fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


the challenge of a (personally) delayed trout season opener

It was the ride to the office yesterday that finally triggered that physical feeling that Opening Day is upon us. Despite the early hour — 0600 or so — the ride was comfortable, not too cold and not too warm. The sun was already burning away the coastal overcast, leaving behind clear skies.

Then it hit. Smack dab in the middle of my face shield. The first bug of the season. If I were to guess, I’d say something in the family Chironomidae. Trout food, particularly as pupae.

Until last year, it was imperative to depart Opening Day Saturday, immediately after assisting with a fly fishing class that I’ve been involved with for quite a while.

What changed? I’m certainly not self employed like the Unaccomplished Angler or retired like Mark (@Northern California Trout) and able to traipse off to fish whenever I’d like. I do, however, accrue a healthy number of vacation days at work and now consider it impolite to not use them.

[singlepic id=764 w=200 h=267 float=center]

Stream X

What’s truly changed is my attitude about the start of trout season. Perhaps a modicum of maturity can now be ascribed to my fly fishing. Rather than stand shoulder to shoulder with anglers from “the dark side,” there’s a certain challenge in arriving on the few fishable waters in the western slopes of the Sierra the Monday after the Saturday opener. (According to Mark, this year more anglers may be crowded on less available water due to snow and ice at higher elevations.)

The more accessible waters have been flogged and the fish traumatized by flashy spinners and DayGlo baits, making it all the more challenging and satisfying to hook and land the fish too smart for not caught by these other anglers.

I hope to also visit Stream X, where unmolested wild rainbows likely will attack anything that remotely looks like food. It’s a bonus that this is the time of year when much of the fishing crowd won’t be out during the work week.

So, Opening Day I’ll be helping folks learn how to play and land fish on a fly rod. Sunday I’ll spend time with The Wife. Monday through Friday I’ll be fishing.

See you on the water.



I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, I’m a winner! (and an Opening Day tradition)

Things are looking up ‘round here.

The countdown to Opening Day stands at 67 hours and 5 minutes, and though I won’t be on the water, that’s fine. It’s become tradition the last few years for me to assist with our club’s fly fishing novice seminar every Opening Day Saturday. It offers an opportunity to pass along an education I received through the very same class and the off-the-water rewards are substantial. Many of the students continue on in the hobby, are involved with the club, and more than a handful have joined the outing I lead in the Eastern Sierra. The class also offers me a reminder of basics that I may have forgotten during a fishless winter. Also, the free lunch is a very good thing.

How Winning Requires New Skills

As ffw followers already know, I’m an unabashed nymph fly fisher. While other uptight purists fly fisherman would rather take a nap than fish with anything other than a dry fly, I go to where the fish usually are: well beneath the surface.

Oh, I’ll toss out dry flies when that’s where the action is, but it’s not too often.

Zudweg-Style Bunny Leech

But now I’ll be going subsurface with a slightly different tactic thanks to Jason over at Fontinalis Rising. According to Outdoor Blogger Network member Jason I should be expecting some awesome looking Zoo Cougars, bunny leeches, and lightweight shiner imitations.

So I’ll have to work on my casting of big flies a bit. These streamers will be good candidates this summer and fall for the East Walker, Upper Owens and West Walker rivers. Then there’s this midsized tributary I know in the Western Sierras, where brown trout spawn in the fall. Anyone have any other suggestions where these streamers might work well in the Central or Northern Sierras?

Thanks again to Jason!

As for what we see this week…


my favorite outdoor food really isn’t mine… (and breakfasts of legend)

This post brought to you by the writing prompt “Share Your Favorite Food
from the Outdoor Blogger Network (OBN)

I’m a food lover.

That’s why it’s difficult to narrow down my list of favorite outdoor foods to a single dish. Or snack cake. Or junk food.

When I’m in the Great Outdoors, usually fly fishing, it’s an opportunity always seized upon to graze freely. Though not out of doors, there’s always In-n-Out on the drive to or from the Family Cabin, the forward base of operations. A short few minutes away is Diamondback Grill. (Yes, we likes our hamburgers, though I favor the buffalo burger, medium rare.)

If I make it to the Eastern Sierras, there’s Bodie Mike’s Barbeque and the Whoa Nellie Deli for sandwiches in Lee Vining. And trips with the club to “The Eastside” come loaded with calories: pork posole stew, pasta, and barbecue beef sandwiches, all washed down with homemade beer.

While the above can be consumed out of doors, none are truly portable in the Great Outdoors.

That said, I’m not afraid of roughing it. I’ve spent time sleeping on rocks under a canvas roof or in the back of a questionable fly fishing vehicle (e.g. minvan). But age brings on a certain requirement desire for comfort. That limits much of my outdoor eating to the time I’m on the water.

Breakfasts of Legend*

Old-School Campsite Grill/Griddle

The source of Legendary Outdoor Breakfasts

I’d be remiss to not mention those breakfasts cooked by dear ol’ dad on the ancient heavy steel griddles that seemed to dot every campground we visited when I was a kid. You know the ones. They were made of ½-inch steel, attached to a matching steel fire ring or two “walls” made of cement and indigenous rocks.

Who knows how long the detritus of the forest — pine needles, sap, bird droppings, dead insects — accumulated on that griddle. But the first morning in camp dad would take a scrub brush to it and stoke up the fire to “sanitize” it. Once only coals were left, the cooking of one of the best outdoor breakfasts began.

There was a specific order to the cooking of this morning repast. Sausage or bacon came first, and a lot of it, to ensure a good layer of grease that was necessary in an era before Teflon®. Then the eggs, popping and sizzling like nothing you’ll see today in today’s non-stick skillets. Last, and certainly not least — and my favorite — bread slathered with real butter and “toasted” in the grease and any bits of eggs still stuck to the griddle. These were the breakfasts of legend.

These days another of my favorite foods is more of a meal: lunch on a guide boat. The phthalo blue of the open water, fresh air carried on a slight breeze, and the ribbing about the last missed hookset become condiments to whatever’s on the menu. Like that awesome pastrami sandwich from the local deli, piled with provolone, pickles and peperoncini on a rustic roll and slathered with spicy mustard. Sure, it tastes mighty good, but even better is that inevitably the “bite” will turn on with a vengeance as I chew that first mouthful.

As alluded to above, the Great Outdoors can lend a flavor to even the simplest of foods. Most of the lunches I toss together before heading to a stream or river are simple. Beef jerky, an apple, water and maybe a granola bar. (The less time taken to assemble lunch means more time on the water.) And every time, that apple carelessly thrown into my vest tastes so much better when eaten streamside — while a hatch starts, of course.

Nowadays, my favorite outdoor food is the one I never finish eating because I’m up on my feet again making that next hookset because the fish are the ones eating a favorite food.

* I believe my brother will whole-heartedly agree that there nothing that compares to our memory of these breakfasts, if not the reality. I think he’d also share my opinion that although there’ve been great breakfasts in the intervening years, there’s still nothing like breakfast cooked outdoors on these griddles, and eaten in the cool morning air of the Sierra Nevada high country.


what we see… (03/20/2011)

  • Perhaps this fly fishing apparel designer should seek an endorsement from fellow British Columbian and fly gal April Vokey?
  • Let’s hope this isn’t what Opening Day looks like:
  • …and a good reminder just before Opening Day (at least here in California):


fishing for words turns five after fourteen years in the making

fishing for words (ffw) was born on April 19, 2006. However and without knowing it, my blogging started fourteen years prior to that.

During the mid ‘90s — the beginning of the end for most grunge bands — I joined the few civilians who could make sense of this thing called HTML to launch a website with the unoriginal title “My Little Corner of the Internet.” It was a kooky little site for which every new entry required incorporating text into hand-coded HTML.

The trend at the time was to post a relatively static website about one’s self, and looking back one can see that the early “posts” — stories about trips or family events — popped up once or twice a year from August 1997 through July 2003. There seemed to be more to write about starting in 2004. I don’t know if was the fact that the kids were growing up and it didn’t take a trunk full of diapers, bottles, food and a stroller to travel more than five miles, or the fact that my new wife actually encouraged me to enjoy some adventures on my own.

My writing was largely directed at family and a few friends. Though a student once thanked me for my page on Aloha shirts (apparently it aided him in writing a term paper), I suffered no delusion that anyone would take an interest in what I wrote if they didn’t know me personally.

The Future of Outdoor Blogging

Perhaps the future will bring a new immediacy to outdoor blogging. (That’s not’s my son with a wild rainbow on Stream X.)

Things changed in 2006 with this stuff called CMS and easy-to-use blogging platforms — both of which coincided with my first experience brandishing a fly rod over a Sierra Nevada stream. It was all in place: a website/blog that could easily be fed and a hobby that could provide material.

Now, 139,512 words and 458 posts later, I still resist defining my blog. It remains a place for family and friends…with a loose definition of “friend.” Over the years, nearly everyone in my immediately family has made an appearance in my blog — whether they liked it or not. Friends run the gamut: fly fishing club members, fellow bloggers I’ve surprised by actually showing up on their doorstep met face to face; folks who thanked me for suggestions on where their kids might have a good first fishing experience; even a few buddies met online with whom I eventually shared a fishing trip or two. Every reader is a potential friend, just like the older gentleman and younger guy wearing waders that were too clean and waving barely used rods.

While ffw doesn’t subscribe to any specific definition, it’s definitely been about sharing a personal story. It’s about stepping out of my little universe to share encouragement, a laugh, an experience, a tip or a trick. And every once and a while I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that my words do encourage or earn a chuckle.

Some folks might lament about how much things have changed in five years. I’d say that it’s only our methods of our interaction that have changed; the folks behind it remain much the same. Take a look at the Outdoor Blogger Network, for example — a group of good folks coming together over common interests. They’ve got to be good folks; they let me and my little blog join in the fun. And fun it’s been, sharing my misadventures and adding a couple of new readers every year.

As for the fly fishing, the places I fish usually are not covered in the slick pages of magazines. These are places that can be reached with relatively modest means and without a 4×4. (I did learn last year that a 4×4 would be helpful on the roads to and from Yellow Creek.)

My hero shots find heroism in fooling small wild and skittish brook trout with a fly tied with my own hands. (This summer, hero shots may include a fly rod built with those same hands.) And though the “body count” isn’t so important to me anymore, it’s still about duping that first dozen fish and the story that comes with it.

I’m hoping that there will be many more fish to write about.

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psuedo guest post: minimalist tenkara

I received this from a friend, Ted Shapas, who’s the conservation chairperson with the Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen. While the video isn’t all that new, I think Ted’s humorous take on it is.

We’ve all heard of Tenkara fly fishing, in which the reel and most of the line are eliminated. I submit to you a new minimalist fishing method that goes beyond Tenkara – no rod, reel, or line required, just an open boat!

The not so funny part is that these airborne fish are invasive silver carp (escapees from Arkansas fish farms) that have infested many Midwestern rivers, and will likely turn up in California before long.

In an effort to make lemonade from lemons, commercial fishermen in IL and elsewhere are now keying in on these fish for export to Chinese communities in the US and overseas. Silver carp are apparently a delicacy in southeast China, and the Midwest fish, because they are wild, are highly regarded.”

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fly shop offering entry-level paying position for the aspiring writer younger than this author

If you haven’t yet observed the lack of advertising on my blog, there are no advertisers influencing my writing this is not a revenue-generating venture. I don’t want it to be. Getting paid would mandate more frequent posting whether I have anything worthwhile to say (as it is, judge that for yourself), as well as better writing and accountability. Besides, I recently disclosed the real reasons why I blog.

And while I’ve dabbled in some freelance writing, I just haven’t yet found the time between my day job, fly fishing and the rest of my life to scratch out another article or two. (Also, modest fly fishing skills seem to require full use of my limited brainpower and, since I don’t take notes while fishing, it’s tough to write suitable-for-publishing after-action reports.)

For a younger person who aspires to start a career eking out a living as a fly fishing writer, Leland Fly Fishing Outfitters is looking for a “Fly Fishing Writer.”

Leland Fly Fishing Outfitters

Fly Fishing Writer

As the leading fly fishing retail store in the heart of San Francisco, just off Union Square, we are seeking an outgoing English or History major/minor student to join our customer service team. The Applicant will exercise a high level of skill with the written word, as well as advanced computer knowledge. Applicants must also have excellent people skills, must be team oriented and have a strong knowledge of fly fishing and fly fishing equipment.

Starting pay is $11.50 an hour.

At $11.50 an hour it’s not going to be easy to save up for that next trip to Kamchatka, but it’s $11.50 more per hour than this writer gets paid to write his Weekly Drivel®.*

Sure, you’ll have to do real work, actually interact with customers and answer the phone, but it offers a paying opportunity for a greenhorn writer. There’s also the possibility that all that interaction with customers will offer raw material for freelance articles or essays.

This is an opportunity not to be scoffed at my young friends. In this day and age, at least one online fly fishing magazine looks for writers who are “…NOT paid, but fueled to write by their enthusiasm for the sport, to draw attention to worthy causes, or promote themselves or a favorite destination.” Enthusiasm is a must for writing, but it won’t pay for that new 3-wt rod.

*Although “Weekly Drivel®” is a trademark of The Unaccomplished Angler, there’s no profit to be had here, thus no infringement.

The act of fishing, particularly fly-fishing, is similar to the act of writing. The masochistic urge to wake in the predawn hours and stumble with loaded thermos toward an icy cold stream to catch something you ultimately let go is not dissimilar to the quirky yearnings that guide a writing life. Both activities draw adherents who crave and breathe solitude. Both fly-fishing and writing abound with foible and reward. Both offer fissures of clarity amid the ambiguity of everyday life.

Both can give you hand cramps.
                                    — Holly Morris


what we see… (04/13/2011)

  • A guide’s story about the worst clients…ever: (Makes me not feel so bad about the one time I arrived on the dock while my fishing license remained in the cabin.)
  • Fun write up over at Eat More Brook Trout about a great day not fishing:
  • Continuing with brook trout… Over at Small Stream Reflections a nice pictorial of the seasons of brook trout:
  • By the seventh day, you shall have beer… It probably can’t make the best double IPA or Doppelbock, but the high-tech and all that stainless steel and chrome certainly up the “I want it” quotient. (And everything sounds so much cooler with a New Zealand accent.):

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modest proposal suggests concrete amusement parks for the catch-and-keep folks; good ideas for catch-and-release fans

At first it’ll likely prompt feigned outrage as the bait and hardware crowd wail and gnash teeth, claiming that the real goal is to enjoy the outdoors… That’ll die down once the realization sets in that it’ll mean easy access, flat surfaces for lawn chairs and coolers of beer and a near-guarantee the freezer can be filled without breaking a sweat.

Hatchery Fishing

Buried deep on the California Fish & Game Commission website is a little pdf titled “Trout Hatchery Production for Angling Opportunity” that suggests opening a raceway or two at one hatchery to recreational angling.

This is only one of a few proposals and changes at California Dept. of Fish & Game growing out of the Center for Biological Diversity’s 2006 lawsuit and subsequent proceedings. Now that I’ve moved up the ethical pecking order to become a catch-and-release fly fisherman and have washed away any lingering odor or memory of ever using bait, it’s easy to write with a straight face that perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea. (Not to worry, this modest proposal still allows for an outdoors experience with the stocking of mutant triploid trout in reservoirs.)

Most of us are guilty — at one time or another — of enjoying the rewards of a 100-plus-year-old stocking program but the commission may be on to something here. It’d be easier to outlaw deadly barbed treble hooks on streams and rivers when the option for Power Bait aficionados is a raceway brimming with stupid hungry trout.

Though the state is trimming the budget, there’ll be no need for access fees…lure in the crowds, and there’s new income to be found in raceway-side concessions.

Besides the reduction of streamside competition accumulation of empty Power Bait jars and Styrofoam worm containers, there just maybe a bigger upside for fans of catch and release.

In addition to increasing triploid production for future years, DFG is developing greater capability to successfully produce and stock heritage (native) trout species. Currently, four native species are being produced in DFG hatcheries. Kern River Hatchery is being modified with a water delivery back up system and other infrastructure upgrades for production of the native Kern River rainbow trout. Establishment of a broodstock is expected by fall of 2011. Five heritage species should be in production by January 1, 2012, with 25 percent of overall production to be comprised of heritage species. The feasibility of rearing Lahontan cutthroat trout for the Lake Tahoe basin restoration…

If it means an opportunity for me everyone to target more of our native species, that’s a sacrifice I’m we’re all willing to make.

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“I shall return”…with flies this time

Above 45 Degrees

Go North, young man.

This post brought to you by the photo prompt “Dream Destinations” from the Outdoor Blogger Network (OBN)

Being relatively new to fly fishing, it’s a bit difficult to answer the question of where I dream of fly fishing. There are so many places I haven’t been.

Generally being a Salmoninae guy, my first inclination was to narrow a dream destination to North American waters north of 45° latitude.

Canada is a blip on the radar — British Columbia for its renowned stillwaters filled with Kamloops rainbows and its coastal rivers and streams for salmon and steelhead, and Ontario for monster brook trout and grayling. Upper bits of Montana and Idaho would qualify as well, and we all know they offer plenty o’ places to fly fish.

But for me, it’s gotta be Alaska, a place I’ve fished, though not with flies.

Longing to Return

Brother and dad looking over the Kenai River

Alaska’s a no-brainer…there’s the entire Bristol Bay watershed — a place that may never be in budgetary reach — but perhaps just as intriguing and perhaps slightly more wallet friendly is Southeast Alaska. (Being a bit late to this post, The River Damsel beat me to choosing this destination, she’s also keen on fishing the 49th state. BTW, I would like to think it’s the compression of a telephoto lens that makes that bear in the third photo in her Dream Destination post only look so close…)

Kasilof River Moose

Where else can the morning traffic jam of drift boats be interrupted by a moose?...

Tractor Launch at Ninilchik

...or does a halibut trip begin with a beach launch?

And while it’s the fishing that’d be the main focus, there is the allure of that full-service, all-inclusive Alaskan lodge experience. There’s nothing like being responsible to only for dressing yourself and showing up for either food, fishing or sleep; it sorta removes any worries regarding the wanton consumption the occasional adult beverage.

Kenai King

Dad's first Kenai king...

Since I’m not retired or self-employed and don’t live within easy driving distance of nice trout water (and general trout season is closed here until the end of April), I’m left to only dream for now…though plans have been made and will be executed in the coming months.

I’d like to thank Rebecca over at OBN for this photo prompt and aggravating an already crazy itch to fish.