fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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a little fishwrap on Friday

I’m in the doldrums…taxes need to be done, it’s another four weeks before the Trout Opener, the cold, rainy November weather we didn’t get in November is here now…and seems to be hanging on in Vermont while Hendricksons are hatching early in the East. The anticipation of our Opener usually brings about a focus, but the gear’s long been sorted, flies tied, new reel set up…with little to do but wait, my attention span seems pretty short these days.

I can’t resist and The Wife chuckles knowing that it’s never going to be in the budget, but I would gladly own a vehicle for every day of the week; and two for Sundays…as long as I had the garage space. I can’t buy but can still look, and anyone my age as young as I might love their next fishing vehicles to be one of these recent concepts from Jeep.

Jeep J-12

The Jeep J-12 Concept…a knock off of the always macho J-20…

Jeep FC

The FC concept is as a tribute to the unique Jeep Forward Control that was sold from 1956 and 1965.

You could, however, get your mitts on this oldie but goodie…I remember the first one I saw, in Tuolumne Meadows I believe, in green.

A 1970 Jeep Jeepster Commander…with a special and patriotic Hurst package…

A 1970 Jeep Jeepster Commander…with a special and patriotic Hurst package…

On stopping a damn dam: Could it be that all those Californians that long-ago brought a housing boom to Washington State brought more than their luggage? We in the not-anymore-so Golden State are too familiar with the fight over water and the damming of rivers, and now Kirk Werner of UnaccomplishedAngler.com is asking for help…and we should give it. A movement is afoot to stop in the preliminary permitting process a small hydroelectric dam proposed for an upper section of Washington’s Skykomish River. I’ve not fished the Sky, but have hopes that as the years wear on that I might get to know it and other Washington rivers in my pursuit of a native westslope cutthroat.

…And you can’t help but like the little guy, but maybe I pushed my luck actually following through with the threat that I’d drop by to get his signature on a set of “Olive the Woolly Bugger” books…but Kirk seem more than willing to sign copies of his books without you hovering over him if you make a Kickstarter pledge that could launch an Olive iPad app…a good idea for fly fishing fathers who figure they could receive the wife’s approval to get more new gear if only they could only pass their current gear down to their kids. I don’t need the books but I’m keen on something that might keep me entertained in the off season interest kids in the hobby.

I lied, so forget what I wrote. I will buy some new gear at the club auction next week, if I can fend off other bidders. A club member (and fantastic woodworker) donated some nice handmade nets big enough for optimism but more in keeping with the size of fish I land. I’m guessing I’m in for some combat bidding.


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what we saw last week… (2012-03-28)

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fly fishing, faith, and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”

While fishing in the Eastern Sierra last year, a buddy more spiritual than I commented that he had no worries about missing services that Sunday, figuring he was closer to God when casting a fly. I figured he was simply commenting on being outdoors and close to majestic and magical natural wonders, though he might have been thinking that we were closer to heaven at 9,000 feet in elevation.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor

A most romantic gesture by a fly fisherman: presenting a fly named after the woman who's caught his fancy.

At one time or another, those who fly fish have come across references or realize themselves that fly fishing can be a journey of faith. In some respects, this faith — call it unrestrained optimism if you wish — is reflected in the everyday of most fly fishermen. This is a central point in “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” with two of the main characters (Ewan McGregor as an English fisheries expert and Emily Blunt as a representative of the Yemeni sheikh played by Amr Waked) overcoming everyday problems such as loneliness, anxiety and lack of direction. Though tagging a movie as one with an uplifting story may be akin to damning with faint praise, it is; just as much as it offers a real view of fly fishing as a part of life, as I’d think it is for many of us.

I don’t think it’s a reach to call fly fishing a sport of faith, albeit with a side of skill involved.

Faith that the fish are where we think they are. Faith that the right fly is on the end of the line. Faith in our presentation. Faith that all those hours and all those casts will lead to something. And this year, in California, faith that already stressed trout will survive what’s shaping up to be a dry year.

Faith is quickly spelled out in “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” as Sheikh Muhammad (Waked) equates his belief that salmon can be introduced to a country with no permanent rivers when asking reluctant fisheries expert and fly fisherman Alfred Jones (McGregor) how many casts he’s made before hooking a salmons. Jones’ answer of “hundreds” illustrates the faith held by the sheikh.

Even fly fishermen — part of a relatively conservative bunch in terms of techniques and fly patterns — who ‘break the rules’ do so on faith. Most fly fishermen start out utilizing the practical experience of others as a foundation, but it seems to me, that at some point, the confidence in the knowledge that one is doing everything properly gives way to a faith that allows departure from the norm and tradition. However outrageous this change might be, it may offer a crucial adjustment that will turnaround an otherwise fishless day. I’d go so far as to posit that the fly fishing of our grandfathers — a sport of rules mandating only upstream casts and high-riding dry flies — has shifted, for better or worse, to a more inclusive and adventurous pastime that only demands a little bit of faith.

Sure, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is a soft love story about people brought together by a common interest, and while the fly fishing is peripheral, this story reminds me of the connections, relationships and little things that bring people together, as fly fishing so often does. (The book by Paul Torday offers more pointed satire.) The laughs are easy because the actors lend realness to the characters they portray. The film doesn’t have the same sharpness as the book, and a subplot disrupts the main storyline, but I walked out of the theater glad for the experience.

P.S. As for the fly fishing displayed in the movie, it’s okay and only tangential to the story. I’ve not fly fished for salmon, but one scene did leave me scratching my head.


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consideration of a vehicle as fly fishing tackle, and finding there’s no mid-life crisis car for fly fishermen

In the year of my 49th birthday, I’m talking to myself a bit more than usual. Sure, people tend to carefully back away when this happens, but it’s not what you think.

Lamborghini LM 002 : A fly fishing vehicle?

The LM 002, probably the only Lamborghini suitable for fly fishing decals/stickers.

Most of this mumbling is in the car on the drive to work during the early morning darkness — courtesy the early hour, daylight savings and welcome rain — and its rooted in an all-too-common internal dialogue, this time debating the vehicle that might best replace my trusty and economical 2003 Honda Accord sedan in about two years.

By now, putting two and two together would suggest this is about a ‘midlife crisis car.’ I prefer to think that it’s more a reflection of a better financial position, and certainly not indicative of compensation for some perceived inadequacy.

Why the heck would I think about something so far in advance? I’m a big proponent of saving a few thousand bucks buying a certified pre-owned vehicle, which are often covered by a warranty as good as, or better, than those covering new cars.

Unlike those who are retired or freelance from home — with a commute fueled only by coffee — my decision-making process involves a bit more pragmatism. It boils down to a reliable conveyance to the place of work, hopefully with a modicum of comfort at minimal cost.

But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Sporty would be nice.

When it comes to fishing, that better mileage certainly won’t be frowned upon during longer drives to trout waters. Maximization of fishing time requires space for a fully rigged 9-foot rod or three and all the associated fly fishing gear. Until a dedicated fly fishing vehicle joins the fleet, it’d be nice to have enough clearance for the occasional drive down a graded forest service road.  That eliminates sports cars.

Though the EPA ratings of many small SUVs/CUVs are in the 30 mpg range, my Accord regularly hits 32 to 34 mpg on many fishing trips, in the real world, even if that entails traversing both sides of the Sierras. And driving 250 miles a week to work adds up when gas is $4-plus a gallon. Wanting any replacement vehicle to do as well, or better, eliminates any truck and many crossovers. Sure, a Subaru is worthy of consideration, but only the revised 2013 Imprezza and its crossover version (the new XV) offer hope of better mileage, but seem to fail in the real world. The new Mazda CX-5 warrants some consideration, but it’s expected to earn an EPA rating about equal to the Accord. The Toyota’s RAV4 and Honda’s CR-V fall in the same range.

My conclusion is that I have no reason to impress the ladies there is no vehicle to satisfy all of the above requirements.   

Years ago I thought, as I took up fly fishing, that I’d get by with a single rod. While I’m not a rabid rod collector, in a few short years I’ve already accumulated half dozen rods, with each dedicated to specific types of flies, conditions or species. 

But as far as a vehicle goes, and for now being limited to one, it appears that practicality will win this round.

P.S. We’ve been through this before: an improving economy doesn’t lift all boats equally, but always lifts the price of gasoline. Maybe I’ve been desensitized to it, but the price of petrol here hovers near record levels, again, and will likely rise a few more nickels before California’s general trout opener. The journey, the food, and the companionship are all part of the experience. But how much money are you willing to spend on getting to that skunkin’?


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the good side to a bad wet season

The '97 ready to roll.

An excellent combination: sun, clear skies and a motorcycle.

The separation between Northern and Southern California is customarily delineated by rainfall or lack thereof. But not so much this year. The hope of a Miracle March making up for a dry, spring-like January and February is fading fast. I’m just a little bit worried that not all of the recently tied flies will get wet this year.

Still, I shoved aside one hobby for another, rolled the motorcycle out of the garage, geared up, set the choke and pressed the starter. Spark plugs fired, the engine caught, then sputtered and died. I tried a second time, it sounded as if it were flooded. After more thought than it should have taken, it dawned on me that this March day was already warm enough that there was no reason to apply much, if any, choke.

My son and I hadn’t really decided where we might ride, just that we would. But Sean’s suggestion of the Russian River Brewing Co. had lodged in my head, so we headed out Hwy 37, skirting the northern edge of San Pablo Bay (which is part of and north of San Francisco Bay), through the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge — a significant destination on the Pacific Flyway — and along the southern reaches of the Sonoma and Napa valleys. A cloudless sky and migrating birds looked down upon us.

It was good to be in the saddle again, and though we’ve ridden together less than either of would probably like, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve developed enough awareness to anticipate each other and communicate simple messages through hand motions. A bit of this signaling after we passed Infineon Raceway (the old Sears Point) had us heading north toward Petaluma, past green fields dotted by sheep and their lambs. The last dozen miles or so were the least enthralling; this section of Hwy 101 just south of Santa Rosa is always at some stage of deconstruction, and the redwoods on either side of the road always seem dusty, dirty and thirsty.

Soon enough we pulled into the free public parking (bonus!) offered for motorcycles, which just so happened to be behind the Russian River Brewing brewpub. Winding out way past the bar and through the tables, it was immediately clear that this is a popular place. (I’d later find out that, unless you’re a diehard triple IPA fan, stay away when the brewery releases its ‘Pliny the Younger’ — some folks wait up to five hours in line for the new batch of BeerAdvocate’s top-rated beer for 2009.) We tossed our names at the hostess, stashed the coaster-style pager and gulped down a few glasses of ice water.

Russian River Brewing Co. Menu

The tap menu. We opted for the right side...and it was good. Very good.

The pub is appropriately dimly lit, and the dark wood throughout quickly absorbs any sunshine that makes it past the crowd drinking and generally carousing out front. We were seated about halfway between the front and back of the place, and I had an unobstructed view of the tap menu. We’d learn that the left side tended toward ‘aggressively hopped’ beers; the list to the right was comprised of Belgian-inspired ales and barrel-aged (sour) beers. Selecting the beers in your flight is easy: pick one list or the other or both. It was an easy compromise — I was paying after all — and we opted to try the ales and barrel beers, to be accompanied by a ‘Piaci’ pizza (mozzarella, marinara, gorgonzola and pine nuts) and some hot wings.

Russian River Brewing Co. Flight

The traditional thumbs up from Sean, and a well-deserved thumbs up it is.

The grub was pretty darn good. The beers were crazy good. Our tasting included Redemption (blonde ale), Perdition (bière de Sonoma), Sanctification (blonde ale brewed with Brettanomyces yeast), Supplication (sour aged in pinot barrels), Defenestration (hoppy blonde ale), Damnation (golden ale), Damnation #23 (golden ale, triple aged with oak chips), Temptation (sour aged in chardonnay barrels), Salvation (strong dark ale), Consecration (sour aged in cabernet barrels) and Collaboration (IPA style). Only the Consecration was not to our liking, mostly because the cabernet seemed give the brew an overpowering sweetness.

Our favorites — at least mine — included Sanctification (uniquely tart but crisp), Defenestration (a clean blonde with a hop finish that didn’t linger or kill the taste buds) and Damnation #23 (a full-bodied, semi-spicy golden ale offset with a bit of oak). Thankfully, the sample glasses were 2 ounces, and we lingered over bites of the pizza, the gnawing of the hot wings and discussions of each beer.

A few hours later, well rewarded for the hour-long ride there, we started up the bikes and headed east toward the Sonoma Valley, offloading some beer along the way. After a while, Sean peeled off the main road and I stopped to refill the tank (42 mpg) before the final few miles to home.

Perhaps it’s time to think about hunting steelhead on the Russian River; any unsuccessful day fly fishing could be brightened with a visit to this namesake brewery.