Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Journey: From Hobby to Way of Life

I have been fly fishing for about a year and in that short time span I feel that my entire outlook on life has changed. I took to fly fishing with a ravenous appetite after a good friend brought me out and showed me the ropes. In that time I have experienced a slowing down of time, a respect for wild fish, and a new attitude towards fishing. As a young man I did not concern myself with the prospect of fish disappearing from streams. Since I began fly fishing I have broadened my perception to all things affecting the lakes and river that I fish. In these tough economic times oil rigs, pebble mines, and the damming of wild rivers may seem like a plausible solution to our energy crisis, but only if we are prepared to live with the disappearance of our wild trout and salmon. I for one cannot and will not stand for a future of fishless streams in which a boy may not be able to create a strong bond on a river catching wild trout.

I had noticed this change in perspective after a recent fishing trip with my father. Suffice it to say that my father and I had not had the best relationship when I was growing up. Between teenage angst, sports, and his job as a California forest fireman, we rarely had the chance to create a strong relationship. The saving grace of our father son relationship was the hunting and fishing trips that my father would take me on. As I grew older we took less and less trips due to tight family schedules and my hectic high school life. I moved out to Missouri at the age of eighteen to attend college and I never looked back. The father and son relationship was further strained by a difficult divorce. In short the outcome was my not speaking to my father for way to long.

The vehicle for rebuilding our relationship came in the form of hunting and fishing trips that we have taken together in the last six months. On the trips we would talk a little here and there about the past and what we both want for the future. My father and I started planning a mountain trout fishing trip this winter and settled on a date in early June. The trip started as a grandiose five day backpacking trip in the Golden Trout Wilderness of California. Mother Nature decided this was not be and graced the mountain region of California with the biggest snow pack in twelve years. Instead we hurtled North towards the Eastern Sierra mountain range passing lake Crowley, Hot Creek, Mammoth, and eventually making our way to Bridgeport where we would find the East Walker river.

We made camp next to the river and headed into town to get the local scoop on the wild brown and rainbow trout action. This was classic western fly fishing waters so I went in thinking of buying humpies and big stoneflies and left with a small tin of micro midges and emergers. I hardly ever nymph so I had my sights set on dry fly fishing, not to mention the fact that this was maybe the third time my dad had ever held a fly rod. After a frigid night of sleeping in a small motorcycle trailer we were anxious to hit the water. The East Walker river is a marvelous trout stream that starts at the base of Bridgeport reservoir and meanders its way towards Nevada creating some classic trout fishing water. The river is so versatile it can be fished with nymphs or midges, streamers, or classic western dries. I spent the whole day perfecting the art of swinging micro midges behind rocks and into pools with little luck. My father who is an avid bass fisherman detested the idea of throwing something so small that it required you to use a magnify glass to tie, so he stuck with an elk hair caddis. The closest we came to a fish was a brief dry fly hatch where I pitched an elk hair into some pocket water and missed a brown as he tried to sip my fly.

Day two brought us to a different stretch of water where we encountered and odd group of anglers who were using bait casters and large wooden swim baits. I asked if the smallmouth where biting thinking that was the only reason for such large tackle. They proceeded to tell us of the multiple six to eight pound wild brown trout they had caught. The guys where really nice and filled me in on the rising water level and the need for me to throw my biggest streamers. My father and I fished close, one behind the other fishing rocks, contours, and pools with big streamers. I tied on a Zonkcora and my father used one of my homemade double bunny baitfish flies. We fished for an hour and took in the scenery until we came to a large pool which ended in some rocky riffles. On a retrieve across the riffles I hooked into my first fish and my heart jumped into my throat as it beat wildly. My father helped me land the fish because he said we did not need a net.

I will always remember two things from the trip, the slimy high five my father and I shared and the most beautiful brown trout I have ever seen. After I had quickly revived the fish by pushing it forward not backwards, my father yelled from the other side of a stand of trees. He had hooked up to what looked like a two pound brown trout, as I needlessly coached him on landing the fish which he did by himself. After another fish slime high five we released a beautiful nineteen inch hook jawed rainbow trout back into the clear waters of the Walker. The attraction to this far flung outpost for fly fishing is that all of the trout are wild with most being brown trout.

I have to thank the people of the Eastern Sierras for their devotion to keeping the walker clean and full of wild fish. I missed the local Trout Unlimited chapter fundraiser the month earlier which both my father and I would have loved. The East Walker is a very special place because of its amazing population of strong, wild, and voracious trout. I grew up a warm water fisherman but I cannot find the words to explain my deep love for cold water trout and salmon. Maybe it was my first trip up to the San Joaquin River and Devils Postpile with my father catching cutthroat trout that ruined me on cold water fish. On this recent trip up in the Bridgeport area it donned on me that fly fishing in a cold mountain stream is a way for me to slow down, watch the water, take in the view, and truly appreciate the art that is fly fishing. I was breathing in the experiences of fish and scenery and exhaling true peace.

Streams like the East walker need to be protected to keep the fish healthy and wild, support the communities, and offer a place where a son can forgive and ask forgiveness of his father. For me the Bridgeport trip wasn’t about catching fish, to me it was about healing, maturation, and true wild beauty. By joining and supporting local Trout Unlimited chapters we can all give back to the cold water species that unite fly fishing anglers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Warm water is here

Finally its time to hit the small ponds around my house chasing bass and pan fish. On my last trout trip I stopped to fish a small pond pond by my in laws house. I caught a few nice bluegills and a small bass. This was the first time I had fished for bass and pan fish since last fall and I was very happy to break in my new three weight I had to purchase after an unfortunate incident with a car door, ouch. This past weekend I was blown of course on my way to the current river by a freak storm and had to change my destination. I went home and nervously tied flies until the storm had passed and went out to my small lake out in the county. I tied on a sweet new fly my friend Chris tied his blog I caught a short bass, two bluegill, and one ravishing redear sunfish. The next day I fished again after a storm and used a TSW or as I like to call it a secret garr weapon and caught another good redear. So far the fishing at the pond was turning my unfortunate trip for trout into a very nice warm water experience. The water was still very cold and the fish haven't put on their spring tuxedos yet but I was happy bug these guys out of their happy little holes to take a few pictures of them. The conditions where nice enough to wear a t shirt but the wind complicated my casting. The upside to fishing in the early spring is that there are less things to hook because their are very little leaves in the trees. My last cast landed next to a big stick in my favorite cove and as soon as I twitched the fly my line went zinging off the reel. I caught a nice bass for me and left for a short ride home and a little lunch. A great couple of days.

Today is the day

I have been talking with friends and reading posts of people going down to the current and catching brown trout. Ever since my first trout on the fly rod I have hoped to catch a beautiful brown or Brooke trout. I have been tying flies all week in preparation for this trip all week and I had even made some flys that truly surprised me. I worked on a zonker furr fly with an articulated back with two hooks. The rest of the flies where a combination of zonkoras and slumbusters. I arrived at the parking lot around nine o'clock. I wadered up and hit the water and threw my streamers over and over again. After two hours I switched to a soft hackle for the rainbows and fished a riffle and landed a small fish. When I brought it to my hand I almost wept at the perfection which wriggled and undulated in my hand. It was a perfect representation of a brown trout in miniature around five or six inches. I was thrilled to see it and after a conversation with my friend Will, check his blog here I found out that this trout is probably a stream born little guy. I caught another brown with the soft hackle and he popped out of my, hand must have been camera shy. I received a little insider information and quickly moved up stream above my usual place and fish new to me water. The river up there is breath taking and I spotted a few nice browns but I spooked one and couldn't catch the other. I tied on my articulated bunny with a strung marabou collar and of course a little flash. I was in my element swinging the fly past large rocks and deep pools as instructed and had a few choice hits. Finally I hooked a decent brown on the second hook and popped him off close to the shore. I then caught another small sub stocking size brown trout to end the day as my body and mind where beginning to shut down. I decided to call it a day and head home leaving a little unfinished business to attend to on my return trip.

Winter in troutland

Winters in Missouri are usually intense and this past one was no exception. I discovered that the winter conditions enhanced the fishing in the blue ribbon trout areas in Missouri. I was thrilled to find the choice waters completely devoid of other anglers. These last couple of trips found me on the water in some pretty serious conditions. I made it to Tan Vat around eight in the morning and decided to try my luck with some streamers I had tied the night before. The weather was sketchy with some challenging winds and very low temperatures which meant ice on my guides. For about an hour and a half i swung the rabbit fur with one follow and no strikes. Like usual I became disheartened and started tying on all manner of flies in rapid succession. Every time I fish this river I start out dazed and confused until the first hour and then I start to figure it out and get into a routine. This trip was no exception as I stumbled upon a random hatch with fish rising like crazy. I tied on a small crackle back and loaded it up with Gerts Gink and began to hook up with trout after trout as they tried to inhale my fly. I fished a very familiar set of riffles as a group of anglers plodded up and down the stretch as I jealously hovered over my area. They worked down and then back up the section nearest the parking lot with out so much as one fish while I caught trout on the dry fly in January in very cold weather. There have been many times that I choose not to recall when the tables have been flipped and I have been the one watching a guy land fish after fish while I watch on. The hatch came out of no where and I couldn't tell exactly what it was but it must have been a gnat like bug because they were too small to see but the fish where hammering renegades, crackle backs, and Griffith gnats. While I had come to the river to swing the big flies I was pleasantly surprised to find rising trout voraciously taking my dry fly. By far this was the best fishing I have ever seen on the Current. i left the river and journeyed into the trout park because of the free winter catch and release season was in effect and I wanted to see how the fish looked within the park. I jumped in at a familiar stair spot that ends on what looks like a large rock. As I entered the water I slipped on the rock which was covered with a strange gunk and plunged ace first into the water. Water poured into my waders and it took me a minute to stop slipping and right myself. I quickly assessed the situation. It was still very cold so I switched into action mode and jumped out of the water collected my gear and changed my clothes at the car. I always carry a second change of clothes and in the winter it is vital to keep them in a dry pack because it doesn't take long o succumb to hypothermia. I decided this was a sign to call it a day so not wanting to tempt fate any further I jumped i the car and headed home. While it is the beginning of spring here now I cannot help but feel a strange urge for mid winter conditions on the Current.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The cold, the rainbow, and the ugly...

It had been quite some time since I had wet a line in search of rainbows. The obvious excuses come to mind like work and grad school but my job teaching affords me the opportunity to fish on the weekends. I had been very busy working on the house and being a good husband. Any way I found a chance to sneak down to the current river which I had been putting off because it would turn out to be a solo trip. I had dabbled with the idea of running out and doing some trout fishing but I did not want to go that far by myself. The current river access point Vat Tan (mis-pronounced to not give away vital info) is around two hours and forty five minutes away from my house. That is haul by any means and it is a pretty secluded location which has made me leary about venturing down there by my self.

I finally found an opportunity and the courage to brave below freezing temps and very windy conditions to fish Vat Tan. My buddy Will had been making a few trips down there by himself and catching some nice rainbows and a couple of elusive browns on streamers. I ran to bass pro and bought a few tying supplies and set my self to the task of tying a slump buster like pattern. I tied my flies on a Tuesday night and planned to fish Wednesday morning. The Saturday before i had made my first solo trip down there and caught a few nice rainbows. I will add a post for this trip but I am too excited about this post and I loaded the pictures for this post so here is the Wednesday trip. I tied to leechy looking slump buster patterns the night before and headed down to montauk.

I arrived earlier than my previous solo trip at around eight o'clock and wadered up to fish the freezing river. I fished my heart out for around an hour and a half until I finally walked back to the entrance and began to fish the river from the beginning. I was very cold and frustrated at this point so i tied on my freshly tied slump buster with added flash(why not will you know I love flash) and I proceeded to swing it through and past the riffles to little drop pools. Right passed the first water fall i hooked up to an very nice rainbow who fought rather valiently despite the cold temperature. I let out a couple of victory oh yeahs because i was so excited to feel the weight of a rainbow trout.

After I had broken the seal I ran into a hot streak and caught four more on my leechy hand tied slump buster. I made my way back to the car to eat some lunch and made a few casts right before the car in the deep plunge pool after the first water fall. i hooked up to a smaller trout than I had been catching but when I brought it in close i found that something was trailing behind the fish. When I finally landed the rainbow I had discovered a number 6 rubber legs fly with line coming from the anus of the trout. At this point i was truly boggled and decided that the trout had eaten the rubber leg fly then excreted it to swallow the nymph which was ran on a six inch trailer. I cut the line at the fishes anus and proceeded to revive him before letting the fish swim free.

I took this as a sign to grab a bite at my car and warm up a little. After i ate I decided to try my luck once again and fished my way towards a downed tree which was produced some rather nice rainbows earlier. i casted up river in front of a small indention in the stream and swung my fly into a slower pocket when a had hooked another rainbow but another trout went for my fly at the same time and cut the line right in front of the other hooked fish. Wished I would have tied a dropper rig at that point. I switched to a dry fly which is my attempt at a renegade and I pin point casted it onto a rising trout. after the battle a went after another riser and landed the largest trout of the day. i tied on my slump buster and caught a couple more to end the day. I decided to leave around 2 which was fine by me because i was cold and the urge to land some pretty amazing trout had been sated. In all it was the best day I have had so far on the current and I was glad I braved the challenging winds and freezing temperatures. i believe the word bum will come to a few peoples mind but to me any weather or condition is a good time to catch trout. man i really love catching trout on three weight rods.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


So I haven't added any updates in a long while because I have been burning the candle at both ends. Sadly enough I have found little time to hit the water. In fact I have been putting off my updates due to some impromptu solo trips. I will be adding posts relating to the last montauk trip of the summer, the group wild trout outing, a couple of local lakes, and one solo trip to Tan Vat. I have been very busy tonight learning how to Goethe slump buster and replacing many flies that were destroyed by ravenous trout from the current river or misplaced in trees and rocks. I am very excited about this new pattern especially because it is so dominant. Wish me luck I depart for a colder more trouty environment in the am. I hope I can get to sleep as visions of browns, streamers, and rainbows dance in my head.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Reddington

I had been admiring my friend Chris's 8.6 ft Reddington CT when he purchased a very nice sage rod and reel so needless to say he was in the market to sell his old rod. I have been meaning to expand my very small fly rod collection so I quickly inquired about the CT. I tried the rod out at my favorite old pond on a chilly late September morning. I was pleased to land four fish in the process of the rod trial. The rod performed spectacularly and I was able to back hand and side cast very far and with ease. The CT excelled in the overhanging forest which dots the shoreline of this lake and I was able to fish the small but extremely productive cove in a much more productive manner.
I continued to fish away from the honey hole and tree choked cove and found an area where I could put the rod through some long casting paces. I was happy to have a longer 3 wt that I could cast farther and more accurately, yet I would still have the feel of a light fly rod which I must say is addicting. I have found it very hard to graduate to a heavier rod but i will be acquiring a bigger stick soon for bigger trout and rougher water.
I began to target the rising bg's around the shore, which I could happily do for hours. I switched to a secret blue gill killer I had purchased from TJ hargroves a couple of days before. I should take this opportunity to explain the environment of this shady looking fly shop. I arrived at the shop one Saturday morning to my surprise the shop was a very old house right on Manchester road. I opened the door to a cacophony of raised and grizzled voices from the old timers who every Saturday right at opening time swarm the fly tying table which is messier and more cluttered then the disaster in my house. They were arguing about technology which quickly changed into a argument concerning hackle. I must say I love this place because i will take every opportunity i have to look at things I won't buy but I love to listen to the guys haze and poke fun of each other.

The shop has a very homey atmosphere and provides daily coffee and in the winter there is a crock pot of chili or some soup like substance. Nothing against feather craft but if I'm going to drop a large sum of money on flies or fly fishing gear I want to feel like I am at home. This place is amazing in every sense of the word because it is covered in gear in no apparent organization or order. I think Hargrove just crams things where ever there is room and you know what I admire that because the other shops are very sterile and organized or are setup to make you spend more money by highlighting special buys. I am not trying to push the fly shop on any one but it is important to know that they are a small independent shop that is not short on character. Any ways back to the fly fishing...

I placed a cast next to a sunken log which and twitched the small bead head fly with a black chenille body and black legs. The image of the log erupted into a red ear which broke the surface with my fly in his mouth and I set the hook and had a great fight on my hands. I had a great time with this rod and i could not help but agree with Will about the rods ability to cast like butter.