Saturday, October 29, 2011

20 Questions: Kyle Perkins

Kyle Perkins
I don't technically know Kyle Perkins, but in recent years, I've truly come admire and respect him. Through his website, Compleat Thought, Kyle has become a force for conservation, particularly here in the West.

He's also an accomplished fly fishing guide, a devoted husband, soon to be a father and, if the chatter on the Internet is to be believed, one of the most respected guys in the fly fishing community. He lives in Denver these days, where he freelances in marketing strategy and copywriting. He fishes the Colorado Rockies often, and volunteers for Trout Unlimited, both in Alaska and through the unique Greenbacks, a Colorado TU chapter consisting of younger, energetic anglers with a passion for conservation.

On with the questions:

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Land of Living Skies

When I saw the phrase on a Saskatchewan license plate at the airport in Saskatoon, I wasn't sure what it really meant. I mean, who lays claim to the skies? Living skies, at that.

But a week later, I knew exactly what the words meant. About half-way through my fly fishing adventure at Blackmur's Athabasca lodge in the far northwestern corner of the province, as I walked from the lodge to my cabin around a 11 o'clock one night, I fortunately looked up into the heavens to see if the day's clouds had cleared and the light from the stars was able to reach the lake.

What I saw amazed me. A vivid band of powdery white light streaked across the northern sky, and I realized that I was seeing, for the first time, the aurora borealis ... the northern lights. And, yes, the stars were vibrant against the darkness that dominated the rest of the scene.

But the night sky, while amazing and touching on a deeply personal level, was not what "living" skies meant, at least not to me. The daytime views of the upper half were equally, if not more, impressive, with abundant cloudscapes that blended and contrasted with the lake, with the woods ... with one another.

We could be fly fishing in a torrential downpour and look off to the west to see blue sky approaching, banded with bright, white cumulus clouds or streaked with high cirrus clouds. Morning and evening light brought colors so vivid and brilliant that I questioned their realism. Even gray skies with low tendrils of fog had character and personality. And bright blue skies were unimaginably bright and amazingly blue.

And as we left the lodge in Cliff Blackmur's float plane, we skirted above dancing rainstorms that punished the black spruce forests below with quick, violent bursts, only to diminish and reveal the the blue heavens.

Romantic? Sure, I guess. But as I sorted through the hundreds of photos I snapped over my week in Saskatchewan, a good many of them  were simply photos of the sky. Others were reflections in water of the heavens above. And still others placed the sky in the background, where it often stole the show.

Land of Living Skies, indeed. I'm a believer.

20 Questions: Russ Schnitzer

I've known Russ Schnitzer for years. For a short time, about six years ago, we actually worked together for Trout Unlimited's Public Lands Initiative. Russ was working on TU's abandoned mine reclamation program, doing the Lord's work on behalf of coldwater fisheries in the West.

But Russ is much more than a conservationist. He's a hell of a photographer, and his work for more than a decade in conservation has clearly sparked his passion for shooting the outdoors in a unique light.

Russ Schnitzer
Russ left TU not long after I joined the organization, and continued his good work with other organizations that work to protect some of the best resources the West has to offer. Our good fortune brought Russ back to TU not too long ago--he's now the senior policy advisor for the organization's Western Water Project, a progressive arm of TU that works to reconnect and restore fisheries habitat in conjunction with private and public partners, including ranchers, farmers and state and federal agencies. His work these days deals specifically with the Colorado River basin.

Photographically, his work concentrates on outdoor adventures, lifestyles, travel, and, substantially, fly fishing. Drawing on experiences across diverse western landscapes, Schnitzer’s independent photography strives to make a connection between people and nature. He believes that these unique relationships are fundamental to a conservation ethic that works in a West valued deeply by many disparate interests. Recent gallery shows have been in Jackson Hole, Denver and Kansas City, with awards received for both color and black-and-white images. He is a regular contributor to Trout Magazine, Catch Magazine, The Flyfish Journal and The Contemporary Sportsman. His work has also been seen in Patagonia catalogs, Fly Fish America, Fly Rod & Reel,, and several conservation titles, including 2008’s “Rivers of Restoration.” Recent clients include The Nature Conservancy, Brunton Outdoor Group, Portis Group, Wyoming Department of Tourism, and Western Rivers Conservancy.

In addition to photography and fly fishing, Russ's interests include hunting, road cycling, running and gardening. Schnitzer grew up in northern Minnesota, and has lived in Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Colorado. He and his wife Kelly Conroy currently live in rural Wyoming with two dogs, a cat and some chickens.

On with the questions:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Early morning stop

The McRib ... thank God it's back, right?

Well, maybe not. I noticed this on an early morning stop to go and fish a semi-famous river in southeastern Oregon that rhymes with, um ... well, it doesn't really rhyme with anything.

I got to fish on Saturday with a couple of Outdoor Blogger Network stalwarts: Rebecca Garlock, aka The Outdooress, and Emily Blankenship, aka the River Damsel. We were joined by Michael Bantam, a great casting instructor from Boise, Idaho.

Stay tuned for photos from the fishing adventure. Until then, know that the McRib is only here for a limited time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Stay tuned... 20 Questions coming...

For those of you waiting for the next installment of 20 Questions, stay tuned... I'm traveling and unable to update the blog promptly, but I will as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

OBN's big day...

Congratulations to the Outdoor Blogger Network on its first birthday. Many of us in the outdoor blogosphere were rudderless, without direction and guidance and possessing very little expertise a short 12 months ago. Today, a year after climbing on board with OBN, adopting some best practices and learning from one another, we can say, if nothing else, our voices are legitimate.

For that reason, I feel compelled to single out two people who have assisted the outdoor blogging community in finding its voice and giving each of us an opportunity share our stories, chime in on issues, review the latest in outdoor gear and, of course, come together as a community. Joe Wolf and Rebecca Garlock deserve our collective thanks.

Most of us will never expand beyond the level of hobbyist blogger–most of us have jobs and lives and other obstacles that get in the way of really devoting the time necessary to take our blogs to an increased level of relevance. But some who found OBN and have the time to invest in their writing, editing, photography, videography and web skills are becoming important voices in this arena. I hope they take the time to thank Joe and Rebecca, the co-creators of this venture, for helping them find their voices and then amplify it to the world.

On a personal note, my little blog was (and, some would argue, is) a little vanity project, something to sate the creative urges deep within. Since joining OBN last October (I'm not sure what number I was, but I think I was among the first 10 blogs or so to be categorized), I've learned things about traffic and content that have actually helped the blog pay for itself. I bought my own URL, and paid for it with web traffic from the blog. My statistics have multiplied exponentially. When I first joined OBN, I was happy with a dozen pageviews a day. These days, I'm seeing hundreds, and the writing and photography I create with the most basic of digital equipment has clout.

And, if you blog through the OBN, so does yours. We have Rebecca and Joe to thank for that.

Congratulations, you two. We're in your debt, and we can't thank you enough for bringing us all together.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

20 Questions: Michael Agneta

Michael Agneta is a life-long resident of Philadelphia and a relative newcomer to fly fishing, but throughout the blogosphere, he's well-known as the author of the popular Troutrageous! blog. The blog, now four years old, is a mix of fishing and pop culture peppered with frequent references to Lilly, Michael's 5-year-old daughter (poor Lilly... the world will know her too well!).
Michael and the famous Lilly.
Michael's married to K.C., his wife of 11 years, and he's the treasurer of the Stony Creek Anglers fishing club in Montgomery, Penn. He started fly fishing in 2008, as has "been hemorrhaging money ever since."

He's a small-stream junkie, and he's fond of the Tenkara rod, but no so fond that he's jettisoned his complicated life in the 'burbs to live a simple Buddhist existence on the banks of some Appalachian brook trout stream. In his words, he "evidently forgot to drink the Kool-Aide."

As an aside ... Michael's responses to the EMBT 20 Questions Challenge were exactly what I had in mind when I started this little weekly feature a couple months back. The bar's been set pretty high. Good luck, future participants... you're going to need it. On with the questions:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Last Day

Something in your gut tells you when it's almost over, when the sun isn't quite as warm and when the days wane just a bit too early.

Soon, those big, fat dry flies of summer will gave way to dead-drifted nymphs, size 20 blue-winged olives and microscopic Griffith's Gnats. The deep green of summer's flora will explode into autumns light show, and then sizzle into winter's dormant nudity.

As I walked along my favorite little backcountry creek late last month, I knew I was fishing on the last day. Tomorrow, I knew, would bring blustery autumn winds, rain and maybe even a little snow. I knew that this particular day was the last day I could sling a 'hopper into familiar holding water and count on a fat cutthroat to come to the top and slurp it in.

Already, the leaves along the creek were abandoning their summer green. The late afternoon light shone from the deep blue sky through a distinctively autumn filter. The season was changing before my very eyes, and I fished hard, as if summer was going out of style.

And it was.

But on this day, the fish didn't seem to care that summer was ending or that fall was pushing its way into the backcountry. They simply wanted to eat, and I did my best to feed them. Throughout the day, spirited Yellowstone cutthroats came to the top after Chernobyls and 'hoppers and beetles. And while I was thrilled with the results, the melancholy pull at my soul weighed me down. A summer spent largely on the road kept me from places like this, and now that summer was down to its last hours, I couldn't shake the regret. 

Where had it gone? 

I'm sure it had something to do with the fact that summer started so late this year. Heavy winter snow (and spring snow) pushed summer back at least a month in mind, and when it arrived, I found myself in far-flung places catching strange fish on big, fast fly rods. My glass 3-weight hadn't seen the light of day all summer, and my boots hadn't walked across Idaho rock in months.

It's disingenuous to complain. My year had taken me to south Texas in April, when I needed 85 degrees and a sea breeze in the worst possible way. It took me to Appalachia in March and again in September, where wild brookies swim. It took me to the marsh of south Louisiana, where I cast through a steamy haze to massive redfish. It took me to Montana a couple of times, where I played with wild backcountry cutthroats and lake-dwelling rainbows. And it took me to northern Saskatchewan, where vicious northern pike chased flies like linebackers chase quarterbacks.

All the while, my favorite little trout haunts here at home rested, unmolested, at least by me. 

So, as I walked along the slippery rocks of my favorite little stream, the one I know so well, so intimately, it was more of a procession than a fishing outing. It was a farewell... a "see you next year." 

And next year will likely take me to more amazing destinations. But the one I yearn for, it would seem, is the one in my own backyard. 

Summer's over. Damn.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

20 Questions: Brett Prettyman

I first met Brett Prettyman in Lake Charles, La., at an Outdoor Writers Association of America annual meeting. That was in 2006. But I've known Brett Prettyman's work for years. He's among the last of dying breed–the outdoor writer for a metro daily newspaper. Back in the days when I was a journalist here in eastern Idaho, I'd read Brett's work and, from afar, try without success to match the quality of it. His work in the outdoor arena is unmatched. I hope you'll take the time to check some of it out.

Brett writes about hunting, fishing and the outdoors for the Salt Lake Tribune, where he's worked for over 20 years as a journalist covering everything from minor league hockey to the 2002 Olympics. While I've known Brett's work for years, it's only been in the last five or six years that I've come to call Brett one of my most trusted friends. He's the real deal, a hunter and an angler who understands the connection real sportsmen have with the outdoors. And he balances his life as a professional journalist of the highest repute with a wonderful family that includes his amazing wife Brooke and a houseful of great kids that will one day realize just how fortunate they are to have they parents they do.

Brett's on my short list of folks I truly admire and respect. I hope, after you read his responses to the Eat More Brook Trout 20 Questions Challenge, you'll come to admire him, too.

On to the questions:

Winter arrives ...

Let it be known that Oct. 6 is the first day of winter in eastern Idaho.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


When you travel like I do, miles mean something.

My "miles" are split between two different airlines, and, while they are basically an arbitrary number conjured up by some corporate formula, they matter in the grand scheme of things. Miles are currency. Miles are metrics. Miles are ... a passport to a bit of freedom.

So, as this day slips into the next, I'm forced to measure the value of a night's sleep in miles. Odd, huh?

I'm a sleep apnea sufferer. I stop breathing in the middle of the night, and not just for a few seconds. My last sleep test revealed that I sometimes go 90 seconds without a breath, and then I gasp for air and start breathing again. Until the next gasp.

I made a mistake today. I trusted United Airlines with my continuous positive air pressure machine, a small-ish device that's just a hair too big for the carry-on, and maybe a hair too important to entrust to the braindead folks who apparently think DRO (Durango, Colo.) some how translates into ORD (Chicago-O'Haire). Hey... I get it. We're all human. Some of us are dyslexic, that's all.

Trouble is, as I write this, it's 12:30 a.m. Monday. I have a meeting at 9:30 a.m., and a phone call an hour before that. My luggage, and my machine, won't arrive until sometime tomorrow. I'm screwed.

Why? Because, try as I might, I won't sleep tonight. I'll lay awake. I might occasionally drift off, but I know I'll snap back to consciousness, thanks to this condition and my stupidity.

But, hey, United is giving me 9,000 miles for my trouble.

What does that mean? It means, with 9,000 miles and $2.50, I can buy a pretty decent cup of coffee that might keep me awake through my phone call and then through my meeting, which was set to last most of the day.

The lesson learned? My condition is sleep apnea. The person in charge of luggage at United suffers from dyslexia. I guess, I'm to blame for trusting that someone at this huge airline would double check my luggage before they sent it off to the Windy City.

My bad. Goodnight (or good morning), United. Thanks for the miles.