Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Go East, Young Man

Right after I first moved to Washington a man was telling me a story about someone from Minnesota. Another person interrupted. "No, they're from Montana." "Well, OK." the man said impatiently. "Somewhere back east."

It's lovely to live where Montana is "back east." And this video of Montana fishing is lovely, too, a tonic for the winter-worn soul.

Montana Wild Fish Reel 2011 from Montana Wild on Vimeo.

The Prettiest Thing Some Fish Has Ever Seen

With all the great streamer ties out there these days, I should just quit. Or spring for some of the correct materials. But I can't quit--I was kidding about that; and I'll get the materials the way I always have--in dribs and drabs.

Meanwhile, I tied up something while actually following a traditional recipe, more or less. It's the Royal Coachman Bucktail, but I need to add "Variant" to that name. I used red hackle fibers for the tail, and an underwing of green bucktail. And the brown hackle should perhaps be more sparse.

But, I had a good time tying it. And I'll probably find a fish somewhere, some day, that will think this is the prettiest thing he's ever seen.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Eat Sleep Fish

I missed this the first time around. This is Issue Two of an online magazine out of the UK. Good stuff. Check it out here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Look in the Archives: "The Fly Fisher's Guide," 1816

Here is another wonderful book from the distant past. I suspect there was fly fishing somewhere in the new United States in 1816--just a little more than a decade after Lewis and Clark's journey of discovery--but it was flourishing in the old country of England. George C. Bainbridge was one of the experts of the day gathering his followers.

They certainly knew a good fish then, and the artists of the time were gifted in celebrating their beauty. (I'll turn the book sideways for you.) This reminds me of the Rubenesque renderings of women from that and earlier eras.

(For comparison, here's one of Peter Paul Rubens' paintings circa 1626-28, "Hermit and Sleeping Angelica." Somehow this seems right at home on a fly fishing blog. SOTM? {That's "Slab of the Month," one of the regular features on Moldy Chum.})

Back to the book, George knew a thing or two about flies. Sylvester Nemes includes George C. Bainbridge, along with many others, in his 2004 book Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies. Sylvester giving credit where credit is due.

What I really like about this book is that it's printed on one side of the page only. One of the early owners of this copy--I like to think the man who first bought it with the same anticipation and eagerness to learn as I have felt--filled the empty pages, sometimes spilling over onto the color plates, with voluminous notes on every scrap of information on every fishing topic that he could find.

Notice the specifications for a landing net--homemade, as so much equipment was then: a five foot handle with "a double spike one strong flat pointed blade other a crook sharpened inside like a fish hook for cutting bough." Great idea.

Makes me yearn, on this cold January night, for a trip to a secret summer stream off the beaten path. I think he felt the same yearning, this brother of the angle, and I hope he satisfied it many times over.

Things I Love About This Planet: Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

Aurora Australis captured by NASA's IMAGE satellite
and overlaid onto the famous "Blue Marble" image. NASA photograph.

For you aurora lovers, I found this site with spectacular photos of both the Northern and Southern Lights. Let us not forget that we are enveloped in beauty.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Things I Love About This Planet: Aurora Borealis

A solar flare on Sunday caused a radiation storm which hit the earth on Tuesday morning lighting up the Aurora Borealis. We sometimes see the Northern Lights here, usually a whitish glow that swirls slowly and sometimes sends up rays of light, though some old timers have seen curtains of color. I hope to one day. This display was confined mainly to high northern latitudes.

Shetland, Great Britain

Donegal, Ireland

Fairbanks, Alaska 

Eagle River, Alaska

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Snow Is Falling Again

Snow is falling again, the fourth snowfall we've had over the last week. None have been heavy, but we must have 6 inches on the ground already with more still coming down. There is much more in the mountains. Good to see that Winter has finally worked out its issues and decided to go work.

Along with the rest of the West, we are behind on the snowpack so far. But there is reason to hope for a good year.

There is also the promise of good flows and water levels in our lakes and rivers this Summer, with the resulting good fishing. I've also been thinking about the local river and wondering what affect last week's Pineapple Express Pacific Storm would have on the Steelhead. Coastal rivers in Oregon are blown out, according to the The Caddis Fly. The local river is still choked with ice. But I've been anticipating the first opportunity to get on the river again, looking forward to February and March and their usually rapidly improving conditions and numbers of fish. In fact, you might say in some ways I was depending on it.

The word is out, though, that Washington rivers will close to Steelheading on February 1 because of low numbers of returning wild fish. (I read it first in Blood Knot.) I'll have to decide what to do about that. As will we all.

Even though I have not yet caught a wild Steelhead out of this river in my own backyard, I believe there is always the chance. I've fly fished enough to know that the realm of possibilities is very large indeed, and miracles do happen. That has always been a part of the anticipation as I have fished, and as I've worked a hooked fish in close enough to get a look at. I will continue to anticipate, and dream, two things that no one can close the season on.

I will be in Oregon in the middle of February. Again according to The Caddis Fly, there are so many Steelhead they're overflowing the rivers. Dig this, in a photo posted tonight:

My trip in February is not a "fishing trip," but I wouldn't be surprised if some fishing happened. But, for now, it looks like this little hatchery fish may be the last--and only--Washington State Steelhead for me this Winter. And I'm grateful for it.

Meanwhile, the snow is still falling, gently but with determination. And of course there's more to a good snowfall than the replenishment of the water table and the promise of good fishing. This one tonight is the kind that makes you glad for the respite of deep Winter. It awakens those ancient archetypal instincts of us cave dwellers to hole up and make a big fire. The temperature is just at freezing, and there is just enough breeze to make the flakes dance in the light from the windows. It makes the fire in the stove glow even warmer and cheerier, so that it's a pleasure to settle in for a long Winter's evening.

Which is exactly what I'm doing.

Blood Knot Magazine: Blogger Issue

Check out the Blood Knot Magazine: Second Annual Blogger Issue. Always a good read.

Interestingly, their marketing strategy now emphasizes the fact that the magazine is free.

"You Gotta Leave Some In Your Cup..."

A great post over at Sipping Emergers for anyone who aspires to be John Gierach, or who thinks their camp coffee is the best ever.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Brian O'Keefe Weighs In

I was surprised to receive a comment from Brian O'Keefe on my recent post, Some Things You can't Put a Price Tag On. He and Todd Moen produce Catch Magazine. O'Keefe's comment deserves attention, so here it is. (It's also in the comments section of the post, if you want to weigh in, too.)

Hi Guys.

Hope you don't mind if I chime in about a couple things. Todd Moen and I produce Catch Magazine in Sisters, Oregon. We are locals and local anglers, in a big way, but Catch Magazine is not a local magazine, or a regional magazine, we are a global magazine. Just like most skiing, scuba, sailing, food and news magazines. The Internet knows no bounds, so it opens up the world quite easily. And, we are a photography/video magazine with fly fishing content. As you know, we are not a How To magazine, although we do give some photo tips.

Our essays and videos are really not about fancy, expensive trips. Our readers are from 148 countries so what might seem like a fancy destination to one person, is actually another person's backyard. Tarpon and bonefish to many is the local catch and they dream of catching a steelhead or going on a pack trip into an alpine lake setting. Our contributors are from Scotland, Finland, NZ, Croatia, etc, and as a photography magazine first, we show a variety of photos/videos with the photo/video quality being the key element.

I get all the paper magazines and they are great. I see a lot of regional publications and blogs that fill an important niche. Fly tying especially has come a long ways thanks to local blogs. And, about charging 12 bucks for a year/6 issues. In a nutshell, we just have to. There is no way around it. Many other on line magazines are part of a larger organization. We are just two guys who work 60 hour weeks and split $5 footlongs from Subway. As a global publication, our advertisers need a global brand. There are not that many and hats off to Scientific Angler, Simms, Winston and others for helping out. However, all these companies are trying their hardest to make ends meet. They have lost a large segment of the their retail base and the economy has all of us thinking twice about new equipment. They can not be expected to absorb the burden of every paper magazine, every on-line magazine, the film makers, the film tours, sport shows, trade shows, etc.

That is just in North America, they also have marketing resources in Europe, Asia, NZ, etc. To maintain and improve the Catch Magazine experience, we are going to share that burden with the end user. It is really just like buying a spool of fluorocarbon or regular mono. If you want fluoro, then you buy it. If you don't, you don't. Todd and I would like to keep Catch free, but it is very expensive to do what we do. If you have noticed, the back pages are dedicated to many non-profits organizations who benefit greatly from the 100,000 plus people who see their logos and click the links. Sorry for the long post, but this is about as short as I can make it.

Brian O'Keefe.

I found this helpful and persuasive, so I want to state a couple of things.

1. Since I'm not running for president I can say I've changed my mind about one thing: Catch Magazine is not elitist, as I implied in my post. I admitted when I wrote it that I was filtering my thoughts through one of my own cultural biases, but O'Keefe's description of the two of them working out of Sisters, Oregon to make this thing go, and his explanation of their mission and global readership, convinces me that I was wrong. It's actually impressive as hell that they've been able to achieve what they have. Kudos.

2. I understand much better now the need to charge $12 to keep the product coming, a product that maintains a high standard of excellence. I hope it works for them.

That still leaves some concerns.

O'Keefe acknowledges the economic pressures affecting the fly fishing industry these days, which in turn has led Catch Magazine to the conclusion that they have no choice but to charge the end user. The problem, as I suspect they well know, is that the end users they are seeking to appeal to are the same end users who are that "large segment of...retail base" that their advertisers have lost.

So how do you expand the base, instead of just trying to spread the current limited retail dollars around in different combinations? I know. I'm not the first one to ask that question. But I have some thoughts on the subject.

There seem to be two main ways to expand the base: bring new people into the sport, or win back that "large segment of the retail base" that has been lost. I put myself squarely in that second category. I suspect I'm fairly typical of a large portion of those lost souls, so if you'll allow me, I'd like to point out some things about us.

First, we're frugal. That has something to do with the economic downturn. We simply don't have the ready cash that we used to. But there's another more important factor at work here. We're not novices anymore. We've lost our innocence. We are much more discerning than we used to be about what's offered out there. We have learned that actually we don't absolutely have to have the many products and services that are pitched to us as essential to our success and well being and manhood. Most of us not only can't afford the latest high modulus titanium wonder rod, we don't need it. When we need new equipment--the essentials: waders, boots, rods, reels, lines, fly tying vise and materials--we can usually scrape up the cash to get it. But we aren't looking for bells and whistles. We're looking for good, moderately-priced equipment that will do what it's supposed to and last a good long time.

Second, we're independent and self-sufficient. I was on the Grande Ronde a few years ago early in September. It was me and one other guy. I was out in a run when he came along and sat down and watched me for awhile. It wasn't long before he was crtiqueing my casting. He explained to me that I really needed to be using a double haul, and that he would be glad to teach me how to do it. I explained to him that I knew how to do a double haul, but I chose not to do a double haul at the moment. I suppose he was trying to be helpful, but he was a pain in the ass. He left and I hooked four fish out of that run and landed two. Without a double haul. In the same way, we don't need an "industry" to tell us how and where to fish. We need basic equipment and services that help us along as we figure it out for ourselves.

So where do we usually find that? On the internet. Ask Singlebarbed if you can find good equipment, and fly tying materials, on the internet. He has done some posts that are textbooks on the subject. Do a search on any subject from fly tying to fishing knots to product reviews to double hauls and you'll find a wealth of information out there. For free. It comes from people like us, so it may not be the last word on a subject, and it may not even be right. But, to use an important term that Herringbone often lifts up in his comments, it's authentic. It's all part of an on-going global conversation, and we can sort it out for ourselves, take what we need or what fits us, and continue on the journey to enlightenment.

The same can be said for online media. What's nice about online magazines is that they consolidate edifying content in a convenient format. But there is plenty of content out there--photos and videos--flying around on their own. Most of it is made by people who simply love to fish, and love posting their own photos and videos of the places and the flies and the fish--and their vehicles, and lunches, and dogs--that are special to them. They may not be technically brilliant; but when all is said and done that doesn't matter. Their appeal is in their authenticity and artless innocence. And, they aren't trying to sell anything, except maybe the notion that they find fly fishing a hell of a lot of fun.

This, too, is a global phenomenon. We like that. We aren't isolationists. We aren't jingoists who believe that the good old USA is the only country with decent fly fishing. We love seeing people in other countries fishing their home waters. Or coming here to fish our waters. Some of the most entertaining videos I've ever seen were on a Japanese website documenting a trip to the Henry's Fork.

So the problem for Catch Magazine is how to stake out a portion of that global fly fishing media cloud, and then sell it. That's a daunting task. It could be argued, perhaps, that their success depends on staying connected to the global grass roots fly fishing movement, even while a price tag sets them apart from so much of it.

But I have a different take after reading and considering O'Keefe's points. Maybe what can save them from becoming just another piece of a fly fishing industry that is losing large segments of its retail base is if some of us fly fishers donate $12 to their cause. And stay in touch in a way that can help them stay in touch as they negotiate the difficult maze of global business interests. And a fly fishing industry in which a large portion of retailers have forgotten how to serve their base, and seem intent only on coming up with "innovations" to justify their own existence.

So check out the latest issue of Catch Magazine. You may see your way clear to be one of those who will be donating to keep it going.

I just might make a donation myself.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Would You Let This Dog in the House?

This is Rocky. He's a big lug of a dog. Kim loves him. I have a strained relationship with him, going back to his puppy days when he started eating my things. Rare books, fly tying materials, boots, jackets, furniture... Of course I tried to prevent it. But he always found a way. A trait he has continued to this day. Now he eats road kill, trash bags--full, firewood, and anything--shoes and socks, T shirts, water bottles, mail--that anyone inadvertently leaves outside for a second. Yes, we try to prevent it--let me count the ways--but he always finds a way. Some might say he's smart. I might say he's too dumb to learn better.

Did I mention the digging?

So yesterday here he is at my window. It's 5 degrees outside and dropping, the wind is howling, and snow is flying. There's a nice warm fire going inside. So would you let him in?

He's half Husky. He's slept outside all winter. He has a nice thick coat. He can get into the shed if he wants to where it's out of the wind, and there's even a nice doghouse for him. But he sleeps out beside the back door on a pad, curled up in a ball with his nose tucked under his tail. He gets up and howls at coyotes. He gets up and barks at deer. He gets up and barks at ghosts. He gets up and wanders off in the middle of the night to who knows where. He gets up when I go out to look at the sky and to get the last load of wood, and he wants to play.

So, would you let this dog in the house?

Don't be a sucker. He's not cold. He's just bored. He knows the boys are home from school. He wants to be where the action is. He knows the cats are inside. He wants to play with the cats. He loves to play with the cats. They hate it. He wants to eat their food. He wants to eat our food. He just...wants.

Kim did let him inside for awhile. Thanks a lot, Kim, said the cats. I was thinking it, as usual. She closes the cats in the bathroom when the dog is in the house. She puts the cat food up high where even he can't reach it. Then she tries to get him to lie down. He runs around, or snoops around, or stands on his hind legs at the kitchen counter. Kim keeps hopping up from the computer to head him off. Lie down, Rocky! she says. Over and over. Sometimes he does. Most times he just looks at her. With a happy smile on his face.

Finally last night she put him outside again. He ran around in the snow. He dragged his tattered deer skin around in the snow. He was on coyote patrol until late. He did end up sleeping in the shed. It was the coldest night of the winter so far. But not in the dog house. But in the shed, out of the wind, curled up on an old armchair that needs to go to the dump. I'm not stupid, Rocky says.

Tonight it's not so cold; only 10 degrees. So he's back out on his pad outside the back door. At least he was awhile ago. He may be on patrol again. A dog's work is never done.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some Things You can't Put a Price Tag On

Tom Chandler over at The Trout Underground makes note of a broad hint in the new Catch ezine that it will soon go from free to a paid subscription basis. It will cost you twelve bucks a year (six issues) to go online and look at all those pretty pictures of places you can't afford to go.

Or is that just me?

I guess there are two issues here. No, three. The first is my own cultural bias--I admit it--against anything that smacks of elitism. I wish the fly fishing world was immune to it, but it sure ain't. Catch seems to me to be appealing to the moneyed crowd for whom exotic destinations and high-end equipment serve as just one more status symbol. It's a kind of country club mentality that puts me off. Big time.

But, maybe that's just fine for some people. I wouldn't want to be accused of "the politics of envy" or anything like that. And that gets us to the second issue. I don't envy that approach to the sport I love. I simply have a different set of values when it comes to why I love it. It starts with the natural world and the fish that live in it. It ends with people like you and me who hear the call of that world and want to be out in it fishing. The experiences we have and the equipment we gather along the way have nothing to do with status. The fishing is what matters; the equipment is simply a means to that end.

Neither are the places we fish chosen for their status quotient. Most of us fish most of the time close to home. We search out our home waters and we learn as much as we can about them and their fish. We immerse ourselves in that world. It becomes a constant in our lives, experienced on an intimate level, face to face and hands on, rather than through the intermediaries of travel agents, lodge owners, and guides.

When we are on an intimate basis with the world of our home waters we quickly learn that we cannot impose our will on it. Rather, we need to be open to what that world can teach us. The more we learn from that world, not just about that world, the more we learn how to connect to it. And one of the most powerful connections is when everything comes together and we catch a fish. And then let it go again.

Along with that learning comes a deep appreciation--even a love--of the natural world and the cycles within cycles within cycles that make up the miraculously intricate Cycle of Life upon which all things depend. Including us, we suddenly see. That changes us. We learn that we are just one part of that great cycle. And we seek more and more not to intrude on it, or exploit it, but to fit into it. For many of us the deepest satisfaction we find on the water is that sense of belonging, of having found the place in all the universe where we fit.

You can find that on Christmas Island, perhaps, but it's important to know that you can find it right at home. And my guess is that if you haven't found it on your home waters you won't find it anywhere.

Finally, when you have found your place--and your self--in the world of fish and their waters, you want to do everything you can to nurture, sustain, and protect that world. It becomes sacred, as life itself is sacred.

That gets us to the third issue. Can Catch magazine charge for its photos and for the view of fly fishing it is promoting? Sure. Go for it. If you believe fly fishing is a commodity that can be sold for a profit, then have at it. There are many who think that if you can't pay for something it isn't worth anything, and that the more you pay for something the more worth it has. I'm sure they'll snap it up.

I won't be getting a subscription myself, though. Instead I'll continue to visit the websites and blogs--and ezines--of those people who love fly fishing for what it is, and want to celebrate it out of the sheer joy of it, and who love to connect with anyone anywhere who loves it, too. There is plenty of that bubbling up all over the place.

Like, for instance, this one:

This is Southern Culture on the Fly. Read the editor's column in which he exclaims that it would be nice to see photos in a magazine of a place where he could actually go and fish. Amen, brother! And notice the price on the lower right hand corner of the cover. Yes, yes, yes! They get it.

There are some things worth far too much to put a price tag on.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snow Squall

We had a snow squall the other day. It dropped about an inch before it blew away.

It inspired me to think about streamers. It turns out I'm not the only one inspired by winter weather. Brk Trt over at Small Stream Reflections tied up a beautiful streamer inspired by shelf ice. And Streamers 365 posted a gorgeous streamer inspired by an ice storm, complete with representations of power lines and broken branches.

I'm humbled by the skill of those tiers. But I went ahead anyway and tied up one of my own, the Snow Squall.

We have some more winter weather heading our way. Meanwhile, the recent cold snap has iced up the river. Looks like I'll get some more inspiration and some time to hone my skills.

TodayJan 17Wed18Thu19Fri20Sat21
Snow ShowerSnow ShowerSnow ShowerRain / Snow ShowersSnow Shower
Snow ShowerSnow ShowerSnow ShowerRain / Snow ShowersSnow Shower
Chance of Snow:
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Chance of Rain:
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Fire and Ice," by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say ice.

From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.

But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice
Is also great

And would suffice.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dreaming in Color

I recently found this painting by Rod Crossman. Lovely, and evocative, too. Let there be Browns...

Dreaming in Black and White

In what tends to be a black and white time of the year, these photos have been especially evocative to me of a season and its trout that I sorely miss.

Monday, January 9, 2012

River Report: I Get Lucky

I headed straight to The Glide on this drab afternoon, thinking about those tugs last Friday. I had been thinking about them frequently over the weekend. I stayed with the same fly, but this time I added a sink tip.

At about the same place I had gotten those tugs, I hooked up. Same fish? I think it's a good bet.

The fish took as I started to strip in after the dangle. It pulled, but it didn't fight at first. I was expecting a Whitefish until that first big swirl when I saw that flash of red that lit up the day.

It wasn't big, but it acquitted itself well, making long lunging runs as it did its best to get to the other side of the river.

I took another pass through The Glide, but that was it for today.

But, boy, it sure felt good.