Monday, January 30, 2012

The Longest February

It's going to be a hell of a long month. And for February, that's saying something.

I'm headed to the Bahamas for my first-ever shot at chasing bonefish in early March, and I'm beyond excited. Knowing that I have sit through the cold and the gray of the shortest month of the year is daunting.

When will they invent that time machine? I'm just asking for 28 days. That's all I need. And I'll never ask again. I'll skip right past the slate-gray skies of February. I'll miss all that time at the vise. I'll let everybody else wring their hands over what some groundhog in Pennsylvania has to say.

Just 28 days.

I'm headed to Long Island in the southern Bahamas for a week. I'll be visiting the Long Island Bonefishing Lodge, and taking in all the lodge has to offer. And, of course, I'll share the tales (or should I say tails?) right here on the blog, hopefully as they happen.

Yeah... it's going to be a long month.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Fad that's Built to Last...

"Tenkara is a fad, and it won't last long." So says legendary flycaster Lefty Kreh.

From the mouths of ... old dudes.



First, a disclaimer. I love to fish Tenkara. I'm not solely a Tenkara practitioner. It's possible to enjoy the Tenkara craft without resorting to devotion, just as it's possible to have a few beers, without going streaking "through the quad and into the gymnasium."

I find Tenkara to be particularly effective in certain situations, and not so effective in others. I'll keep my Tenkara rods, use them when I believe they'll make my fly fishing more successful or more enjoyable, and I'll cast my conventional fly gear when I think that's the ticket.

But how can you not respect the words of Lefty Kreh? The man's a legend--only a few folks are in his class in the fly fishing world (Joan Wulff, Ed Jaworski, Dave Whitlock ... after that, the list gets pretty short). Oddly enough, though, one of Lefty's more significant employers, Temple Fork Outfitters, is rumored to be dabbling in the Tenkara game (it had to happen--with folks like Craig Matthews, Yvon Chouinnard and many others endorsing Tenkara, it was only a matter of time before a savvy manufacturer took the plunge). Lefty might need to adjust his attitude a bit.

Tenkara shouldn't be frowned upon, but it shouldn't be placed on some pedestal, either. It should be viewed for what it is, a viable fly fishing method for certain situations... an enhancement to a fly fishing world that might have fallen into a bit of malaise ... a rut, if you will.

I don't think it's a fad, but if it is, I'm betting it'll outlive the guy who declared it so. I mean, even bell-bottoms came back into style.

Bloodknot

Just a little shameless self-promotion... I've got a feature in the latest issue of Bloodknot Magazine, one of the ever-growing crop of "e-zines" out there that are helping redefine how the fly fishing world is delivered digitally to fishing-hungry consumers.

Check out the story--and hosts of others by folks like Ben Smith and Mike Sepelak--at bloodknot.net. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Big Fix

Please excuse the lack of political correctness. I just couldn't
help myself. 
Last August, while performing "please don't try this at home" stunts with my Tenkara rods in the wilds of Saskatchewan, a couple of us managed to break both of the Japanese fly rods we brought with us to Lake Athabasca.

I knew that Tenkara USA, the manufacturer of the rods would likely replace or repair the simple implements, so I never felt a huge sense of urgency to load the rods into a box and send them off to the company for a warranty repair. I'd get to it eventually.

Then, last week, I hit the Henry's Fork on an icy Idaho afternoon, and after fighting iced guides and a frozen reel for a few hours, that sense of urgency became more, um, urgent.

I missed my Tenkara rod, which, while maybe a bit diminutive for the Henry's Fork, is the perfect tool for the double-nymph rig I had bouncing along the bottom of the river. And there are no guides to freeze. No reel to seize up at the least opportune moment. Just, as they say, a rod and a line. Simple.

So I got on the Tenkara USA website not too long after getting home and thawing out, and downloaded the warranty form, which, if you read between the lines, probably disqualified me for the repair of one of the rods--while I wasn't "trying to catch a shark (although, how cool would that be?)," I was chasing a pike, and the rod did break while fighting a pike in the classic "bit off more than we could chew" fashion.

So I did a quick search on the site for the cost of the repairs, and stumbled across the site's spare parts page. It's possible--and I never really considered this, even though I knew exactly how the rod was assembled--to simply fix the rods yourself. And, given that you're not paying the $25 surcharge the company levels against you for warranty claims, and you're only paying for shipping one way, its actually cheaper to buy the parts online (a whopping $7) and have them shipped to you than it is to send your rod in for repairs that might just take a few minutes. I pulled the trigger, and for $14, plus the cost of shipping the parts to me, I had both rods fixed and fishable within three days. Total.




Although I knew how to fix the rods (it was pretty self explanatory, honestly), I did find the video (see above) that shows you exactly how to go about performing the the fix on your own, should you break it on, say, a mako. Or a pike.

The simplicity of the fishing is matched only by the simplicity of the rod itself. Now I have two functional Tenkara rods, and all spring to chase trout and whitefish on the Henry's Fork. And if I break one, I'm only out a few bucks and a few days. One more reason to give Tenkara a try.

Friday, January 20, 2012

20 Questions: Sean Anderson (aka, "Sanders")

Sean "Sanders" Anderson
I first met Sean Anderson after he and his brand-new fishing buddy, Mike Sepelak, had driven across much of Colorado, all of Wyoming and a touch of Montana, all just to chase trout. It reminded me a line in "The Sure Thing," an old John Cusack movie: "Three thousand miles just to get laid. I really respect that."

Sean, Mike, a couple of other bloggers and a handful of Trout Unlimited staffers were in Montana to see first-hand some of the work TU does to protect habitat and, subsequently, opportunity, today and for generations to come.  I liked Sean right away... he had a firm handshake, made good eye contact and he genuinely seemed interested in what we were discussing. But I didn't get to know him until we'd spent a couple of chilly southwest Montana evenings gathered around the best excuse we could come up with for a campfire--a sweet Coleman lantern that blogger Owl Jones brought with him from Georgia. 

Each evening, watching caddis flies, crane flies and hosts of mayflies swarm to the lantern, we shared jokes and stories, and we laughed until it hurt. Sean, with his upper-Midwestern accent, has an easy laugh, an even easier smile and a sense of humor that fit right in with the deviants who shared jokes our mothers would be mortified to hear cross our lips. 

I first met Sean through his blog, Up the Poudre--if you visit, you'll find his writing conversational, yet thoughtful. It was his writing, after all, that landed him in Montana in the first place. As we shared stories in the dim glow of the lantern, I was instantly glad that Sean made the trip to Montana with the rest of the gang. His view of the world is not unlike my own, and I loved how easy it was to like the guy.

Then I found out he sells copiers for a living. No wonder he was so happy to be in Montana. But, judging by his disposition, he either loves selling copiers, or he relishes the time he's not. Either way, that's admirable all on its own. 

I'm glad I got to know Sean. I hope this gives you some incentive to get to know him, too. On with the questions:

Hanging On

I got an e-mail today from Robert McHugh, a filmmaker in upstate New York. He pasted a link to his latest project in the note, saying "I just wanted to share this with you in hopes it might be a pleasant five minutes of your day."

Understatement of the year. Great work, Robert, although I'm not sure I liked the reminder that my own mortality puts me a bit closer to the end of my journey than I'd like to admit. I really enjoyed this film. I hope everyone else does, too.


Active Child - Hanging On (Official Video) from Vagrant Records on Vimeo.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Commitment

Bundled up...
Delight. Relief. Potentially warm again. And I had an impressive case of cold-induced nasal drip. But I finally hooked up on this blustery January day, and that was my cue. Time to head home.

As I slipped the foot-long rainbow back into the frigid waters of the river, I thought I could actually feel the heat belching from up from the floorboards of my brand new FJ Cruiser, melting the neoprene shrouded ice blocks that once were my feet. A day spent casting blindly over likely water netted one fish.

A fish. The fish.

Now I could quit.

I'm not normally so tender, but ... damn it was cold today. The thermometer in the truck read 16 degrees when I slid behind the wheel after spending the day stumbling through the riffles and runs of the Henry's Fork chasing trout that just weren't there. Likely runs that normally hold fish were vacant, even of the lowly whitefish, a wintertime staple on the fabled river. Ice floes wandered lazily downstream, and the wind challenged all three layers I'd painstakingly donned this morning.

I hoofed it back to the car through a couple of inches of fresh snow. Mine were the only tracks along the anglers' track into the river, and they were the only tracks out. At least I had solitude.

But it didn't feel right to quit. To just hang it up. I hadn't stretched a fly line tight since November, and I needed to feel that tug, that soul-refreshing bend in a supple graphite 5-weight. It had been too long.

Part of it was my fault, and my dalliance with my shotgun and collared doves and the thought that I might actually be able to shoot enough of the critters to make a meal (and, by God, I will ... one day). But part of it was purely circumstance. Normally, I'd blame the weather, but it's been nothing short of gorgeous here. In fact, today was the coldest day in weeks, and of course, this was the day I could spare to venture to the river. I've been busy with work and a little travel here and there, and over Christmas vacation with the kids, I wanted to spend some family time catching up, reconnecting. It was nice.

And, honestly, while the chance to wander off the river for the day presented itself, I couldn't bring myself to gather up all the trappings that go with a wintertime sojourn to the water. Neoprenes (there's a season for everything), boots, layers, a jacket. Then there's the somewhat complex winter angling rig (with apologies to my Czech nymphing friends) that consists of everything from double-nymph rigs to Thingamabobbers. And don't forget frozen guides. Oh, for a Tenkara rod on a day like today (mine are "in the shop" after my Saskatchewan adventures).

In short, it takes commitment.

Today, I was committed. And after striking out at the first destination, I was still committed. So on to the next stretch of water, which required a short hike through knee-deep snow to the river. I had my eye on one fishy run that rarely disappoints this time of year, and within a few casts, the colored-up rainbow chased away the skunk.

And that's all I needed. A spirited tug. A leap or two. A photo of Girdle Bug hooked snuggly in the corner of a wild fish's mouth.

I'm good. For now.


'Unaccomplished' Approval

I'd be remiss if I didn't say thanks to my friend Kirk Werner, author of the Unaccomplished Angler, after he posted a really great review of my book, "Shin Deep: A Fly Fisher's Love for Living Water." 

Kirk's praise is humbling, and I'm very grateful to his kids, who managed to track down a copy and put it under the Christmas tree for Mr. Werner (kids... where do I send the candy?).

Thanks again, my friend. Very much appreciated.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Catching up...

I'm in Denver this week for a combination of "day job" duties, that included dropping in on the International Sportsmen's Exposition and the Fly Fishing Show (why these two shows are in the same town on the same dates is beyond me, and I'm sure I'm not alone in scratching my head). The shows are always worth a visit, although I'm seriously considering taking up a collection for Chuck Furimsky to move the Fly Fishing Show out of the Merchandise Mart, where the food is borderline toxic and the lighting is, to be kind, oppressive. There has to be a better option than hosting the event in the dated old mausoleum in the sketchy north Denver 'burbs. Are gray lights real? If they are, I'm guessing the Merchandise Mart is the world's top consumer.

Kyle Perkins, left, and Sean Anderson
On Thursday of last week, I had the chance to sit down face-to-face with some of my fellow bloggers who live here on the Front Range. I got to meet Jen Kugler of Flyfishilicious and Kyle Perkins of the The Compleat Thought. And, I got to renew some old friendships with the likes of Sean Anderson (aka, Sanders) from Up the Poudre and my old Trout Unlimited crony Russ Schnitzer (schnitzerPHOTO). Also, my great friends from Tom Sadler from Middle River Dispatch and Kirk Deeter of Fly Talk dropped in, as did Andrew Bennett of Deneki Outdoors.

Seeing this group of angling bloggers in one Irish pub was honestly pretty impressive, and it reinforced my belief that fly fishers with an urge to communicate about our craft can change perceptions. This was no tweedy group of elitists that tipped back beer and whiskey on a Thursday night. This was a group of regular folks who have day jobs working for copier companies, coupon websites and conservation organizations. This is the future of fly fishing ... not the skeezy message boards where online longevity equals credibility in a digital world of porn photo exchanges among a bunch of unwashed fly fishing "experts" espousing advice and insults while wearing thread-bare boxer shorts and sitting in their mom's basement. I'm proud to be a part of it, and I'm proud of these bloggers for sharing their fly fishing perspective and welcoming input and questions from others.

Finally, despite the migraine I incurred at the Fly Fishing Show thanks to the Merchandise Mart's unfortunate lighting, I was able to touch base with Daniel Galhardo, founder of Tenkara USA, and Dennis Klein of Mystic Fly Rods. I'm a Tenkara convert, but I'm not quite ready to foresake my conventional gear altogether, so it was nice to meet up with these two folks. Galhardo's company is a "1% for the Planet" contributor to Trout Unlimited's Sportsmen's Conservation Project, and Dennis has contributed frequently to TU's causes--he helped with our Idaho CarpFest a couple years back, and is a believer is TU's mission to conserve, protect and restore coldwater fisheries all over the country.

I'm off to the last day of the ISE at the Colorado Convention Center. If you're in town and at the show, look me up. I'd love to shake your hand and talk fly fishing.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

20 Questions: Kirk Deeter




Kirk Deeter
Kirk Deeter is an adventurer, a lover of far-flung places and a tireless fly fisher. He has a passion for new water and good familiar whiskey sipped in unfamiliar locales. He's a writer with an explorer's heart.

You might know Kirk from his work at Field & Stream's Fly Talk blog, an endeavor he undertakes with Tim Romano. Deeter also edits and publishes Angling Trade, also with Romano. Or you might know him from some of his other works, including the recently published Little Red Book of Fly Fishing, a project he completed with his mentor (and one my lifelong heroes), the late Charlie Meyers.

I'm fortunate that I've gotten to know Kirk in recent years beyond his professional affiliations, albeit his profession is what came to define our relationship at first. I've always admired what Kirk has been able to do as a professional freelance journalist--this is a field with a short lifespan, a career choice that, especially these days in the world of blogs and online publications, chews writers up and spits them out with prejudice. It's not exactly a paying gig, at least not dependably. That Deeter has made a go of it is admirable. That he's risen to the top of his field says something of his resolve.

Deeter checks in with the family from Prince Albert, Sask.
Over the years, Kirk and I have traveled quite a bit together throughout the West. We've wandered the wilds of the Wyoming Range, and soaked our old bones in hot springs pools 100 miles from Mexico (ask him about the (oso verde caliente beverage we concocted while passing a floating tray of cheese and crackers back and forth across the hot pool). We shared a week together in Saskatchewan's far north, where we cast flies to surly northern pike, feminine Arctic grayling and hard-charging lake trout. We trudged to the depths of the canyons atop Colorado's Roan Plateau, and the next day gasped our way to the highest of lakes in the Holy Cross Wilderness.

Like me, he's a traveler. New country means something. New water has sex appeal. And fish that never see flies... that's where our lives intersect.

I'm proud to count Kirk among my very best friends, and I know I'm not alone, as many feel as I do about this man who is quick to laugh, easy to fish with and, most importantly, easy to be friends with. I love the guy... if you ever get the chance to meet him, you'll see what I mean. Until then, let these questions give you a little insight into his soul. Here we go:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Where There's Water...

Editor's note: This piece first appeared in The Backcountry Journal. Please check out all the fantastic work published by some of the country's best up-and-coming outdoor writers at thebackcountryjournal.com.

The Backcountry
It’s a short distance from the trailhead to the lake, but it’s a bitch of a hike. A straight-up thigh-buster. But at least you’re out of the damn truck and relieved to discover no permanent damage to your “jiggly parts.”

The hike, believe it or not, is the easiest part of getting here. No matter how you try to sugarcoat it, you’re two hours off the pavement and well into the sticks by the time you make that final uphill push into the “pine” portion of the Pine Forest Range. Even when you guide your truck over the last of the rocks that have likely pierced many an oil pan over the years, and settle on a place to leave the truck in the “parking lot,” you’re still in the desert. And you’re a long way from anything.

Naturally, you look up the trail, where, rumor has it, there lies a chain of lakes so full of spunky trout that the water is just one big rise ring when the evening hatch comes off. But the real surprise is the look back down the mountain from whence you came. The desert is unassuming when you’re driving through it, dodging mounds of wild burro shit and keeping your eye on that green crotch in the mountains high above, where these lakes supposedly sit. There, you think, it’s cooler, and the greenery proves it. Mountain mahogany, limber pine and aspen won’t grow without water, and they sure as hell won’t grow down here, where even the sage looks depressed and downtrodden.