Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 24 - Wet Flies

As I mentioned yesterday, I made it a purpose to tie some flies today. In fact, I tied some wet fly patterns that I've been meaning test out. Of course, this was after I spent some money at the local fly shop to get some hooks, thread, and a few magazines.

I've been curious about fishing wet flies for some time now. I must admit, I don't normally fish this style. Which, when you really think about the history of fly fishing, is pretty odd. Wet flies were the staple of most anglers for hundreds of years. The emergence of dry flies and nymphs didn't occur until the late 1800's. As such, wet flies had a stronghold in the angling realm until the mid-twentieth century. About that time, a shift in angling thinking occurred (no doubt helped by books like "A Modern Dry Fly Code") to matching insect life versus utilizing attractor patterns.

Since I'm going to be using the wet flies tomorrow, I had to "bone up" on the techniques for this method of fishing. I traditionally cast upstream and follow the fly down. Its a method that tends to work well for nymphs and dry flies. Of course, I don't blindly cast on the stream, but figure out where the trout will be at and cast to them.

Tomorrow, the fishing technique is going to be a little different. I will cast perpendicular to the stream, and allow the current to "pull" my line. I may even modify this by Euro-Nymphing the wet flies. It will be a day of discovery and learning for me.

Anyway, back to the patterns I tied. I tied four different patterns. I didn't tie too many, as I don't know if I will be sold on these four patterns. I tied the Copper Spider, Hare's Ear Spider, Orange Fish Hawk, and the Yorkshire Spider.

Copper Spider
Hooks: MUSR70, TMC3769, or DIA 1550; sizes 10-14
Thread: Brown
Body: Copper wire wrapped closely
Hackle: Mottled brown Hungarian partridge tied on as a collar

Hare's Ear Spider
Hooks: MUSR70, TMC3769, or DIA 1550; sizes 10-14
Thread: Brown
Ribbing: Oval Gold Tinsel
Body: Dubbed with hare's mask fur
Hackle: Mottled brown Hungarian partridge tied on as collar & tied back

Orange Fish Hawk
Hooks: TMC 3761 or DIA1560; sizes 8-14
Thread: Black
Body: Dubbed with orange ribbing fur
Hackle: Badger hen hackle tied on as a collar & tied back
Yorkshire Spider
Hooks: MUSR70, TMC3769, or DIA 1550; sizes 10-14
Thread: Black
Abdomen: Purple floss
Thorax: Dubbed with hare's ear mask fur
Hackle: Natural black hen hackle tied on as a collar. Hackle should reach hook bend.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day 23 - Plans Change

Today I had planned on writing about fly tying. I had some patterns that I was hoping to try out this week sometime. However, as previously mentioned, since my wife and I just moved into the area, most of my material and tools were in boxes in the garage. It wouldn't have been so hard if they were the only boxes out there. Unfortunately, they were among other boxes that look very similar in nature (damn banker boxes).

After about an hour of sifting through boxes, I found five boxes of materials. There may be another two or three out in the garage, but I have the majority of the stuff now. I then hauled them into the office and started sorting through the vast amount of material. I have so much stuff. I jokingly say to my friends that I have the largest collection of fluff and feathers known to man.

Anyway, I started to sort through the boxes. In my exhaustion of packing, I had ended up throwing everything into boxes will-nilly like. Scud backs were mixed in with bucktails, pheasant skins were mingled with yarn, dubbing was packed in vises... it really was a mess. I finally ended up sorting the stuff into some major categories. Seven to be exact.

Through the course of our move, we had gathered another bedroom set (thanks Abigail & Josh) which has freed up a seven drawer dresser tower. My wife has agreed that I can use this dresser to store the materials. Kind of works out quite well because of the seven categories and the seven drawers.

The first drawer holds a tray of tying tools, various packages of hooks, odds & ends vest tools, and quite a few "sample" flies. The second drawer is my feather drawer. Everything from pheasant tails to marabou to goose biots. The third drawer is my chenille drawer. It holds trilobal, micro, braided, and polar chenille. The fourth drawer is my Krystal Flash drawer. The next drawer is dubbing drawer (complete with Seal fur). Drawer six holds the odd stuff (well at least odd for me). It contains foam, fur, faux fur, and scud backing. The final drawer is my bead drawer. It also includes my hot glue gun and colored glue sticks. Thread is stored on top of the dresser on a spool rack.

It took me quite a while to get everything in a manageable semblance of order. I really should go back through the drawers and organize them a little better. I know that some my patterns that I want to tie (which WILL happen tomorrow) will require peacock herl. Its in the second drawer, and that's all that I know. Tomorrow I will end up emptying that drawer to locate Hungarian partridge feathers, peacock herl, ginger hackle, and possibly even biots. I'll also have to up-end the fifth drawer containing the orange dubbing and hare's mask. Just needs to be done.

So, I didn't end up tying flies today. Probably just as well. It looks like I might also need to take a trip to the fly shop for some hooks. I have a plethora of dry fly hooks, but my thoughts are on tying wet flies. Oh well, plans change and I guess you have to roll with the punches.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 22 - The Written Word

It is dangerous for a man with a weak heart to go trout-fishing, for he is liable to get a case of shell-shock at any time. You are going down a nice, quiet stream and you see a dark corner over there where a tree hangs out, over a pool which is as smooth as oil and black as ink. You know what is going to happen. You know you're going to be scared. You feel that you shall either jump into the creek or run for home when it does happen at all - and yet that terrifying thing does happen. There comes the tremendous unheralded flash into the air of a crimson and white and orange creature, a terrifying phantasm, a moment seen, then gone forever. Did you see it? Why, yes; but you forgot all about your rod and it certainly must have spit out the fly which it took as it went down half an hour ago. You stand and tremble, and look in apprehension at the spot where the little wrinkles still are spreading out on the oily ink. He might do that again. It takes a brave man to go after trout.
The above quote was taken from Holden's book "The Idyl of the Split-Bamboo" from a section entitled "The Joys of Angling". To me it perfectly catches the rush of emotion of having a trout take your fly. I don't think I would ever have called it being scared, but when I reflect upon the above text, I have to say that Emerson Hough (whose actual comments these are) was correct.

In my own words, I've called that feeling a lightning bolt that starts at the fly, travels through line and rod, enters your hand, creeps up your arm and explodes into your soul. Put in simpler terms, unbridled joy. If it were any more intense, it would cause tears in your eyes.

In case you haven't picked up on the fact, I tend to read quite a bit. I love the written word, and enjoy the feeling that I get when I read a nice well crafted story. Thoreau, Maclean, Holden, Walton, and Hemingway grace my shelves. New(er) authors like Gierach and Prosek provide me glimpses into today's angling lifestyle. I read their experiences and I'm transported to another place and another time. It allows me to go fishing, when the demands, constraints, and responsibilities of my own life prohibit me from actually going.

Personally, I secretly desire to be among this cadre. I hope to see my thoughts and insights written down and preserved for posterity. Something that will provide a voice for my soul, that will shout to the world, "I am here, and I exist! Do not forget me!" Maybe there's a desire in each one of us to be not forgotten.

So I read books on fly fishing. I relate to the characters and authors of these stories. And as my eyes flow along the serif print on the page, it is as I am honoring them in some manner. It is as if I'm saying, "You still exist. Your words move me. Thank you."

Consequently, I'd like to honor another person, the (very) late Provost of Eton College, Sir Henry Wooten. Izaak Walton brings his words back to life and Holden quotes Walton, quoting Wooten (and now I'm quoting Holden, quoting Walton, quoting Wooten). Each of us feeling the emotions that call us to angling that Wooten has so eloquent expressed. Each of us honoring and remembering a fellow angler.
'T was an imployment for his idle time, which was not idly spent;' for Angling was after tedious sudy, ' A rest to his mind, a cheerer of his spirtis, a diverter of sadness, a clamer of unquiet thoughts, a Moderator of passions, a procurer of contentedness, and that it begat habits of peace and patience in those that profest and practic'd it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 21 - Pondering Flies

I finally got a chance to peruse through my December 2009 issue of "Fly Fisherman" today. I only had a few minutes before I had to get ready to go to church (the real church, not the Church of the Babbling Brook), so I searched for a quick article to read. I ended up reading the "Fly Tier's Bench: Depth Charge Bird's Nest" by Greg Vinci on page 54.

Later on today, I was looking for a new book to read (as I just finished the book "Casting a Spell" by George Black). I looked on my bookshelf and decided to read the classic "The Idyl of the Split Bamboo" by George Parker Holden. In the opening chapter, amidst the notable names and poetic references (some of which I was moved by) was a reference to a fly pattern called Greenwell's Glory. Intrigued by the generous praise given to the pattern by Holden, I went to my library to pull out the "Fish Flies: The Encyclopedia of the Fly Tier's Art" by Terry Hellekson. Page 160 gives the full recipe for the pattern and even provides additional notes by the author (however, I find Holden's reference more invigorating).

As I continually reflect upon the full color plates of the Encyclopedia of Flies, I start to drool. I especially salivate over Plate 4. Its a page full of wet flies names like Pheasant Tail Spider, Orange Fish Hawk, Spitfire, Silver Big Hole Demon and Campbell's Fancy (I especially feel connected to this one since my last name is Campbell). Seeing these names, and hearing about how so-and-so angler preferred this one over that one, makes me hope that someday I will find the special fly that will "produce" fish for me.
As a result of this searching, my fly boxes are sort of a hodge-podge mess of retail buying mistakes, curious patterns, and small discoveries.

A giant yellow Madonna, a realistic black stonefly (I forget the pattern name), and some bead head marabou chocolate rubber legged thing were all bought because someone told me that they were the "hot" fly. They've never left the box as I never really gained confidence in them to do the job correctly. They might be really good patterns, but my hand always seems to hesitate over them. Somehow I lack the faith that they will do the job.

I have some flies that do the job well enough. I like the Pink Squirrel pattern, which I have found to perform especially well in the early season. I also like the pattern called Gabriel's Trumpet, which I discovered in a fly fishing magazine a couple of years back. I've taken the liberty to modify Skip Morris's pattern however. I tie it in yellow and added a yellow glass bead, which is a minor alteration from the Gabriel's Trumpet, Gold recipe. I guess I have an interest in the attractor fly patterns. (Hmmm... that's a new discovery for me. I'll have to explore that avenue more at another time.)

I don't know if I will ever find the perfect pattern. I don't know if I'll even come up with a truly original pattern. It would be nice to be like my friends Mark Kaplan or John van Vliet who have come up with patterns which are now being sold commercially. It doesn't matter though, because I don't mind the pursuit.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 20 - Beer & Fly Fishing

It was a hot and muggy day. It was one of those days where you take a shower, walk outside, and then you had to take another shower. I had just put in a good day of fishing the Kinni (the Kinnikinnick River) in River Falls, Wisconsin. As I trudged my way back to the parking lot, I managed to meet up with a few other anglers who decided that the world of AC would be better than dying of dehydration on the stream (yes I'm aware of the irony).

As I set on the tailgate of my SUV's, pondering who in the world thought neoprene stocking foot waders were a good thing, a magical thing appeared out of a cooler of their truck. It was a beacon of hope in that hot miserable world, a thing that could inspire a thirsty man (or woman). It was an ice cold beer, and the ppssshtt sound it made when the cap was removed was sweeter than Mozart. And I was left without, as I didn't have the brains to think bringing a cold one to the river was a good idea. Lesson learned.

Today I spent the better part of the day brewing up a batch of Scotch Ale. When the process is said and done, I'll have about five gallons of beer. Let me tell you, that's music to my ears. The hardest part is waiting the three weeks before trying it out. During the process of brewing (which involves a lot of watching a pot of water boil), I happened to think about how much beer and fishing seems to go together. Or better yet, how much fly fishing has influence beer.

Two Hearted Ale comes to my mind first. Actually, it was the first beer that I remember seeing with a trout influence. Obviously this trout labeled beer was heavily influenced by Ernest Hemingway's story "Big, Two-Hearted River." This ale comes from Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI.

After Two Hearted Ale, I recall Trout Slayer by Big Sky Brewery in Missoula, Montana. I think I purchased the beer just for the label. It just screamed marketing, but that didn't make a difference. Once I saw that beautiful water color-esque label, I knew that it was going to grace my shelf. Empty of course, that would be a crime not to drink the beer.

Just recently, I've discovered a new fly fishing brewery. It hails from Atlanta, Georgia and is called Sweet Water Brewing Company. The logo incorporates a jumping rainbow trout. As I scanned their web page, I was immediately set upon images of fly fishing. A trout on the left side of the page is pursuing a wet fly on the right side of the page. The entire web site screams dirty trout bum angling. I was rather pleased to view it. Check it out!

It seems that no matter what we do in life, our passion follows us. I can only guess that the brewmasters of these beers feel quite comfortable on the trout stream as they do in the brewery. I only hope that one day, I can incorporate my passion into my work (whatever that might be).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 19 - Words of Wisdom

Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morn, sailor be warned.

My dad used to say this to me and my brother a lot when we were kids. It's a simple phrase that helps predict the weather. I've been told it has to do with clouds reflecting something or another and normal weather patterns. All I know is that for the most part this old sage advice holds mostly true.

In my exhaustive search (about ten minutes of googling) I've found many pieces of advice that should help, inspire, locate, catch, et cetra, et cetra for the fly angler. The sayings range from the bizarre to the very plausible "why didn't I think of that" insight.

For example, here's a bit of information that makes sense to me, and I wonder why I haven't heard of this until now:
Let's follow the birds today.

It makes sense that if birds are swarming above a stream, they are obviously eating some kind of insectlife. As a fly fisherman, I should take notice, as maybe a hatch is on, and I should try to "match the hatch" (another good adage).

A few months ago, while on a fishing trip in Wisconsin with a friend, I heard this advice from him:
If you see a fox (dead or alive) it will be a good day of fishing.

I'm not sure how this plays to fly fishing, maybe something to do with active wildlife seeking food? I'm really not sure, but it seems that fly fishing has a lot of these sayings, or bits of wisdom, that predict success or failure.

Another one that I've heard, and tend to use is:
Bright day, bright fly.

I think that is a pretty standard saying and it has proven useful in the past. My guess is that its easier to see bright colored flies on sunny days, which in turn helps with triggering an aggressive response in trout. I'm no scientist, so I can't speak with authority.

I remember hearing about a fellow angler in Minnesota who only fishes with an 8 weight rod. He's been known to catch big fish consistently. Someone, who obviously had trout envy asked him what was his secret. His reply was:
Big fish, big fly.

I'm pretty sure that one has been around for awhile, but I do like his simple explanation to the man's question.

Ken Iwamasa (fly tyer, guide, professional fly angler, photographer...) has this knowledge to bestow upon us when we tie our own flies:
The flytier who practices with the flies he or she has created soon realizes that there can be a large degree of difference between a fly pattern that catches the admiration of anglers and those that catch trout.
I'm very aware of this knowledge, as I have a whole drawer of "pretty" flies that are wonderful to look at, but can't even catch a cold.

Now I understand that I've only touched the tip of the iceberg on this adage. So, I'm asking you the reader to provide your thoughts on this topic. The way I figure, I can always use a little more wisdom.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 18 - Fly Fishing as a Profession?

The last couple of posts have been pretty "heavy" so I decided to change things up a bit today. Yesterday, as I was surfing the web and joining fly fishing websites, I ran across and odd question.

I was trying to sign up for and on the registration site, it asked my level of involvement with fly fishing. The supplied answers amazed me. There was professional fly fisher and amateur fly fisher. I checked amateur, but that got me thinking, how does one a professional?

Now many years ago, while I was in high school, we had job fairs. Companies would come into the school and talk about different professions. I'm pretty sure I don't remember professional fly fisherman as a career choice. So... what gives? Why am I only hearing about this now? I feel as if I wasted 14 years of work. If I would have known professional fly angler was an option, I can tell you I would have chosen that career path.

However, I'm still confused on how this can be a profession. I wonder if that means guides are professional fly fishers. However, I don't think they put "Fly Fisherman" on the space for jobs on the IRS forms. I believe they put "River Guide" or that sort of thing on it. So, I'm going to make a judgement call and say that guides aren't professional fly fisherman. I mean if they were, they'd be the one fishing, right?

My business and economics background are now kicking in. What kind of goods or service would a professional fly fisherman offer? Fish? Maybe it is not so much of a goods, but an image. I mean Lefty Kreh has made a life out of fly fishing, and now he endorses his own brand of line from Scientific Anglers. I imagine he gets paid some sort of royalty for using his name.

So, if this is the case, I'd like to throw my hat into the arena and say that my particular brand is for sale. I'd like to take up the standard of professional fly angler and would like someone to pay me to fish. I promise strong midwestern work ethics. I'll never show up late. I would be willing to work late, and even travel above 50% of the time. I'm in my mid-30's and my past work experience has been in the industry (so that should be a plus). If you'd like to hire me as a professional fly fisherman, please make a comment below. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 17 - Ethos of Fly Fishing

So ever since I heard from a friend on Twitter that the topic of ethics should be addressed I've been trying to define what it means to be ethical in terms of fly fishing. Yesterday's post started out with today's title, but as I started typing, I realized that I was talking more about etiquette versus ethics. There is a distinction between the two.

Etiquette by my definition is based upon politeness. I see it as trying to be nice and to play nice. On the other hand, I define ethics as something that is based upon morals. These two terms often work with each other, and it is easy why the two can be often confused for one another.

My understanding of morals is that it stems from culture, history, and beliefs. If we apply this definition to describing ethics for fly fishing we have to look at what the culture of fly fishing is, what is the history, and what are the general beliefs that are held by fellow anglers.

Fly fisherman (and woman) have long been regarded by the masses as elitist. I hold this true in my own mind as well. Again, I must reinforce that I'm not talking about tweed jackets and affluence, but on setting restrictions upon yourself so that you can showcase your skill. Therefore, the fly fishing culture is considered to impose certain restrictions upon themselves so that they can champion the ideaology of personal ability.

When I look back upon the long history of fly fishing, I see men and women who tend to be seeking something bigger than themselves. I might have romanticized this idea a little. Yet when we look at Izaak Walton's book "The Compleat Angler" and see him argue that fly fishing has been blessed by God, or when reading George Black's book "Casting a Spell" and understand the bamboo rod maker's desire for perfection, or even in the closing lines of Norman Maclean's book "A River Runs Through It" of that "...all things merge into one, and a river runs through it." They all show an aspiration of something greater.

And as far as the general beliefs of fellow anglers, you don't have to search too hard to see concepts such as: conservation, catch & release, tresspassing, or volunteering. While some of these feelings are self-serving to the continuation of the sport, they do play at shaping the roles of ethics in fly fishing. As proof to this statement, I'm sure many of you have seen the old frontier photos of men with 30-40 trophy fish hung on a line. These black and white photos are often grainy and slightly out of focus. Today we see full color photos of "fish porn" gracing the covers of fly fishing magazines, yet we are reassured that these fish have been released shortly after the photo. Times change, and so do our values.

So, as I come to a close on today's post, I now realize why ethics has been never really addressed correctly by many fly fishing articles. It is because it dwells in that gray hazy realm of concepts and philosophy. That while certain things come close to the concept, it never truly does it justice. Suddenly I feel that I should be re-reading Plato's Republic again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 16 - Stream Etiquette

It seems that no matter how hard we try to leave the chaos of the world behind us, we inevitably stumble upon another angler. At the best of times a mutual respect can be achieved, but at the worst of times you meet a world class jerk. I know of a guy that believes that the number of assholes you meet on the stream drops considerably the further from the parking lot you fish. I tend to believe that there is truth in that statement.

With the increase in the popularity of angling with a fly and the decrease of public waters, it can be safe to say that the streams are bound to become crowded. Now anglers come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and beliefs. Then it seems to me that you're going to likely meet someone outside your normal social circle. When that happens, I suggest we stick to the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In other words, don't be a jerk.

Fly fishing has been called the sport of gentlemen. If this is so, we should act with a bit of decency and hold ourselves to a higher standard. This may sound elitist but I don't care. I'm not saying that we should go to the streams in twead jackets, smoke pipes, and wear ties. What I am saying that we should have respect for our fellow anglers (even if they may be a worm dunker).

As such, here is what I see as the Stream Etiquette Top 10:
  1. Show respect to the other anglers
  2. Give the other angler enough space to contemplate
  3. When the stream is crowded, work your hole and move onto the next
  4. When approaching another angler, keep your distance from their hole so you don't spook the fish
  5. If you have to cross the stream, do it on the down stream side of the angler
  6. A simple "Hello" is sufficient. If they want to talk more, then that is their perrogative
  7. Pack out what you packed in. Everyone hates a litterbug
  8. If fishing farm land, leave gates exactly as they were (if shut leave shut, if open leave open)
  9. Keep your hooting and hollering to a minimum, unless you catch a really big fish
  10. Become thick skinned and don't take offense too easily

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 15 - Memories

Today, was a day of hanging pictures at the homestead. We moved into our new place in late July, but haven't pounded a nail into the wall until today. If I counted correctly, we hung an otter doorknocker, 3 mirrors, and 19 picture frames. It took quite a few hours, but in the end the house feels like a home.

During the process, I ran across some old photos of me fly fishing Windsor Lake, above Leadville, Colorado. It was during the first summer that I was learning how to fly fish. I remember the lake quite will. I had waded out on a sand bed, and had drifted a #20 orange scud into a rocky area. When the strike indicator twitched, I set the hook on a 14-16" greenback cutthroat. It was magical. Unfortunately, this was before I learned to take pictures of great fish and the trout only exists in my mind.

The photos of me were taken by some members of the group that I was with. Don't ask me their names as I don't remember. I had been asked to attend a "Christian" retreat known as Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. The outing was an annual event that started out with only a handful of people in the first few years, but by the time I attended there were close 200 people in attendance.

I had brought my gear in hopes of doing some fishing, and managed to bump into a fellow angler. He was much more advanced than me, he had topographic maps. The night before the trip, I remember sitting down with him and discussing about where we should fish the next day. He had been in the area before and did quite well on a few lakes. This time however, he wanted to try a different lake. Not knowing was I about to get into, I said whatever he decided would be fine by me. Little did I know that this lake had a 1500 foot elevation gain in less than a mile. Have I mentioned that I am a gear addict? It was tough going.

In my mind's eye, I remember a long car ride on what used to be an old railroad bed. It was bumpy too. At the end of this road, and I use that term loosely, we pulled into a parking lot. There was about a half of dozen different members in our group, but only two anglers. I grabbed my backpack and we started up the trail. The sky was a gorgeous blue color, like the kind you get from a late October sky. The scent of decaying pine needles was brought to my nose as we kicked up clouds of trail dust on our ascent up.

After rounding a rocky bend, we came into an opening that had a small lake, that obviously came about from the melting snow. I was informed that this wasn't our final destination and we continued on. Our destination came over the next rise. It was beautiful. The mountain seemed to curve around the lake and stretched up and kissed that blue cloudless sky. On one little slope, last winter's snow was still there. The lake was so clear and pristine, that it mirrored the mountaintops. It was definetly cooler here than it was at the parking lot. The lake was close to 12,000 feet as the trees stopped growing only a few more feet up the slope.

There are only a few places in this world that seem to be truly magical. And when we find these places we must do everthing in our power to identify that moment and hold onto it. As I grow older, this place is one of those places for me. Even now as I type, I'm getting emotional about how peaceful, tranquil, happy the place was for me. It is my desire to fish this place one more time before I die.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 14 - Fly patterns

Traditionally, when I think of a fly pattern, I think of a wire hook, some feathers, some fluff, and maybe a piece of wire or tinsel. The history of fly material has always had a tumultuous journey. By this I mean, anglers have always pushed the envelope with what material to use. Bead heads, rubber legs, epoxy, foam, mylar... these are all things that I have in my fly box, but at some point in angling history they were considered taboo.

Earlier this year, I wrote a business plan for a friend who was starting up a fly company. I believe the plan was successful as he told me he was getting orders from a couple of big box retailers. His fly pushes the boundaries of traditional fly patterns and I question whether or not it should be classified as true fly pattern. I must concede that the pattern does catch fish though.

My friend's fly pattern is tied on a micro jig hook. In theory there really is no big distinction between his pattern and a bead head pattern. The action of the hook is a little different than normal as it rides point up versus the standard point down. Other than that, no big distinction. Yet, when I wrote up his plan, I had a gut instinct that this pattern was going to be met with some hesitation if not aggression.

I have to beg the question then, "Where do we draw the line?" I mean, do we start tying on treble hooks? Feasibly if you were using a tube fly, you could do that. What about using spinning blades? I've been told that there are some companies that are marketing this as a fly. Does the line occur at soft plastics? If so, the industry could be in for a shock as there is a product on the market that exhibits the soft body of a bait fish and is considered to be a new fly tying material.

If I had to express my opinion on the subject, it comes down to undestanding the nature of fly fishing. A fly angler sets certain restrictions or limitations on themselves that allows a sense of fair play and honor. The goal of fly fishing isn't to catch meat, for if it was then the angler would soon abandon the fly rod for corn, a worm, and a treble hook. Instead, the goal for the angler is more of wits and skill. We choose not to use certain materials as we feel that it would not show off our skills and prowess.

As a result of this moral value, here is how I will draw the line. I have/will use my friend's pattern. I find that it has some practical uses. Since the point rides up, it won't snag on the bottom as much as my other nymphs do. I can see this as being a real positive when using this fly as an anchor pattern for the Euro Nymphing style. Also, as I have mentioned before, I don't really see a huge distinction between this and a bead head nymph.

However, I will not use a fly that has rattles, treble hooks, or spinner blades. To me this crosses the line. If I want to use those, I'll pull out my ultralight rod and spinning reel. I will not use the preformed soft plastic bodies for my flies. However if the product comes in some sort of ribbing material, I may use that in my patterns.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 13 - Family History

On my desk, is a faded yellow box. The top of the box pictures a leaping trout. In red letters across the top the box states OREN-O-MATIC. The text below that makes me smile. "Free Stripping" in black slanting letters is printed dominantly across the box top. Language is funny, the meaning of an item can change entirely in another framework.

The South Bend No. 1130 reel, was my great grandfather's reel. Evidently, fly fishing was in my blood, it was just dormant for 24 years. Along with the reel, came a cheap bamboo fly rod in black cardboard tube, the kind that many GI's picked up in Japan after WWII. My dad had been cleaning out the garage a few years back and had come across the items and thought I might enjoy them. I do.

I have the reel, sitting on my desk at home and it makes me smile. At some future point I'd like to build a shadow box and put the rod and reel in it. If I'm real lucky, I might even locate a picture of him with the rod and reel in action. (I should talk to my aunt about that...) The reason that I smile at this object, is that it conjures up a piece of my family history. I can't honestly say that I knew my great grandfather, but just the fact that I have his rod and reel makes me feel close to him in some way.

As I move into my mid-30's and I start thinking about having children, I wonder what kind of legacy I will be leaving behind. To be honest, it makes me a little scared. I mean honestly, who doesn't want to leave their mark upon the world in some manner. I'd like to think that I'm leaving the world a better place and that I'm making a difference. But I guess you really never know...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 12 - Gear

I just recently moved here from Minnesota. And through the course of this move I discovered many, many boxes of fly fishing gear that I have accumulated over the years. What is even weirder is that as I unpack boxes of books, or folders, or whatever... I find flies, tools, magazines, and even fly vests packed among them. And I wonder, am I a gear junkie?

I remember when I first started out in fly fishing. I was in Colorado and I had signed up for a fly fishing class to help finish my minor. I didn't know a Prince Nymph from an Adams and I had just come from a class that went over the basic gear. I didn't have a thing... no wait... yeah nothing. I called my parents up and explained my situation. They worked with Cabela's and I soon had a 9 ft 8 weight rod (I know, I know... way too powerful for a trout stream in CO).

But even with a rod, I still didn't have nippers, fly flotant/sinket, zingers, fly boxes, flies, waders, wading shoes, polarized sunglasses, forceps, a leader straightener, or even fly vest to put all this stuff into. And so, with my rent money in hand I headed off into the retail world of fly fishing.

(Cue evil laugh)

I'm not saying salespeople are evil (hell, I was a salesman at one point), but I definitely looked an easy mark. I walked into the fly shop and my eyes started to glaze over. I saw hanger upon hanger of waders, a whole wall of wading shoes, gondolas full of fishing vests, an endcap of tools... Even now I get a little excited thinking about all of it. When it was all said and done, I had purchased a pair of wading boots, waders, a net, a fly vest, and all the accouterments that hang and dangle from my said vest. The bill was well over $200, and I was already thinking of some creative ways to come up with the rent.

That was the start of things, but things really started to happen when I joined the buying team for a big box retailer. It seemed that no one in the office fly fished. And so, being the poor angler that I was/am, I capitalized on the situation. Now I never outright asked or took something, but I was given/authorized to take things home to try them out. Through the course of my time there (roughly five years) I wound up with experimental nippers, zingers of all sorts and sizes, flotant, fly rods, fly lines, sunglasses, vests, a whole case of strike indicators, leaders, tippets, fly reels, fly material...

During my time with the company the going was good for me. Being a nice guy, I shared freely with my friends and family. I've given away more rods, reels, and material, then I think any good angler should. But even with all this I still find odds and ends in my boxes. The question remains, am I a gear junkie or a capitalistic angler?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 11 - Flies

I'm pretty sure that within the next year I will have another day called flies. Yet, I couldn't get this topic out of my mind today. It should be called fly selection, because that was really what I was dwelling on.

In my fly vest I have four fly boxes that I carry. I'd really only like to carry one, maybe two, but nonetheless I carry four. I have box that I carry that has streamers and large pattern flies. I have a box full of dry flies. A box of nymphs. And a favorite box of both nymphs & flies. I guess I could eliminate the dry fly box and the nymph box, but I'm afraid to. I have patterns in those boxes that might work if my favorites don't work. Therefore, I keep the boxes.

Now comes the hard part. When I come to the stream, I have to choose between all those boxes and pick a singular fly (if I can ever accomplish the Euro-Nymphing style I'll choose more) to start my day with. I have a weird habit of believing that the first fly you choose will set the mood for the day. If I pick a fly and that doesn't perform, then I'm off the entire day. But, if I can pick a fly that gets munched on in the first couple of casts... gonna be a good day! Now I haven't really put this theory to the test, call it more a gut instinct.

So, I'm at the stream and I've got four fly boxes full of flies to choose from. Which one to choose? Now I know what the books say: pick some rocks up and look what's on the bottom, or pick a fly from the hatch charts, or use a colorful fly on overcast days... Still I usually end up staring at the fly box for a few minutes. During this time I choose a fly, then I think again. Do I use my old standby fly? or should I use this new fly I bought/tied because I heard good news on it. Invariably, I start with the latter. Maybe it's because I want to be ahead of any new curve. It could be that I have the grass is greener complex.

The grass is greener complex is the idea that no matter what fly you are using, there is always a better fly for the situation. As such, I always think that I'm not using the right fly. I don't think about how I'm presenting the fly, which I should be doing, but whether the fly is the right fly. Now I was fishing with a gentleman earlier this year, and he yelled at me for not catching a fish. His retort when I said I didn't know what fly to use was, "Hell, the fish only has the brain of a pea! It shouldn't matter."

Cognitively, I know this. But, my gut believes something else. And maybe that's why I'm not as successful on the streams as I believe I should be. I wonder if this second guessing plays itself out in other arenas of my life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 10 - Not a good day

Today was not a good day for me. I got news that the job that I worked really hard for, had spent $100 in preparing for, prayed for, and worried over was not to be. It hurt. And now I'm scared.

It is difficult to think about fly fishing on days like today. Yet, I can imagine the history of anglers also having days like this. I wonder how did they get through it? Were they lucky enough to have a stream out their backdoor? Did they escape into the mountains for a week communing with fish, water, and the Creator? Or did they go about their day filled with sadness and worry?

I don't know what they did. I'm sure some of them went fishing. Some of them even looked for work elsewhere. And I'm sure some them moped around the house feeling sorry for themselves. I know what I did however. I got angry, I cried, and I took a nap. I called my wife and had her pray for me, and now this evening the two of us will probably watch some TV together.

Tomorrow is a new day. And like Tom Hank's character said at the end of Castaway:
I know what I have to do now. I have to keep breathing, becuase tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide will bring in.

I will wake up tomorrow, and I will get back into the process again. I will find the courage to dig deep into my resevoir and try again. And if I'm very lucky, I will be blessed with dreams of trout and fly fishing tonight.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 9 - Fly Rod Perfection

He measured Harry from shoulder to finger, then wrist to elbow, shouder to floor, knee to armpit and round his head. As he measured, he said, "Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magical substance, Mr. Potter. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same, just as no two unicorns, dragons, or phoenixes are quite the same. And of course, you will never get such good results with another wizard's wand."
--"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", by J. K. Rowling

The current book that I am reading is George Black's "Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection". It's a historical book on the bamboo fly rod in the United States. The premise of the book is that craftmakers are constantly seeking perfection in their work and are continually tinkering with the rod somehow trying to make it better. The author seems to be fascinated with the Eustis Edwards and even claims that Edwards found perfection with his aptly name "Pefection" fly rod series. I hesitate to agree with this declaration. While the rod itself might be perfectly made, the question is pefect for who?

I am of the mindset, like J. K. Rowling's character of Mr. Ollivander that no two rods are the same and that furthermore no two anglers are the same. Even identical twins will have different casting styles that will influence their choice of fly rods. This is because, each of us is a unique individual that chooses to walk through life at a certain rhythm. That rhythm is then played out as a physical manifestion in our casting style, much like our handwriting.

I personally seem to prefer rods with a more moderate casting style. I like to feel the flex in my hand when I lift the line off the water. My cast has a slower speed to it, which I've been told is more akin to the styles of European rods. American rods tend to have faster, tighter tips that allow the rocket like loops for distance casting. My loop seems to be more C-shaped then than U-shaped.

No matter how you cast, wide and slow or closed and fast, the important thing in my mind is that you picked up the rod. For if you picked up the rod, chances are you might be fishing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 8 - One more book

So, after all the talk about books on my shelf, I neglected one very important book. This book is very instrumental in fly fishing history. It was published in 1653 and talks about a fly fishing instructor named Piscator and his student Venator. It is the book, "The Compleat Angler" by Izaak Walton.

I have read this book, and find that you must read the book with a fly rod in one hand and the Bible in the other. Maybe this is why I feel so drawn to fly fishing in terms of spirituality. When you hear verses like this:
Gentlemen, let not prejudice prepossess you. I confess my discourse is like to prove suitable to my recreation, calm and quiet; we seldom take the name of God into our mouths, but it is either to praise him, or pray to him; if others use it vainly in the midst of their recreations, so vainly as if they meant to conjure, I must tell you, it is neither our fault or our custom; we protest against it. But, pray remember I accuse nobody; for as I would not make a watery discourse, so I would not put too much vinegar into it; nor would I raise the reputation of my own art, by the diminution or ruin of another's.

Yet there are other reasons that I enjoy this book. Reasons that include the huntsman's hatred for the otter, and why I choose it for my moniker.
...I can tell you, that this dog-fisher, for so the Latins call him, can smell a fish in the water an hundred yards from him...

You now know my secret obsession. To know the ways of trout so well, it is as if I can smell them. Now wouldn't that be truly interesting? To walk onto a stream, and instantly know where the fish are at? How many hours of unproductive fly fishing could be eliminated? However, there are those that would say that every error is not wasted for you now have traded a mistake for wisdom. Yet, I digress...

I've mentioned the deep spiritual nature of the writing, and of course the refrence to the otter, however I haven't even touched upon the very instructive nature of the book. Piscator takes Venator (a former hunter) as his student to teach him the ways of angling with a fly. This is a HOW-TO book at its very core.

Each chapter is devoted to explaining to Venator how to fish for a specific species of fish. It includes chubs, trout, salmon, carp, perch, grayling, bream... this list goes on and on. And nestled within each chapter are golden nuggets of historical experience. For example, Piscator remarks to Venator that a friend of his, Oliver Henly, used a special box to keep his worms in. The box was inffused with a couple of drops of ivy-berry oil. Supposedly, this would attach itself to the worms and make them more desirable to the fish.

I hope that I conveyed my interest of this book to you, and hope that you might pick up the book and give it a go. While the old English is a little hard to understand, if you press on you shouldn't be disappointed by this classic work. For a more modern approach to this classic, please check out James Prosek's book/documentry on retracing Izaak Walton's characters. Mr. Prosek has posted this documentry on YouTube and the link to the first part is:

To end today's reflections on fly fishing, I'd like to take a verse from the Angler's Song from "The Compleat Angler":
I care not, I to fish in seas;
Fresh rivers best my mind do please;
Whose sweet calm course I contemplate
And seek in life to imitate:
In civil bounds I fain would keep,
And for my past offences weep.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 7 - Books

If you're anything like me, your bookshelves are full of books and magazines about fly fishing. I haven't done a formal count, but a conservative guess would put the books around 20-30. I state this as more fact, so you the reader can get to know me, versus bragging.

As I peruse through the titles, some of the books seem to stand out more than others. Some I have read (and re-read) while others are more instructional and used for reference. But there are some books that I feel that stand out more than others in my collection. And these are the ones that I treasure more than the others.

The first one is considered to be the Bible among bamboo fly rod builders. It is Everett Garrison and Hoagy Carmichael's book, "A Master's Guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod". It's a first edition from 1977 (I was 2 that year). The pages are made from a heavy stock that has a pulpy feel to them. They are yellow with age and has that slight damp and musty smell. Inside the front cover a previous owner has glued a typewritten note from Hoagy Carmichael himself. It is addressed to Mr. Crawford of Junction City, OR. The note states that Hoagy is publishing a book that should address the needs of a bamboo rod builder. He mentions that the book has 400 photographs and 80 drawings. The signature, signed with a burgandy pencil, says H. Carmichael.

The next book on my shelf is another classic. It is a green book with no title on the front cover. In gold letters down the spine, the book states " A MODERN DRY-FLY CODE". This isn't a first edition, but rather an eighth printing (June 1974). The first edition I believe was in 1950. I have not read this book yet. It seems like everytime I reach for a book, my hand never quite lands on this one. I've now moved it to the short pile. My intention is to read this in the upcoming year.

In a brown leather bound book, stamped in black and gold, is another timeless classic. It is the "Idyl of the Split Bamboo" by Dr. George Parker Holden. This is actually a volume from the series Fly Fisherman's Gold and is labeled Volume I. On the inside is a page that states that Trout Unlimited commissioned this publishing and only 2500 copies were made. I'm not sure what copy this is as the spot for the number is left blank. I wonder if I got a "sample" copy. I believe I bought this on, but I could be wrong. Maybe it was

The last book is from one of my favorite modern anglers. Many people will know him by his famous watercolors of trout. It is James Prosek's book "Fly-Fishing the 41st". This one is one of those books, that I feel that I will read and re-read through the years. It ignites that jealous adventure inside of me. I only wish that some day I might actually fish one of the rivers that he mentions in the book.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 6 - Pondering...

So, today I sent an email to the editor at American Angler. I think that I have a pretty good idea for an article but wanted to run it past him before I make it a reality.

The idea that I have is how to find a place to fish when you move to a new area. The idea I think is a pretty practical one and I can't be the only one in the world that has moved to a new place and had to start over in terms of finding a favorite fishing spot.

In the article I plan on outlining how to use maps, books, fly shops, and networks to find a key place to fish. It's kind of my process for finding spots, and I figured other people might like a helping hand as well.

The problem is that while I think it might be a great idea, someone else might shoot me down. That or my idea has been so overdone, that they don't even want to hear it anymore. Someone once said that nothing is original, and I guess that's true to a point. But still, I feel that I have some experience that someone out there might find useful. Maybe I can twist the idea enough to make it sound new.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day 5 - On the stream

Today was an odd day. When I woke up this morning, I felt pretty lazy. While the plan to go fly fishing was there, it was more like a good idea versus a desire. I guess the events of the last few weeks have shaken my nerves.

After lounging around the house this morning and watching TV, I finally managed to get a shower and motivate myself to take the 1 1/2 hour trip to Stone Mountain State Park (in North Carolina). I managed to hit the road around 11:30 and only had to stop twice on the way for food and gas.

I didn't really have an idea of where I was actually going to fish, so Stone Mountain State Park was the default location as I had already been there last week. While I drive pretty aggressively (read fast) today I felt like I had no particular place to be, so I enjoyed the drive. During the trip over, I started feeling the familiar feeling of the world stopping. I managed to find my way back to the park (I used the GPS last week) and pulled into the parking lot around 1:45.

After talking with a gentleman in the parking lot for a few minutes, I found myself in the water with flyrod in hand. The fly rod I was using was a 9 ft 4/5 weight made by Scierra. It has a European action (slower action) which suits my casting style. I almost brought the bamboo rod with me today, but I was purposely going to nymph fish today, and the bamboo rod that I have doesn't suit the nymphing style.

Now everybody has a go to fly. This is the fly that no matter what the weather, or stream conditions are you just feel good about the pattern. I'm no exception. My go to fly is the pink squirrel. Normally its a spring time fly, but I felt that this was where I needed to start. Call it intuition.

I have been doing a lot of research lately on euro nymphing, and I had a couple of hits last week with this style. Unfortunately, the stream I was on only allowed one hook, so I wasn't able to rig the dual hooks. But, I still managed to weight the fly and drag the fly through a couple of pools. I must say, when the electric jolt hit my rod I wasn't ready for it. I missed the hook up, but it continued to reinforce the idea of catching fish close to you.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun, scouting out new pools, and just praising the Creator. I told you that fly fishing is like church for my soul.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Day 4 - Felt Soled Shoes

My many thanks to Edward Hewitt. Don't know who he is? Well he is the guy that patented felt on the bottom of wading shoes. Without him we'd all fall into the drink more often than we'd like. Much like what happened to me about a week or so ago.

The story really starts in June when I was fishing in Wisconsin. I was coming back from a decent day of fishing and in the middle of a cow pasture, I realized that I was walking kind of funny. Thinking that my insert for my Korkers was loose I lifted my boot to investigate. It was much worse: the entire felt from the insert had fallen off.

I didn't think much about it really when it happened. I figured that when I stopped at a fly shop, I would look to see if they had the inserts and all would be good. In the meantime, I still had the "spare" lug soles that came with the boots. Unfortunately, when I went to the shop, they only carried the new and improved inserts, not the ones that I have. So I figured that at some point I would either A) special order the inserts or B) upgrade to the new style. For the immediate future, I would have to make do.

I would have to make do that is until I learned about slick rocks in North Carolina. Last week I went fly fishing for the first time in North Carolina. I had driven about 2 hours and found a nice stream in the mountains. I had suited up with my wading boots (with the attached lug sole inserts) and made my way to the river. I was doing OK until I stepped into the stream. Streams in North Carolina are not like streams in Minnesota or Wisconsin. Minnesota and Wisconsin stream bottoms are usually sandy, muddy, or gravel. Not so, in North Carolina. It was like stepping onto a snot covered piece of glass.

For the record, I fell hard three times that day. The last fall included a fall so hard and disasterous that I filled up my waders. Did I mention that this was the first cold day they had all summer?

So I'm sitting here today with a brand new pair of Chota wading boots. They are affordable, they are tough, and above all they have felt soles. Maybe tomorrow, I won't take a swim in the river.

And oh yeah, thank you Mr. Hewitt for your wonderful idea.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day 3 - Just plain miserable

It is day 3, and I'm still trucking...

So, I still haven't heard back from a college that I interviewd for. Tomorrow will be 3 weeks since I interviewed for the position, and I'm getting a little anxious. I heard from the Dean last week and he mentioned that they are delayed a bit due to state budget talks. I hope they have made a decision and can move on.

What does this have to do with fly fishing? Not much. I just wish I was able to get on to the stream today so that I can feel a little distracted from the anxiety. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, when I go fishing everything seems to cease. I could use a little bit of that now. Life seems to be a little chaotic and I'm getting more and more angry, dissatisfied, and just plain miserable by the day.

When I start to get like this, my wife actually tells me to go fishing. She says that when I come back, I'm a different person. A little more grounded and bearable. Maybe it has something to do with feeling connected to God when I fish. Or maybe it is the Zen like movement of the rod. Or it could just be that I managed to plain wear myself out. Either way I could use some of that right now. Maybe I'll go fishing on Friday.

But before that can happen, I must purchase some felt soles for my wading boots. If I don't do that, I'll be slipping, sliding, falling, and generally spooking the fish. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 2 - Religion & Fly Fishing

In Norman Maclean's book "A River Runs Through It", he starts his story with this paragraph:
"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fisherman, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fisherman and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman."

Tom Brokaw has mentioned:
"If fishing is like religion, than fly-fishing is high church."

Now you may wonder why I have chosen to use these two statements to kick off my journey. It is because I am a resident of both camps. I grew up a devout Quaker, had a Youth Ministry focus for my undergrad, and wound up marrying a woman who is a Presbyterian minister. Also, unlike some dads who taught their kids how to play catch, throw a perfect spiral, or how to keep their stick on the ice, my dad taught me how to fish, hunt, and camp. Also, when you add that I am a Boy Scout (an Eagle Scout actually), minored in outdoor leadership, and worked in the fishing retail industry, you can understand how these two quotes play in my life.

I didn't learn how to fly fish until I was in college. I was introduced to fly fishing when I was in my early teens, but I always ended up snapping off the fly and causing quite a mess that I quickly got discouraged. Now when I go to the stream, I feel a little more apt, but I still create tangles and snag trees now and then. But, now I don't feel so discouraged.

I now understand that this is just part of the process of leaving the world behind, and entering into a peaceful meditative state that comes with being alone in the wilderness. When I'm fishing, the outside world seems to cease, and for that moment its just me, the stream, the rod, and if I'm lucky a trout or two. And I guess at this point, this is where God starts to creep in.

I sometimes find it difficult to worship at church. When I look around at all the people, the man-made objects, and hear the un-motivated songs of praise I feel uneasy. I find myself asking where is God in all of this?

Yet when I'm on the stream, I see the Creator's work all around me. I see the moss covered boulder, I hear the wind the through the trees, I feel the cool water around my legs, I smell the decay of leaves, and I can even taste the spray of the water as it splashes around the rocks.

And it is here, surrounded and immersed in God's creation that I tend to be most reverant. That song breaks forth from my soul praising His holy name. It is where I bow my head in remembrance.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Day 1 - Starting Out

I'm curious what would happen to a person if they were to focus on their passion at least once a day for an entire year. So, I am making this commitment to the world that I am going to focus on my passion for fly fishing at least once a day for an entire year.

Here's the rundown on me currently:
  • I've been unemployed since October 2008
  • I just recently moved to North Carolina from Minnesota
  • My fly fishing skills are about average
  • I've worked in the retail sector for fly fishing for about 6 years
  • I'm in my mid-30's
  • My soul is at rest while fly fishing