Sunday, February 28, 2021

From Here On

As I get older it feels like time is speeding up on me. Three weeks flew by and I had forgotten that Lane and I had made plans to hit a stream together. Luckily, our region's Jazz Festival was at his school so I ran into him while working and he reminded me of the plan. It was also lucky that my back had recovered from whatever I did to it that made moving and bending almost impossible. Of course, the weather report was a little more on the unlucky side with the brief return of winter lining up exactly when we were supposed to be on the water. 

I'm not sure why, but lately I've been putting off packing for an outing until the morning of. This is really dumb since it almost guarantees me forgetting something, and usually that something is really important. This time it was my sweatshirt and coat. I'd remembered the fleece jacket that I wear underneath, but the outer layer was left home. Lane reminded me that the night before his wife had told me to "Dress warm," I thought she was just taunting me but it turned out to be prophetic. 

I decided to try and tough it out and we hit the water, starting on a stretch that I've never caught a fish from. I've only fished it for a few minutes a couple of times, usually electing to skip the crowds and drive past this section to the slightly less busy areas beyond. At this point, it's kinda weird that I'd never caught a fish here, so a deeply drifted midge eaten by a nice, darkly colored brown was exactly what I was hoping for. I had another fish on momentarily, but not much action other than that. The shivering told me it was time for at least a break in the truck with the heater on full blast, but Lane was ready for a change in scenery and we left for a different section of river. A quick stop at the local Sportsman's Warehouse and I had an extra sweatshirt for the rest of the day. 

The change in scenery wasn't necessarily a change in luck, as we struggled initially to find willing fish. Although, I did come across half of a fishing pole that looked like it had been under the water for a long time.

As usual, it was Lane that figured out where they were and didn't take long for him to catch a couple of bows. I made my way down to see what was working when I hooked into a small bow on an egg pattern. Lane put on a 'Double Yolker' and hooked into his best fish of the day.

When a few fish started rising, Lane switched over to a dry fly but I stuck with the egg hoping to find a nice sized fish of my own. It didn't take long until I had a better-sized one on the end of my line.

Another change in scenery, and another quick warm-up in the truck and the fishing was completely different. This new section seemed to hold a lot more fish, with most being on the small side, but there were a few good-sized fish to keep things interesting. Lane caught a couple on a San Juan Worm, but the fly they really wanted was a Purple Frenchie. This fly has been amazing for me so far this year! 

We caught fish until the sun went down and temperatures plummeted, but we weren't really that cold until we were trying to get out of our frozen waders. A stop for some carne asada was the needed cure and made for a great way to end a good day of winter fishing. It's only going to get better, and warmer, from here on out! 

Hope you're as lucky,


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Fly Tying: Purple Frenchie

 Here's a video showing how I tie the Purple Frenchie that has been responsible for so many of my fish lately!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Book Review: "American Serengeti" by Dan Flores

 It's been a while since I did a book review! I haven't been reading as much because of time shortages, but I thought it would be good to get back to it while the weather is still cold. "American Serengeti" by Dan Flores is a book I first heard about on The Meateater podcast (which I highly recommend!) when the author was featured on the show. If you're considering getting this book or his "Coyote America" I'd recommend getting this book first. His chapter on coyotes will give you a solid idea of what to expect in the other book along with tons more info/stories on other species. 

The book gives a really cool description of what the great plains looked like at different times in the past. During the Pleistocene, at the end of the Pleistocene, before European contact, during Spanish rule, and during the American expansion to the 20th century. I really liked the accounts from early explorers as they first encountered the plains and all the wildlife that resided there. It's really interesting to think about how elk and grizzlies were great plains animals, instead of how we think of them now as mountain dwellers. 

In the chapter about bison it cites William Temple Hornaday's efforts to collect a specimen for the Natural History Museum and his scathing views on market hunting that makes me curious about Hornaday's memoirs. When Flores talks about the near extinction of bison, he explores the "perfect storm" of factors that led to the huge decline. He also dismantled the often cited conspiracy theory that claimed the US Government exterminated the animal to help remove the Native Americans from the plains. There's also the idea of establishing a Great Plains Reserve that would re-create the plains like Lewis and Clark would've encountered.

I could definitely go on, but suffice it to say that I highly recommend this book! Each chapter highlights a different, iconic, species of the Great Plains and gives a history of our first written accounts up to the present day. 

"This place was deja-vu for me not from some past life, but from the minds of others, who had me know what a magical world the Great Plains once had been." pg. 183

Buy the book here:

Monday, February 15, 2021

On The Safe Side

The weather outlook wasn't too promising with the storm of the winter lined up to drop several inches of snow here at home, on route to where we wanted to go, and at our destination. The week had been a long one, even though it was only a four day work week, with Parent-Teacher conferences two nights and a concert to end the week. Dad wanted to make the long drive to a place that we've had some good success with the possibility of really large trout. I was game, although I made sure to let him know that I probably wouldn't be too much help in the driving department. 

The evening before we were supposed to head out was the night of the concert, our school's first in over a year thanks to the pandemic. It was an extremely long day, so when I finally came home I was a little relieved to hear that my Dad didn't think that we should go because of the weather. We decided to wait and see how the day progressed, with the possibility of making the trip the following day. The weather didn't really improve, but we decided to go anyway. Maybe we should've taken it as a sign, but none of my brothers or my boys were interested in going. 
We made it, despite the freeway having some snow-covered areas. Dad and I were both hoping that the fish would be willing to chase a streamer, so we started throwing some buggers. Dad had his trusty Thin-Mint color and I tried a straight black. I was the first to find a willing fish, a chubby mid-sized rainbow. 
The strikes were light and hard to detect, but it didn't take long for Dad to tie into a nice fish. When you're catching smaller fish the challenge is in the hook set, but when the fish reach a certain size the trick is in landing them. This fish went wherever he wanted to, with Dad holding on the best he could. When the rainbow started "Showing his sides" we knew the fight was just about over and I moved into position with the net. Of course, this is when the fly came loose and Dad lost the fish. It's just the way it goes sometimes, to Dad's credit he just shrugged it off and kept fishing, soon catching a smaller one that we didn't get a picture of. I managed to catch a couple more before we moved on to try some different spots. 

If it looks cold, it's because it was! The wind seemed to always be blowing snow into your face no matter which way you turned, but there were fish to be caught so we just pushed through. The next couple of spots we tried didn't produce, so we ended up coming back to where we started. I decided to try something different to see if we could get more fish to the net. Out came the indicator rig, with a Prince Nymph and a Purple Frenchie for a dropper. A few small fish took the Frenchie, but not the action I was hoping for so I lengthened my leader and added a few small split shot to see if the fish were stacked deep. The switch flipped and it seemed like there were fish everywhere that were willing to play. 

One of the fish was pretty colored up and made me wonder if the fish were feeling the upcoming spawn. So I added another fly to my rig, an orange egg. The first fish that took was the only non-rainbow that we caught the whole day, a confused looking little brown. (The wind blew the camera strap in front of the lens at the worst time, so the picture is a little funny) 

I tried to get Dad to fish the indicator rig, but once he took my rod from me the fish weren't interested anymore. It was spooky how fast the fishing stopped on a dime and it took a few minutes of me casting before they would hit again. I guess he's got a nymphing jinx! I moved off to try another spot within walking distance of the truck. This is a spot where we've caught lots of smaller fish in the past, but rarely get anything that would require a net so I didn't bother grabbing one. Of course, that's the moment when you hook into a big fish. I yelled back to Dad to bring the net, but he couldn't hear me with the wind whipping. I tried my best to wrestle him into shore, stepping into the water in the process, but when I tried for the tail grab he flopped and my hook broke off. I guessed that he was a 6 pounder, so he was probably an honest 5 pounder which is a really big fish in my book. 
Once I got re-rigged, the fish were still willing to play and it wasn't long before I was into another fish that required the net. This time Dad heard me and headed over with net in hand to see what the fuss was about. When he tried to make his way down to the water to help he stepped into a hole that was hiding under the snow. With his boot submerged and snow up to his thigh, he struggled to get out, so I helped as much as I could (without losing the fish) and Dad was able to pull his leg out. 
I stopped to warm up my hands and Dad tried a few casts with his streamer. A good take and a fish was on! Dad played him perfectly (without stepping into any holes) and soon his best fish of the day was in the net!

Fishing got better and better with fish coming almost every cast, but the snow really started piling up on the roads and Dad got nervous about being able to get home. With fishing being so ridiculous it was difficult for me to call it, even though I knew he was right. A few more fish and we packed up for home, leaving earlier than we ever have before to head home. The drifts across the road were a little worrisome in a white-out blizzard, but once we got out of the valley where we were fishing the roads cleared. It's always better to be on the safe side, but I'll be dreaming of all those fish for quite a while and kicking myself for leaving early. The trip home was a sleepy one for me and I slept most of the next day trying to recover but it was totally worth it. 

Hope you're as lucky,

My last fish of the day, caught on the last cast

Sunday, February 7, 2021


I recently quit my job as an adjunct professor at the local Community College. The feelings of guilt at abandoning my students were quickly replaced by feelings of relaxation and a realization that I've been ignoring parts of my life for too long. One of those things was practicing music for me. Another was tying flies and actually getting out to use them. My full-time job takes up enough time that I really don't have much to spare, but without my evenings being filled with lessons away from home I slowly began to find my way back to the vise. 

With the rust slowly coming off, thoughts of putting these flies to work began to take hold and a plan was formed. Unfortunately, at about 1 am on the day we were supposed to hit the water Jeff texted me that his daughter had been up all night throwing up. So much for plans. As a last effort to not have to fish alone I texted Lane and asked if he was interested. He said he was and we decided to check out a stream that neither of us had ever fished in the winter. 

If this was a normal snow-pack year I don't think we would've been able to access the water, as it was the snow was a little bit of a workout to get through. What we found when we did reach the stream was extremely clear water with little to no current. Not exactly the easiest type of water to fish. I started out with a large bead headed Prince Nymph, mostly for weight, and a Purple Frenchie but without any success. Lane hooked into the first fish of the day on a San Juan Worm and followed it up with a second pretty quickly.

I switched out my Prince Nymph for a San Juan Worm and trailed it with a Zebra Midge, but the fish still weren't interested in my offering. When we found a pool with several fish in it Lane let me have the first shot at them, but they still gave me the cold shoulder. I thought for sure that Lane would clean out the pool, but the fish weren't too willing for him either. The wind started really picking up, and it made it difficult to get a good cast or even a decent drift. Lane moved upstream in search of more willing fish but I stuck with the pool trying to figure it out. I'm not sure that I ever did, but I did manage to fool one fish into eating my San Juan Worm. 

A beautiful brown trout soon came to hand, my first trout of the year. Hopefully, this is the first of many. After finally getting the skunk off, I caught up to Lane to see if he had broken the code and gotten into any more fish. What he had found was shallow, weed-filled, fishless water. We worked our way back up to the road to avoid pushing our way back through too much snow and walked back to the truck. We made one more stop before calling it a day, but the only story there was more deep snow and falling temperatures. Some people would say that freezing temperatures, icy wind, and only a few fish doesn't make for a good day. To me, it seemed pretty much par for the course for winter fly fishing and it sure felt good to get out fishing again.

Hope you're as lucky,