim participant, I've chosen Jeff "Owl" Jones.

Owl Jones is a something of polarizing figure among the fly fishing community. He first came on the scene during the message-board craze of the mid-90s. Since the late 90s, he has been banned from most of the larger forums due to his unwillingness to sugar-coat his opinions, and his ability to ruffle the feathers of  fellow anglers and state wildlife agencies alike. In late 2010 he started his own blog which is now called "," where he has not yet been banned (although, by the time this runs, you never know). Owl currently lives in Gainesville, Ga., with his lovely wife and their invisible dog "Snickers" who always does what he's told and never barks at night. His goal is to get famous, take over the fly fishing world, and someday have extra-large zingers with his face on them. 

As an aside, Owl is still smarting from the hurt put on his Bulldogs by some lowly community college from Boise, Idaho, last weekend. On with the questions:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tenkara and the Water Wolf

You know your fly fishing trip is going pretty well when you look to your fishing partner and utter these words:

"I think we can catch a northern pike on a Tenkara rod."

That's akin to saying a guy could hit one over the center field fence at Coors Field with a dried sprig of spaghetti. It just doesn't compute.

But after six straight days of some of the most intense fly fishing either of us could remember–and a scant day after I landed a fairly beefy migrating lake trout with the long, supple Tenkara rod–anything seemed possible.

A must for any northern pike expedition, right?
But a pike? In storied Lake Athabasca? On a noodle designed for trout in high-mountain streams?

Had someone with any sense been there with us, they would have compassionately touched our foreheads and pronounced us completely ill. And who would we have been to argue with them. Our guide–a pro at finding where the pike live in the giant lake, which is just shy of the size of Lake Michigan–had no clue what were conspiring, and couldn't have vouched for sanity. Louie Isadore is a native Dené Indian, not a mind reader (although sometimes we wondered). He simply nodded his head when we made the pronouncement, and then nodded again when we gave him the following advice:

"Just be ready at the motor, and at the net."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

EMBT guest post at Field and Stream

In case you missed it, folks, you can read my guest post at Field and Stream online about the great lake trout incident. And stay tuned ... the great pike incident is next.

And, just to whet your appetite, I've posted a few photos that'll get you thinking about calling up Blackmur's Athabasca Fishing Lodge in far northern Saskatchewan. Cliff Blackmur is taking reservations for next year ... it's the trip of a lifetime.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tenkara and the Tyrant of the Lakes

Guide Louis Isadore from Blackmur's Athabasca Fishing Lodge
in northern Saskatchewan shows the first lake trout of the trip,
caught at the mouth of the Otherside River by
Field and Stream writer Kirk Deeter.
Salvelinus namaycush. Tyrant of the lakes.

My nemesis. My fly fishing Ark of the Covenant. My... El Dorado. As I stood on the banks of the Otherside River lining up the photo of the big fish, I felt a noticeable weight lift off my shoulders. The rain, for just a few minutes, stopped. A beam of sunshine poked through the low ceiling of clouds and I felt as though I'd just accomplished something nobody else on earth had ever done.

Truth be told, I probably did. But that's for later in this tale.

I'd tried for five days to catch a lake trout on a fly. I'd been denied each time. 

The second day of our trip here at Blackmur's Athabasca Lodge in the far northwest corner of Saskatchewan, we were informed of one of Lake Athabasca's oddities–an early spawning run of lake trout that actually swim like salmon or steelhead into the rivers that enter the enormous lake. They get so thick, we were told, that during the peak of the run they're an "every cast" proposition at the mouth of the Otherside River situated conveniently within eyesight of the lodge. 

The peak of the run?

"Any minute now," said Cliff Blackmur, the namesake of the lodge that's put up with us for a week. "They're late, so we're expecting them while you're here."