fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

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to infinity mpg and beyond!

The public relations hype news about the Chevy Volt possibly getting a 100 mpg rating from either the EPA or the California Air Resources Board could go down as one of the better attempts by a car maker to dupe consumers. The GM marketing machine seems to be trying to change the rules of the game to fit its skewed own model.

According to General Motors E-Flex spokesman Rob Peterson, the automaker has reached an agreement with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that would see the 2011 Chevy Volt get a unique classification different from other current hybrids. This new classification takes into account the fact that the Volt’s 40-mile battery range allows it to complete the bulk of the emissions and economy test procedure without ever running the engine, which would likely give it a mpg rating of 100 mpg or better. [On]

FYI, the EPA hybrid testing cycle currently requires that dual-power vehicles “…complete the test cycle with a charged battery.” This dooms the Volt to an overall 48 mpg rating — Prius and Civic hybrid territory.

According to GM, the Volt doesn’t use any fuel for the first 40 miles of driving, but having to end the cycle with a full battery will require the use of gasoline for recharging. So, based on GM’s argument, which implies thinking that the Volt shouldn’t have to end the testing cycle with a full battery, drivers shouldn’t be concerned with the second 40 miles, during which the Volt’s mpg will fall.

Assuming the Volt gets 50 mpg with the gasoline engine running to charge the battery, its actual mpg rating should require a sliding scale

Taking into account that the car can go 40 miles using no gas, if one where to drive 50 miles, during the last 10 miles it would use about 0.2 gallons, equaling 250 mpg.

While the average commute for U.S. workers nears 50 miles a day, add any additional miles — pick up the kids, groceries and that coffee iced double tall soy latte — and the rule of diminishing returns comes into play. Add another 30 miles for a total of 80 miles (40 on battery/40 with the engine running) and the total fuel economy falls to about 100 mpg.

Visit the relatives 300 miles away, and the Volt’s mpg dips to 62.5.

This is without including the cost of the electricity to charge the Volt when plugged in. And assuming 50 mpg with the engine running. And assuming driving only on flat ground. (I know from experience that the Prius mpg drops significantly going up hills.)

Does this mean an electric-only vehicle, which doesn’t have a gasoline tank, get ∞ miles per gallon?

Perhaps the EPA should determine mileage over a testing regime that runs for the equivalent of a tank of gasoline, say 400 miles?  Sort of like us consumers do?

The truth is somewhere in between, to be sure.


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another reason to like trout

You don’t need a .380 handgun. From a story in the Atlanta Constitution:

Leonard held a fishing rod outfitted with 15-pound line, which the gar could easily have snapped if the angler rushed things. So Leonard fought the fish for about an hour, letting it dive, reeling it in, then letting the fish run some more.

Finally, he dragged the fish to shore. “I was whooped,” said Leonard. “My arms were sore.”

But not too sore to pick up a .380 handgun. Bang! Bang! The gar lay still.

Read more here by clicking here.

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fly fishing the eastern sierra: great weather, good fishing, no crowds

As I and eight members of my fly fishing club can attest, fall is creeping into the Eastern Sierras. The mornings are crisp, the sky a cloudless blue, the crowds gone and the aspens beginning to shimmer yellow. Throw in a dose of good fishing, great camaraderie and conversation, and solid home-style meals aided by “adult beverages,” and you know a good time will be had by all.

So it was on this quick trip on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning Sept. 19th. The three days went by mighty fast, but the fish were willing to play, and all of us ended up with some outstanding memories. Our group also instituted our own version of a Sierra Fall “Slam”. More on that later.

Soon after Jim, with whom I shared transportation, and I passed the Highway 108/395 junction, we warmed up for the outing with some drive-by fishing on the nearby Little Walker River. It was wonderful to be greeted by some willing wild rainbow and brook trout.

After most of our group met at Tom’s Place Resort later that afternoon, we unloaded and geared up. Then it was off to Hot Creek. Winds typical of the Eastern Sierra barreled through the small canyon but those who managed a good drift, using small Caddis and Stimulators with Zebra Midges, were rewarded with this creek’s beautiful fish. I, however, was not one of them.

The descent of darkness sent us scurrying back to our cabins. The evening was capped off with a spread of appetizers, homemade beer, wine and a rib-sticking, one-handed meal of runza.

With the dawning of Saturday our group broke into smaller two- and three-person squads that would cover each variety of the available waters: creeks and streams, rivers, and lakes. The waters covered included the Upper Owens River, Rock Creek, Mammoth Creek, Hot Creek, the Mammoth area’s Lake Mamie and Crowley Lake.

Two other club members and myself headed to Crowley Lake to stillwater nymph for that lake’s famed fish by boat. Though the lake was low, the wind was conspicuously and thankfully absent nearly all day. We began by working the West Flats area, accompanied by a handful of float tubers and boats. While we were there, only one tuber hooked, then lost, a fish. A move to the Leighton Springs area of the lake proved fortuitous as one of our group, who only started fly fishing this summer after taking the novice seminar last spring, hooked and landed a beautiful 20-inch cutthroat. The fishing wasn’t crazy, but we all had a number of takes and drive bys and at the end of the day, I could lay claim to four good rainbows, but will (jokingly) insist that I lost the biggest trout of the day after it dramatically jumped a few feet into the air and, as everyone stood slack-jawed in the boat, crashed into one of our cohort’s leader and broke off.

The plan for the late afternoon was to meet on the Upper Owens to fish into the twilight hours, when the winds typically subside. The threat of darkness cut the fishing short, but I managed a couple of rainbows. And while it wasn’t a secret that I was after a brown on this trip, I didn’t expect my third fish to be an Upper Owens whopper of a brown measuring six inches.

This fun day full of fishing, punctuated by a good amount of catching, ended on another high note, with a wonderful pasta dinner and the obligatory selection and toast of the best “fish story.” As the tales were told two standouts became quickly apparent. The 20-inch cutthroat was an obvious choice, particularly with the “catcher” being a new fly fisher. While not involving a fish, her husband’s yarn, to which I can testify, ended up being a co-winner. To sum it up, trout eat midge nymphs. So do long-eared grebes. If your indicator moves just after a grebe dives next to it, you shouldn’t set the hook. It was. And out his mishap arose the new Sierra Fall “Slam,” for collectively our group caught brown trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, brook trout and, yes, the aforementioned grebe.

We parted ways on Sunday as some folks would head home through Yosemite while others would cross Sonora Pass. Before heading over Sonora Pass Jim and I flung flies into Hot Creek that morning, again amid numerous caddis hatches. Jim used a small orange Caddis to entice a number of takes and got a nice rainbow to the net.

After struggling with a nymph under larger stimulator, I too opted for a size 18 Caddis and after what seemed like 50-plus casts deceived, hooked and landed a healthy and brilliant 14-inch rainbow. When Jim moved downstream, so I slid into this spot, where a pod of fish was running deep, and cast a Stimulator with a size 22 “Crystal” Zebra dropper. Three casts later and I hooked then had in hand the brownie I was looking for; about 13 inches worth.

A great trip!

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catch Catch Magazine

The act of fly fishing arguably offers as much as visual feast as it does frustrating wind knots and finicky fish any thing else and the new online Catch Magazine exquisitely plays to this aspect of the sport. Calling itself the “Official Journal of Fly Fishing Photography & Film” — smartly avoiding the label “fish porn” and the stereotypical man-holding-fish composition— Catch Magazine is one of a handful of fly fishing Web sites offering almost painfully beautiful images related to the sport.

The first issue premiered this month with an interface that a remarkable page-turning interface. (My thanks to the Feed Fish Flies Blog — an offshoot of Creekside Angling Co. fly shop in Issaquah, Wash., for pointing it out.) Catch Magazine is the brainchild of Powell Butte, Oregon-based angling and outdoor photog and Scientific Anglers tackle rep Brian O’Keefe and Sprit River Studios partner and ESPN Fly Fishing the World Camera Operator Todd Moen. Mr. O’Keefe tackles the still photography while Mr. Moen slips into the role of video editor.

The current/premier issue includes photo essays of fly fishing, of course, in Belieze, Russia’s Kola Pennisula, Alaska and Argentina, with video mixes (be warned of long load times) and a steelhead video.  The bit-longish loading time is worth it. Sprinkled sparsely with reflective narrative, Mr. O’Keefe and Moen wisely let the photographs impart the story.

Worth more than just one look.

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going fishin’

Fly fishermen tend to be a hopeful crowd, anticipating the next trip, the next river, the next cast.

No different, I saw time slow to the proverbial crawl the past few days as my countdown moved from days to hours, then minutes. But by now, me and my gear are headed in the general direction of Hot Creek, Crowley Lake and the rest of the Eastern Sierra.  So y’all will get a break from me.

Looking downstream on Rock Creek.

Looking downstream on Rock Creek.

The plan is to fish when we have daylight and regale our cohorts with stories when the drape of darkness descends from the Sierra Nevadas. That and enjoy one of our fishing partner’s home-made brew. No, the beer wasn’t the reason for his invite.

Tonight means a stay at the cabin, telling myself to get some shut-eye early but instead bouncing off the walls with expectancy. Truthfully, I’ll probably fiddle with the gear, add tippet to leaders, pore over the inventory of flies, and finally submit to staring at the ceiling waiting for Mr. Sandman.

Then it’ll be up at sunrise, eager to load my gear in the truck that will be shared for the 152.4 miles to the bump on the side of U.S. Highway 395 called Tom’s Place, our home for three days for myself and eight fellow club members.

Weather looks good. The scenery will be grand. Fishing could be great. Can’t wait.

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casting a fishy look at presidential candidates

[Non-fisher folk should make sure to read the footnotes.]

Herbert Hoover fishing the Klamath River at Brown's Camp, Calif.

Herbert Hoover fishing the Klamath River at Brown’s Camp, Calif.

While that hard-hitting bastion of political commentary, Field & Stream, didn’t dig up much news when it comes to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, an underlying current hints at a convert, nearly imperceptible effort to divide and conquer the fly fishing world.

On the Field & Stream Web site and in the current issue, interviews with both candidates hit the usual high points: the environmental and energy, gun control, the Clean Water Act, etc.

Meanwhile, the more important truths come out in the details.

In response to Deputy Editor Anthony Licata’s question, “Do you fish?” McCain responds:

Oh, I fish all the time. I fish for catfish. I fish for bass. I fish for bluegill that all are on our property [in a small pond] and in Oak Creek, which is our property up in northern Arizona. It’s on Oak Creek. Also, there is a fish hatchery that’s down from us — not on the property — obviously the state fish hatchery, trout, but I have to admit to you I’ve never caught one of their trout. Maybe they’ve never put them into the creek near our home.

Roughfishermen1, and by default that includes brownliners2, McCain may be your man.

But contrast grows, albeit not to the levels of black and white, when Obama answers the question, “What do you like to do outside?”

…one of the pleasures of being a presidential candidate has been traveling all across the country, and we spent quite a bit of time in Montana recently. And I’ve got to say that I am absolutely certain that one way or another, after this presidential process is over, whether — because I lose or because I win — and I’ve got a little vacation time coming, I’m going to learn how to fly fish, because that land is spectacular.

Obama: the hope of the blueliners3?

Admittedly and sadly, I probably disdain the divisiveness of politics more than any rabid and fanatical supporter of the Democratic party or GOP4. But I can’t help but wonder if we’d all be better off if any sitting president spent more time fishing5.

1 A moniker applied to those who fish for species deemed less desirable, i.e. carp, catfish, pikeminnow and often anything with fins that resides in often odiferous warmer, urban waters and the sluggish flows of irrigation ditches.

2 From “brownliners”: Those fishermen who dare to chase water fish is to be found in the aforementioned warmer, urban waters and irrigation ditches.

3 Those fishermen who chase the wily trout in snow-fed, crystal clear waters, such as alpine streams, spring creeks and wild rivers.

4 Ironically, southern Democrats first used the “grand old party” nickname and the Democratic party is, in fact, the older of the two political factions. The term was allowed to slip from the hands of the democrats    co-opted by the republicans used by the press in reference to Republicans in 1884 with the election of Ulysses S. Grant. (In the early days of the automobile, the “GOP” nickname gained another popular, although fleeting, translation: “Get Out and Push.”)

5 Fishing presidents, good and bad, include Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Grover Cleveland, Jimmy Carter, Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Washington. FDR had a special chair built into his boats to allow him to fish. Eisenhower tried to teach vice-presidential running mate Richard Nixon to fly fish. (“It was a disaster,” Nixon admitted. “After hooking a limb the first three times, I caught my shirt on the fourth try. The lessons ended abruptly.”) Jimmy Carter loved fishing but admitted to being “piscatorially retarded.” And George Washington was, for a time, a commercial fisherman.

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fly fishing leads the way

Leave to the fly fishing industry to set an example of deciding what’s best for the sport, i.e. consumer, with the bonus that it’s more environmentally friendly.  A calculated risk to be certain, but I’d call it a smart mix of business acumen and anticipating an audience’s needs.

On day two of the Fly Fishing Retailer Show, Simms Fishing Products announced that it would stop using felt soles on its wading boots by 2010. While other boot makers offer rubber-soled wading boots, I think Simms is the first to ban felt from their entire line. The press release on Specialty News Web site sums it up:

[Simms President K.C.] Walsh said Simms’ decision to do away with felt is a result of the material being implicated in the spread of aquatic nuisance species and fish-killing disease. Walsh noted that anglers have always been among the nation’s first wave of conservationists, and with options to felt now on the market, anglers had a responsibility to both the resource and the tradition of angling to cease their use of felt.

Granted, the decision wasn’t made in a vacuum:

Late last week, national conservation leader Trout Unlimited asked at its annual meeting that wading boot manufacturers phase out felt by 2011.

While anglers are noted for an environmental consciousness and Simms professes to be “…eager to lead the charge” in leaving felt soles behind, it didn’t have to do so. The fact is it did.

Wonder if American auto makers might have benefited from adopting this approach a few years ago? Scary to think that because of a lack of forward thinking or opting to build what consumers might need — instead of selling them on bigger and faster — that we can no longer apply the idea of “too big to fail” to the big American auto makers, or, for that matter, any industry. Just ask AIG or Lehman Brothers.

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I can’t afford the rising cost of being a “bum”

While it’s becoming increasingly clear that the cost of wanton economic growth over the last decade may be escalating prices on nearly everything (except homes) — now the outlay required to appropriately outfit one’s self as a trout bum appears well out of my reach.
Where you too can spend a bunch to be a trout bum...

Where you too can spend more than I would to become a trout bum...

A swift click on a link promising that I could “Win a Free Loop Rod Here” quickly gave way to the LoopArmy site and, later, quiet snickering. The site reads thus…

Win the rod that was designed by the AEG Media “Fish Bums”. Loop Tackle of Sweden is proud to have collaborated with the “Fish Bums” to create the ultimate trout rod series and is pleased to be offering you a chance to win one.

Loop Tackle’s goal was to build a Premium fly rod that would normally retail for closer to $700.00, but make it “Fish Bum” affordable. Mission accomplished and Loop Tackle of Sweden is proud to introduce the “AEG Signature Series”.

Sure, the one of the rods I no doubt will might win are touted as “Incorporating the latest graphite’s and glues…” to “…recreate what is arguably the greatest 5 weight ever built…”, while the other “…was designed from the ground up to handle big trout and summer steelhead…” and “…is a pleasure to cast all day long.”  But look up the price…’fish bum’ affordable at $370 and up? 

Understand that I’m a cheap responsible guy with a wife, kids, a dog, a rabbit, a fish tank and a mortgage, and the cost of any fly fishing tackle is paid with whatever pocket change might be lying around. My first fly fishing outfit – rod, reel, line AND case – was a $124.95 two-piece L.L. Bean 5 weight.  And it’s still catching trout for my son.  My latest rod upgrade alone still cost less than that.

So, while other fly fishermen argue amongst themselves over the differences between $400 and $700 rods, I say adequacy is fine, silently telling myself that I’d prefer a full tank of gas for the trip and an abundance of willing trout, figuring no fish stops to check a rod’s price tag before inhaling my fly.

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best sport/hobby after kids?

Is fly fishing the best sport to take up in the kid-less years?

Neil Ulman makes a good and well-written argument for it in his recent article prophetically titled Wading into Heaven in the Wall Street Journal. He describes many fly fisherman’s experience:

Perhaps, like me, you retired to a land of hills and cold-water streams and found a friend to teach you how to cast an artificial insect into a flowing river. When the first trout grabbed the fly, jumped and danced in the water, bending your slender rod into a quivering bow, you thought you had hooked the fish. Actually, the fish hooked you.

Worth a read.