Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When the Tables Turn...

I got an interesting request from my friend Kirk Werner the other day. He wanted me to take my own 20 Questions Challenge, and he wanted to host the inquisition on his site, The Unaccomplished Angler.

At first, I was a bit hesitant... I mean, these questions, essentially stolen from 150 years worth Proust profiles, couldn't possibly reveal anything interesting in me. But I'll say this... if nothing else, they forced me consider some of my history and some of my future (as dismal as that might be).

I've learned that I can be something of an asshole (as if I'd really send my loved ones all over Creation in order to spread my ashes exactly where I wanted them spread ... puh-lease!). I've learned that the hardest journeys in life have the greatest rewards. And, as I sit here in a Washington, D.C., hotel room, I am reminded of how much I miss being home.

Thanks, Kirk, for the suggestion. Here's to boosting your Google analytics, my friend.

Friday, November 25, 2011

20 Questions: Jen Kugler

Jen Kugler, aka, Flyfishilicious
Need proof that the fly fishing world isn't always snooty, elitist or exclusive? That some within this fraternity recognize the need to bring more folks along in order to ensure the pastime persists?

Look no futher than Jen Kulger. Six months ago, Jen had never touched a fly rod. Today, she's a bona fide fly fishing junkie. She hasn't become a full-fledged fly angler without help–particularly within the blogosphere, where fly fishing blogs are prevalent, and readers appear to be many. When Jen started her blog, Flyfishilicious, just a few months back, she was honest and contrite. She didn't know much about fly fishing, but she wanted to learn. She saw one of the trendy fly fishing flicks while visting a friend, and thought the sport looked like something she'd be interested in. She asked. Many answered.

Today, just a few short months after that fateful day spent in front of a friend's flatscreen, Jen is not only fly fishing, but she's evolving before our very eyes. I had the pleasure recently of writing a guest post at Jen's blog, basically in response to her questions about the role in conservation fly fishers must take, especially if they are to expect fly fishing opportunities to be something we can hand down to the next generation. That she was interested in conservation impressed me greatly. That she was busy trying to channel her energy, to determine how to put it to work for good, made me an immediate admirer. Often, the interest in protecting the places we fly fish comes later to the angler. But not to Jen. She's on a collision course with complete angler status, in my opinion.

I asked Jen to give me a bit of a bio ... something to let the world know who she is. It's apparent that, in addition to being contemplative, curious and thoughtful, she's also a bit modest. She describes herself as a "quirky, forever-29-year-old" who has become hopelessly addicted to fly fishing. She lives in the Denver suburbs, is a single mom and works full-time ... that she's found the time fish is impressive. That she's found the time to take in the big picture is simply magical.

On with the questions:

Friday, November 18, 2011

20 Questions: Kirk Werner

The Unaccomplished Angler
For the record, I've never met Kirk Werner. But I've met people who've met Kirk Werner, and I've yet to coax an ill word about the subject of this week's 20 Questions Challenge from any of those fine folks. 

But I do know the author and freelance illustrator possesses at least one flaw. He's never caught a brook trout. Never. 

Kirk is the author of the popular Unaccomplished Angler blog, and if you follow the fly fishing blogosphere, chances are you've seen some examples of his illustrative work in some the logos he's created for folks in this unique community (the Outdooress is a good example). 

He's a talented artist, and the creator of the Olive the Woolly Bugger childrens' book series (you'll see below that he's trying to turn the series into a film, an ambitious, but worthwhile endeavor--good luck Kirk!).

Kirk's an Eagle Scout who lives in Washington state, where he chases steelhead and has a self-proclaimed "love-hate relationship with the Yakima River" when he's not complaining about the weather.

Enjoy getting to know Kirk. On with the questions:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Half-off for the Holidays!

Get your own copy of "Shin Deep: A Fly Fisher's Love for Living Water," for half the cover price. Simply click here, and enter the discount code: TKRB8UHY.

It's a great holiday gift, a little avenue of escape during the long, cold winter. Spend an evening or two by the fire with this book that the late Charlie Meyers of the Denver Post called, "a lively yet soulful little book built from brisk vignettes that seem to end too soon, just like good fishing trips."

I hope you'll enjoy it. 

-Chris Hunt

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanks to Andy at Upland Equations

Well... I'm not sure how my head is going to fit through the front door tomorrow morning, what with all the flattery that was tossed my way by my new friend Andy Wayment today.

Get the book here. Yes, I
know... shameless. 
Andy blogs at Upland Equations and he lives here in Idaho Falls, but we'd only met a couple of times by chance. But, as he put it, bird hunting and fly fishing are two sides of the same coin, so we tend to run in the same big circle here in town. When he reached out to me recently asking if I'd be willing to give him a copy of my book, "Shin Deep," for a review on his blog, I of course was interested. But, with a crazy work schedule of late and lots else going on, I neglected to follow through and actually put the book in Andy's hands. Thankfully, he reminded me the other day, and we finally sat down for lunch and got to know one another.

And I gave Andy a signed copy the book, for what it was worth.

To my pleasant surprise, Andy's review, which he posted today (the book's only about 120 pages long, and I'm honored that Andy took the time read it in a single day) is extremely flattering, and I'm grateful for his kind words.

Many thanks to Andy for taking the time, being persistant, and making a little room over at his fantastic blog (to think he did this all with a days-old baby at home!) for a book review. It means a lot, and I hope his words encourage others to give the book a read.

Now that we've had lunch, it's time to spend a day afield with Andy, either fishing or chasing birds. I can't wait.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

20 Questions: Tom Sadler

Tom Sadler and a Rapidan brookie.
Lt. Commander (U.S. Navy Reserve, Retired) Tom Sadler is easy to be friends with. And we're great friends. I think that's because, in our hearts, we're after the same thing--the protection of the places that matter, and not just to us, but to the future of our hunting and fishing heritage. The thought of our kids or our grandkids growing up without knowing what the natural world has to offer is dead-on frightening.

And we both love brookies so much that it's borderline inappropriate. Borderline.

For years, Tom worked the halls of Congress, first as a Senate staffer, then as a (gasp) lobbyist. He understands how the sausage gets made and, like me, deplores the process but values good results. Perhaps that was why he was able to stomach it for so long. It's also clear that he understands the essence of politics and what it means to be calculating and crafty (I looked everywhere for unflattering photos of him, with no luck. Even the photo I shot of him in an interesting little establishment on Bourbon Street has magically disappeared).

More recently, Tom began to put his passion for the outdoors to good use. He worked for a time as the president of the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, and then moved onto the Izaak Walton League and then to the Trust for Public Land. He understands the importance of protecting habitat if we're to hope for opportunity, now and years from now. And, as proof that he knows how those in Congress think, he's added what I like to call the "kicker" to my favorite phrase:

"Habitat equals opportunity ... which translates into economic activity." Brilliant. Maybe one day, when our elected representatives aren't too sidetracked by politics, they'll pay attention to those five words.

These days, he's the proprietor of the Middle River Group, where he "plays Doc Holliday to the Wyatt Earps of the fish and wildlife conservation world." He's taken up the Tenkara rod (another shared passion), and guides anglers from his Shenandoah Valley home in search of brookies in the mountains of western Virginia. You can lean more about him at his blog. You'll love it. Trust me.

On with the questions:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Conservation Update: Progress

For all those interested in conservation, particularly here in the West, here's a quick update on some recent progress hunters and anglers are making on the ground, even though things in Congress remain gridlocked.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A little Fishilicious love...

Visit Jen's site!
Jen Kugler over at Fly Fishilicious gave me the reins to her blog today, allowing me to make a guest post and offer some evangelical prose to her readers about brook trout, conservation and the cosmic insurance policy all fly fishers purchase when they join Trout Unlimited.

Give it a read, and start following Jen's blog. You can also find her on Facebook and stay up to date with her frequent posts that are both entertaining and contemplating.

Thanks, Jen, for the chance to write to your readers, and share what I think are some of the most important requirements for becoming the complete angler we all want to be. I really appreciate it!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

20 Questions: Tom Reed

Tom Reed
Tom Reed is one of my best friends on this planet. There might not another man I admire or respect more. He's also a hell of a writer, one whose words speak to the reader from the printed page. His latest book, "Blue Lines," is one for the ages. With colder weather settling in, and the idyllic evenings planned by the fire with a book resting on the table next to the recliner, I'm telling you now, this should be that book.

In addition to being an avid fly fisherman, Tom's a dedicated hunter, and you can read some more of his writing on the blog Mouthful of Feathers, and even more at his website. You'll recognize the prose as both poetic and succinct. Conversational, yet profound. The kind of writing that makes you think to yourself, "Damn... I wish I had written that."

Unfortunately, our friendship is well-steeped in dark liquor, so much of what we've shared over the years has been forgotten, along with the hangovers and the cottonmouth. But we work together, both as colleagues and as friends who love quiet country, away from the clamor of life that exists wherever power lines stretch. It's a low-maintenance friendship, the best kind, in my opinion. It's one of mutual respect, mutual understanding and lots of laughter.

For perspective, Tom's the first guy I think of whenever I hear a new joke that must be shared. It's reciprocal. Nobody--nobody--tells a filthy joke quite like Tom Reed.

I hope you'll get to know him a bit here on the blog, and I hope you'll grab a copy of his latest book, where you'll get to know him even better. But I really hope, one day, you'll get to tip a beer with TR and see, first-hand, what a good friend looks like.

Here's to you, buddy. On with the questions:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

South Fork Farewell

The braids below a snow-capped Baldie.
'Tis the season of finality.

Just a few weeks ago, I had to bid a fond farewell to my favorite little backcountry trickle for the season. Today, I waded the braids on the South Fork of the Snake River near the Spring Creek bridge, likely for the last time this year. The weather's turning cold, the day job is keeping me on my toes and I'm starting to find myself watching the skies for ducks instead of watching the next slick for trout noses poking through the surface film. 

This time of year is bittersweet. While it might be the very best time of the year to be in the field with a rod or a gun, it's also that time of year when you can sense change on the wind. Today, as the breeze blew in from the north and crossed the river, depositing what's left of the faded cottonwood leaves on the dark, frigid water, I knew that winter in the valley was on the doorstep, and a daunting, icy finger was reaching for the doorbell. It was a chilly, penetrating breeze that sliced through three layers, right to my skin and had me shivering in my waders as I cast streamers to brown trout in the fading November light. Ice formed in the guides of my fly rod as I stripped line from the water to the reel.

South Fork brown.
The fishing was fine, if a little slow, but I didn't mind. I was going through the motions, mostly, just doing that last check on my favorite stretch of river until I come back again. Everything was in order, it seemed. Everything was as it should be. 

I saw moose sign just about everywhere as I wandered through the cottonwood forest (no moose this trip, sadly). The resident pair of bald eagles flirted on the cold northern wind–they'll be mating again soon, and come spring, new eaglets will poke their heads over the aerie and gaze down at a river full of wild trout. 

Feels like winter.
The river bottoms are unique. Underrated. No, they're not really wild. Not anymore, anyway. Cows graze among the cottonwoods toward the end of summer and knock the undergrowth down. Makeshift duck blinds made of old plywood dot the sloughs and the backwaters. I picked up a dozen shotgun shell casings in one hundred-yard span of riverbank. It sees its share of use, both good and not so good.

But the smell of the river is overpowering. It's a dirty sort of clean... fetid black mud mixes with fresh, cold water and the gamey smell of well-worn waders. It's a smell that takes me back a dozen years, when I first met this river and began what would be come an autumn ritual. I've come to know this little stretch of real estate pretty well over the years, yet I'm always amazed at how it evolves with each passing season. Channels move and shift, carved by water, which flows at the mercy of the season and downstream demand or upstream storage regimen. As it should, water dictates the river's mood.
The underappreciated whitefish.
The fish are seldom in a foul mood, however, adapting nicely to the subtleties of the river. This time of year, a day spent fishing here consists of casting tiny dry flies to rising trout, drifting nymphs through deep runs and then dredging the seams with fat streamers. It's a day of fly fishing diversity ... of variety, change and adaptivity. 

I used to think the fish just changed moods on a whim, but now I know the truth. It's the angler who truly changes on a day like this. The river tests you. It pries and pokes and looks you over. It makes you decide how to approach its riffles, its long slicks or its fast water that tails out into runs so sexy and seductive that you'll want to sit back on the bank, tip the flask a few times and just watch the water flow on by. 

I fished until damn near dark today, squeezing every minute from the last hours on the river that I could manage. Farewell, South Fork. Until we meet again.