Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Last Hope – End of 2008


I have been trying to complete what seems like an easy attainable goal – catch a fish on a dry fly every month for an entire year. Easy enough right? Well somehow after 3 years of trying to complete the task I have yet to do so. It's somewhat due to the fact that I don't get out much in December. When I do I fish with streamers or nymph. So this is the last attempt at what was supposed to be an easy task.

Corey and I have been friends for sometime. He is always helping me in the wee hours of the night with some sort of project, photo stuff… its always one thing or the other. We have met just once and in two years have not fished together. BUT today is the day. We agreed to meet on the Middle Provo to shoot some photos and find some sipping Trout.

The drive to the water was a bit eerie at 4:45am. Fog was pushing in and visibility was slowly diminishing. I remember being excited and anxious to capture the morning colors of Mount Timpanogoes and reach my goal.

Corey and I hit the trail at 5:30 or so…temps were about 10 degrees. The trail was patricianly packed down for the first hundred yards before we "post-holed" the rest of the way. After an hour trek we were at the spot - and rather warm after the brutal hike. As we watch the light about to break the morning darkness a thick fog rolled in. NOOOOOOOQ! Although it was not what we had hoped for we used the unique opportunity to our advantage.

Another friend Scott Dickey hiked the hour long snow filled walk to meet up with us. Scott is a skilled tier and I always enjoy seeing his clean creative creations. We made our way up stream to find some sippers and test out a few new patterns/ideas.

Corey had a nice little rod that was perfect for casting tiny midges. I was using a little fiberglass rod my brother Mark had given me for my birthday a few years back.

We all hooked fish BUT I didn't get any off the top. We swung non-weighted nymphs to sipping Trout. I guess I was more interested in seeing if the new patterns would work and taking fish rather than completing my goal.

It was a fantastic day! The fog created an awesome scene to try and photograph. My test pattern worked surprisingly well and I finally fished with Corey and Scott. And it gave me motivation to start fishing my little glass rod to sipping Provo fish.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Last SF Trips of the Year


It was a great year on the SF! The gold color of Cutthroat Trout shimmering in fast riffles is a sight I'll never forget.... I won't forget catching them either. Although I didn't fish the majestic water as many times as I would have liked, BUT by some miracle (Grizz) I was still fortunate enough to spend many days enjoying the water – an experience I'll never forget.

The South Fork of the Snake is an awesome and unique place. Here are a few things I learned this summer –

  • Listing to Neil Young while fishing for feeding Trout in the canyon is a must do in everyone's life – a surreal experience
  • Running across a large beaver dam is not really a smart thing to do - end result was a puncture wound in my lower leg muscle.
    • I learned that sticking your finger all the way into your punctured leg with alcohol wipes feels a little weird…. But cool at the same time.
    • A top notch first –aid kit is a must!
  • A Grumpy Frumpy is the ultimate fly of choice – the fish never new what hit em'.
  • There are really, really, really big fish that live there.
  • Rowing and beer/whiskey/vodka are vital for most of my friends… I was the "DR" just in case (designated rower)
  • I will always associate the river with my buddy Grizz who has taken the time to teach me to row the river and how to fish it BUT most of all, he has shown me how to respect it and why we should defend it.
  • I will also remember the teachings from our brother Mark –
    • Killing one fish for the survival of another is a selfless act.
    • How doing your part is a bit more of an effort but important.
    • A snap-t, snake-roll or any spey cast with a 3wt fiberglass is very possible
    • swinging soft hackles is unbelievable a sweet way to fish.

Here are the photos from the last few days….

Last shot by Grizz... thanks!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another South Fork Afternoon

We were headed back home after visiting our black spotted friends when we took a slight detour. A quick South Fork trip was in order.

Four guys, one dog and a glassy warm afternoon. A relaxing float is a welcomed idea after hiking our butts off the past two days.

Streamer action was hot all afternoon and we mixed it up by targeting sippers with small dry flies in the slow water. The wind started to pick up a bit and we pushed on. BUT not before MFRW hooked into a big one. My guess was it was at least a 160 pounder ; )

A fewof the many birds out that day.

Here is what happened……

We parked the boat on a back braided section of the river.

Grizz hoped out and went up stream to find sippers.

MFRW was fishing out of the front of the boat and Ralphy and I were fooling around in the back with our cameras -

when a rouge gale force gust hit us.

Right at that time MFRW was in the middle of a forward stroke. That's about the time we heard a loud thud or slap… it was loud! Upon looking up I see MFRW holding his ear and kinda laughing/cringing. Then we saw it. The S. Dungeon was stuck in the top of his right ear. Holy Sh*@! No way!

We did what any two amateur photographers would do - we quickly changed lenses and started firing off shots. During the shoot things like "move to the left", "hold it right there", "this is awesome!" were blurted out in excitement. MFRW was kind enough to play along with our request, thanks.

After our photo shoot it dawned on us….how are we going to get it out? Nate was quick with the leader idea, http://www.bishfish.co.nz/webbooks/smttrout/ouch.htm. MFRW grabbed his trusty leatherman as we assessed the situation. It's deep, really deep.

Our first attempts cut the barb off and slide it out…BUT it wasn't all the way through.

Push it though" he said

"OK", "Hold on" I yelled out as I grabbed the hook.

I pushed, nothing, I pushed as hard as I thought I could with out ripping his ear off. It was in an awkward spot and the soft skin and cartilage weren't helping me. It had to hurt like hell.

"Do you want me to just yank it through" I asked?

"I don't care, just get it out!" he told us.

Nate grabbed some 1X fluro. "You ready?" he asked.

"YES!" MRFW blurted out.

With a quick and precise snap Ralphy yanked on the leader that was attached to the hook. The leader snapped in two, the fly was still stuck in the ear…. Dammmmnnnn, that had to hurt! (Ralphy's idea actually helped to loosen barb out of the cartilage.)

"Holy SH*@!! MAN" I said with a slight sinister chuckle…."you alright?"

"^!%*@!! %*^#@ you!! What the Hell are you guys doing you mother%@&^ers!!!!!!!!!" he said with a low gritty voice. I was shocked he wasn't screaming like a lunatic… and that his ear was in one piece. Ralphy started to laugh, it made me laugh, MFRW started to laugh and it escalated into an all out roar.

"NOW GE IT OUT!" MFRW had had enough.

I grabbed the pliers, placed themon the hook close to the ear, and then right before I ripped it right out of his ear it dawned on me --> I might get a reaction punch so I was prepared to duck. Not sure if Ralphy thought of that because if I ducked he was going to get it right in the kisser. He he he...Then I ripped it out…… that had to hurt. Another round of choice words was said; some really original stuff for sure, actually quite impressive ; )

Then we were faced with another great opportunity. I tossed MFRW a rag before Ralphy and I fired off more pictures of the bloody pliers and bloody fly.

Grizz came walking back to the boat… he missed it. BUT we were sure to fill him in. SEE, It was a good thing we took picture's... we had proof!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day II - Yellowstone Cutthroat – Tales of the Black Spot

MFRW, Grizz and Ralphy were already up when I crawled out of my tent and into the morning twilight. Hard frost covered the morning ground. You could see your breath in the crisp breezy air, it was cold. The smell of backcountry coffee was beautiful, nothing like a Jetboil French press way out here. We watched the sky change colors over the wild landscape while sipping our hot cup of Joe. The light was slowly making its way over to the ledge of the canyon walls; it's only a matter of time before it drops in. The river was singing and Neil young was rocking the hell out of the Ford speakers as we rigged for the day.

The hike felt good. We took the high road and quickly passed where we finished the day before. A few more turns and we could see the "big right hander" way up ahead. It's where the walls come close together, creating a bottle neck. We are almost there… well, that's what we've been saying for a few hours now. No sign of people, no billboards, no T.V, no foot prints, no tire tracks – although MFRW found a huge old wrench, really old… and really heavy. They don't build them like they used too. Other than that, it's an empty playground filled with water, grass and nature.

Along the way we picked up fish. Some of the guys were tossing large oversize foam Chernobyl ant patterns accompanied with droppers. The crazy black spotted Cutthroats ate our offerings with picky, picky attitudes. Fishing was tough for a minute there. By mid day I finally opted for the old stand by streamer: the SDungeon and had some action. Don't get me wrong, everybody got into fish that morning, we just had to really work for it.

Nearing the "big right hander" you can see the river is split in two by an island. The island is 50 feet long and is covered in very tall grass, which is well overhead. From a distance it looks like a huge chi-a-pet in the middle of the river. MFRW and Grizz were above Ralphy and me. They took the left so we took the right. The wind was blowing hard through the passage way, at this point gusts were in the above average range.

After crossing the river to the tail of the island I looked over to see Ralphy'. He was obviously trying to tell me something. I could tell by the way his mouth moving, but no words were heard due to the wind. I yelled back "I can't hear you" just for the fun of it. He must have read my lips because gave me the universal sign for moose by putting his hands out at eye level and spaced apart shoulder with, then adding a slight bobbing motion form side to side. Then he pointed up towards the tip of the island. Great! I crossed back over and met up with him.

From our position we could see two moose right in the middle, blocking our way. A bull with rather large paddles and a cow were standing on at the tip of the island. We could see Grizz and MFRW on the left side of the bank directly across from them. We have somehow managed to accidently surround the moose; they are trapped in the middle. We thought it was best to cross and meet up with guys. That way the moose have an easy escape route and hopefully won't feel exposed.

Meeting up with the guys we realized how close they really are…err…we are, to the moose. Chili, Grizz's trusty side kick, was out in front pacing back and forth between her master and the threat. A few, twenty, feet away the female moose was not all smiles. Her ears were cocked back and you could tell she was not happy. The dog was fearless. Pacing back and forth and barking if she felt the slightest movement towards us. It was awesome to see a mountain dog command authority like that. She tried to persuade the moose to move along but it just wasn't going to happen. We had no choice but to turn around and fish our way back to camp.

Chili was awesome. I have seen her is action before and have witness some amazing river crossings. But this time it was different. No way was she giving up any ground and I'm certain that she would fight to the death if something were to happen…. That's loyalty right there. Almost makes me want to get a dog… almost. Chili is definitely part of the team and she earns her keep every trip. I suppose that why she gets to eat steak, ribs and sometimes even dog food.

We fished streamers on the way back and had a blast. Tomorrow we are heading out. Not sure where were headed, well just figure it on the road… as usual.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Yellowstone Cutthroat – Tales of the Black Spot

Four guys, one boat, one dog and three days of fishing...........

It was good to get back on the road again. It's been four long days of work since the last time I was on the water. The thought of willing Cutthroats taking dry flies helped me get through it, and now the sound of the pavement soothes my impatient core. I am excited for this week's trip. Don't get me wrong, I love my home stomping grounds but I'll jump at any chance to explore new terrain.

Leaving the eye level playing field and dropping down into the gut of a once buried treasure I was stunned. This hidden river flows through a catastrophic man made disaster, it's where one of the nations worst engineering disasters took place, a dam collapsed and a river runs through it. Grizz talked of Black spot Cutthroats that swim here and the odd speckled bumps that cover these fish. He explained it was a unique parasite that looks like black pepper, feels like it too. He also spoke of the scenery.

Making our way down a rocky road with a life threatening drop on the one side we got a gimps of what lies ahead. Grizz was right. The scenery is spectacular! The river is down deep in a canyon, enclosed with towering reddish-brown walls, lined with lush green grass and fall colored brush. Driving by you would never think there is a river nearby, or water for that matter. It's hidden from everyday sight…but its right under your nose.

At our riverside camp you notice the grass is over-your-head-tall and there is little sign of human activity….its paradise and it's our playground for the next few days.

It's hard for me to descried in words the way I feel inside when I string my rod. My veins are filled with a power and a grace that is irrefutable. I feel every drop of adrenalin move throughout my body. The sounds of nature is concert loud, the echo of music is influential. It is here when I emerge from the darkness of my own mind and crawl into the light of nature. Reborn to the life I live, in a place where I belong. I first felt this over twenty-five year's ago. Oddly, the feeling hasn't diluted over the years but gained in potency. It has been the driving force of my world adventures, my obsolete bank account and the lack of everyday amenities that most folks take for granted.

The river was alive and greeted us as such. The first few casts produced mind boggling aggressive hits. I lost my first fish, not sure what happened. The oversized foam fly was minding its own business when out of nowhere a large surface explosion threw water every which way. I felt my line go tight and before I could react to the surprise, the fish was off. What the hell was that? Laughter broke out and excitement gripped us tight. Today is going to be a good day.

Ralphy and I took the right hand braid, MFW was on the left and Grizz took the boat out to targeting the pool sized pond in the middle of the river. Ralphy noticed fish sipping mayflies off the surface, he quickly changed flies and in no time he was tight. About the same time MFRW was releasing a fish and was into another a few casts later. Things were looking good.

As we explored the river it was hard not to notice the walls rising high above us. Shaping and forming the meandering water while keeping things tucked neatly away from the public eye. I grabbed my camera and decided to climb up for a better shot. Half way up on a small perch that overhangs the water I sat with my camera in hand and observed the world around me. The feeling was surreal, my thoughts were loud and nature was silent. What a view.

I watched Raplhy fish from high above. I have never really watched anyone fish from this point of view before. It gave me another outlook to the art of fishing and I couldn't help but to take notes. The cast was elegant; each forward stroke oozed smooth subtle power. He is fishing with precisions accuracy and his style just flows. I find myself learning about the cast. I relate back and forth the similarities in snowboarding and doing things smooth with delicate power is key. Having style counts for more than high end mechanics or hacking together a 90foot cast. Mastering basic fundamentals in order to excel is nothing short of the truth. Yet, it is one of the hardest things to make your self do – practicing the essentials. Watching Ralphy you know that he practices, trains and exploits the use of understanding the basics principals in order to have style. After all, everyone is so good nowadays, it comes down to one thing…style, and Ralphy absolutely has it.

My mind was not on the fish, but my camera . More and more I find myself behind the lens. After shooting Ralphy directly underneath me, I wanted to get a different viewpoint on things. That's when I looked behind me to see a picture perfect shot. In the distance MFRW was making his was up river directly into the frame. I fumbled through every setting imaginable to try and get the shot just perfect. Although the actual picture is way out of my league, I tried my best to get a clean crisp image. MFRW was moving into position and the sun just moved into the top left corner, perfect… I snapped a few off… few as in 2 gigs. Switched through all my lenses, all 2 of them, and I still found myself wishing I had better equipment. But in the end I am happy with it, could be better of course, but not too bad for a rookie like me.

I learned a ton shooting this picture, like there is more to pictures than just pushing a button. I am just trying to understand the basics at this point and everyday is a learning experience and I am enjoying every minute of it.

Making our way back to camp we lit a fire cooked some steaks and talked fish, life and politics…just kidding, no politics. We agreed to head deep into the canyon in the morning, who knows what we might find.