Monday, December 31, 2012

Eat at your own risk...

Imagine a menu at some high-brow seafood joint in the near future ... AquAdvantage salmon, broccoflower in a cheese sauce produced from milk taken from hormone-enhanced guernseys and a big, fat genetically modified Idaho baker, slathered in butter and sour cream (also enhanced by hormones, steroids and anti-biotics).

I just threw up in mouth a little bit.

The ocean pout, an eel-like deep-water dweller that grows
all year long in very cold water.
Just before Christmas, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released its "finding of no significant impact" on the environment from the production of genetically-engineered salmon by AquaBounty, a company that's been toying with the fishy building blocks of salmon for a few years now. The company has successfully created a "salmon" for commercial production by mingling the genes from Atlantic salmon, Pacific chinook salmon and the ocean pout. The fish's eggs are to be hatched in a facility in Canada and then transported to inland Panama, where they'll be reared to maturity and then, presumably, brought to market as "salmon."

Monday, December 24, 2012

20 Questions: Mrs. Claus


Last year, I managed to procure an interview with the Jolly Old Elf himself--and it's easily the most popular post I've ever done. I think it speaks wonders about the world--that no matter how desperate the times or depressing the headlines, folks are still looking to learn more about Santa Claus and they still turn to Christmas for comfort.

This year, I thought it would be wonderful to get an interview with Santa's other half--and I have no doubt he would call her his better half--Mrs. Claus. It took some doing, but just in time for Christmas, she came through like a champ. Just a short chat with the woman behind the man that is St. Nick reveals a lot about how the Christmas spirit endures, and why folks continue to turn to Santa each year for hope, inspiration and embodiment of the season. 

Mrs. Claus, it turns out, is just as festive and just as committed to making Christmas what it is... to putting smiles on the faces of kids the world over. That she does it behind the scenes is no less remarkable than the deeds of her magical husband. 

Enjoy getting to know Santa's significant other. On with the questions:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Weekend 10: The Big Easy

I spent much of last week in south Louisiana with some fishing buddies, chasing reds and specks around the marsh just west of New Orleans. I love this little corner of Louisiana, both for what it is now, and, with a little love, what it could be once again.

The marshlands of south Louisiana are disappearing to the tune of a football field every hour thanks a channelized flood-control system that pushes sediment down the Mississippi River and out into the Gulf of Mexico, where it just falls off the edge of the Continental Shelf and is lost forever. Before the levees and the channels were constructed, the river would frequently change course and deposit sediment all through the marsh--building land and actually increasing the barriers that stand between the Gulf and the higher ground inland. Now, the waters of the Gulf, pushed by tides and sometimes by severe storms that bear names like Katrina and Isaac, lap against the marsh grasses and pull the earth away from the grass, eroding fishy swamps and turning them into vast, shallow, brackish lakes that stretch miles across.

Chris Macaluso with nice Lake Bourne black drum.
It's one of those unique problems--we know what causes it, we know what the solution is, but for some reason, we can't look past the challenges to reach the compromise needed to protect the coastline and all that great fish and game habitat so many of us love. Thankfully, there's a campaign afoot, and I got to fish with its director, Chris Macaluso, last week and learn more about it.  The Vanishing Paradise effort, conducted largely by the National Wildlife Federation, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and Ducks Unlimited is making great strides, bringing important partners together and working to find ways to reintroduce fresh Mississippi River water--and the sediment it carries--into the marsh in hopes of stemming the land loss this area experiences every single day.

Chris toted me and my buddy John Gale around the marsh for a couple of days lastweek, and we stuck a few decent speckled trout and a few really nice redfish. I love fishing the marsh--within 20 minutes, a guy can leave the French Quarter and be far enough out into the wilderness to cast to wild fish out of sight of the city. It's a unique little corner of America... and I hope it stays that way.

Here's what's best about it, in my book, anyway:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Little Things...

Maybe it's the season ... the chill in the air... you know, the holiday contagion, when everybody seemingly has a bit of bounce in their step and a hint of a smile on their faces for no particular reason.

Whatever it is, I've taken the hint. I'm officially in the Christmas spirit.

I woke up this morning in a lonely hotel room in Denver, ready to face the rest of the week away from my family and, honestly, ready to feel pretty bitter about it. But then, I got a Facebook message from my pal Rebecca Garlock, aka, The Outdooress. She sent me a link to her latest blog post, which was all about ... me.

Rebecca and Chris on the river... hopefully, we get to
do this more often in 2013!
I read the post and can honestly say that I've never felt more humbled... more flattered. It's always interesting to read what others think of you, and it's not often you get the chance. So, to Rebecca, thank you. And Merry Christmas, my dear friend.

But wait... there's more. My friend Marshall Cutchin, the publisher of Midcurrent, flattered me recently as well, when he asked me to contribute now and then to the online fly fishing site. I absolutely adore Midcurrent--it's an aggregate of all the great things happening in the fly fishing world, and it has real personality... real relevance.

So I happily submitted a piece I was originally going to submit to a magazine to Midcurrent, with a few edits for the online crowd. I'm looking forward to being a part of the Midcurrent family--and I'm honored to have been asked.

To Marshall and Erin and Glenn and the gang, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and all the best in 2013.

But, perhaps most of all, I wanted to send the season's greetings to all the folks who swing by this little hobby spot over the course of a year--Eat More Brook Trout is a "for fun" endeavor that serves to enrich the side of me that just likes to fish.

Granted, much of my life is centered around fly fishing, but I realized long ago that just fly fishing wasn't enough--that, if my kids were to enjoy it as much as I do, I had to do my part. I think that's why I'm equally passionate about protecting our wild places and our wild fish.

But it starts with fishing, and that's how we must connect with the next generation of conservationists... we simply need to give them something to care about. So, to those of you who care enough to fish, and then care enough to protect your opportunity by taking on the threats to our fishing, Merry Christmas... and keep up the good fight.

Happy Holidays to all... And God bless you in 2013.


Monday, November 26, 2012

20 Questions: James R. Babb

James R. Babb
I first read River Music: A Fly Fisher's Four Seasons in hardback shortly after it was published in 2001--I was still something of a fly fishing hack, more enamored by "place" than I was by the trappings that come with the full-on infatuation with the craft. 

At the time, I had a single fly rod, and the tip-top of that rod--an Orvis Clearwater, 9-foot, 5-weight my wife bought me for our fourth wedding anniversary all those years ago--snapped on me on a little creek in the eastern Idaho backcountry a week before I picked up the book. I'd managed to hook a willow with my backcast, and the tip broke as I cast the line toward a tight spot just below a little plunge in the creek. 
I was devastated. And I was frustrated. For a time, I even contemplated abandoning the pursuit in favor of something else... anything else. Then I cracked the cover of River Music, and two chapters in, I found myself at the local fly shop in Pocatello, where I presented the pieces of my trusty stick to the proprietor. He did some minor surgery with a glue stick and a new tip-top, and my 9-foot rod was transformed into an 8-foot, 10-inch rod.

"You'll never notice the difference," the proprietor said. He was right. I didn't.

On the Madison.
I can thank Jim Babb, the author of what remains my favorite fly fishing book to this day, for inspiring me to keep fly fishing. And I have him to thank on a fairly regular basis--frequent readings from the book's tattered pages remind me that fly fishing is a fairly simple pursuit, that a fellow with a 20-year-old fly rod with a glued-on tip-top can get as much out of it as the guy with $800 invested in the graphite he totes to the same damn creek. It is about place ... it is about feel. When I get caught up in the hoopla of the pastime and the hype of "the next big thing," I know I can pick up my old copy of River Music and find the energy I need to rearrange the furniture in the attic.

For those of you who don't know of Jim, he's the editor of Gray's Sporting Journal, perhaps the last great example of truly good long-form outdoor writing left in America. Thankfully, Jim contributes frequently to the publication--it would lose some luster if he didn't. While a subscription to Gray's ought to be atop your letter to Santa this year, you ought to first check out Jim's books, starting with my favorite, River Music.

On with the questions:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Weekend 10: Thanksgiving Edition

'Tis the season to be thankful, and as the house starts to smell of roasted fowl and all the trimmings, 'tis the moment to be grateful for all the blessed folks in my life who make it pretty damned special. To my family, I'm thankful for the smiles and the laughs and the hugs and the kisses--they make walking out the door each day difficult, but coming home oh, so easy. To my friends, spread like buckshot all across the world, I'm grateful for the encouragement and the ease to which we can fall into a conversation, even though months may have passed between our last meeting.

And, since this is a fly fishing blog, I'd be remiss if I didn't single out a few blessings for which to be thankful on this, the most thankful of days. So, in no particular order, let's get started:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gear I Love: Redington's form game rod

The daughter instructs the son.
I got my hands on Redington's new form game rod, a great little tool designed to keep the cast in shape when you can't actually be on the water, or, if you're a 14-year-old girl, something you can use to lord it over your little brother while you "instruct" him on the finer points of fly casting.

The two-piece rod comes with 30-feet of custom RIO fly line, some simple instructions and a few basic tips for beginners. Within five minutes of opening the box, the kids and I were on the front lawn trying to cast the yarn "fly" at the end of the custom fly line into the mouth of a bucket about 25 feet away.

Monday, November 12, 2012

20 Questions: Phil Monahan

Phil Monahan
I think you could probably count on one hand the number of people in the fly fishing industry who are honest-to-God wealthy ... who, if the urge hit them, could figure out a way to take a bath in hundred-dollar bills.

But I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who's worked a lifetime in the industry who isn't, in some fashion or another, rich. I think Phil Monahan is one of the latter (although I suppose he might have ridden the tech bubble for all it was worth in the late 90s--what do I know?). 

Forced into the publishing business years ago by the need to rub a couple of nickels together at the end of every month, Monahan started out at Outdoor Life after stints as a guide in Alaska and Montana, and then ended up editing American Angler for a decade. Now he's the chief cook and bottle washer at the Orvis fly fishing blog. Phil's life in the fly fishing business has been an enviable journey--I challenge you name one mover and shaker in the outdoor world with whom he hasn't enjoyed a beer. 

I know Phil only through his work, and it's great work. I was, for years, a subscriber to American Angler, and I eagerly consumed his work and the product of his editing when every issue landed on my desk (I subscribed at work--I can't count the quiet mornings in my office at the newspaper that I spent reading fly fishing magazines and sipping the first cup of coffee from the pot. And Phil's magazine was chief among them). 

In recent years, I've had the privilege of getting to know Phil through his work at the Orvis blog--one of the best online resources for all things fly fishing. We all know Orvis through the company's retail offerings, but since I started working closely with Orvis in recent years as a part of the day job over at Trout Unlimited, I've come to know Orvis for much more than just the headquarters store in Manchester, Vt., or the catalogs that make their way to my door a few times each year. I've come to know Orvis as a company with a very real conservation conscience--as Vice Chairman Dave Perkins noted on a conference call with bloggers a few weeks back, it makes good business sense to protect and restore the resources Orvis' customers use when fishing or hunting.

Phil and Tom Rosenbauer
And the company, thanks largely to guys like Phil and Tom Rosenbauer, is a real player in the online fly fishing editorial world--these guys don't just sit around thinking of new ways to plug Orvis products--they steer the ship at a genuine media outlet that, if you take the time to read the blog, can make you a better angler.

But, then, Phil's work has been making folks better anglers for years, and for that I'm grateful. If you don't know Phil, the following questions will give you a bit of a head start should you, say, wander into a bar in Manchester see him enjoying cold one. Buy him one for me--I'm good for it.


Friday, November 9, 2012

The Weekend 10: Fishy Conspiracy Theories

With the 2012 election now a thing of the past (insert big exhale here), I'm now hearing from some of my more conservative friends that there's just no way the results are legit... that Karl Rove's "gut feeling" has never been this far off. I've even heard a few mutterings about the likelihood of a rigged election (to which, as a left-of-center guy, I respond, "You're gonna pull this shit after the 2000 election and eight years of Dubya? Suck it up, Cowboy--the sun came up on Wednesday, didn't it?").

It got me thinking that I need to focus on what's really important, especially as we head into the first weekend after the second Tuesday in November: the conspiracies that abound in the fishing world. They might not garner as much ink as the notion that FEMA is busy building concentration camps for Tea Party storm refugees, or that SWAT teams are going door-to-door collecting every last gun from American citizens while UN election observers take over Texas (and let's be honest... if the UN was going to take over a state, would Texas really be its first choice?), but they're out there. And, they're out there, too. 

For the record, some are serious, some ... not so much. I'll leave it for you decide--the way conspiracies should really work. So, for weekend consideration, here you go:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No gloating ... Let's move forward

As I sit here on election night--the results long since in--skimming the myriad Facebook and Twitter feeds from friends, both liberal and conservative, I'm relieved at the results but troubled by the reactions from both parties. We are, indeed, a nation divided. The popular vote proves it--and, frankly, it has for a dozen years or so.

So, yeah, my guy won, and I'm happy about that. But I'm also of the mind that now, while we're at our most divided, we ought to make a conscious effort to reach out to our elected officials and ask them to reach across the aisle and get something productive done, if for no other reason than to show our children that, while we often disagree, being disagreeable doesn't have to be a biproduct of our politics.

Friday, November 2, 2012

20 Questions: Kara Armano

Kara Armano
You might wonder how a chemical analyst can find a way to become one of the more influential people in the fly fishing world. If you were to ask Kara Armano how that came to be, I'm guessing she'd give proper due to a helping of pure luck and what I perceive to be the desire to do something she loves.

It helps, too, when you possess an infectious personality and can cast a fly rod. As a senior account manager for Backbone Media, Kara moves freely in fly fishing circles and has earned the respect of all who work within the craft because she's one of the people who "get it" when it comes to building the craft without forgetting what makes it possible in the first place. Kara is the "PR rep" for Sage, Redington, RIO and Fishpond--all reputable names in the industry, and all companies that give back to craft and the resources that make it possible in the first place. That these companies give credence to resource protection and restoration and have Kara carrying the water for them on the marketing and PR front is, in my opinion, no coincidence.

She's the real deal on the fishing front--you'll read more about that in a bit. But she's more than just an angler--she's an avid skier, mountain biker and someone who values wild places for what they offer to the soul. For that reason, I have tremendous respect for Kara. If you haven't met her, you're in for a treat.

On with the questions:

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Weekend 10: Bumper Stickers

I've entered the "swag" fray here at Eat More Brook Trout--I've gone and ordered a 1,000 super-cheap and small-ish window stickers to promote the blog (message me on Facebook and I'll send you a couple), and it got me thinking of some of the better bumper and window stickers I've seen over the years.

Generally, I'm not a huge fan of the kitschy phrases--particularly of the political ilk--that tend to dominate the bumper-culture these days. I think political bumper stickers are actually a real problem in our society--they tend to become soul-free catch-phrases used by politicians that, while easy to remember, lack any real substance. To me, politics is too nuanced for bumper stickers, and it cheeses me off when sloganeering takes the place of dialog.

But I digress...

Bumper stickers have their place, and I hope the little EMBT window sticker has its place on a lot of rear windows in the future. For now, some of my favorites...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

20 Questions: Mia Sheppard

Mia Sheppard
Mia Sheppard is confident, smart, funny and ... magnetic--she's a blast to hang out with. That she can cast a fly rod like a stick of butter and find fish on just about any stretch of water is simply a bonus. She's the real deal... a steelhead guide, an extreme skier, a chukar hunter and a patient, thoughtful and caring mother and wife. There aren't many out there like her.

But what I respect most about Mia (outside of the whole stick-of-butter fly-rod thing) is her desire to channel all that's good within her toward protecting our natural resources. She's one of the rare hunter/angler types that understands the connection between a healthy environment and the opportunity to fish and hunt. It baffles me that some folks think intact habitat and sporting opportunity are mutually exclusive.

I got the chance to fish briefly with Mia in Alaska this summer, and I'm so glad I did. Not only did I make a great new friend, but I was also reminded that there are people in this world who care about the places that allow great fishing and hunting to happen. You may not know Mia, now, but I'm betting you will, and I'm betting you'll be just as impressed with her as I am.

Here's your introduction. On with the questions:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Public lands... Our Birthright

Enjoying our birthright.
We're not all born into wealth--the Oligarchy is called the Oligarchy for a reason. But, as Americans, we do have a few birthrights ... a few intact benefits that come with citizenship.

Our country's vast network of public lands is the envy of the world--no other nation bestows upon its citizens the free-and-clear ownership of real property. Sure, it comes with stipulations--it belongs to all of us, so a mutual respect for the resource is necessary and largely understood. But it's ours. We can step foot upon it any time we wish. We can spend weeks on it without paying a dime. We can hunt, fish and gather. We can extract from it, hopefully in moderation.

It's ours. Our birthright.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

20 Questions: Brian Kozminski

Brian Kozminski, aka, "Koz."
Brian Kozminski is the compass behind True North Trout. But more than that, Brian's a Michigan fly fishing guide with an unequaled conservation conscience. He takes his Michigan roots seriously, right down to his active involvement with the Miller Van Winkle chapter of Trout Unlimited.

I don't know Brian terribly well, but what I do know impresses me. His steadfast commitment to Michigan's trout and salmon resources is obvious--he wears it on his sleeve like a badge of honor. His social media posts about Michigan fly fishing are bold--he's kind of like Robert Conrad, daring you knock the battery off his shoulder. You mess with Michigan, you have to answer to Koz.

But this interview process--which is usually pretty low maintenance for me--always lets me in on a few secrets ahead of everybody else. I learned a lot about Brian, and I'm guessing you will to, in the coming questions. I learned that not only is he a man of conviction, but that conviction came to him the hard way. I assume Brian--like of a lot us--had to hit rock bottom before he was able to build himself back up, to reinvent who his is versus who he was years ago. It's admirable, to be sure, but it's also powerful.

See for yourself. On with the questions:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alone in the Dark

The sun wins.
For a closet introvert who can fake the opposite on command, time alone is like being plugged into a battery charger.

If only I had a USB port at the back of my neck. Then I wouldn't need to disappear for hours at a time to replenish what the real world drains (on second thought, when that port is invented, please pass me by--I'm not interested).

While "alone time" is necessary for a guy like me, there are times when a friendly voice is appreciated. As I hiked on blistered feet out of the Yellowstone backcountry, racing the sunset and losing miserably, I would have loved a reassuring voice, if for nothing else than to have a little conversation to discourage the park's grizzlies from getting the wrong idea.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Weekend 10: Best of Fall

We had our first hard freeze here in eastern Idaho this week, and my tomato and pepper plants are done after a valiant summer of producing the vital ingredients for fresh salsa. The tree-lined avenues of the numbered streets are sporting some gorgeous autumn hues, and the bright, sunny days that come on the heels of crisp, clearn nights make me long for days on the water when my hunting friends have abandoned the fly gear and headed afield searching for deer, elk and fowl.

So as "football weather" officially arrives, I thought I'd reminisce a bit about some of my favorite fall fishing destinations here in the Rockies, in hopes of both inspiring and compelling my fishing pals to hit the water during this, the best time of the year to find quiet water amidst the splendor of the season. Happy weekend.

Monday, October 1, 2012

20 Questions: Hank Patterson

A few weeks back, I had the good fortune to stumble across the first two episodes of "The REEL Adventures of Fly Fishing Expert Hank Patterson," on Facebook, and I've been laughing ever since.

I'm not sure if it was the Minico High School sweatshirt (which makes him an honest-to-God Idaho farm boy) Hank wore on camera for Episode Two, or if it was the "I almost can't tell if this dude is joking" delivery the videos offer up to the viewers, but I think the show's creators, Trout Jousters, are onto something. For those of us who've fished for years, we've all come across the odd guide or two who might have been a little less skilled than he or she initially let on, and I think Hank Patterson does a great job emulating some of the "experts" out there who might take themselves just a bit too seriously.


The short episodes are well done, and Hank, played convincingly by Travis Swartz (no, sadly, he's a not a real dude), is unabashedly confident in his angling prowess, even going so far as to invent new trophy fish to pursue--who hasn't wanted to tangle with an 18-inch native brownbow, right?

Hank Patterson
I think Hank Patterson is just what fly fishing needs at a crucial time in the craft's evolution--either we can figure out a way to laugh at ourselves now and then, or we can continue to think that everything we do is utterly serious and tediously pure. I'm all for the former--we've all had moments on the water where we've been made the fool, either by the fish or ourselves. Hank Patterson, the fly fishing expert that he is, might be our penance for the perception many have of fly fishing ... that it's too stuffy and that we, as fly fishers, are too exclusive... too snobby.

I hope fly fishers will embrace Hank as one of us, and I hope those who don't yet fly fish will look at Hank and be inspired to take up the sport, knowing that we, just like the bass fishers out there, can have a good chuckle at our own expense.

Thanks, Travis, for creating Hank, and thanks Hank, for reminding us that it's not blasphemy to throw a little slapstick into the fly fishing world. God knows we need it now and then.

On with the questions:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Greenbacks...


The rain beat down on the old road bed, puddling in ruts that hadn't seen a tire in years. It was August, and the monsoons had arrived with a vengeance, erupting from black clouds as they collided with the high peaks to the West.

Parked at the trailhead, I cautiously watched the sky through a windshield interrupted by intermittent wiper blades. For now, just rain. No thunder. No lightning. Just rain.

I was out of excuses. If I wanted to catch a greenback cutthroat trout, the old decommissioned roadbed climbing off into the distance was my way in. Against a slate gray sky, the lack of afternoon shadows made it seem later than it really was, and I think my brain was telling me I might be cutting it close. I looked at the clock in the dash. Three o'clock.

With a noodle that managed a C+ in college algebra, I did some quick math. Three o'clock now... it's at least an hour to the creek... I'll probably fish for four hours, and then I've got an hour or more out ... Nine o'clock. Maybe later. It'll be tight--the late-summer sun in the high country retreats behind fourteeners without much notice.

To hell with it, I thought. I'm fishing.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Weekend 10: Quotable Season

On this, the first weekend of fall, I thought I'd take a look back on the expiring fishing season and relive a few (10 to be exact) quotable moments that make hanging out and fishing with good friends all the more worthwhile. First, a disclaimer: I'm recalling these moments from memory, and that memory, in many instances, is laced with a touch of the hooch, so I can't vouch for their exact accuracy, but they'll be pretty damned close.

If there's a theme to the season,
this is it.
What? Don't roll your eyes. I haven't worked for a newspaper for almost eight years--gimme a break. You want exact accuracy, read the New York Times. Here, poetic license is the name of the game. 

Second, there's a chance this post will embarrass a few folks ... so please share it at will.

Finally, at the advice of one of my more tech-savvy friends, I've ditched references to last names to avoid the Google curse should one of the miscreants below ever want to find gainful employment (doubtful, but we put a man on the moon...). Say what you will about me, but at least I'm considerate. Most of the time. And by the way, this is a guest post by "Anonymous."

Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

20 Questions: Christine Johnston Warren, aka, The Fly Fish Chick

Christine Johnston Warren
OK, time for full disclosure. I started this 20 Questions franchise for purely selfish reasons--I was too busy with the day job to really pay very much attention to the blog, but I wanted to build a solid readership so folks would visit frequently and hopefully enjoy my little creative outlet when I could find time to craft a "real" blog post now and then. Frankly put, 20 Questions was a way for me to generate interesting content without doing a hell of a lot of work--I would simply e-mail a list of edgy, off-the-wall questions to folks who move water in the fly fishing industry, wait for their kind reply and then paste their answers into the Blogger in Draft box on the computer. Very little human interaction is required (a blessing for a closet introvert who can occasionally fake it). 

For the first time in a year or so of doing this feature, I regret not conducting an interview in person. Christine Johnston Warren--known by many as The Fly Fish Chick--nailed the questionnaire. Nailed it.

A couple months back, I noticed Christine was marketing a new book, "Paddlefish," about her journey in the renowned (and maybe not in the best of ways) Texas Water Safari. I'd heard of the event, and the horrors its participants endured as they paddled canoes and kayaks from the crystal-clear headwaters of the San Marcos River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, stopping at deadlined checkpoints and generally trying to pull off Texas' answer to the Iditarod. There are tales of 10-foot alligators tipping small boats over, military-like mosquito sortees that never really relent and snakes. And mud. And it's in south Texas in June--'nuff said. 

I was intrigued by the notion of the book, and by a woman who, I've since come to learn, wasn't a supremely qualified paddler when she committed to the race in order to raise money for a charity. Christine is something of a mix between Sex in the City's Carrie Bradshaw and a young Ouiser Boudreax from Steel Magnolia's--not exactly the type you'd expect to see slumming with the grunts through knee-deep, muddy river portages or skipping a shower for 100 straight hours.

But Christine undergoes something of a metamorphosis in the pages of "Paddlefish." She'd already taken the leap and gone into corporate exile in hopes of actually becoming the writer she'd always dreamed of. And she'd always been an accomplished angler--her parents raised her right and she grew up casting a fly rod from the banks of Montana's finest water to the surprisingly fishy south Texas savannah. But she questioned her perhaps-too-hasty decision to commit to the TWS (and rightly so, frankly--her tale of the race compares the experience to nothing short of a visit to a hot, sticky version of Hades), and I think it's the doubt, mixed with her nervous excitement over trying something so completely absurd that drew me into the pages of this fine story. 

And at the end, what does Christine discover? (Because these books are all about self-discovery, right?). She'd probably be able to give you a laundry list of epiphanies. I'm only going to spoil one of them. Christine Johnston Warren, it turns out, is one tough chick.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I hope one day to share a beer with this amazing broad--she's the real deal. On with the questions: 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Secrets of Yellowstone...

Several months back, I got a call from Nate Schweber--a freelance writer from Ma-zoo-lah, Mont., and the owner of a brand new writing contract to do a fly fishing book on Yellowstone National Park.

Nate's charge was to find a handful of fly fishing experts (why he called me, I'll never know) and get them to spill the beans about their favorite fly fishing destinations inside the park. We chatted for a bit, and I finally relented, relaying a completely true--swear to God--story about fishing a little tributary to Shoshone Lake called DeLacy Creek.

Nate relays the tale quite accurately in his new book, "Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park: 50 Best Places," so I won't share it here, other than to say that it was one of the more memorable moments of my fly fishing life, and I was probably closer to getting clobbered by a cow moose than I knew at the time, or would care to admit even now.

If you're a fan of Yellowstone--or if you've never been there, but hope to visit one day--you'll love Nate's book. It comes with my highest recommendation (good luck with that, Nate).

Chena in Pictures

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chena...

The Chena River, Alaska.
There's something in a name.

Some guys just look like a Dave. Some dogs have Buster written on their faces. Cats? I'm not a cat guy. Let's not go there.

And some rivers ... well, after a fashion, their names are reflected in their currents, roared from their rapids or whispered from quiet slicks where fishy noses poke through flat water in search of unlucky caddis or mayflies. Eventually, the water is associated with the words.

So it is with the Chena. Feminine to the ear, by the time the river cruises through Fairbanks from the rolling birch and spruce forests an hour or so northeast of the city, it's big, masculine water. But at its genesis, it gushes from hot springs and tiny creeks and forks. There's a lot of water in the muskeg forests of the upper river, but it's all the Chena.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Weekend 10: News, Views and ... other stuff

OK... so, uh, summer's over. I can always tell summer's over when I don't have a plane ticket with my name on it, and I can really devote a couple of weeks to that Weight Watchers Online thing I keep vowing to do. Trouble is, when I travel, losing weight is never really top-of-mind, know what I mean? It's beer and fish. And fried stuff. But when I stepped on the scale Tuesday morning, I, uh, decided it was time to start "losing like a man." Four days, six pounds (I know, girls... men are assholes!).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Denali: First Look

First look at Denali
Just a glance over the side of the canoe revealed the life swimming in this crystal-clear spring creek situated just off the Alaska Highway about a 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks. Big Arctic grayling--and some off the biggest whitefish I'd ever seen--cruised in the blue-green depths, taunting three would-be anglers.

But it wasn't to be this day--the reel seat on my 4-weight had somehow worked itself free during transit, and I was left with my tenkara rod, which, while perfectly functional most days, didn't seem to have the distance I needed to separate me from the educated grayling on this heavily fished stretch of the Delta Clearwater River. My two counterparts, John Nichols and his son, Ted, were fishing with spinning gear and sporting the same results. In fact, when we later met another group of anglers who did the same float we did, we learned we'd all gotten skunked.

Monday, September 10, 2012

OBN Quickfire Interview with ... EMBT

Just in case you hadn't seen it, here you go. My friend Rebecca Garlock featured Eat More Brook Trout on the Outdoor Blogger Network last week, while I was in Alaska and generally offline and unavailable to see it (funny how that girl times things, huh?).

Anyway... seems a couple of OBN readers were a bit taken aback by my declaration that I like to wear a bright yellow wrestling singlet while I fish... Think a Borat swimsuit, only with class. And slightly less hair.

At any rate... enjoy. And thanks for the opportunity, Rebecca...

20 Questions: Austin Orr


Austin Orr
If Austin Orr is the future of fly fishing, the rest of us can take the rest of the day off and hit the river--the dude is a passionate ambassador of the craft, annoyingly likable and perhaps the most gifted young angler I've ever crossed paths with. If he were fishing insurance, we'd all be in good hands.

And, as you'll see for yourself shortly, he's thoughtful, articulate and funny (are you listening, ladies?) Perhaps his only fault is that he wants to work in the fly fishing business for the rest of his life, which amounts to taking a vow of poverty--but it would be poverty for a good cause, perhaps as good a cause supported by those silent monks high in the Italian Alps.

I first met Austin on a little fishing adventure we concocted on the Texas Gulf Coast last spring (you know, when you absolutely must get out of Idaho for a week or so). "We" included Brandon Robinson, Jen Kugler and Mike Sepelak--a more motley group of anglers has never been assembled. Austin came along to lend his expertise--and there is expertise to spare within this young man. He's got impeccable Texas manners and a patient approach to the craft that most guides would do well to emulate. While on the coast, he assisted a hopeless trout bum with his saltwater cast and helped the lot of us work through several cases of iced Lone Star. 

I like the guy, and I'm proud to call him a friend. More importantly, Austin brings out the optimist from deep within. If a smart young man can apply so much passion to fly fishing--and all of its trappings, which include vital components of being "the complete angler," like a solid conservation ethic and a desire to share knowledge and experience--our craft might have a bright future after all. 

Take the time to get to know Austin yourself--I think you'll be inspired ... just like I was. On with the questions.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Alaska bound...

I'm once again abandoning the invasive little brook trout in the mountains around home for something a bit more exotic. I'm headed to Alaska for the annual Outdoor Writers Association of America conference--it's at Chena Hot Springs this year, just outside of Fairbanks.

The Chena River is a famed grayling stream, and, while there are still some salmon in the rivers to the south, I think this trip to the far north is going to be focused on grayling, as well as perhaps a few Dolly Varden and, if I'm lucky, a sheefish. 

I've been to Alaska a few times before, but this marks my first trip to Fairbanks. My hope is, after the conference, I'll be able to drive north up the Dalton Highway along the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline and learn a bit that giant project and, if I'm lucky, wet a line or two in waters inhabited by inland Alaska's less-famous fish. 

The good news is, there's no way a trip to Alaska can be a bad thing... Stay tuned... more to come in the days ahead.

Happy September... 

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Weekend 10: The Best of Oz

As many of you know, I just returned from an extended junket to Australia--the government of New South Wales was kind enough to fly me down to Sydney the week before the National Recreational Fishing Conference and take me up the coast (and into the Great Dividing Range) to view a number conservation projects. I then had the honor of speaking to the country's recreational fishing leaders at the conference, which was conducted on the Gold Coast, just across the New South Wales border with Queensland.

Following the conference, I flew north to Cairns, rented a car and toured around tropical north Queensland for four days before flying home. I realize my visit to "Oz" was limited--geographically speaking--to the east coast, but I thought I'd share the best of what I was able to experience, with the idea that I'm definitely going back, if for no other reason than to see more of it. It's so big... so vast... and so diverse. Someday, I'd love to shoulder a fly rod and start walking across the continent.

Until then, here are 10 awesome Aussie assets I was lucky enough to see in August:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

20 Questions: Bjorn Stromsness

Bjorn Stromness
Bjorn Stromsness is a self-proclaimed bonefish junkie who lives in the bonefish capital of the world ... northern California.

OK, so, it's safe to assume that he's also amassed quite a few airline miles in order to reach the flats of the Bahamas or Belize. Thing is, the dude is hooked. He's got bonefish on the brain

I can identify, somewhat--although I've only chased bones once with frustrating results. For me, the lure of saltwater fly fishing is magnetic, even though I live landlocked in trout country and generally get schooled whenever I find my way to the salt.

Bjorn seems to me to be one of those guys who, once he finds something that turns his crank, throws himself into it without reservation. He doesn't claim to be a bonefish expert. In fact he claims to be just the opposite--a novice staring up the steepest grade of the learning curve. And I think that's what excites him most--a challenge he's yet to conquer... yet to master.

I dig that in a dude. If you want to master something--even bonefishing from temperate climes of northern California--you have to do it as much as you possibly can. If we all made that kind of commitment to the things we were passionate about, we might solve some of the world's biggest challenges. Like permit.

I hope to get the chance to meet Bjorn one day. Until then, the answers to these questions will have to suffice. Enjoy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jet lag...

Missing the family and contemplating
missed opportunity.
As I lay awake at 2:30 Sunday morning combing Netflix on my iPad looking for something new to watch while my family peacefully dozed away, just as they should, I realized that, just over 24 hours since I stepped off my fourth and final airplane after about 8,000 of traveling, I was still on Australia time.

I also realize that I had almost completely disconnected--and not entirely by choice--from a life that's grown hectic and complicated over the last year or so during my fortnight of travel. When I could find an internet connection that didn't demand the blood of my first-born, I was able to leave a few cryptic messages for my wife and for my boss, but for the most part, I was off the grid and clear across the globe exploring a land that has captured a corner of my soul.

I have amends to make here at home--and likely hundreds of e-mails to answer. I have responsibilities again. Duty.

But, as they say, tomorrow's a brand new day. Today, I thought I'd share a tale or two... and a few thoughts about a place that I miss more than I should and can't wait to get back to. That's likely going to be interesting news to a few folks, but it's fuel that will eventually prove my theory that fly fishers are wanderers, not meant to spend too much time in one place chasing one fish.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What Doesn't Kill You...

Yep... even the trees want their pound of flesh.
Yeah, for the record, I spent the majority of time in Australia watching out for critters with teeth. Or stingers. Or pungent burning tree sap. Or, and I'm not making this up, electric ants

What got me?

Predictably, the tiniest, barely visible culprit out there--sand flies that I endured while fishing the lousy-with-crocodiles mouth of the Mossman River. While I watched the water for movement and stayed well away from the edge of the murky drink, I was being drained of blood by a thousand little bugs that, if I hadn't felt their tiny little incisions, I wouldn't have even known were there.

Everything Down Under wants to kill you, from the obvious perpetrators to those a little less obvious. But more than that, as you wander the banks of a rainforest river in a driving storm, it's the creatures you don't see that really get you. They get into your head... they make you jumpy and tense.

The only crocs I saw were in a wildlife park. I didn't see a single shark. But both of those creatures had me on my toes as I waded the salt flats and cast to jungle perch in rivers cloaked in a deep, green canopy.

I've also been largely away from the Internet, which doesn't scare me. It's just that, for $8 for 15 minutes for something a bit more dextrous than dial-up, I couldn't justify the expense. And, believe it or not, some places I stayed had no Internet options at all (I know... gasp!).

So... I'm back in the country. I'm ready to report on the visit to Oz. Know that it was magical and amazing and both too long and too short all at once. Stay tuned... much more to come.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Weekend 10: International Air Travel

So... as this posts, I've finally managed to land in Australia--or Oz as the locals call it. I'll save the fun stuff for later. For now, though, as you head into the weekend, know that there are some good things about traveling half way around the world ... and there are some bad things.

Let's begin, shall we?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

20 Questions: Quinn Grover

Quinn Grover
I knew it was time to ask Quinn Grover 20 Questions when I saw that he ventured all the way from his home here in Idaho Falls to the Lochsa River (it might be the most idyllic cutthroat trout river on the planet, by the way) in northern Idaho without a "real" camera.

Dude was relegated to snapping photos from his phone... and he still did it.

You might recognize Quinn's name from his posts over at Chi Wulff, which, if you're interested, is easily one of the most credible and well-executed fly fishing blogs on the Internet. That it's a collaborative effort makes it even better--finding quality content from quality writers and shooters isn't easy. If it was, we'd all have a little help, right?

Anyway, Quinn shares this hometown with me, and we've never actually met--my hope is that, after publishing this post, he'll track me, and a few other Idaho Falls bloggers, down and talk us into going fishing.

Until then, I'll have to settle for the answers to the questions below--I can tell already that I'm gonna like this guy.

On with the questions: