Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 55 - Should I?

If you've read my first post, you realize that I started this blog adventure unemployed. The situation hasn't changed much since then. I've sent out dozens and dozens of resumes, hounded hot leads, and have been on an emotional roller coaster hoping that a prospect might pan out. So far, despite my education and experience, nothing has come about this effort. It's a little disheartening to say the least (especially since the student loans are about ready to kick in).

Monday, while in the shower shampooing my hair, an inkling of an idea crept into my brain. I don't know why these ideas occur when in the shower, but they do for me (and I'm sure for some of you too). This small glimmer of an idea held a minute ounce of hope for my future. What if... what if there was an after school program that instilled traditional values in middle schoolers through the use of the outdoor sports?

My brain started to chew on this idea throughout the day. Thoughts percolated around how this would be done, how to differentiate it from Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, how do you show life lessons through fly fishing? Other notions asked: What would you call this program? Where would you hold it? How would you support yourself in this role? How much would it cost to develop? My has raced around these questions trying to form answers.

I've always thought that my life experiences came about through some divine plan. I'd hate to believe that I was just bouncing around aimlessly (of course maybe that is the truth that I'm not willing to admit). My undergraduate degree from Colorado Christian University was in Biblical Studies. More specifically Youth Ministry and Youth Counseling. I also received a minor in Outdoor Leadership, which should more aptly be named the Administration of Outdoor Educational Programs. This last spring I received my Master's degree in Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas (that would be in St. Paul, MN not the cool island in the Bahamas).

When I explain my background, many people scratch their heads in confusion (much like I do). How does one go from Youth Ministry to Business? Somehow they seem to be fundamentally at odds with each other. To be honest, I've always hovered around the two ideas and for the most part I've made it work, sort of. Going through grad school, I definitely brought about a different perspective when we talked about business ethics.

And so now you know my educational background. For the most part, my professional experience has revolved around purchasing goods and inventory analysis. I don't know if I was ever really great at what I did, but I did approach the work with a hard Midwestern work ethic and managed to do some very profitable things. More details about my work experience can be found at www.AustinBCampbell.emurse.com in case you're interested.

I've often felt this pressure to do something great with my life. That I am here to somehow make a difference. I look around this world and have met many people from different nations, communities, faith backgrounds, and lifestyles. I've thought on numerous instances if they're going through the same things that I am. Does the street beggar in Bamako, Mali ask himself how can I impact the world? Does the teenage football player in a small Midwest town think how life is short and how to make the most of it? Does the middle aged woman in Dubai ponder what difference she will have made in the world before she dies?

Going back to this outdoor educational program, I ask should I do this? Should I take the risk to move forward into the unknown? An inordinate amount of time, money, and effort will be required to make this happen. Have I come to the point in my life where the road of my past experiences is meeting up with the road of what I am meant to do? I'm scared.

I'm scared that I might fail, that I might not be able to have the gumption to make this happen. I'm scared that I will have to struggle each and every day of my life, and that when I look back on my deathbed (hopefully many decades from now) I will find that it was all for nothing. I'm paralyzed with fear of the unknown, of how to support this passion (if it actually is a passion and not a passing notion). Ultimately, I'm very scared to fail for my family's sake. As a husband, I have a sense of duty to my wife (and eventual children). Will this idea require too much of me and damage my family?

Yesterday my wife and I had dinner with a couple who will be celebrating 59 years of marriage in March. The husband and I had a few minutes of conversation while our wives were in the other room. He asked me if I've had any luck on the job front, and I explained to him not really. I then shared with him some of my thoughts on what I have just shared here. He mentioned that if I was serious with this idea, he might have a couple of individuals that might be interested in helping me out. And so I ask, should I?

Should I go forward this notion? Should I devote more time to this idea to make it happen? Am I being gently coaxed by the Divine to move towards this direction? I mean to be honest, my past kind of lines me up towards this position. Please comment and tell me what you think. I'd be really curious to hear what anyone has to say on this. I am giving YOU carte blanche to comment on my life, no strings attached.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Day 54 - Hot Tips

First of all, I must say that I'm a little excited about reaching Day 54. That number is somehow connected to me in a myriad of ways. In grade school I rode bus 54. In Boy Scouts, my troop number was 54. There's a few other connections but at this time I can't remember (it is 11:33 PM, and I'm struggling to keep my eyes open).

Yesterday I received a hot tip while out on the stream. It was about what pattern is "hot" right now. So today, I spent some alone time with my vise with some music playing in the background. I ended up tying that particular pattern and then tying up a few more that I had success with yesterday (since towards the end I had either snagged the sunken log, or the overhead branch and broke almost all of them off).

I started thinking about tips, and wonder if this is how certain fly patterns migrated across the country. I also thought about how often times these tips are said only after a glance over the shoulder. Somehow in my groggy mind these two things seem to contradict each other. I mean a tip should be kept on the down low, it should be kept quiet, and left to be a mystery to other anglers as you reel in fish after fish (all the while you secretly smile and think you are the next trout whisperer).

Despite this exclusive knowledge, or maybe in spite of it, news travels around. They are whispered in secret at the coffee shop, or shared in hush tones by the water cooler at work. Occasionally a smart fly shop owner may give cryptic ideas about what was hitting last week (which when you look in the fly bin you see dozens of that pattern tied waiting patiently for your fly fishing spending money to purchase (suck-er!)).

There are patterns in my fly box that I have purchased because someone or another told me that they were the hottest thing on the stream since God made the mayfly. And if you know me and my search for the Holy Grail of Flies, I've purchased it wide-eyed and hopeful of big trout. Of course, the tip never said anything about the time it had to be fished, what color that pattern had be in, whether or not it had to be tied on the short shank curved scud hook, the long slow curving heavy wire of a nymph hook, or that the hundred year hatch (that incidentally only last 24 hours) was on. Let alone how this pattern had to be fished: cast short over the fast moving riffles, or fished on a slow retrieve in deep pools, or the bottom hackles clipped short so that it rides better in the water.

Regardless of the outcome, these flies have crept across the United States and into our fly boxes. Sometimes they take on modifications such as color, experimental material, or proportion differences. Sometimes they skip whole states and go from the Appalachian Trail to the streams of the Rocky Mountains.

Whatever the case may be, I'll be happy with my cheese colored Y2K's that I tied up today. I usually drift them just above the river bottom just past the tail of a riffle. But please, keep this little secret to yourself. And remember, when you start catching fish and the others anglers are starting to scratch their heads in befuddlement of your angling powers, try not to smile to hard.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 53 - Fun filled crazy day

Today's post may be a little shorter than normal. That's because right now it is 10:34 PM and I've had a long fun filled day. It was full of adventure: new friends, small fish, big fish, and Tschaikovsky. And now I'm sitting here at the laptop, showing commitment to the blog (and you readers).

Today's recap goes like this...

6:30 AM I'm awake and brewing coffee. I've managed to put some clothes on and am waiting for my wife to get out of the bathroom so I can brush my teeth.

6:45 AM I kiss my wife as she gets ready to go to her physical therapy for her foot.

6:46 AM Wife comes inside and says that she has backed into a car across the street

7:00 AM I knock on the neighbor's door and explain that their car has been bumped into, I give them our insurance information (FYI, this is officially the first time I've introduced myself to them).

7:10 AM I've finished gathering my stuff for the fishing trip, and put the dog into the kennel

7:30 AM Gas is now in the Trout-mobile and heading towards Stone Mountain State Park to meet up with John

8:00 AM Expecting to see the turn off for Dunkin' Donuts

8:15 AM Where is that turnoff?

8:30 AM Seriously! Did I miss it?

9:00 AM Turn off to grab McDonald's, still thinking about donuts though

9:25 AM Pull into the ranger station at Stone Mountain State Park. Meet up with John. This is the first time we've met. We bumped into each other on this blog & Twitter. You should check out his blog. It is Seven Bridges Road.

10:00 AM - 3:30 PM We fish the streams at Stone Mountain State Park. I manage to net about 5 fish (maybe 6, but today I'm going to go conservative). I've probably missed twice that many in hookups due to bad knots, missed strikes, and bad hook sets. John and I realize that we're going to have to fish more often. Also, before departing we decide that we're going to try and go to the WNC Fly Fishing Expo in Asheville next weekend.

4:30 PM After talking to my wife, I pull over off the interstate and find Burger King.

5:25 PM Pull up into the carport at home. Manage to kiss my wife before she heads out to bell choir

5:30 PM Realized that I missed South Park yesterday so watched it online. Starting to wonder if all they are going to do anymore is mock TV shows.

6:00 PM Headed into the shower to wash off the fish slime.

6:30 PM Getting dressed, found weird green stuff in toothbrush and thought, "How long has this been there?" Time to get a new brush I suppose.

6:45 PM Time to feed Wonderpup and let him outside

6:50 PM Wonderpup put in kennel and starting to lock up the house

6:55 PM Wife calls to ask where I am at, I was supposed to have been there by now. Somehow I thought I was supposed to pick her up at the church by 7:30, symphony starts at that time. Decided to be a little heavier on the gas.

7:10 PM Pull into church parking lot. My wife is waiting for me outside. I whip around and pick her up

7:30 PM Start to pull into parking lot for the Greensboro Symphony. Realized at the gate that neither one of us had cash, they let us in anyway and a parking attendant met us inside by an ATM.

7:45 - 9:45 PM Listened to some amazing music by Tschaikovsky. The conductor actually played the violin for one piece as the music was quite difficult. His fingers fled up and down those strings. Amazing...

10:00 PM Dropped wife off at the church so she could pick up her car.

10:15 PM Home. Wonderpup suddenly becomes my shadow (this is when I really like him).

10:34 PM Starting to write blog.

11:16 PM Blog finished. Now heading towards bed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 52 - Panfish

Panfish are dumb, and fun to catch.

After heading to Costco with my wife, I found myself with a few hours to kill. I tried to watch TV, and even managed to watch an episode of the Fly Rod Chronicles. However, I started to get restless, and thought about the fishing that I was going to do tomorrow. I decided that I would try and hit the private lake that our housing community has access to. I had just received the passcode to the gate after two days of playing phone tag with the property manager, and this seemed like a good time to use it.

I got in the car and drove the mile or so to the lake. I entered the code and like magic the gate opened. Success! I drove the car to the lower parking lot and I noticed a couple of teens hanging out. I felt like I got the death stare as I pulled into the lot. I shrugged it off, maybe I was just being paranoid.

I opened up the back hatch and started to go for my standard fly rod, a 5-weight rod. I stopped myself though. I wasn't going for anything big (if at all really, I just wanted to practice my cast). Instead, I reached for the whippy 4-weight bamboo rod that I have. I pieced the rod together and gave the rod, sans reel, a quick snap or two of my wrist. Yep, just like I remembered. I placed the reel into the reel seat and started stripping line so that I could easily thread it through the guides.

"Is that a fly rod?" questioned one of the teens. I hadn't realized that they were still watching me.

"Yep. Have you ever gone fly fishing before?" I asked in return.

"Naah, not really. Is it hard?"

"Can you ride a bike, or throw a football with a spiral? If so, you can fly fish. Just takes a little practice." The kid looked at me with some skepticism. I added, "If you'd like I can give you a lesson."

He shrugged, and went back talking with his friends. I proceeded to finish loading up the line through the guides. After running the leader through my hands to straighten the curls left by the reel, I added a piece of tippet to the end. The last time I used this reel, I must have snipped off the last of the tippet before putting it away.

I turned to vest, which was on a hanger hanging from the hook in the back, and wondered what fly to use. I looked at the piece of felt that held a plethora of hooks from previous outings. I spotted the pink squirrel, and the adage "Bright sky, bright fly" rang in my ears. Perfect. Today was a nice cloudless sunny day.

I walked down to the lake and gave a cast by the fishing dock. Panfish love structure, and this dock was perfect structure. I watched the Pink Squirrel sit on top of the water absorbing the water, before it slowly sank. A moment or two later, and my strike indicator started to dance.

Past experience has taught me to wait until the indicator is completely under, as smaller fish can't take the fly outright. Another moment passed, the indicator still seemed to dance and then shot down into the water. A quick twitch of the line and the hook was set. I played the fish for a moment enjoying the feeling having electric impulses sent through my rod.

A decent size bluegill took the fly. I admired the blue-ish gray marking under its jaw before throwing him back into the lake. Within a half hour I would repeat the process about 12 more times (that could be a stretch, it may have only been ten, but 12 sounds like a good round number). Beside bluegills, I also caught a few sunnies.

Growing up in Iowa, I learned to call them panfish. When I lived in Minnesota, these panfish were sunnies, unless it was a perch or a crappie. Down here in North Carolina, they are called breem (pronounced brim). Whatever the case may be, they can be fun to catch. Today I witnessed breem pull like a hemi, fly through the air like sparrows, and toy with my patience as they eventually took the fly. Maybe that is why both adults and children love to fish for them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 51 - Persuasion vs. Deception

First things first, there is need to crown a winner in the name that fly competition that I presented last week. Names came in from all over the country (Minnesota and North Carolina to be more specific). America has voted, and the winner is... Lauren with her submission of "Woody Troutpecker". I am currently in contact with her father to notify her of her winnings. And now on to today's topic.

I have a metal sign that I'm going to put up in my "man cave" whenever I get to fixing the place up. It states something to the effect that "fishing lies are spoken here." The sign is pretty campy and runs the typical course of fly fishing decoration/humor that many people share about our sport. And while I am of one mind to find the humor in it, the other half finds it a little offensive. I mean let's be honest who wants to be called a liar?

Now I can understand where this mindset can come from. There's a saying that "fish grow over time." And to be honest, I've fallen victim to this idiom on occasion. I think this action comes not from any deception but lack of judgement. I don't carry a measuring tape, so I truly can't be sure how big it was. I mean who to say it wasn't 14 inches versus 12 inches?

When I looked up the definition of "angle" as in angling for fish, it comes up with an "attempt to get something by sly or artful means". Again, we joust around this idea of deception. Maybe it's just the negative connotation that modern society has given the word deception, or maybe it truly is negative. However, I can't say that this doesn't rub me the wrong way. I'd like to believe that I'm a pretty honest person. Someone whose character can't be called into question. And yet, I actively participate in a sport that engages in deception. I'm kind of a walking contradiction of terms.

Not to get too preachy on anybody (what do you expect when I'm married to a pastor and have an undergrad in Biblical Studies), but in the Gospels (Matthew 4:19 & Mark 1:17) Jesus states that if Simon (Peter) and Andrew follow Him, that He will make them fishers of men. This puts my faith under the bus, if we follow the above thinking of fishing as deception.

Personally, as a Christian, I can't believe that Jesus's intention is to deceive people. I'm sure there are people out there that believe that, but I whole heartily disagree with them. I believe that the intent was one of persuasion. The goal was not to deceive people, but to persuade people. There's a big distinction here: deception requires the use of trickery or possibly even lying, persuasion doesn't need to have those things. Persuasion is actually the ability to prevail over someone to do something. In some cases, lying and deception are used, but in others its just urging an individual.

I can go along with this clarification. I'm no longer considered a deceiver, but an urger. My intent when fishing is to urge the trout to take my lure. I'm persuading the fish that they want to bite my lure. If the fish had any brains, it would see that there is a hook there. Is it my fault that the fish isn't smart enough to know the difference?

Somehow, all of this feels like some sort of legal loophole. I ultimately maybe trying to justify my actions. Maybe I truly am a liar and a deceiver of fish (and humans) and don't want to give up fly fishing due to a conflict of faith. Yet, if that is the case I'm sure I'm not the first Christian to show up at the Pearly Gates with fly rod in hand. Plus, if Norman Maclean was right, I'm sure that the River of Life that flows through paradise will have the Apostle John casting dry flies to the heavenly trout. And if I'm really lucky, maybe Christ Himself will give me a few pointers like he did to Simon Peter (cast your nets onto the other side of the boat).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 50 - Outfished & Happy











What a wonderful day. The weather was cooperative, the autumn colors were in full regalia, and it was spent with my wife and pup outdoors. Beautiful...

Since my wife gets Monday's off, I suggested that we go to Stone Mountain State Park. I told her that we could do a little hiking and if there was time, maybe I could wet a line while she took photos. So after sleeping in (as much as you can with a dog and two cats) we managed to get on the road almost right at 11 AM. We decided to bring the Wonderpup with us as we thought he'd enjoy the car ride and hiking trails versus the kennel in the bedroom.

The drive out was spectacular. As I mentioned the trees were dressed in all their splendor. We might have missed the peak viewing time by about a week, as a few trees stood naked amongst their brethren. Despite our tardiness though, there were muted yellows, bold reds, burnt oranges, and even a few remaining green leaves to excite our eyes.

After stopping for lunch at Backyard Burgers just outside of Jonesville, we made our way to the state park. Again, autumn colors equals wow. We started off our visit to Widow Creek Falls. Nash was excited to explore, however he got a little freaked out when he went to go sniff the water on a granite chute and almost fell in.

Our next stop included about a 30 minute hike (uphill!). The rustle of leaves, the faint pine smell, and good conversation was good for the soul. Having reached the top of a hill that then started to descend, I made the arbitrary decision to go back as I wasn't climbing that hill again.

Back at the Trout-mobile I changed into waders. We had saw a gentleman across the road trying for fish. I don't want to judge, but I'm not quite sure what kind of angler he was. He drove a Mercedes convertible and his fly vest looked as though it was ironed. I'm just saying...

I rigged up a two fly rig with a Bubba Nymph on top, and a Bead Head Egg pattern below. I went back to where the "angler" was at and proceeded to cast to a school of brookies. After a dozen or so casts (and a missed strike) I decided that my system was too heavy and changed the Bubba Nymph to a black hare's ear. I then caught a branch on the other side of the stream. I'm OK with losing a fly now and then, but two at once?! I waded across that stream, spooked the fish, and salvaged my system. At that point, I decided it was best to move on.

There was a spot further down the road that I had a feeling about. I had fished it in the past with only a few strikes, but I knew that this pool held fish (of decent size and quantity). After a few casts into the inky surface, I hooked a moderate sized rainbow. Success! I called my wife who promptly came and took a photo. Another few casts and another rainbow.

I looked at my wife, and she seemed to be interested. She asked if she could try a few casts. Now she's only been fishing with me once before, and she only took photographs that time. Seeing that this was a hot pool, I decided to let her have a go at it. She took the rod from me and I directed her on where to cast and how to manage her line. The second or third cast, the strike indicator took a nose dive deep into the water... Fish On!

I coached her on how to set the hook, and then directed her to lead the fish over to me. I scooped the fish and saw that she caught an average sized rainbow. Nice... I unhooked the fish and as I handed her the fish so I could take a photo of the occasion, the fish wriggled and Kathryn lost her grip. No big deal, as she would continue to catch three more fish. The most beautiful was the brookie. While it wasn't the same size of the rainbows, it was the most breathtaking.

As the clouds were gathering overhead and the sun was starting its descent, we decided to pack up, give the Wonderpup one last stretch of the legs, and then take the drive back home. On the way back, I noticed that Kathryn was starting to cry a little bit. She turned to me and said, "I don't know when the last time I laughed so genuinely." She explained that she's laughed, but it has been either the fake laugh, or the forced laugh, or the good natured laughed, but all of those had been a conscious decision. Today, when she caught the fish, she laughed out of shear joy.

And so, I sit here at the end of a good day and reflect upon the memories made. I may have been outfished by my wife (which I'm OK with) but I was finally able to show her the pure joy that I feel when I'm out in the stream. Because of that though, my fly fishing budget may be cut in half (if you get my drift). I'm still OK with that, it just means that I gained a lifetime fishing partner. Life is good.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day 49 - Fortunate Find

Tonight I decided that "Nash the Wonderpup" need to go for a walk. He was getting a little cabin fever and I thought the walk would calm him down before my wife came home. Plus, he wasn't the only one getting a little stir crazy. So, I grabbed his leash and we headed off on a walk around the neighborhood.

Previously, Nash and I would do the "loop", which consists of going around the block (which could be about a mile). However, today I wanted to do something different. Shortly after we moved here, I had noticed a sign over by the golf course. It looked as if there was a little trail over that way. I decided to do a little exploring. It was a good thing I did.

Just past the treeline was a path that led up to an embankment. And there in full autumnal glory was a small lake. An asphalt path lined the lake. The trees in their glorious farewell colors rimmed the lake. Off to my right, were a few ducks trailing each other like a military squad. And if that wasn't perfect enough, the sun was just at the correct height that gave everything a golden hue. I've been told by professional photographers that this a semi-rare phenomenon that is referred to as the golden moment.

Obviously Nash and I stopped to take in the beauty. I hadn't expected this lake to be here. My wife had told me that there was a lake that our community could use, but I had it figured out to be further north of us. Looks like I was mistaken.

I have been wanting a small lake to practice on. That or a field. Either one would have been fine, but this gem? This was a gold mine. The closest edge to the parking lot included a fishing dock, but it also included an unobstructed waterline. For those who are not anglers, this allows me to be able to backcast without worry of tangling up in the trees. Plus, I have a float tube that has been in my possession for a few years now and I never had an excuse to put it together. Now I do.

As Nash and I continued to soak in the moment, I noticed movement behind the fishing dock. Crawling up from the bank was a gentleman with fly rod in hand. Now this was just too perfect. Not only did I find a "secret" lake, but it seems inhabited by other fly anglers. The dog and I watched as he walked to the end of the fishing dock and made a few casts out into the water.

Now, fly fishing ethics deem that I should give this man some space. And I held out for about 5 minutes before I decided to introduce myself. As I walked down towards the dock, I happened to pass by his truck. The back window was covered in fly fishing decals and beer stickers. The plot thickens...

After introductions, we started talking about different streams to fish in the area. I mentioned to him that my wife and I just moved to the area and that I was still exploring areas to fish. I told him that this was a gem of a spot and I couldn't wait to get my rod to start doing some practice. We talked some more, and I soon discovered that he lives right up the street from me.

Now those of you that know me, understand that I always feel a little bit of a kindred spirit to other anglers. Yet when this gentleman described himself as a fishing bum, and that it didn't matter how he caught the fish (although he prefers a fly rod), I knew at that moment that I liked him.

I initially struggled with the idea of going for a walk with the Wonderpup. Yet, something prompted me to go exploring. I'm glad I did, for now I discovered my practice lake and possibly a new angling friend. I guess sometimes you have to give in to that little badgering voice, you never know what your fortune may hold.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 48 - Silent Supporter

I would hope that everyone of us has that person in our lives that quietly rallies the troops to our cause. Someone who can take on your adversary when you are too weak, too exhausted, or too tired. The silent supporter who sees only the good in your soul, when you can't even see it yourself.

Thursday night I went and had dinner with my wife. Thursdays are long days for her as she usually puts in a full day's worth of work at the church, then proceeds to participate in choir and bell choir. When it is all said and done, she goes into work around 8:30 - 9:00 AM and doesn't come home until 8:30 - 9:00 PM. Thursday we managed to sneak away for an hour or so to have dinner.

On the way home, I told her that I wanted to stop by the fly shop to pick up some fly hooks (I've been wanting to tie up that pattern I talked about on Friday (still haven't determined a winner on that one yet)). Like any good spouse she asked how much was I planning on spending. My first response was $10, I later changed it to under $20.

Now before moving on, I have to admit that in the past few weeks I've spent a fair amount of money on fly fishing. That wouldn't be too bad if it wasn't for three things: 1) I'm still unemployed (despite actively seeking work). 2) Unemployment ran out last week. 3) My wife has been working extremely hard, and I'm talking about going fishing.

Having built a framework, I'd like to move on. Needless to say, the conversation wasn't going too well for me. I offered a few lame excuses about something (they were lame, so I can't really recall). Right as I was dropping her off to go back to work, she conceded her position and let me purchase the items.

In spite of all that has happened in the last year (losing my job, finishing grad school, travelling to Africa for grad school, packing and moving halfway across the country, purchasing a home...) my wife is still looking out for my well being. She knows that fly fishing soothes my soul and encourages me to go out onto the stream on a semi-regular basis.

While this blog entry doesn't appear to have anything to do with fly fishing, it has everything to do with fly fishing for me. You see my wife is my silent supporter. She is the one that asks if I've written anything on the blog yet for the day. She is the one that brags to her friends and congregation members about my passion for fly fishing. She is the one that looks over my shoulder as I tie a #24 emerger and says that it looks good.

And so, I end today's entries with two words. And these words are directed towards my wife: Thank You.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 47 - Weather Wondering

On days like today I wonder what the fishing would have been like. It's a warm October day, with gray cloud cover overhead. Storms are expected to be rolling in tonight, so the temperature is expected to drop. Tomorrow is supposed to be even cooler with a mix of rain. Unfortunately, I can only speculate on what it would have been like to have been on the stream.

Anglers tend to hold mix feelings with good weather. While mid-80's and clear skies wink at a fun day on the beach or trail, it tends to be not strong fish producing days. Which is really funny when you think about how many anglers are shoulder to shoulder on the streams during these days. I once heard those days as being referred as "bluebird" days. I'm guessing it has to do with the bright blue sky and the absence of clouds.

These sunny days are mix bag to anglers because while the weather is comfortable to the angler, it doesn't always produce good fishing for a number of reasons. On sunny days, trout tend to seek shelter. We have to remember that a trout is always wary of predators: otters, hawks, eagles... least of their concern is the angler. As such, sudden shadows or unknown images that suddenly show up scare the crap out them.

Hot summer days also force anglers to fish at extreme times. The sun warms up the water temp above the optimal feeding temps for trout. Typically a trout cruises for food when the water temperature is about 60 degrees +/- a few degrees. The summer sun can heat water temps well up into the 70's and even 80's. When this happens those opportunistic mouths with fins and tails seek shadows and cooler water. When the sun dips down and the water cools, the trout tend to cruise the water. As such, we tend to use headlamps when coming back to the truck.

So back to today... I wonder what tactics I would employ on a day like today. I imagine that I could be a little less stealthy as the cloud cover would not throw any shadows onto the stream. Being October, I imagine the water temps would be perfect around noon time. Plus the incoming cold front makes me think the fish would cruise a little heavier for food. All in all, I think it would be an OK day to hit the stream a little late. Just thinking though... I could totally be wrong.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 46 - Name This Fly


I love to tie flies. It offers me a little bit of serenity in a day filled with errands, demands, and otherwise chaos. When I belly up to the vise, its a mini fly fishing trip: not on the stream, but thinking about the stream.

One of the greatest things about fly tying is the opportunity for creativity. You start out with just a hook, but even that hook is selected with care. Do I choose a heavy wire hook (which will sink the fly), or do I take the extra long light wire hook (good for hopper patterns)? Do I use a big #12 hook, or a small #20 hook?

After choosing your hook (based in part by where you want to fish, want you want to imitate, and what pattern to tie) comes the building stage. Most tyers start with a thread base and move to the bend of the hook. A couple pieces of barbels of feather clumped together form a tail. Bright colored dubbing twisted onto the thread is wrapped forward. A hackle feather, selected based upon how long the barbels are, is tied on next. And then the magic happens as you wrap the feather around the hook, barbels are sprung to life and give your fly shape.

This process is done in thousands of different ways with thousands of different tyers. Each person signing their masterpiece by how they judge proportion, choose colors, tie on hackle, how many thread wraps to finish the head... it can go on and on. What's truly amazing is that each fly is intended for one purpose, to fool fish: art to be destroyed by the mauls of a hungry water beast.

Today I sat down at the vise to do a little tinkering, to express my creative side so to speak. A week or so ago I had purchased a pheasant tail dyed scarlet. It is truly beautiful to look at. As you probably guessed it was purchased from Hobby Lobby. Anyway, I wanted to incorporate this scarlet feather into a creation. I chose to do a Bead Head Pheasant Tail pattern.

My reason I decided on this pattern was because the Bead Head Pheasant Tail is a proven fish producer. It can produce fish in almost any water setting. I thought the scarlet color of the fly, while unique, would also act as an attractor pattern. My thoughts on this pattern was that maybe it could be a double pronged attack, both imitating a nymph and generally pissing off a trout. I don't know... maybe something will happen from it.

And this leads me to my sticking point. How do you know if a pattern is good? Odds are someone will come up with something creative and try it a few times on a stream. If it works it the fly will get made again, if not the fly is rejected never to be thought of again. But what if this pattern was fished by a noob angler? Or if the water conditions weren't normal? My point here is that an incredible new pattern can be lost due to bad timing.

So, I'm offering 6 free flies to the person that can come up with a winning name for this fly I created today (assuming that this fly isn't already branded with another name). Just post your comments here. If the impartial judging panel chooses your name, I will somehow get in contact with you. As a word of warning: the French judge has been known to take bribes.

The ???? Fly Pattern
Hook: Daiichi 1260; size 14-16
Thread: 8/0 Red Uni-thread
Bead: 2.3 mm Gold
Tail: Scarlet Pheasant Tail
Ribbing: Fine silver wire; folded in half
Body: Wrapped Scarlet Pheasant Tail
Thorax: 3 strands of Peacock Herl
Wingcase: Scarlet Pheasant Tail
Legs: Scarlet Pheasant Tail Tips; tied back and down

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 45 - Wizards of Casting

To those of you who have read the 44 previous entries you know that I have a fascination with all things fly fishing. To those of you who are new, welcome and please understand that I am a fly fishing fanatic. Because of this fanaticism of mine, I'm on numerous email lists pertaining to fly fishing. My norm for reading this barrage of emails is usually superficial with occasional depths into an intriguing article. One such email came on May 12, 2009 from www.thebookmailer.com. The first advertisement caught my eye: "Joy of Fly Casting: Part 1 Trick Casts". I clicked the preview link and was amazed.

I've always thought there has been something of magic in the way an angler picks up line with the rod and casts it. This magic has two facets: one of incredible beauty, grace, and precision, and another that has a wonderful calming effect on the soul. Watching Michael Mauri lift line off the water was proof that this magic is real. Voodoo casts, switch casts, and casts that I've never even heard of flooded my synapses and left me drooling for more.

I've been privy to some fine casting before in my life. In fact, I've even learned a few trick casts myself (although none of which I would want to show to anyone). The first trick cast I've ever witnessed was when I was working the retail floor at an outdoor equipment store. A rep from St. Croix rods came in and demonstrated to me how to cast without a rod. In disbelief, I watched him shoot about 30 feet of line across the store aisle.

Later on, I had a chance to watch the amazing Lefty Kreh do a casting demonstration at a Minneapolis fly fishing show. With a Merlin like skill, I saw Lefty pick up line in front of him give it a circular rotating motion in front of him, and cast without a back cast. I don't get it either, but that is what he did. And if you don't believe me (after all I am an angler), there was a whole gallery of people at that show that can back me up with this statement.

After showing my wife the preview of the video, she responded that it looked an awful lot like rhythmic gymnastics. After searching YouTube and watching a video, I agreed it did look an awful lot like rhythmic gymnastics. But maybe this goes back to that poetry and grace magic aspect that I stated previously. While casting I often feel grounded afterwards, a sense of rightness settles in on me (that is if I'm doing it correctly).

I would love to aspire to the grace and poetry that Mr. Mauri has attained. I would love to flick my wrist and watch water spray off my line in a dizzying display of dexterity. However, after reading the advertisement for the DVD, it feels that you have to be a superhuman to gain these skills. Mr. Mauri grew up fishing on Bavarian streams... he was influenced by great casters like Sepp Prager and Steve Rajeff... "his unique casting techniques were created from many years of martial arts training..." he is on a lifelong quest of searching for new skills and equipment... the list goes on and on. I'm just a schmo from Iowa. I didn't pick up a fly rod until I was in my mid twenties. I'm fat and out of shape (unless you consider round a shape). How can I expect to compete with Mr. Mauri?

Maybe it isn't so much in the comparison, but more in the pursuit? I can't be Michael Mauri. In fact no one can be Michael Mauri other than Michael Mauri. I can only be Austin Campbell. However, I can share that same desire to improve my skills. I can put in the time on the water (or field) to hone my casting skills. History has shown that those who put in the practice gain skill, therefore I'll be better off then I am now. And maybe that is all that matters.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 44 - Puzzles

Growing up, my grandfather (Bernard Robert Campbell) was my hero. He was the one that indoctrinated me into puzzles. At his place, there were always some kind of game that would cause you to use your mind to solve. When the Rubik's craze hit in the early 80's, he had the cube at his place and even gave them out as gifts. I remember one Christmas where even the gifts to the grandchildren were a puzzle. The gifts (which were tailored to each grandchild) were wrapped in the same paper, were the same shape and weight, and didn't have name tags on them. A little piece of tape trickery on the bottom identified which gifts went to which grandchild.

This love of puzzles, is maybe why I love fly fishing so much. Fly fishing is a puzzle of the grandest sort. Weather, moon phases, water clarity, temperature, season, rod skill, fly selection... these are all variables that must be figured out (or at least a small head tilt in recognition) so that success may ensue.

Able to solve the Rubik's Cube in under two minutes, I understand that there is a process that must be utilized in solving the cube.

The first tactic in solving any puzzle is understanding the influences of the pieces. For example with the Rubik's Cube you quickly learn that the center piece of each side remains stationary. Translating this to fly fishing is more complicated. The Rubik's Cube is what I would call a one-dimensional puzzle; you just move the sides clockwise or counterclockwise. Fly fishing as a puzzle is multi-dimensional. Stream currents, feeding patterns, hatches they all act upon rules and will influence your fishing success.

Second, there is always a process with solving a puzzle. Whether you find the corners first on a jigsaw puzzle, or breakdown the movements of a bar puzzle there still is a process that you follow. In fly fishing there is a process also. Much like solving a jigsaw puzzle, there are different approaches to this process. Yet amazingly enough if a process works, it can't be dismissed. My process usually comes in this form: I first identify what fly fishing style I will use (wet fly, dry fly, Czech Nymphing...), I then choose my rod and reel, I approach the fishing lane from downstream and work my way up, I select my fly based upon observation on the water, I fish the stream methodically, and while fishing I am concerned with line drag.

The third lesson that I have gleaned from puzzles is that of persistence. Persistent in searching for the solution, persistent in finding a new process, persistent in continuing to practice. All of this holds true for fly fishing. You have to remain persistent in your pursuit. While you can be the weekend angler going only a handful times a year, you are not going to be the successful angler that you could be. Reading, talking, discussing, arguing, and practicing fly fishing is what will get you results.

I'm not a great angler yet, but my passion of puzzles has given me hope in my angling abilities. I think this blog shows proof that I'm at least persistent in my search for better angling attributes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 43 - Tournaments

Having been stuck in Iowa growing up, I was never really privy to fishing tournaments. There might have been some bass tournaments, but being from a panfish family... well let's just say that we thought bass anglers were misguided and tended to waste too much money on non-essential items.

After graduating from my undergrad, where incidentally I sort of minored in fly fishing (OK, it was called Outdoor Leadership, but I did fly fish), I managed to find a job in the outdoor industry. I worked my way up through the ranks until I landed on the buying team for a certain outdoor retailer that focuses on hunting, fishing, and camping. While there I learned they sponsored individuals in archery, hunting, bass fishing... and I wondered what it would take to be sponsored.

And so I looked. Turns out a potential sponsoree(?) had to participate in so many tournaments a year. Not only that, but you had to place at a certain level. Hmmm... did fly fishing have tournaments? If so, where?

I had never heard of a fly fishing tournament up to this point in my life. I didn't even know how you would go about doing a tournament, let alone where it would be located. So, like every good son or daughter of the technology age, I went to the internet. Do you know how hard it is to search for fly fishing tournaments? I finally managed to hit upon Fly Fishing Team USA and realized these folks were out of my league.

Wasn't there some kind of local thing? I was living in Minnesota at the time, so... not so much. So, I took the time to do so research on fly fishing tournaments, since I couldn't partake in one. I found out that they've been in existence for a very long time. They were once popular in the New England states (and still might be for all I know), and people like Joan Wulff would win medals on the time.

I then discovered that Tim Rajeff wins tournaments. I found this out because the buyer at work was thinking about bringing in some his product lines. It didn't take long for me to search his name on the internet to find out that he is big on the tournament list. Evidently, he is the only person to score 300 (a perfect score) for the Men's Accuracy Combination event (100 points for each event: Dry Fly, Trout Fly, and Bass Bug (I think?)).

Some anglers have asked me why I want to participate in a tournament. They say that fly fishing itself should be its own rewards, and if you catch a fish you did it correctly. Other who are less cordial on the point state that these tournaments make "sport" of a sacred pastime, and that it belittles the life of the trout. Maybe that is true, I don't know.

My response, which may not be for everyone, is this: I like to fly fish. As such, I feel that it is only natural to want to test my skill to someone else. I want to do this to gauge how well I'm doing. I want constructive feedback from someone that will help me to become a better angler. I can do this with other anglers, but (no offense to my fishing partners) how do I know that they are correct in giving me advice? I just want to become better, and if I can have a little fun in the process, well so be it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Day 42 - Writers & Writing

It seems that since the start of this 365 day adventure, I've been voraciously reading fly fishing literature. Of course there are the classics (like Walton , Maclean & Holden) but also there are some new ones (Prosek, Black, & Gierach). And during this time, I've wondered what does it take to be an angler and a writer?

Most of the writers that I have been reading have been involved with fly fishing from their very youth. They grew up with a love of angling in their veins and have sought out quiet streams, legendary streams, and even unknown streams. When I measure myself up with these names, I fail to even to be a contender. I didn't learn to fly fish until I was in my mid-twenties. I've only fished a few well known streams (like Bois Brule in Wisconsin, the South Platte in Colorado, and recently the Davidson in North Carolina). Most of the streams I've fished are unknown by the general masses and are only known to the locals.

If that isn't enough when I read the works of Thomas McGuane, Ernest Hemingway, or even Thoreau, I wonder if I even speak the same language of these men. I just picked up the "The Longest Silence" by McGuane, and within the first few pages my eyes and mind are assaulted with words like: longueurs, arcana, Victorianism, and other tongue twisters. My mind starts to wonder how my education excluded words like these. I've graduated from graduate school, and so I think of myself as an educated man, but these words... they slip through my mental grasp and I'm left only shadows of their meaning thanks in part to the context of these words.

And so I ponder, what does it take to be a good writer? Do archaic words and run-on sentences make for good reading? What about vague references to historical writings? I wonder if these people actually talk the way that they write, and if so does anyone stop and go "huh?"

I'm given hope though, as I continue to read authors such as Gierach or mark Kingwell. Their works seem to be more honest writing. Now I know that wording might get me into trouble, but let's be honest these men write like they think or talk. Does McGuane really use these obviously arcane words in everyday use? Does he really think "longueurs" or does he think "gosh this passage is really long and boring?" He might...? But the rest of us who live in the real world wouldn't even consider such a phrase.

This brings about another question, does an expertly worded text (such as McGuane's book) constitute good reading if it confuses the reader? I'm not an English major, or for that matter an English minor, but I have to question the utility of such a book. (Yes I use words such as "utility" in my everyday language, you can thank my graduate work in business.) Maybe, I'm just more of a direct approach person. If so, does that make me a horrible writer?

Please don't get me wrong, when I can get past the confusing words and structure of McGuane's book, I really enjoy the stories. I just wonder why he chose some of the words that he chose, that's all. Maybe it gives that sense of poetry that we all aspire to have as anglers (which I feel leaks out into our cast, fly tying, and quiet times on the stream). If its poetry, then I need to work harder to broaden my vocabulary, as I to would like to express the poetry of this sport.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 41 - Technology

I am of the opinion, which many people believe is false, that the world is flat. I know that many great people in this world believe that our world is round (slightly egg-shaped from what I understand), but I humbly disagree with them: the world is unequivocally flat, and by flat I mean connected.

There is a book that I've been meaning to read. I don't own it, and when I go to reach for it in the bookstore, I usually end up grabbing something else. But, I'd still like to read it. It is written by Thomas L. Friedman, a futurist (another job that I thought I'd be good at), and it is aptly called "The World is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the 21st Century". If I understand his a priori correctly, it is that the world is very interconnected and that it is possible to relay information almost instantaneously.

Hmmm...

Maybe you haven't thought of this in terms of fly fishing. Or maybe you have, because you're reading my blog on the Internet which is about fly fishing. Either way, it seems to me that we're on the brink of something here.

I can go fishing on a stream, catch a monster brookie, take a picture of it with my iPhone, send it on Twitter, blog about how I expertly outwitted the beast, and do this all within a manner of moments of releasing the trout (OK char). If I were to ever purchase the iPhone 3G/S I could even post video. I can get stream reports instantly from friends fishing other nearby streams.

Lately, I've had the habit of cruising YouTube for fly fishing videos. I usually end up watching some guy tie a Stimulator, or Claret Dream, or Bead Head Pheasant Tail Nymph. These videos have upped my fly tying game. I'm now learning secret master skills, that normally would be hidden to the general public. When I tie my midge patterns now, I spin the bobbin counter clockwise direction before wrapping. This allows the thread to unravel and lay down flatter on the hook, giving a better smoother body. Thanks YouTube.

Yet out of all this, I think the one thing that I love the most about technology is the ability to meet new anglers. Since the inception of this blog, I've connected with anglers all over the world: Lithuania, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Singapore, France, United Kingdom, all over the United States, and even Canada.

Some of these folks I will probably meet (like hopefully this upcoming week in North Carolina), others I wish I had met in states that I've lived in (like Minnesota), and still there are others that I may never meet (like those in Lithuania). Regardless of where you live, I'm honored to have at least met you in this flat cyber world. You are a part of a unique tribe of men and women who like to live "a good life wasted". And for that, I'm sure God won't hold that against you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 40 - I Like Fly Fishing

I like fly fishing. In case you haven't picked up on that fact. But when I say that I like fly fishing, I mean that I really like fly fishing.

Some people like the idea of fly fishing. They like the nobleness of being outdoors, taking in the sounds of the water, the smell of autumn leaves, and the warmth of the sun on their necks. Being outside to them is a sense of being connected to the Creator, the One who created each and every one of us. Glimpses of other wildlife flutters their heart in exhilaration as they break through their normal everyday drudgery. I also enjoy these things, but I really like fly fishing.

Then there are the meat gatherers. They are the wild spirited men and woman of adventure. They have big appetites. These are the ones that cast gi-normous flies, with whole steaks tied onto gargantuan hooks. They tie these monstrosities onto ropes instead of normal fly lines and are content with catching only one fish a day (so long as that trout is of trophy size). You can see these "hunters" stalking through grass on their bellies and casting from behind trees so as not to spook "The Legend" trout. The idea of catching big trout appeals to my soul as well. But seriously I really like fly fishing.

The bug nerds are next. The like to enter the stream with their fine seine nets held into the cold current. They crawl around on their hands and knees in the stream, scrutinizing the bottoms of rocks. They carry vials to collect their precious specimen. When around them you wonder if they aren't more religious than yourself with they way they spout the holy language of Latin. Oftentimes they are seen in the presence of the fly tyers and can often be confused with one another. I too love to debate about whether that bug that just flew by was of the class of baetidae or ephemeridae. But seriously I really like fly fishing.

I like what it means to be fly fishing. I could have just as well picked up a spinning rod and cast heavy Panther Martins to the trout, but I didn't. Instead, I choose to trick my quarry into believing that a cleverly tied hook with feathers, fluff, and fur is an edible meal. I choose to hold myself to an unspoken set of standards that is meant to showcase my own trickery and skill in defeating a worthy prey.

I like the characters that fly fishing creates. The old angling clubs of the New England states didn't prejudice a person on race, class, or sex. Doctors would stand shoulder to shoulder with mill workers in a stream, casting to trout or salmon. Today we see professional anglers (who we secretly worship) and the no good smelly trout bums (who we secretly wish to be) on the stream. Redneck, leatherneck, and no-necks... young and old, men and women... they all share that passion of independence from the societal norms. Tiger Woods, Jimmy Carter, Tom Brokaw, Ernest Hemingway, Henry David Thoreau... athletes, presidents, anchormen, writers, and philosophers all fly fish.

I like fly fishing for all its creativeness. I like the colors of a wonderfully tied Jock Scott, or the iridescent mystical color that peacock herl gives on a Prince Nymph. I am transfixed by the power transferred into fly line by the rod, shooting through the air with a rocket-like loop, energy slowly dissipating until the fly at the end gently lands upon the water with the most delicate of dances.

I love fly fishing for all that it is. For when I step into the water and raise my rod I am cosmicly connected to a historical host of anglers, great and small, and it makes feel like I am a part of something greater than myself.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 39 - Was it the yellow hat?

Was it the yellow hat? Or was it the egg pattern that I purchased from the fly shop? Or was it just plain stupid hatchery fish? Whatever it was, I ended up having a great day on the stream.


It was truly remarkable, and if you are not careful you could waste it away with thoughts of how good your angling skills actually are. To be honest, my skills today were only so-so. I ended up tangling my line more often than I caught fish, and the flies landed sometimes too heavily upon the water. Yet despite my errors, I still managed to catch quite a few fish (between 7-10, but closer to 7 if I was to be truly honest).


The real question of the day is why I caught the fish. I almost walked past the pool where the fish were holding. Those invisible bodies blended in so well to the bottom. In fact, it wasn't until later that I realized that I was fishing two pools (one in front of a rock, and the other behind it). So, not wanting to accept blind luck, what allowed me to catch them (as I want to continue on this successful streak).


If I were to rack it up to luck, could it have been the yellow hat that I described before? I started thinking about this and realized, this hat could very well be the same hat that I had on when I learned to fly fish in college. The timeline for the hat and the fishing experiences seem to line up pretty well. Also, I wore this hat quite a bit when trout fishing in Iowa. So... maybe it has something to do with the hat? All I know is, I'm wearing the hat the next time out.


Could it have been the fact that for once I took some one's advice? Before I could go fishing I had to deliver some items to Montreat. After the delivery, I stopped at a fly shop in Black Mountain (here's my shameless plug to the good folks at One Fly Outfitters, Ltd). The gentleman running the counter took the time out of his day to explain some of the quirks of the local streams. He even tied a couple of flies in front of me to show me what he was talking about. In response for his kindness I purchased 6 flies, a package of size 22 red hooks, a pair of new fly tying scissors (they're pretty cool they have a prism finish), and some non-toxic weights... grand total $39.11.

The gentleman told me that he had been catching quite a few trout on Curtis Creek on an egg pattern used as a dropper fly below a yellow sally fly. Those were the six flies I purchased, 3 #12 Yellow Sallies and 3 #16 eggs (the color of that port wine cheese you get at Christmas with the meat and crackers). After reaching the stream, I rigged up the system before I even hit the water (a big no-no to many traditional fly anglers).

Or it could be that I managed to fall upon a bunch of big dumb hatchery trout. For those who aren't in the know, hatchery trout are stupid. No seriously, they rate below the 2007 Miss Teen South Carolina's IQ (OK, I admit that was a pretty low blow). Hatchery trout are raised without the fear of nature in them and assume nothing can hurt them. They are then thrown into the streams and are easily picked off by anglers, otters, hawks, and a whole plethora of other predators. So while I don't want to admit that I caught stupid fish, that could be a factor.

What I'd really like to say is that I'm a kick ass angler, who knew exactly what I was doing, and as such smoked them. Alas, as I mentioned before I kind of muddled through the process. I would have had even more fish to the net if I hadn't of missed a few strikes, set the hook to soon, or gotten as many tangles as I did. Nevertheless, it was a good day in spite of the rain.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 38 - Music & Fishing

After discovering the little treasure of the Rainbow Warrior, I decided to tie up a few (in honor of that moment). I have my vise setup at the dining room table, which is out of the way from the TV. Wanting a little background noise, I ended up plugging my Zune up to the speakers.

I have over 3,000 songs on my Zune. The music ranges from ballet to arena rock. Bands like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles are next to the Clancey Brothers and Johnny Cash. While I can't hold a tune in a bucket or dance to save my life, music plays an "instrumental" part of my life (sorry for the pun). Other than rap or modern country (I like Cash) I can listen to just about anything.

I ended up setting the Zune to shuffle through the songs of Gaelic Storm. I decided to embrace my Scottish heritage, my love of beer, and my need for a fast paced beat. This band also produced what I consider my theme song, "Fish and Get Fat".

When I head on out to the stream (like I'm going to do tomorrow) I like to listen to a couple of bands to get me in the mood. Of course, I'll be listening to Gaelic Storm, but I'll probably also listen to a little Bluegrass band called Chasin' Steel. They've got some pretty good original songs, and have done some pretty good remakes of some classic songs.

However, once I get to the stream I leave my music in the car. I find it to be a distraction to the real purpose. I know some people will take their iPods out to the stream and jam out, however I prefer the music of the stream and the wind through the trees.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 37 - Little Treasures

While in the garage yesterday searching through boxes for a long lost book, I came across some little treasures. Besides finding my lucky yellow hat (described in yesterday's post), I came across two things which caught me off guard.

Buried among old bills, business ethics papers, and old faded receipts was two pieces of paper stapled together and folded in thirds. Curious about their importance, I opened it up and found to my surprise it was a fly recipe pattern. The pattern I believe is the Rainbow Warrior, the pattern which Lance Egan used to place 2nd in ESPN's 2003 Western Flyfishing Qualifiers. I have no idea how I found the fly or to what original purpose I had for it in my fly box. By evidence on the date on the bottom of the page (2/26/2007), I am left to conclude that I was getting excited for early season Wisconsin trout opener. (Did I print this off because I was in a meeting with a fly vendor who told me they were going to introduce this pattern?) For the complete history of the fly and recipe for the Rainbow Warrior click here (you really gotta love the person who thought it was a good idea to print of URLs on the bottom of the page).

The second find was a box full of Fly Tying magazines. It was a venerable treasure chest of fly fishing lore. They went back at least 5 years if not more. Spread amongst the titles were old issues of Fly Fusion, American Angler, Fly Rod & Reel... to my perspective it is treasure. Maybe that is why I still have them. I think I'd like to go through that stack of knowledge and scan through the articles one more time. Just recently I found out that I had picked up a magazine that was over a year old, and that I had reread an article that I had forgotten (it was the one about the hooks).

As I sit and reflect upon these little treasures, I wonder what other treasures I have forgotten about. I mean until I ran across the Rainbow Warrior pattern yesterday, the pattern would have stayed lost in my subconscious. I vaguely remember other patterns that I have tied and seemed excited about, but I have either misplaced the recipe or the fly or both.

So what does this mean? A) Yet another piece of evidence of me and my Quest for the Holy Grail of Flies. B) That I need to have a better catalog system for my fly patterns. C) That when I sit down at the vise and start showing the artistic/creative side of my personality, I should do so with a pen and paper by my side so that I can document the patterns and my reasoning.

As always, I'm curious. This time I'm curious about you the reader and what kind of little treasure you would like to share with me. If you would like to give up your secret weapon pattern to me feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 36 - Talisman

So, I might be a little superstitious. I'm not to the point of freaking out about random black cats and misplaced ladders, but on the subtle superstitions that people have. Its the simple unproven "it makes me feel good so I'm gonna do it whether you like or not" kind of things. Like turning my hat backwards and inside out so that I can rally the Twins onto another win. Or like a hockey player who refuses to wash their socks on a winning streak.

I know this goes against my spiritual nature. I know that there is no such thing as luck. However, I do believe that games are won by confidence and if wearing smelly socks make you more confidant, by all means stink away my friend (just don't expect too many of us around you).

So knowing this weird quirk about me, you can understand my frustration in not finding my "lucky whatever". It isn't that I misplaced my lucky rabbit's foot (by the way, it wasn't so lucky for the rabbit), its that I've never found anything that I consider to be lucky. I would really like something to help reassure me that I'm going to have a good day on the stream.

I think the first time I remember seeing someone that I admired carry a lucky talisman, was Indiana Jones in the movie "Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail". Indiana screams to his father while they are tied up in a Nazi castle to reach into his pocket and find his lucky charm. That charm was a Zippo lighter with a four leaf clover on it. When I saw that Zippo, I knew that I had to find my own lucky object.

I've kind of been on a quest to find that object ever since. But on this quest, I discovered that I have a lot of questions. What makes something lucky for you? Also, what happens if that lucky object is a shovel or a moose or...? What if you found your lucky object, didn't recognize it and either lost it, gave it away, or packed it away in the closet with Aunt Millie's gravy boat? I think these are the questions that keep me from completing my journey.

In my past, I've had things that I've liked to carry/wear. Right now on my desk is a CRKT Crawford Kasper knife. I used to wear this knife almost everyday for a couple of years. However, I stopped wearing it because there are three screws on the belt clip that can no longer stay tight. Plus, since 9/11 its been hard to travel with a knife.

A few years ago, I had a yellow cap that I wore everywhere. It had a nice sweat stain around the brim, the bill was discolored where my dirty fingers would adjust the hat, and it even had a place where my puppy (not Nash the Wonderpup) had decided that he needed to chew the brim. The logo on the hat was from my undergraduate college. I liked that hat, but getting a job in the real world required that I stop wearing it (plus they said that wearing a hat will make you lose your hair). I've lost the host since then and only the annals of time know where it exists.
A couple of years ago, I found a piece of clip art that really spoke to me. It was a Celtic otter chasing after a fish (probably a salmon, but I'd like to think it was a trout). The otter in Celtic mythology is considered to be a strong magical symbol who helps in the pursuit of knowledge, finding hidden treasures, and generally considered to be lucky. The salmon has strong references to wisdom and knowledge. So the image symbolizes, in a sense, a lucky pursuit of knowledge.

Now those of you that know me understand that I have a nickname. It rhymes with Totter, Sotter, and even Zotter. So you can also understand my attachment to this symbol. It not only symbolizes my pursuit of fish, but also my inward pursuit of wisdom. As such, I'd like to incorporate the Celtic Otter & Salmon symbol into my superstitous needs.

While I have thought of getting this as a tattoo, I'm a little hesistant on the whole body art thing. Instead, I've been thinking about making a bracelet, nay a cowboy cuff, with the logo cut into it. My dad taught me how to do leatherwork in the fourth grade. I have all the supplies locked up in a storage bin in the garage, I just need to wade through the boxes and get to it.

I don't know if this object will bestow upon me any mystical and magical powers. I doubt it will call out to the wilds like a beacon of light causing mass trout hysteria. And I seriously don't believe it will call down a Green Drake hatch of biblical proportions. However, I do believe that it will make me feel good, and will serve as a reminder of what I'm really there to do: incessantly searching for greater knowledge and wisdom.

P.S. I was just out in the garage searching for a book, and I stumbled upon that old yellow hat of mine. Hmmm... maybe I'll wear that too, it can't hurt and you never know.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 35 - Energy pt 1

Remember that article I was telling you about in Fly Fusion magazine? The one where they interview Lefty Kreh? If you recall, the interviewer asked Lefty about his understanding of lucky anglers. Lefty's answer isn't what I've been thinking about, it is actually the interviewer's question that has me intrigued.

Giving full credit to the idea that better anglers are the ones that spend more time on the water, I still have a sneaky suspicion about this idea called luck and its influence on an angler. Maybe this inkling of an idea is the result of my subconscious compiling different facts from different experiences. Let me explain.

First and foremost, I have to admit that I read Dan Brown's new book, "The Lost Symbol". The book wasn't as good as either of his previous ones. Now here's the kicker, he did introduce the "science" of Noetics to me. I was slightly aware of this idea before as I had watched the movie "What the bleep do we know?" In the movie, ideas like "entanglement" and the "power of thoughts are discussed". So I was aware of this idea that thoughts have power.

After watching one of the segments in the movie, I was inclined to do some more research on Dr. Masaru Emoto and his work on ice crystals. His work really got me thinking about the power of words/thoughts and how they have an affect on the physical world. It left me with a lot of questions. To view the clip from the movie that inspired my research Click Here.

Of course, for awhile you couldn't go anywhere without hearing about Oprah's new favorite book "The Secret". I own the book, but I haven't been able to get into it. This book discusses a bigger idea called the Law of Attraction. It basically is summed up as if you think it, it shall be. Some readers may recall the big craze of the power of positive thinking. It really has a lot to do with that.

And still my mind continues to make connections. My wife and I were watching the TV show "The Amazing Race" a couple of weekends ago. (I love this show, it instills within me a spirit of adventure.) If you've been watching the show, you know that this season there is a contestant who has Asperger's Syndrome (a form of autism, from what I'm told). His name is Zev.

One of the tasks that they had to do was herd a bunch of ducks through a couple of pens. While waiting for his turn, Zev noticed that many of the contestants had a sense of frantic energy about them. He made a remark that you couldn't go in there and have that sort of energy. When it came to his turn, he calmly made the ducks go through the pens (in what appeared to be record time). Afterwards he joked that he was the Duck Whisperer. Which leads me right into my next connection.

We bought a dog last March. My wife and I call him "Nash the Wonderpup". Wanting to train him humanely, we researched on how we should accomplish that. Turns out there's this show called the Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic channel. After watching the show a couple of times, I decided to buy a couple of the books. Cesar Millan explains in the book "Cesar's Way" about how the owner needs to have the correct energy to control the dog. Animals in the wilderness understand this principle, however humans seem to have evolved past this.

So, you're probably on information overload right now. I just presented a ton of ideas that I've been processing for the past couple of years into a quick overview of ideas. My point to all of this is, how does this equate to more fish on the stream? I'm sure that there is a larger topic at hand on how it affects my personal well being, but let's face it: Catching more fish is essential to my well being.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Day 34 - Tired

Today has been a long day. My wife and I spent a lot of time watching college sports. An interesting thing happened as we were talking to friends. I ended up explaining to many people that my family was a sporting family, not a sports family. My dad didn't teach me to throw a ball or how to make a basket. Instead, my dad taught me how to hunt, fish, and camp.

I don't think this is a bad thing. If anything, I see my dad teaching me the lost lore of being a man. I know how to setup a snare, how to pick out movement in the forest, and how to identify different fish. I remember one Christmas growing up where most of my friends wanted a new bike or baseball glove. My gift of choice? A hatchet. That was my big present. (That Christmas I not only got the hatchet, but also a telescope.)

Most of my fond memories include being outdoors. I remember a particular trip with my dad and brother to Lake Darling. That weekend included learning how to put up the great big 12-person tent. Or another time where my brother and I were catching fish so fast that my dad didn't get a chance to fish (he was rigging up the hooks and taking fish off). Or probably one of my greatest memories of my grandfather taking me hunting (for squirrel) and teaching me the lesson of valuing the prey (we saw a squirrel and we didn't shoot it, instead we watched it climb a tree).

It is only of late that I really started to take notice of sports (in the traditional sense). My favorite sport is hockey (go Avs!), and I'm encouraged by my in-laws to say "Go Giants!" Yet, despite all of these team sports in my life, I still have the underlying theme of tranquil waters and a staccato cast.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day 33 - Trout-mobile

Let's face it, our cars are an extension of ourselves. Movies like American Graffiti, Grease, and the Fast and the Furious movies, all reinforce this idea. Often our mode of transportation is the only medium that states who we are to many people. We spend an inordinate amount of time driving to work, to school, to church, to get groceries, and even to the stream. As such, we want it to somehow express who we are.

I drive a 2003 Saturn Vue. It is front wheel drive, and has a 4-cylinder engine. When I purchased this vehicle a couple of years ago, I had a list of things that I wanted in a vehicle. It needed to have good gas mileage, have good safety features, maintain its value, had to be no more than $12,000, and had to have plenty of cargo room for my fly fishing adventures.

On the back of my car I have a couple of pieces of "flair". I have a round Euro style sticker that says "KN-Fly Fish the Kinnikinnick River". Above that another Euro style sticker that says "PPK-Pike's Peak" (where I proposed to my wife). I have a vinyl cutout of a trout leaping out of the water locate to the left of my license plate. A fish skeleton sticker on the right side of the right side of the rear window. Below that is a tribal nymph that subtly states http://www.flyfishingfilmtour.com/. On a side window, I have affixed the FFF (Federation of Fly Fishers) member decal. I had a TU (Trout Unlimited) one on my back bumper, but it fell off during a very cold winter day in Minnesota.

After reading all of this, you can imagine my excitement when I found out that North Carolina has a Save the Brookies license plate from Trout Unlimited. My bumper now displays the plate.

But, my Trout-mobile has so much more meaning than just a way to express my individualism and passion. Led Zepplin, Queen, Blue Man Group, Chasing Steel, and Gaelic Storm serenade me from the speakers as I travel to my destination. The DeLorme Gazateer, a TomTom GPS, and countless state park maps that litter the front seats and glove boxes, all steer me towards tranquil trout streams. Empty Pepsi & Cheerwine cans/bottles roll about under my seat. My trunk is littered with old leaders, packages of flies, and sand/mud from my wading boots. So you can see, my car is my companion on lonesome highways toward unknown adventures.

I recently revelled in the fact that I just turned 100,000 miles on my odometer. Especially since I was on my way to the stream. I even took a photo from my iPhone. As the odometer changed over (it's digital & I miss the dials of the old odometers) I suddenly felt a little poetical (is that even a word). I wondered what the future of the Trout-mobile will hold. I wondered what future adventures awaited me. I smiled and drove on.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day 32 - Hook Understanding

I recently grabbed an old copy of Fly Tyer magazine (Spring 2008). I have no idea why it was at the top of the pile of fly magazines, possibly due to the fact that I'm still sorting through stuff from the move?

Anyway, I read an interesting article on hook design ("Hook Sense" by Bill "Bugs" Logan). I have to admit, I never thought too much on my hooks. I mean, if my pattern called for a Mustad 540, I would use a Mustad 540 without ever thinking what made that hook different from a Mustad 540L. I know this probably doesn't make me a great fly tyer because of this, but I muddled by.

Now before I move on, I have to say that I also just recently read "Which Dry Fly Works Best?" in the Autumn 2009 issue of Fly Tyer. (I just realized that both articles were written by Bill "Bugs" Logan, hmmm...) This article focuses on breaking through the traditional modes of thoughts about fly tying proportions.

So now I'm left questioning my past fly tying methods and madness. The hook article shows the same pattern tied on different hook styles. The best looking pattern (to my eye) was tied on a completely different hook style. Also, according to the author, it should allow a better hookup because the hook has a wider gape.

This truly has my mind whirling. It doesn't seem like a huge advance in knowledge for most people, but it gives me just a little bit more to think about when I sit down at the vise. Things like hook eyes and gaps and angle of hook will now haunt me when I pick up a hook. I never really needed this extra burden. Yet, in my search for the Holy Grail of flies, I suppose it is something to be considered.

While may feel overburdened by this new information, I also feel liberated with this new information. When I sit down at the vise and the pattern calls for a Daiichi swimming nymph hook, and I look at my supplies and see only scud hooks, I may no longer feel the need to run to the fly shop for new hooks. I'm sure my wife will question me the next time I say I need to get hooks at the fly shop now, "Are you sure you need that 2x short heavy nymph hook? Why don't you use that egg hook?"

I guess the biggest lesson from these two articles is that I shouldn't feel fettered to the pattern. Fly tying is an art and art should be an expression of yourself. Therefore, maybe I shouldn't follow the rules too faithfully.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day 31 - Midge Dreams


Ever since catching the trout on the Davidson River, I've been thinking about midges. Midges, midges, midges...

Last night after my post, I went and gathered some material together. I initially wanted to do a nymph pattern that would utilize the white thread that I mentioned yesterday about. No dice. My mind wouldn't stop thinking about midges.

All the research that I've done lately on what hatches are going on in October & November in western North Carolina mention midges. I managed to catch the two last week on Red Serendipity patterns. I couldn't shake the feeling that this was I needed to tie.
Midge patterns are probably one of the easiest patterns to tie. All you need is thread, and some wire. I tied mine with glass beads also. As previously mentioned, I had gone to The Bead Monkey in the Twin Cities (Minnesota). I have quite the collection of glass beads in different colors. I decided that I would experiment with the Zebra Midge pattern.



My first two flies were done on a #16 scud hook. I used a black bead with white stripes. Using black 3/0 thread, I wound the thread back to the hook bend. I have some Gudebrod rod thread in silver (HT 9602), this is what I used for the ribbing. I tied a length of that onto the back of the hook, and then I built a slight taper up to the bead head. I then counter wrapped the ribbing and tied off at the head.

The next three flies were close to being the same as the first two, however I changed the black/white glass bead to a smaller dark green bead. After those three I changed to a mirrored black nickel glass bead. I then ran out of #16 scud hooks. I dropped down to a #20 scud hook.

Going to the #20 hook, I had to change plans a little bit. The Gudebrod thread that I was using was a little too thick. I changed up to a Danville fine silver wire. The process was still the same. The first six flies have dark green beads. The next six have black nickel beads. After that NCIS was on and I retired for the evening.


Today, while doing laundry, I sat down at the vise again. Still working on the #20 scud hook, I decided to swap out the black thread for gray. Also, I changed the wire to a fine copper wire that I found at a craft store a few years back. The first six hooks have black nickel glass beads. The next six have a translucent orange bead. I then ran out of hooks again.

Searching through my dresser drawers, I managed to find some #16 heavy nymph hooks. I decided that I would try a little experiment. I'm sure this pattern is out there, but I wasn't really using any pattern recipe. I decided to use brass beads this time. I also switched back to the 3/0 black thread. I tied in 4 strands of Midge Rainbow Flash (Hot Orange). I don't know if this product is available however, it was a sample product for a private label. However if it is available, I would tell you to visit Gander Mountain.


After tying on the strands of Midge Rainbow Flash, I tied on some red 4 strand rayon from Danville. Twisting all four strands together, I worked a taperd body stopping just past the mid way point on the hook shank. After tying that off and clipping the excess, I tied two peacock herl feathers by their tips and wrapped towards the bead. I wrapped the area a couple of times with the herl to make the thorax bigger. Tying that off and clipping the excess I worked the butt ends of the Midge Rainbow Flash back over the peacock herl to form wing buds. And that the end of the pattern, sort of a Red Serendipity/WD40/???


Anyway, I won't get to use these patterns until sometime next week as the wife and I have plans for the rest of the week. Until then, I'll probably still be dreaming about midges and big trout.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 30 - I wonder...

So here's the deal, I wanted to learn how to catch more trout on a nymph. I've searched the net for all sorts of techniques, and this one intrigues me. I have no idea where I've heard of this idea (or even if it works). However, I've been able to trace this idea to an actual book though, and like always I'm curious.

Gary LaFontaine's book Caddisflies was published in 1981. On pages 96-98, LaFontaine writes that he discovered an old Maine fly fisherman's trick of tying their nymphs to their fly line with white tying thread. LaFontaine tries this method and discovers that it is extremely difficult to not to lose the fish as the tying thread has a low test poundage. He then writes about the difficulties of finding an alternative substitute to the white thread. His discovery was that of a white opaque metallic marker.

According to the book, by "whitening" a couple of inches of tippet, it triggers a phenomena called the "Magic Act". Nymphs that were traditionally not seeing any action by the trout, were suddenly zeroed in on. Numerous strikes and fish occurred. Reports of 100 trout per day were achieved because of this trick.

Supposedly, the white line imitates a silk line that some caddis nymph use to attach themselves to rocks, branches, or stream bottom parts. The prevailing theory is that picky trout see the "silk line" before seeing the nymph.

Trying to locate a white opaque metallic marker is like finding a needle in a haystack. Most fly shops have never even heard of the above trick, so they don't even carry the marker. As noted in yesterday's blog, I tend to visit craft shops so that I can find cheaper, new, hard to find items. I managed to locate a marker at Jo-Ann Fabrics. However, after reading the instructions for the marker, I'm afraid the thing might explode in my fly vest leaving a white mess over everything.

And this leads me to my pondering. Like many other anglers, I'm on the quest for the Holy Grail of flies. So, I've been wondering what would happen if I just add a piece of white thread to a nymph? My thought is that this would actually be better than using a tippet. Can't prove that though, but just a hunch. Also, the fly might need to be tied backwards, with the thread hanging out the back as well. I think this might give a better presentation of the thread and nymph. Again, just a hunch.

Once I get the vise out and start tying some flies, this may be one of my experiments. Once the fly has been tied, I'll post some pictures. And once the pattern has been fished, I'll give everyone the findings on the pattern. Until then, if anyone wants to discuss the pros or cons of this idea, please let me know.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 29 - Fly Tying Materials

If you've read my previous posts, you know that I have a lot of fly tying material. And by a lot, I mean A LOT! However, as I was sorting through the stuff that I have, I have a lot of stuff that I may never use. I have real seal fur from Australia, marabou feathers in all shades of the rainbow, and even a hook for serious deep sea shark fishing (you could pin a side of beef to this thing).

The things that I really could use (like a hare's ear mask, or super fine copper wire) are either non-existent in my collection or in short supply. And some of those items can really set an angler back in price. I mean, Cabela's has a package of 20 tungsten beads for around $7.50. Hooks at my local fly supply store are about $5.00 for a 25 pack. This stuff tends to get really pricey.

So I get crafty on how to save some money on fly tying materials. No, seriously I mean "crafty". I head to the craft stores and look around for things that might help. When I was living in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, I used to visit a store called The Bead Monkey. Let me tell you, it was a find for a fly tyer. I was able to pick up tubes of various glass beads (about 300-500 beads) for about $3.00. I mean this place was a deal. Of course, I looked out of place among the soccer moms doing jewelry work, but hey I'm saving money.

Today, I went to Hobby Lobby with my wife. We recently purchased a kitchen table with four chairs from a consignment shop. The chairs need to have new fabric and we decided to scope out some fabric. While there, I ended up walking through the jewelry making section. I've been keeping my eye open for some fine colored wire (preferably blue). I managed to find some colored wire in a 12 pack of assorted colors. The price you ask? $7.99. Also, while I was there I happened to walk down the bead aisle. The assortment depth isn't The Bead Monkey, but they did have 200 packs of metal beads (copper, nickel, and brass) for about $2.00.

So as you can see, it pays to be a fish out of water. And lets face it, we do use some odd stuff and have gone to some odd places to acquire it. Sally's Hard as Nails? How about condoms (preferably the unlubricated kind)? I've combed my dog and have used his underfur for dubbing on some really sweet looking flies (I call it the Gold Dog Special). I've heard that before foam was sold in fly shops, anglers used to purchase flip flops for their foam patterns.

So now I ask you the reader, what kind of unique material do you use? Or where have you gone to save a few dinero? As I've stated before, I'm just curious.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 28 - Have you heard?

I'm sure you've seen the ads. In fact American Angler (July/August 2009) had three ads in a matter of 3 pages (p 12 lower left corner, p 13 lower right corner, and pg 14 upper right corner). Fly Fisherman (December 2009) has reader feedback regarding Vincent De Stefano's comments in the July 2009 issue. As I'm playing Fish Wrangler on Facebook, I see an ad on the right hand promoting it. I have to say this company is creating a lot of controversy and is getting their name out quite well.

In case you haven't guessed what company I'm talking about, it is Moffitt Angling (www.moffittangling.com). The product that they are pedaling is the Moffitt Angling System, which is a hookless fly system. Well not totally hookless, it actually uses a circle hook at the end of your leader. The flies are almost tube like in their construction are touted as being neutral buoyant. They attach to your leader through a simple elastic loop at the front of the fly. Accordingly, you can fish multiple fly patterns and get away with only one hook.

Here's the catch (no pun intended), some folks believe that this system is a glorified way of snagging fish. This can be quite the issue as snagging can be considered illegal in many states. Moffitt Angling (and those that support the system) say that it isn't snagging, but antiquated wording in the laws are actually muddying the distinctions.

Moffitt Angling stands behind the spirit of those laws saying that their system promotes healthier fish retrieval and release. Use of a circle hook that hooks on the outside of the fish jaw allows quicker fish landing, and allows the fish to be released without too much handling.

The issue has even caused the Colorado Division of Wildlife to issue a letter stating that the Moffitt Angling System "when used as intended, is currently legal in Colorado." The letter goes on to state that the definition of snagging is defined when “…the taking of fish by snatching with hooks, gang hooks, artificial flies or lures or similar devices where the fish is hooked in a part of the body other than the mouth.” Therefore, according the Colorado Division of Wildlife "if a fish is hooked in the mouth, it is by definition [the Colorado Division of Wildlife's definition] not snagging."

OK, enough of the controversy, I'm more concerned on whether or not it actually catches fish. Also, can I tie my own patterns? According to the website's videos, there should be an increase if fish caught. This sounds like Marketing 101 to me. As with any system that allows you to use more than one pattern of flies, it allows you to increase your odds of catching a fish. I'm not sold on the idea of needing a "flexible fly" either. I am concerned about how to set the hook.

The videos on the website show a mock trout jaw snatching onto the fly and the leader slowly being drawn through the fish's mouth, ultimately setting the hook on the lower jaw. But this is done at a demonstration speed. If you listen closely to the videos you can catch the narrator say that you need to set the hook quickly. I don't know about you, but this sounds off to me. Here's why...

I've seen a fish inhale/exhale a fly amazingly fast. That means that you have to set the hook at the very inkling of a strike. The system requires the leader to pass through the mouth until the hook is engaged. If the leader isn't slid through the mouth, then there is no tension to cause the hook to set.

I'm curious what other people have to say about this system. I'm also curious if it is legal in North Carolina. I'm almost curious enough to spend the $15 to order the system and give my own determination on it. I'm just curious... Please comment if you've used the system, or if you have strong opinions on the system, or if you have something additional to say that I missed. As Red from the Red Green show used to say, "Hey we're all in this together, and I'm pulling for ya."