fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


Mother Nature wins, but it’s okay (and accumulatingmy 15 minutes of fame, a few seconds at a time)

The thought last weekend was to get away for a rare five-day retreat, spending some time at the family cabin, entertaining ourselves with visits to wineries in nearby Murphys, squeezing in a bit of fly fishing on one of the few open rivers in the Sierra foothills and generally stepping away — far away — from the everyday.

We had enjoyed three weeks of spring-like weather prior to our departure, but the moment we publicly announced our plans, Mother Nature decided she knew better.

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A better use of snow.

The drive that got us up to Hwy 108 was easy enough, with stops along the way for lunch and gwaking at Bass Pro. It was after the last stop at Covers Apple Ranch that Mrs. Nature gave us fair warning with steady snowfall as we wound the seven miles to the eastern (and higher) edge of Twain Harte. By the time we reached town, the inches of snow that frosted the familiar with a fresh coat of newness also dictated extreme caution.

While I don’t mind clearing the white stuff to pull into the driveway or the nearly two feet of snow that that muffled and covered the world outside the next morning; I didn’t like the resulting power outage, the excavation of that 60-foot driveway a second and third time, and the increased release of water in the only nearby and fishable tailwater. Though we were thankful for the propane-fired heater, stove and water heater, the lack of power for 48-plus hours wasn’t fun. It was dark by 6:00 p.m. and it’s difficult to read, much less tie flies, by candlelight. Fishing was out of the question the next day as flows on the Stanislaus rose in 40 hours from less than 250 cfs to nearly 1,100 cfs.

We surrendered about 42 hours after our arrival. In that time I learned the value of a snow blower after shoveling the driveway three times, clearing an estimated accumulation of four feet of snow. (My arms agreed with rusty mathematics that suggested I moved over 1,900 cubic feet of the stuff.) Proving that Mother Nature maintains a healthy sense of irony, we were greeted by blue skies just as that last of the gear was packed into the car.

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Mother Nature, The Joker. The skies cleared after nearly four feet of snow snuffed out
the power and we went about departure preparations. (More photos below.)

However, we both enjoyed being in a winter wonderland for a while, spending one afternoon tucked into The Rock resaurant with a good draught of Smithwicks ale, a few appetizers and a cozy view of dime-sized flakes floating to earth. I personally enjoyed introducing The Wife, for the first time in her life, to real, heavy snowfall. We also learned that the Prius can do well enough in the snow.

I don’t begrudge Mother Nature for cutting our trip short with piles of snow; it’s the resulting runoff that’ll keep the trout happy and make for excellent Sierra fishing in the late summer and fall.

A Few More Seconds of Fame

It’s nice to know that Orvis Fly Fishing Guide Podcast host Tom Rosenbauer thought enough of my comment on Facebook to mention it in his latest podcast. If you’d care to listen, you only have to wait until about 1:30 into the podcast.
[audio:|titles=Orvis Podcast-2/22/2011]

I responded to Mr. Rosenbauer’s podcast of a week ago, “Gear Maintenance in the Off-Season and Ten Tips for the Aging Angler,” with a personal anecdote that there are indeed exercises that could help the aging angler. Though I have yet to be officially recognized for my longevity, a gym membership put to good use during the last year or so seems to have improved my balance during wading, something I attribute to core exercises, namely crunches, bridge, planks and rotational movements.

Admittedly, as a generally lazy meditative lot, exercise may be foreign to most fly fishermen, and the most widely practiced workout is casting, which coincidently builds up muscles used to also hoist a beer or scotch.

More of what we saw during our shortened stay at The Cabin last weekend:
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what we see… (02/23/2011)

  • Something for the fly fisherman who drifts nymphs (and who naturally tends to be a more imaginative fellow):
  • Local story of those who have transcended the desire to hook fish:
  • Despite my unaccomplished casting, I’ll be helping out this weekend (or used as an example of how not to cast):
  • What we saw during an aborted attempt at a long weekend away: 

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dropping the blogging ball

To the chagrin of some folks I’m not retiring like other bloggers we know, but I am “dropping the ball” this week to spend a little time in the Sierra foothills. It comes down to simple logistics. The family cabin is truly that; a few rooms insulated only by a couple of inches of siding, a simple affair with no connection to the Internet.

That’s not to say it’ll be time away from the everyday without sacrifice. There is a plan afoot to fit in some fly fishing — regardless of weather forecasts that include snow at elevations not too far from where we’ll be chasing wild trout.

I won’t jinx this unusual winter trip with any details, except to say that even The Wife has taken notice of my itch to fish and freely volunteered that I might visit one of the few open western Sierra foothill rivers. Maybe the feverish tying of flies and a continuous parade of fly fishing television shows gave me away.

It’s been more than a year since I’ve tested this tailwater. For the most part, I’ll be going subsurface, mainly through riffles and tailouts. Though this time of year it’s the more imaginative fly fishing technique nymphing that’s more effective bringing up the fish, with some luck late afternoon might include a decent blue-winged olive mayfly hatch.

To anticipate one question; no, I won’t be taking the new rod. Even it were fished, there be steelhead in this river and the one fish that broke me off in 2009 suggests that it’s better to carry a rod with a little more backbone.

Hopefully, I’ll be back with more than a tale of a riverside hike.

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part five of building a rod: glossing over things

I’m a bit betwixt and between things until next Thursday, and because the forecast shows raining beginning that day, there’s an outside chance there’ll be some fishing. That’ll be then.

For now, this morning, I’ll be consulting with the club’s guru of rod construction on a one of two finishing touches for the 4 wt that’s sitting pretty on the dining room table.

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Epoxy covering the tip top wrap.

My goal last week was to lay down epoxy on the guide feet and butt wrap, and did so with modest success. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as warm as it should have been for this first pass at epoxying. Though opinions vary, I’m convinced that a temperature of 70°F or better is necessary for the best results. That day it was about 68°F.

Then there’s the need for speed. I was a bit too careful, apparently, beginning to coat the tip top guide wrap and working down the rod. My thought was to start with the smaller guides and quickly work toward the stripping guide before the pool of epoxy became unworkable. The epoxy was still workable when I reached the stripping guide but a new batch was required before coating the thread wraps above the grip. Then it was a matter of rotating the rod pieces to allow the epoxy to flow, hopefully creating an even coating 360 degrees around the wraps. A couple of hours later, it looked pretty good.

However, after a few days of drying the gloss of the hardened epoxy revealed flaws inflicted by my inexperience a temperature that was a bit too low. It was time for 600-grit sandpaper.

Like it often is with fly fishing, taking the time to step back, look things over and make adjustments can pay off; and so it is with rod building. I sanded portions of the epoxy on five guides and spend time smoothing out the epoxy covering the long wrap above the grip. Later, the temperature climbed above seventy. Epoxy was mixed and cooperated, flowing readily with only a few bubbles, which were easily dispatched by blowing on them through a straw. The sections were again regularly rotated until the epoxy set. The results were well worth it.

After this morning, the butt section should be ready for a last coat of epoxy, and then it’s be off to a club member for a custom inscription that will, without reservation, tell those who look close enough that it’s the result of my work.

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Epoxy covering the tip top wrap. Look closely and you'll see the bubbles that have since been sanded out.


what we see… (02/09/2011)

  • The Unaccomplished Angler and Trout Underground step up when John Walsh doesn’t:,
  • Going on my “I Want that Job” list, because of the trout; nothing to do with co-host Hilary Hutcheson. (Look out Rich Birdsell.):
  • What trout will you chase? And what’s this “Other Trout” some folks will be waving sticks at:
  • Below, a day at the Oakland Zoo (The Wife declared this date “Spontaneous Saturday.” We ended up at the Oakland Zoo and enjoyed dinner with the San Mateo nephews and their parents.):

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new fishing license; origami encouraged

California 2011 Fishing License of 22.25 Inches

At 22¼'' it’d be a very nice trout.

One of the more common discussions these days among Golden State fly fishermen these days, besides whether a bead head nymph can be called a fly, is the new fishing licenses. For those who don’t know, it’s likely that California’s fishing and hunting licensing system finally matches something your state was using 10 or more years ago.

My permanent annual license was kicked out by the Automated License Data System and it arrived the other day (a temporary was printed from the computer). Attached to the dollar-bill-sized basic sport fishing license is a required report card for the steelhead I’ll never hook.

I measured it. It’s sad when the license is longer than most of the trout that end up in my net. …Sad that the license is so long; I’m perfectly happy with smaller wild fish. Folks who add sturgeon report cards, hunting licenses or are lucky enough to have a lifetime licenses have reported lengths of 10 feet or more.

(I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the license I purchased in Washington state last year and recently returned with fat zeros on the catch record card measured just about as long as my new California license.)

There’s an upside. It’s no longer a requirement to visibly display your license. I thought about putting mine in my wallet, giving it a girth not seen in many years.

That, on the other hand, may not be a great idea.

These licenses are printed on waterproof thermal paper. Waterproof good; thermal paper bad. Leave it exposed to heat source and you’ll be making a trip to get a new one.

However, a swipe of your driver’s license your local vendor can retrieve your current license data, and for a small fee, print a duplicate. Applying circular reasoning, maybe the boys in Sacramento, short on revenue, did know what they were doing all along…

P.S. Sometime after this post goes up I should be applying epoxy to a certain 4 wt fly rod.


…they’re the people that you read each day*

This post brought to you by the writing prompt “Which Outdoor Bloggers
would you like to Meet?
” from the Outdoor Blogger Network (OBN),
though not all of the bloggers mentioned here are OBN members…

Contemplating this question I realized how lucky I was to meet Kirk from The Unaccomplished Angler in person before his recent retreat from fame. It certainly brings your inflated online impression of someone who’s written a few books and maintains a consistently enjoyable blog down to earth when you sneak up on him while he’s doing yard work. Though I’ve already met him, I’d still like to someday take up Kirk on his offer to spend some time on “The Forks.”

I started my blog before the term existed. I started in 1997 with a simple website that was cumbersome to update, and because it was hand-coded HTML, new content (e.g. “posts”) appeared periodically. (Those of you who recently stepped into blogging don’t know how easy y’all have it with CMS and blog publishing applications.)

Then one day I came across something quite wonderful back in aught-six of the third millennium. One of the first blogs that actually looked pretty nice. Tom Chandler had pieced together a good-looking layout for The Trout Underground. My more modest talent has allowed me to make some money in the field of writing, and Tom’s prose gave me the inspiration to reach outside my training as a journalist for the creative side of writing. Just as much as I enjoy Tom as a writer (regardless of whether his Fly Fishing Underground Writer’s Network is competition for OBN), there’s also the lure of joining him on some of his home waters, which are open during the winter, when I’m often jonesing for a fly fishing fix.

Linking from The Trout Underground, before I knew it would be against better judgment, I ended up on Singlebarbed, where Keith Barton‘s skewed outlook near the shores of the Lil Stinkin’ can alternately leave you laughing, crying or shaking your head. His take on fly tying is what I like best…there’s no recipe that doesn’t deserve to be messed with, whether that means cheap different materials, methods or colors. Keith fishes some less-than-pristine waters near me, but meeting and fishing with him might require a 55-gallon drum of body sanitizer and a hazmat suit.

I’ve found that recovery from a visit to Singlebarbed can be aided by a visit to David Knapp’s The Trout Zone. David’s got a keen eye for photography and a “quiet” writing style. David fishes some prime trout waters in Tennessee, particularly the type of small streams I enjoy; all the more reason to want to meet him for some photo pointers and fishing.

It’s possible I could go on writing for pages and pages screens and screens about various bloggers that I’d enjoy meeting and likely fish with, but to finish up I’d have to include Chris Hunt over at Eat More Brook Trout. How can one not love his blog’s irreverent name? Personally, his story is one that I could make my own — a journalist who retires to work for Trout Unlimited, write essays about fly fishing and spend his free time fly fishing in a pretty awesome place. Even if only for a few days, Chris would be another guy with whom I could spend some time.

In closing, I’d certainly have to add Rebecca Garlock (The Outdooress) and Joe Wolf (Flowing Waters) to my list. Not necessarily because I’ve enjoyed reading their blogs (I have), but to possibly get a glimmer of a hint into their plan for OBN’s worldwide fly fishing blog domination.

*”Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood blog network?
In your neighborhood blog network?
In your neighborhood blog network?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood blog network?
The people that you meet read each day”