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...