Thursday, July 26, 2012

20 Questions: Louis Cahill

Louis Cahill
I know Louis Cahill through his amazing photographs--he's been featured in some of the finest publications in the world, including (and I'm a little biased) the latest issue of Trout. Of late, I've become a faithful reader and follower of Gink and Gasoline, the joint online venture that Louis operates with Kent Klewein.

It's relevant, timely, thoughtful and edgy--it's kind of the journal of the fly fisherman we all wish we could be, and would be, if all the other trappings that come with a fruitful life wouldn't keep getting in the way.

But, frankly, I don't really know Louis... or at least I didn't until he kindly answered the questions below. What have I learned about Louis since? Well, the dude digs his wife, which is cool (I dig mine, too). He likes to be "out there" and some folks say he is out there.

For instance, when I asked my friend Kirk Deeter, the editor of Trout, what he knew about Louis, Kirk just smiled and said, "That's one funky dude ... Oh, and he's a hell of a photographer."

On the whole, I'm more educated--overall--than I was before Louis offered up his replies. For instance, did you know what Jimmy Page's middle name was? I didn't either--but now I do. Trust me... it's worth reading just to pick up that little tidbit of pop culture trivia.

Get to know Louis--I think you'll be happy you did. On with the questions:

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Weekend 10: Best Attractor Patterns

As I prepare for next week's TU blogger tour in Yellowstone with fellow bloggers Marc Payne and Steve Zakur, I've come to realize that I'm woefully short on late-summer attractor patterns I'll need for the big adventure. That, of course, brought to mind a few hours at the vise, and while it sounds like fun, it also looks like I'm not going to have the time to actually tie.

So... off to the fly shop. Here's what's on the menu for the rainbows, browns, cutthroats and brookies of Yellowstone next week:

Parachute Royal Coachman. Delicious!
1) The Royal Coachman. This is by far my favorite attractor dry. It floats high, catches fish and manages to meet that nebulous standard of being attractive to both fish and fisherman. The peacock herl and red floss make this gaudy creation almost irresistible upon cracking the cover my fly box.

Adams. 'Nuff said.
2) The Adams. Tied to imitate nothing in particular (but I dare you to find a better March Brown option), this Michigan-born creation might be the best dry fly ever created. I've threatened to go entire summers using nothing but a box full of Adams dries ... who knows? I have a few summers ahead of me.

3) The Stimulator. This bad boy will be kept in reserve for the off chance that there'll still be stoneflies hatching and buzzing around the Lamar Valley. I'm not counting on it ... but I'm also not going to Yellowstone without it.

4) Elk-hair Caddis. No brainer. In the park, depending on the water, the time of day and, of course the weather, caddis flies hatch all the way through October. Just in case, you know?

LeTort Hopper. 
5) The LeTort Hopper. I hate tying with spun deer hair, and I greatly admire those who can pull it off without pulling their own hair out. Douse this sucker with Gink and let it fly meadow streams--you won't be disappointed. The Lamar comes to mind for this fly. I hope to see a big cutty attached to one this coming week.

6) The Irresistible. Again, spun deer hair. Ugh. But it catches and catches and catches... Agan, hat's off to the folks who tie this critter. I'm in your debt.

Orange Asher.
7) The Orange Asher. This is a very easy fly to tie--it's up there with the Woolly Bugger and Woolly Worm in the "elementary" class of flies. It's also the first dry fly I ever learned to tie, although I'd wager I've caught more fish on this fly after it's good and drenched and on the swing.

The Prince Nymph. Aptly named.
8) The Prince Nymph. In the off chance we're not seeing anything on top (or even if we are, and I'm in the mood to drop something behind that LeTort Hopper), I'll have a few these in my box next week. I like the bead-head version best, mostly because I'm not a fan of chucking weight and a fly. And because it seems to work when other nymphs don't, even in the dead of winter.

Madam X. 
9) The Madam X. This is right up there with the Royal Coachman--I'm not sure if it imitates one thing or many things, and I can see where it could be mistaken for anything from a hopper to a golden stone. But the rubber legs and white antron parachute make this fly seem bigger than it is, and that makes it easier for a set of 43-year-old eyes to see it on the water.

10) The Woolly Bugger. In a pinch, this fly will catch damn near anything. I hope to be fishing on top this trip, but if we get rain or cool weather puts the fish down a bit, I'll swing a big 'bugger under cut banks, just to see what's home. Hello? Mr. Brown? Want come out and play?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Anonymity...

The internet is a marvelous thing, no doubt. It's changed the way we think, the way do business... it's changed the world by bringing us so much closer together and allowing us to interact in real time, even though we might be thousands of miles apart.

But's it not without its faults, and I think one of its biggest shortcomings is that it enables cowardice. Or, rather, it enables cowards to crawl out from their guano-lined caves and, behind a cloak of anonymity, spew vitriol without repercussion.

"Name withheld ... because I have something vitriolic to say."
I get the argument that, in many cases, anonymity online is important--the most recent best examples would be the social media networking and sharing of the horrific events coming out of the Middle East. The Arab Spring certainly benefitted from the protection the internet provided to those who organized protests in Egypt or contacted the media to inform the world of the latest bloodbath in Syria.

My blog, and, frankly, the folks who read it, have recently been targeted by an anonymous visitor who only finds the courage to engage me with his name kept secret. Here's the latest example, which appeared as a comment on an anecdotal post I did about the effects of climate change in my home state of Colorado. It appeared as an anonymous comment, and I've let it stand so my readers can compare and contrast--you know, weigh the anger of the comment vs. the tone of the actual post. Here goes:

You guys are all idiots. If any of you own internal combustion engines or use electricity in any way you are wretched hipocrits (sic). You complain about this shit and then walk or bike to where you fish? Losers. Brook trout!? Seriously!?

SAVE THE MASTADONS!
Let's ignore the misspellings and the egregious use of excessive punctuation and the caps-lock key and get straight to the essence of the post. This dude is angry. He's lashing out. He's clearly fed up with folks giving credence to the reality of a changing climate. Without speculating farther, I can't say much more, other than this person felt the need to vent and then did so.

Behind the shield of anonymity.

I would have honestly welcomed a post from an informed reader who disagreed with what I said in the post (although, I thought the politics of the post were pretty damn vanilla compared to some I've read lately). I'd be willing to have a courteous discussion on the issue--perhaps I could learn something useful that I don't know now.

In other words, in the thoughtful prose of former Republican senator from Wyoming, Alan Simpson, I would have been more than happy to "disagree without being disagreeable." But then, the comment would have had to have been made under an actual name for all to see.

Look, I'm fine with the fact that not everyone agrees with me on issues pertaining to conservation--and frankly, I lean to the left when it comes to environment (most of you have no idea where I stand on other issues, but feel free, under the cloak of secrecy or in forums of your own, to speculate all you want). I'm also willing to debate environmental issues in a forum that's both polite and educational--as I said, I might learn something (but you'd have to be open to perhaps learning something, too).

Oh, I suppose I could have avoided this issue altogether if I'd simply disallowed anonymous posts on my blog. But what's the point? Cowardice and anonymity go together. Anybody who read that comment likely understands that, and I think the comment loses any credibility because there's no name attached to it.

So feel free to crawl out from your cave and leave all the nameless, vitriolic comments you want--we may not know your name, but we do what kind of person you are.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lost in the Mangroves

The sun pokes over the Mangroves in Matlacha, Fla.
The sun hadn't quite poked over the mangroves off to the east, so it hadn't had the chance to burn off the thin film of humid mist hanging over the dark waters of Matlacha Pass. With each uncertain stroke, I powered the borrowed kayak across the bay, headed toward a cut in the mangroves about a half-mile away in hopes of arriving early enough to stake out some prime fly fishing water.

When a huge swirl flushed the dark water into a mysterious whirlpool not five feet from the edge of my thin, plastic craft, I stopped my paddling and looked dreadfully into the drink. A week's worth of rain had turned the water the color of coffee thanks to the tannic acid produced by the mangroves that line the coastal waters throughout this corner of Florida. I could no more see the source of the disturbance than I could conjure one up.

Tarpon? Maybe a porpoise? A manatee?

A ... gator? Or a shark? (Christ... don't let it be a shark).

I gathered what was left of my withering constitution and dipped the paddle back into the water with a mighty pull. Whatever it was didn't stick around, and I made the cut in the mangroves in minutes flat--not bad for an infrequent paddler in a borrowed lime-green kayak.

Once I left the open waters of the pass and entered the mangrove forest, the world changed. The sun brightened the morning sky with horizontal rays filtered by the thick, leathery leaves of the mangroves, and a lone osprey hovered above. It chortled and scolded me for interrupting its morning hunt and moved on, eyes focused intently on the black water below.

Off to my left, a school of bait fish erupted up against the mangrove roots, and just ahead, I busted a school of surprisingly large mullet. The sudden explosion of water all around me startled and exhilarated me. Other than me and a temperamental osprey, the world above the water was calm and silent. Below me, in the dark water, the food chain was in motion--the mere act of survival "down there" is a feat to be celebrated. Witnessing it from above is a little terrifying.

"What was I thinking?" I asked myself, as I paddled quietly through the gloomy water. "This scenario has 'Syfi Thriller' written all over it."

The ride into the backcountry.
Over the next few minutes, I ... coalesced. I put aside the notion that, at any second, a 12-foot gator, or a 10-foot shark could rock the little craft and dump 280 pounds of breakfast into the salty  swamp. Instead, I became the predator. With my strung-up 8-weight Mystic at the ready, I eyed the edges of this wilderness--and don't let anybody tell you differently--for fins and tails and panicky baitfish.

Schools of hapless bait danced along the water's surface in hopes of fleeing a pair of jaws just inches away under the water, and, with each awkward cast of a Clouser, I hoped to connect with whatever it was that made the little fish flee so desperately. A newcomer to this wild, watery wonderland, every little splash drew my attention. When I was fortunate enough to put a cast in close proximity to a crashing school of bait, I waited in anticipation for the powerful tug of a salty critter.

Nothing.

I paddled on, deep into the mangroves, through creek openings wide enough for the little craft, but nothing else. I guided the kayak into the bowels of this strange place, skirting roots and wiping spider webs off my sweaty, sticky skin. I arrived in a strange little eden just as the sun fully crested the mangroves. Within range of a long cast, I saw a willowy fin breach the water's surface just as yet another school baitfish panicked and took to the air.

I cast into the fray. Strip. Stip.

The line pulled tight, and I awkwardly strip-set the hook, pulling hard a couple of times to drive the sharp end of the Clouser home. The tip of the rod dipped and pulsated as whatever it was I managed to hook shook it's head and raced off, headed for the mangrove roots just a few feet away. I put an appreciable bend in the rod to keep the fish from getting tangled in the chains of woody roots, and turned my victim toward open water. The fish then turned and ran right at me, and under my little boat, forcing me to plunge the 8-weight into the drink to avoid breaking the rod altogether. I was clearly in for a fight.

The fish turned my little kayak around in not time at all, and I found myself being pulled through the water by this hard-fighting fish. I half expected a jump or a breach--I wanted to see a 30-pound tarpon take to the heavens. But it didn't happen. It just continued to pull... hard. It stripped line off the reel, forcing me to tighten the drag and pull back in protest. After a fashion, I began to gain control over the situation, but I had yet to see what had hammered my fly in this watery backcountry marsh, and I was anxious to get a look.

Could it be, in fact, a beefy juvenile tarpon? Maybe a big snook? A massive redfish? I could finally see my leader, and through the dark water, I caught a glimpse of silver. I lifted the rod, and the fish dove again, pulling more line off the reel. I turned the drag another click, losing patience.
The mighty sail cat... a worthy fly rod fish, if a little slimy.

What had I managed to catch? What denizen of the mangroves had I fooled?

After I fought off two more long runs, and kept the fish from finding the mangroves again, I finally got a look. at what I'd managed to hook. I was surprised, and, even though I know I was supposed to be disappointed, I couldn't help but be a bit delighted at my luck.

There, pulled tight against the little kayak was a massive saltwater catfish--I later learned that it was a "sail cat," so named because of its whispy fins and tail. Having managed a few run-ins with hard-head cats off the jetties of Galveston as a kid--and knowing that these critters often possessed poisonous spines--I carefully extracted the now-spent Clouser from the maw of this impressive fighter and watched with satisfaction as it slowly pulsed off into the water, it's ego bruised, but otherwise alive and well.

The fish left behind a nasty mass of boogery slime on my fly and on the 30-pound bite tippet as a reminder of the wonderful fight.

Alone in a watery wilderness.
I did manage to hook into a couple of small-ish redfish that morning, and something big hit my fly tight against the mangroves, but I lost it in the roots. By mid-day, I was officially lost in the maze of mangroves, but I was, oddly, unconcerned. Navigating this quiet wilderness with a paddle and a decent sense of direction was part of the experience. I eventually stowed the rod and just took to paddling--poking into tiny little openings in the bushes and finding myself in undiscovered backcountry lakes where mullet spooked with every pull of the paddle.

Another fisherman.
Eventually, I found myself back at the little cut in the mangroves, and there, waiting for me, as if to gloat, was the osprey. Resting atop a nude branch of mangrove, the big bird showed off it's catch--likely a mullet. As I paddled by, it gave me the obligatory scolding I certainly deserved for venturing so far afield in a strange, watery wonderland.

When I finally arrived back at the Bridgewater Inn after the morning spent lost in a strange, southwest Florida paradise, it was without much time to spare. Tall, black thunderclouds had formed on the southern horizon, and within minutes of pulling the kayak up onto the dock, the skies opened up, and it rained in earnest.

"Did you catch anything?" asked the proprietor at the inn, as I wandered across the deck of the establishment, my fly rod stretched out before me.

"I did," I said with a grin. "I sure did."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Weekend 10: Yellowstone

Old Faithful.
I honestly can't count the number of times I've been to Yellowstone. Dozens, at least. But every time I visit, I see something that simply inspires me.

Just when I think I've seen it all inside the park, something happens to prove me wrong. It's a place of constant change, yet it's the same roads that deliver to new surprises with each visit.

Over the years, I've watched grizzly bears so focused on an elk carcass that they shoved their entire heads (and they're big heads) into the cavity of the dead bull in search of the rich organs. Their brown coats were red with blood when they finished dining.

I've seen geysers that erupt so irregularly that seeing them blow is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. I've seen wolves coordinate a downright military assault on an elk herd.

I've seen the wonders this amazing place holds.

The first time I visited Yellowstone, it was with my wife's grandfather. I've been back many times since, and I'll visit many times before I die.

Here, for the weekend, are my 10 favorite adventures in Yellowstone:

10) Old Faithful. Yeah, you can't truly see Yellowstone without seeing a geyser. And you might as well go big... or go home.

Gibbon Falls.
9) Gibbon Falls. There are more dramatic waterfalls in the park that Gibbon Falls, but for some reason, the way the Gibbon River glides over the black rocks of the falls just thrills me. It's short of vertical, which, for some reason, makes me think I could slide right down the falls and walk away unscathed.

8) Grayling. There aren't many left, but if you fish hard enough in certain places inside the park, you can catch a few. Here's a hint: Grayling are native in the upper reaches of the Missouri River drainage.

7) Entry stations. Yeah... it's a little silly. But I love it when the rangers greet you at the gate, give you a map of the park and give you latest information, like where the roads are being worked on and where folks are seeing certain things. It's also great for the kids, who are already wide-eyed. It just adds to the anticipation.

6) Yellowstone Falls. Simply awesome. There are no words to describe it, truthfully.

A crystal clear hot pot off the beaten path.
5) The Lamar Valley. If you've never seen a wolf or a grizzly in the wild, this is the place to do it.

4) The backcountry. Most folks won't leave sight of their cars. Do yourself a favor. Find a trail and walk. You'll see some amazing things.

3) The petrified tree east of Mammoth. It's not terribly imposing or anything, but it's a God-honest, upright-standing petrified tree. And we see black bears in the little wash just across from it all the time.

2) The Firehole. I rarely fish this river, mostly because much of it runs next to the Grand Loop Road between Madison Junction and Old Faithful. You can get off the beaten path in Firehole country, and it's worth it in the spring and the fall. But mostly, it's just a beautiful river, lined by geysers and hot pots ... it's primitive, inspiring, and a little scary.

The things you don't expect--a mother otter eating a fish.
1) The surprises. The last visit to the park found me within a few steps of a mother river otter as she munched on the head of a native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. She hammed it up for my camera and seemed to know that she'd managed to catch a bigger fish than me. It something new every time.

I love this place.


20 Questions: Marc Payne

I've done my share of fishing trips, and on most of those trips I've ended up fishing with guys I hadn't met until we strung up our fly rods and hit the water together. Usually, it's a roll of the dice--sometimes, you count on good intel from a mutual friend, but often, you're just thrown together.
Marc Payne
I've found, too, that, so long as a guy shares my passion for fly fishing, I can make due with just about anybody. Honestly, having that one thing in common can help overcome almost any difference. 

Fortunately, I feel pretty good about an upcoming trip with a couple of new faces. I'm going on the Trout Unlimited/Simms/Yellowstone Park Foundation blogger tour in Yellowstone National Park in just a couple of weeks, and I'm looking forward to fishing and chatting with Marc Payne, author of the blog The Perfect Drift. Marc and Steve Zakur won the essay contest held earlier this summer, and earned the chance to fish in the world's most iconic national park.

I mean, how worried do you have to be when the most pressing question coming out of these guys is, "Do you have a spare guitar laying around you might be able to bring?" Marc's a "picker," and the thought of chilling around fire to the sounds of a little bluegrass makes me smile. If I can get my hands on a guitar--and fit it into my rig--I'm going to take him up on it.

But I think what excites me most about the chance to fish with Marc is the fact that he's so damned excited about this upcoming adventure. He was posting about the essay contest on his blog before he even won the trip--I think, more than anything else, he really wanted to win.

And I think that's wonderful. It excites me, too--I've fished the waters of the park dozens of times, and some of its luster has certainly worn off. To be able to show this amazing place to someone who's so eager to experience it will be something I'll savor.

And here's your chance to get to know Marc--before you ever go fishing with him. On with the questions:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Win a Vedavoo Tightlines Sling Pack!


The Tightlines Sling Pack ... I don't leave home without it.
You may have seen my review of the Vedavoo Tightlines Sling Pack, and in the months since, you might have seen photos of me wearing the sling pack while I fish. As I noted when I first started my “Gear I Love” section, I would only endorse the equipment that I truly believed in. For the way I fish, the Vedavoo Tightlines Sling Pack is the ideal piece of gear for me—I can carry everything I need, from a fat fly box, a set of pliers, my camera, several spools of tippet and all the “little things” that we take for granted on the water. And I can carry them in a way that absolutely does not interfere with my cast, with my line … with my fishing.

I believe the Tightlines Sling Pack is the best product of its kind on the market—since mine arrived in the mail a few months, back, I’ve used it nearly every time I’ve fished. Frankly, I’m not sure how I got along without it.

Want to win your very own Vedavoo Tightlines Sling Pack? It’s easy—all you have to do is spend a bit of time crawling the Internet, and you’re entered to win. Here’s how:

First, “like” Vedavoo and Eat More Brook Trout on Facebook. Once you’ve done that, leave a comment on this blog post letting us know you’ve entered the contest. Scott Hunter, CEO of Vedavoo, and I will use a random number generator and pick two lucky winners—first place will get the Vedavoo Tightlines Sling Pack, and the runner-up will get the Vedavoo Chest Pack, another highly functional piece of equipment perfect for a quick trip to the creek.

Make your "likes" and enter your comments before midnight on July 29.

Thanks for stopping by … and good luck!

Monday, July 2, 2012

20 Questions: Scott Hunter


Scott Hunter

I met Scott Hunter just under a year ago while wandering through the aisles at the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show in New Orleans. This is the show conducted almost solely for independent dealers--it gives them a chance to see the latest and greatest in the fly fishing industry, make their annual orders and reconnect with others in the industry.

Scott was only about two years into his new venture--Vedavoo--and he was trying to build some interest in his company, which manufactures fly fishing gear like the Tightlines sling and the Spinner daypack. 

What drew me to Scott was his evangelism, pure and simple. He literally walked over to me and dragged me over to his display to show me his gear, how it worked, how it was unique and how the average fly fisher coud put it to use. Watching this guy put his own products through the paces made it very clear to me that Scott is a guy who truly believes in his products. His excitement was palpable. This dude was selling ... and I was sold. 

You've likely seen a couple of my reviews of Vedavoo equipment, and while I might not have that evangelist's spirit, I, like Scott, believe this equipment is among the best made in the business. More importantly, it's functional. It works. And it works well.

And if Scott hadn't grabbed my elbow and said to me, "Let me show you something," I wouldn't know a thing about it.

In the coming weeks, readers of this blog will get the chance to win some Vedavoo gear. For the time being, though, get to know Scott. I think you'll like him.

On with the questions: