Dedicated to the relentless pursuit of fish on the fly. Welcome to the obsession, I hope you enjoy the pics and ramblings. If you like what you see (or really don't), feel free to drop me an email at And when you're done, get your waders on and get out there, cause the only way to catch 'em is with your bug in the water.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When You Least Expect It

In fishing towns across the west, rumors and tall tales are flowing like cold Bud Light from the tap. Walk into just about any bar in one of these places and you’re likely to find a couple of good ‘ol boys with tattoos of things like elk antlers and American flags trading grainy cell-phone pictures between drags on a Marlboro. Stories lead to fantasies, and who cares if that guy was trolling at ninety feet, you could sure top him on a fly. Then there’s the guy who swears that he can catch ten pound browns whenever he wants. Bullheads are the only way to do it, and if you disagree, your thin cover will be blown and the “oh you’re one of them” comments and “you can’t be serious” looks will rapidly ensue. The conversation might come to a slightly more abrupt end than anticipated and any further prompting of fishing talk might be met with diversion towards ice augers, trolling rigs, or the party for Cody when he gets out of County. When you walk out of there you might have an inclination to dismiss anything they said as redneck rubbish, just a bunch of bubbas having a pissing contest to see whose story was better. (You’ve probably forgotten that just last night you were doing the same thing with a couple of your “civilized” fly-slinging compatriots after a few too many PBR’s.) Try as you might to ignore the outlandish stories, some part is going to stick in your fish-addled brain and bug you until you go prove your superior fishing prowess. And if that does happen, it won’t be until you’ve given up whatever idea it is as hopeless and most likely impossible. For me it was the 100 fish day.

By any measure, 100 fish in a day is an absurd notion. If you were to fish for twelve hours straight, you would need to average just over 8 landed per hour. It doesn’t sound completely out of the question, but when was the last time you fished all day through and had consistent action the entire time? A more realistic fishing day might be more like six to eight hours, in which case your average would have to go up to 12-16 FPH. The more you think about it, the less likely it seems, particularly when you factor in all the time you spend without a fly in the water. The odds certainly aren’t stacked in anyone’s favor on this one. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that it just wasn’t going to happen and so I pushed it somewhere into the “yeah, right” folder in the back of my head.

One unpromising March day a few seasons back, my good friend and usual fishing partner Andrew Drasch and I headed down the Snake River to wet a line. Our choice of area was pretty arbitrary, as neither of us had much of any experience on that river, and pretty much consisted of finding a plowed turnout on the highway and postholing down to the water. With a light snow falling, we worked our way through some runs and side channels until we found a few fish. None of them were all that large, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t go for almost every cast. We both knew it was way too good to be true and wouldn’t last long. With the snowfall steadily increasing and the prospect of a nasty drive home looming in the back of my mind I looked at Andrew and immediately knew the answer. This pod is massive and they’re not done eating. Without a word spoken, we decided we weren’t going anywhere. Whipping midge dry-droppers into a frenzy, we landed cutty after cutty until our gloves were soaked through and fingers lost feeling. Another silent conference and it was decided the fingers would have to wait. Warming them back up later would hurt, but that was later, this action was now and it was happening regardless of how cold we were. We fished until it was too dark to see dries, then switched to double-nymphs on indicators in the fading light and still the fish ate. We were in a war of attrition at that point and finally had to concede defeat when at last it got too dark even for indicators. If we had some of those fancy glow-in-the-dark thingamabobbers, we might have considered fighting on till we froze solid or the fish gave it up. The truly hardened angler might have lobbed streamers in the dark but I suppose everyone’s got a breaking point.

Trudging back to the truck through the driving snow, neither of us said much and it wasn’t until we were well on our way home before our brains thawed enough to comprehend what had transpired. Did we really just do that? Looking back, the numbers just didn’t seem possible. I had stopped counting somewhere around thirty, and that had been early. We’d fished for around five hours, four-ish of which were productive. Andrew had also stopped counting at some point but as we slowly regained our wits it became clear that one of two things had occurred. We had either just landed well over a hundred cuts in that short time or were both suffering from severe hypothermia that was causing hallucinations. Of course the hypothermia idea was immediately thrown out in favor of the 100 fish day. The good ‘ol boys were never going to believe this one.

To this day I’m not sure how many fish we landed, maybe 100, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter though, because I don’t remember every one with their distinct spot patterns, how hard they fought, or which fly they took. They all blend together into the memory of one of the most incredible days an angler can ask for. The frozen fingers, aching arm, and deep stinging line groove all somehow add to it, a badge of honor saying “Yeah, you earned this.” Some days are remembered for tough presentations to picky fish where just one landed makes the day. That day was different, just pure unadulterated fun and earned reward or just dumb luck, I know it won’t come again. Even so, every time I head down the canyon and it’s snowing like hell, a little voice in the back of my mind whispers, “What if?”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fishin with Guy

Another round on the Snake on monday coupled with a day on the ice today produced a few happy campers. Mark and I were joined by a friend's dad who's visiting from Nebraska and showed him how to catch trout in January. He also learned how to catch whitefish. Mark gave up his whitey king title for the day and landed the only few trout of the day, a nice cutty early on and a skinny mac just before we called it for the day. We hooked a bunch of cuts but it seems they figured out how to take themselves off, much to our disappointment. I really don't know how but we lost a good number of them. Quote of the day went to Guy, who proclaimed "this is funner 'n shit!" He's never been fly fishing in January before.
Today Guy and I headed out to Willow Lake having no idea what we were doing. With a bunch of borrowed ice gear including a rather finicky auger we made our way a few hundred yards offshore and set up shop. Somehow I landed a decent mack within a few minutes and Guy followed shortly thereafter. We didn't do half bad for a couple of clueless guys arbitrarily drilling holes and dropping lines down. Guy was just tickled pink fighing macks through the ice and I hate to admit it, but I'm already thinking of another outing...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Flaming Disaster

So after freezing all night camped near Flaming Gorge, Mark and I hit the river and proceeded to produce one small rainbow all day. It seems A section didn't want to be kind to us last thursday. Despite seeing a ton of fish we couldn't manage to even get their attention. The weather was slightly cloudy and there was a pretty decent midge hatch going off but the fish didn't care. I went so far as to drop a striptease right onto the nose of a decent brown and he didn't so much as flinch. Bummer for us. The dogs had a blast despite being cold all night and didn' seem to mind the lack of fish. We're gearing up for another day on the Snake tomorrow and so the midge restocking continues...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Good old Snake River Canyon

After a long night of whipping up bugs, Mark K. and I headed down to the canyon for some cutty action. With temps in the low to mid 20's and a pretty steady snow falling it was chilly but not altogether unpleasant. Mark's never fished the Snake or seen a cutthroat of any kind in person, so after about 20 whities, he let out a whoop that scared the crap out of me and brought in a nice 16 inch cut with some really nice colors. I thought for a split second that he'd fallen off the rock he was standing on and was about to have a really bad day. I guess he was just amped on landing a trout for a change. We popped a few more cuts among the numerous whities and I even managed to bring in a laker. I'm guessing it was on its way upstream from Palisades, but who knows. Seems like weirdness has a tendency to follow me to the snake. Congrats to Mark on a nice fish, way to earn it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dirty Rotten Lying Fish Bums

Anyone who tells you fly fishing is easy is a liar. I know this because it's in my blood. It's sort of a family tradition. I do it all the time and I say it knowing that the person I'm saying it to believes me and may consequently hate me at some later time.
I vividly remember the first trout I ever caught. I remember the gleaming scales, the wondrous array of spots, the sharp little teeth. I remember it because it was enormous, much larger than anything I ever expected to catch. I remember it because I worked so hard for so long. Years, literally.
My grandfather introduced me to the world of fly fishing at a young age. He said it would be fun and easy and at age six gave me a rod, reel, and fly tying kit he had built up. He would take me with him to Pennsylvania's famous Yellow Breeches in pursuit of these mysterious and beautiful fish that I knew very little about. What I learned from him can be summed up in three words. God, damn, and it. Besides permanently searing this phrase into my vocabulary he instilled a belief in me that A. He was not very good at fly fishing, B. Fly fishing was obviously impossibly hard since he was not very good at it, and C. I would most likely never catch anything. However, it was fun eating junk food and hearing him swear (a lot) so I enjoyed it.
The day I finally caught my first trout I was alone on a tiny creek near my house, mostly screwing around. I remember it so well because of how horribly ironic it turned out to be. I also remember thinking I was a genius for a while. Keep in mind, I was still pretty young. I dropped my net in the creek and before I could grab it the current swept it through a culvert. To my surprise and delight it emerged on the other side holding a giant rainbow! God Damn! I'd done it! I ran all the way home with the fish in the net to show whoever was there and get the glorious victory photos.
Years later, after more or less having given up on the fly game, I heard my grandfather's last "GOD DAMN IT!" Not long thereafter, I picked up the dusty old rig he'd built for me so long ago, brushed it off, and tied on a fly. It was about this time I realized a few things. A. My grandfather was an awful teacher. He had the heart but certainly not the technique. B. Normal people like me could catch trout this way, and C. My monstrous gleaming rainbow, which had at this point grown in memory to biblical proportions was not, in fact, any more than eight inches or so. Apparently I had forgotten about a certain glorious victory photo which happened to resurface.
Of course fly fishing isn't easy. But if I'd have been asked if I wanted to go do something incredibly hard and boring for hours on end with grandpa, would I have gone? Of course not. Looking back though, I'm glad he was so full of malarkey and I'd give just about anything to have him tell me that whopper of a lie again.
Quit reading this now and go fishing