I wouldn’t normally write something for a Monday, but I’m sitting here between Super Bowl commercials marveling at the breadth of the ‘raw honesty’ discussion resulting from a post asking if this raw honesty is needed and how it may be connected to the success, relevance, or execution of a fishing blog, fly or otherwise; or any blog for that matter.
An acceptance that there is a place for anyone’s blog, even if just an opportunity to ‘howl at the moon,’ seems to echo through every opinion and observation, and an inherent support of an interpretation that ‘raw honesty’ means writing what you want to write and letting your personality separate your blog from the herd.
The Internet is a very public place, and an increasingly accessible space in which blogs in various forms arise. According to statistics from Technorati and Blogpulse, the estimated number of blogs ballooned from 3 million in July 2004 to 164 million last year. This diversity gives voice to authors that may have never been read if not for a blog, and I think we are all the better for it. I’m happy to see that I’m not the only person who’s grateful.
There seems to be little glory in blogging, and it’s generally fleeting. But like fly fishing, much of the fun of blogging is in the doing. Hooking a fish/reader is a welcome consequence.
Take it from me; teaching kids to share will come around to bite you in the arse.
Thanks to this lesson — perhaps too well learned? — I was sick this last week. (That’s an optimistic “was.” I’m not quite out of the woods, yet.) I’d never heard a death rattle before and I’m not so certain that I didn’t this week.
Stooping over a fly-tying vise would only exacerbate the wheezing, so that was out of the question. I got what work done that I could then filled the days with reading, sniffles, television, coughing, and video games peppered with vacant stares into space. It’s been 10-plus years since I’ve suffered through a summer cold and this go-around has got me thinking that there’s a need for a well-stocked man cave/fly tying room into which I can draw the curtains and sink into darkness until my physical and mental outlook brightens.
With all that time on my hands, you’d think I could’ve devoted time to writing a long and winding piece full of interesting or entertaining words. The desire was there. The mind wasn’t. Like most marauding viruses, this one mysteriously turns one’s thoughts inward, alternately focusing on the suffering and possible relief, with the question “Why me?” creeping forward once and a while.
And slowly I began to detest the technology that allowed me to remain recumbent with the whole of the World Wide Web and all of its blogs in my hands.
Negative thoughts weren’t helped by learning that The Unaccomplished Angler’s apparently less unaccomplished son Schpanky not only gets paid when work is slow at the Carnation Golf Course, he can whip out a rod and pull some beastly bass out of the course ponds. Many young adults entirely dismiss their fathers’ advice, but there’s something almost acceptable about doing so to fish on company time.
There were rewards found in having a lack of mental focus too much time on my hands. I stumbled across a fun blog written by a female fish cop who entertains with tales of life as a mom, outdoor lover and state game warden at Fish-Cop Out of Water, especially things you don’t want to hear. From there it was on to discover Mysteries Internal, with its lyrical writing about fly fishing, fixing up a home and discovery.
It wasn’t a pleasant week. But, thankfully, no fishing trips were cancelled due to this illness.
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*
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.
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.
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…)
Where else can the morning traffic jam of drift boats be interrupted by a moose?...
...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.
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.
blog: (n) web log, a shared on-line journal where people can post diary entries about their personal experiences and hobbies, with postings usually in chronological order.
For me, writing is work. Blogging is for fun.
I began my career in writing 25 years ago, long before the words “web” and “log” merged to create the everyday term. My livelihood revolves around news and analysis, and I still enjoy it after all these years. My blog is a personal extension of what I do.
It seems that I began to flirt with the idea of writing during my middle school years. The lack of social interaction that comes with being a nerd left plenty of time for other things. So, I spent time in front of an IBM Selectric typewriter, pounding out stories based on the fictional futures of classmates. The choice of a journalism class as an elective during my sophomore year in college brought me to the attention of the school newspaper advisor and, without thought to the dismal pay that comes with trying to make a living writing, I soon declared my major to be journalism.
Since my college education included a few elective computer science classes mixed in with Journalism 101 and Mass Media Law, within a few years I had become the go-to guy in our small office for software installation (Remember DOS?) or computer repair. Soon I was tapped to design and launch our first website.
[singlepic id=20 w=277 h=360 float=center]
The boys, August 1997, Eagle Lake
My web log grew out of HTML knowledge gained on the job. That first personal website wasn’t in a format that today would be recognized as a blog; nor was it easy to use. It consisted of hand-coded HTML. Any new “posting” required new code, whether it was a simple trip report, a photo gallery or even a link. (Though I launched this website in 1995 — hosted on AOL — the earliest post included on this blog is from August 1997.)
Perhaps it started with a preoccupation as to whether or not I could produce and maintain a personal website, but the struggle to determine content led to the idea of a virtual logbook through which I could share my adventures — the most exciting of which were out of doors — with family and friends.
Laziness also may have been a factor motivating the creation of this website. Back then, sending out an email to a number of recipients wasn’t difficult but email applications wouldn’t allow photos to be inserted in the email body. Everything was an attachment. Without captions or associated text, there was no context for photos. There was also the little matter of Internet dial-up service topping out 14.4Kbps. A website partially solved these problems. My first entry described one of the first camping trips with my kids in the Lake Tahoe area. Flash forward a few years and you’ve got blogging applications that allow everyone into the pool.
The reason I blog, however, has grown beyond a simple recounting of experiences. It’s taken on a more personal aspect. I still write to share experiences, thoughts and photos with family and friends, but after so many years writing and editing dry analytical niche newsletters, my blog has become an outlet.
Here I can experiment with attempts at humor and storytelling. Here I can fail in a most public manner and just as easily deliver the goods in anonymity. At times I curse writer’s block (or the fact that I apparently don’t fly fish enough to provide blog fodder during the lean winter months). Other times prose flows easily.
There’s a vanity inherent in the act of writing, and blogging is much the same. But it offers rewards. Comments, positive or negative, suggest that people other than my parents, siblings and spouse actually read what I write and that my words occasionally spark thoughts. It’s also been a catalyst for friendship and camaraderie, both virtually and in person.
Has my bog changed what I do besides devoting time to its care and feeding? Yes, in many ways. Perhaps most important, it’s knowing that I may blog about an experience that constantly reminds me to truly live in and savor those moments spent doing what I enjoy, so that later I can share the details.
It’s said that secretly all writers want to live forever. Barring that, they hope that their words will live forever. Seems we all got our wish with this little thing called the Internet…and the blogs that live within it.
Let’s be clear. Fishing small high-country streams means the trophies taken home are usually limited to skinned knees, a sore back or scratches inflicted by any one or multiple species of vegetation.
Those who ask how the fishing was probably won’t understand that the trip is more than just fishing. It’s fishing that entails a walk that, longer than expected, become a hike; the stalking of trout so skittish its remarkable they aren’t afraid of the bugs they eat; and the creation of memories that draw a fisherman back time after time.
Where I fish, at elevations of 6,000-plus feet in the Sierra Nevadas and often above 8,000 feet, there are incredible opportunities to sink back into forests most notable for the lack of human visitation. In the small creeks and rivers found under lodgepole and western white pines, red firs, mountain hemlock and aspens, wild trout live a hardscrabble life during a summer that rarely lasts more then eight weeks. The small size of these trout truly belies their spirit.
But that’s not why they don’t end up in a framed photo on my wall. These trout are so darn small that holding a fish in one handle while using the other to fiddle with camera’s macro setting invariably results in a photo that’s too fuzzy to be called “arty” of a fish that would be a snack for what’s traditionally deemed a trophy trout.
But since so many of these high-country trout to obligingly rise to any of the customary trout flies, seemingly regardless of size, the outcome of a photo op can be a bit unpredictable.
the photo that shall not be framed
However, the one photo that will never be framed I also hesitate to share in the blogosphere. Because the fish is so small? Because the photo is so blurry? Yes to both questions.
…but mostly because I don’t know what the heck it might be it’s not a trout.
From the South Fork of the Tuolumne River: Pikeminnow? Squawfish? Hardhead? Your guess?
P.S. I’ve since upgraded to a better and waterproof camera to compensate for my lack of photographic skill.
There seems to be a general consensus in the fly fishing community that if you haven’t broken a rod, smashed a reel or torn your waders, you aren’t fishing hard enough or often enough. There may be some truth to this idea. If so, I have to make up for lost time.
Speaking of lost…
It was one of those warm spring days that finally pushed the long, hard, fishless winter to the back of my mind and encouraged thoughts of the season ahead. I’d started early, as usually, setting up a personal roadside staging area behind my Honda, where I pieced together a 5 wt rod, strung line through the guides and tied on those nondescript nymphs that suggest food to fish in the twilight before dawn. I stood on the old rug to slip on waders and boots. Throwing on the vest, I was ready for the short walk from the road down to the creek.
There’s nothing I like better than mornings alone on the creek, when the lack of sunshine renders polarized lenses useless and tilts the odds in favor of the trout. I waded to the opposite shore, from where I could cast towards cut banks and larger fish holding there.
The sun rose. The fishing was good. So was the catching. By noon the body count was well into double digits. Nymphs had been replaced with dry flies.
As usual, things began to slow down during the middle of the afternoon. One last cast led to one more last cast. Then another. And another. Almost without thinking, I’d cast, watch a fish rise, wait a second, then set the hook and bring it to the net. That’s why I nearly fell over when that last fish peeled line off my reel as it raced upstream. This was one of the big ‘uns I thought.
We danced for a good fifteen minutes. Upstream and downstream; into weeds and around boulders. I don’t know whether this particular trout was finally too tired, graciously decided reward me with a close up look, or wanted a closer look at his adversary, but soon we were at arm’s length.
I reached toward my back and grabbed…nothing. Apparently, and unknowingly, I lost my net — formerly attached to a magnetic net holder — sometime during the late afternoon.
No net and a big fish can be bad news. I never saw that fish and I won’t even estimate its length. Let’s just say he’s now referred to as the one of many that got away; an energetic fish that gave me the fin just when I thought the fight was over.
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”
A main virtue of blogging is that there’s no demand it be taken seriously. Unlike news reporting, there’s no accountability. Unlike writing a novel, paperback or children’s book, one doesn’t have to worry about sales. That’s not to say it can’t or won’t be taken seriously. Like everything else on the Internet, blogs can contain gems of knowledge, humor or insight.
The only pressure behind a blog is that applied by the writer him/herself. Often this self-applied pressure gets to be too much, and a blog is formally retired or slowly slides into oblivion.
One blogger I’ve come to know fell off the radar so fast that the good folks at Outdoor Blogger Network are a bit elated worried and would still like to know where he might be. There’s speculation that he’s retired. I only know that wherever Mr. Unaccomplished Angler, aka Kirk Werner, might be, he’d better not be fishing.
As one who’s also spent a career throwing together words that might mean something to someone, admittedly not as creatively as Kirk’s series of Olive, The Little Wooly Bugger books or his blog, writing means you’ll never be able to afford retirement. So I disagree slightly with Jay over at The Naturalist’s Angle blog. (And I’ll admit to intially wondering if Jay was writing about fly fishing au naturel.)
Recent rumors regarding Kirk swirl like a back eddy around design work for a suspiciously unnamed client and a fourth Olive book. There are other, unsubstantiated reports of both Mr. & Mrs. UA involved in an outdoor activity that smacks of a New Year resolution and taking in a movie. I’d suggest that Kirk has set aside the trappings of fly fishing and has “retired” to his home office to focus on bring home the bacon.
So I think the folks at OBN can rest easy; there’s no need to call on the services of local NBC King 5 reporter “Danger” Jim Forman.
Some say he's a fly fishing machine, others call him Unaccomplished.
From where I sit, based on the sparse evidence so far collected, Kirk is paying the price, as most of us working stiffs do, for spending a wee bit too much time fly fishing. (If there can be such a thing.) Yes, bills need to be paid, and just as important, the family and wife deserve a share of his time.
Once his dog Eddie begins to recognize him again without the aid of four or five Milk-Bones, I’ve no doubt that Kirk, ratty River Guide hat on his head, will leave for his next misadventure.
I’ve been a dad for more years than you’d think and with that has come amazement that the number of candles on my birthday cakes made it to double digits.
Sure, everyone my age grew up without seat belts, car seats, and medications without child-proof lids. Many of my contemporaries rode bikes without helmets, ate sandwiches made with white bread and drank drinks made with real sugar.
Personally, I’m more amazed that I and my siblings survived family vacations in the great outdoors.
I can’t figure out if dad was fearless, just wasn’t being smart or placed such importance on exposing his kids to the outdoors that the risks outweighed the rewards. Maybe it was the fact that we didn’t have innumerable television documentaries underscoring man’s inability to win in a one-on-one battle with nature. Whatever the reason, we were lucky.
There are photos that I won’t share here of me in diapers, in the wilds of Yosemite Valley. That might have been where it all began, but the memories are foggy.
Where we camped for many years, long ago...
What I do remember are the multiple summers we spent in Tuolumne Meadows. At 8,600 feet elevation the weather was changeable. This made day hikes, already an adventure thanks to steep elevation gains and decomposing granite, unpredictable.
While there’s debate among my family as to the name of the lake that was the destination on one ill-fated hike, it’s clear that dad had pushed the limits on that cold and overcast day. With the distance of the hike limited by the length of my youngest brother’s legs, I’m guessing the hike in took no more than a couple of hours. Much of the trail wound in and around trees before rising and emerging onto a wide meadow. Crossing the meadow put us on the shore of a lake nestled up against granite peaks. Back then we carried spin fishing gear, and it wasn’t more than a few casts before a trout made one of the most dramatic, leaping strikes to swallow dad’s Mepps Agila. Small as the fish was, dad stumbled back in his surprise at the strike.
Just about then or shortly thereafter (my memory was muddled by the excitement), the gray of the sky gave way to small granules of something best described as light hail or heavy snow. Not being as keen on fishing, my sister and brother were huddle with mom near what little shelter was offered by a wind-stunted tree. “Jerry,” my mom said, “I think it’s time to go.” Nearly 40 years later I can understand that when fishing, time flies by but those same minutes are painfully slow to pass when you’re shivering in the high country and miles from the remotest fingers of civilization. Grudgingly, dad decided it was better to leave the fish for the sake of his children and, perhaps, his marriage.
The first time we pitched a tent at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground, where, by the way, there are no public showers; my dad’s solution was to take advantage of what nature had to offer. He proudly explained to us that we’d be using biodegradable soap. (It was a novelty back in the 1970s.) Our water source would be the oh-so convenient Tuolumne River. A river that originates from two forks — the Dana Fork and the Lyell Fork — both of which originate from the huge snowpack in the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada. There’s something about bathing in water that only 24 hours ago was in its frozen form. Yet another time we dodged hypothermia.
Then there were the bears. We knew they were there. We saw them occasionally during the day. It’s the times we didn’t see them that still give me chills. There were mornings we’d wake up and dad would show us the bear tracks through our camp; tracks that weren’t there yesterday and must have been made during the night, when I stepped out of the tent for a trip to the bathroom and could have become a tasty midnight snack for one of Yogi’s cousins.
The fateful faithful Sierra cup.
Those mornings dad would tempt fate yet again by preparing breakfast on the flattop griddles that years ago were standard equipment in every national and state park campsite. These griddles were nothing more than flat plates of steel welded to a grill, on top of a three-sided steel box, and naturally were exposed to the elements all year long, accumulating sap, rust and the occasional animal or bird dropping. Dad’s ritual involved stoking the wood underneath the grill with the idea of sterilizing it, then throw on bacon to lube it up before tossing on eggs and toast. While it’s entirely possible he did manage to sterilize the griddle, I can help but wonder if some of the “seasoning” entailed small bits of rust and other things.
In that vein, I also remember being so proud of our Sierra cups. My brother and I would loop them under our belts, and like little men, dip them into the clear streams to quench our thirst. Try that nowadays without worrying.
These are only snapshots of my childhood adventures in the wilderness, and there are other, less dangerous memories of other hikes, more fishing and just being a kid in the great outdoors. Those I’ll save for another time.
I was lucky to spend so much time in the great outdoors. All of these adventures never fail to bring a smile to my face.