Monday, December 31, 2007

Photography and Fishing Go Hand in Hand

I truly love fly fishing, but to tell you the truth there are times when I'd just as soon take a good picture. What an awesome number of opportunities come along during a day on the water, fish (hopefully), water features, landscapes, bugs, you name it. If you wanted to you could spend a great day on a trout stream and never wet a line. But fortunately I won't get that carried away, just almost.

Its sort of a joke with some customers /guide clients who know me that I must drop at least one camera a season in the water. In a watery grave has nearly every camera I have every owned finally found its resting place. Not just the water either, I can lose it anywhere and in any fashion.
And the year 2007 was no different. I had an old friend of a camera, it was a 1987 model Ricoh digital, a gem in its day but a dinosaur compared to the megapixel giants of today. It was one of the first digital cameras, terrible at landscape shots but boy could it take some macro shots. Many customers would marvel at some of the close ups I could get with that camera. I loved it, but as I said before it wouldn't be long before it went down to a watery grave as well. And so it happened.

I had met longtime friend/customer Mike Workman and his son Kyle for a trip to the South Holston. We had spent several hours into some fine rainbows. Some of the 20" fish, so you can imagine how giddy I was in trying to get some photos. Mike's son Kyle, who is learning to fly fish, had hooked two giant rainbows earlier in a pool below where we were fishing. We carefully sneaked up to the next pool, waded carefully out into the water, and Kyle laid a near perfect cast slightly to the right of a very large, what appeared to be a 25" rainbow. The fish turned, cruised over, and ate Kyle's fly like it was the exact thing that it was looking for. Kyle fought the rish, I reached with net in hand, and as I went to scoop the fish.......kerploosh..........Mr Ricoh was in the drink. We landed the fish, admired it, I also had landed the camera at the same time. Full of water, soaking wet, I knew it was toast. And it was! But at least we landed Kyle's nice rainbow. Funny, I took it in stride and invested in a new Canon, which is fantastic. But before my new toy arrived I was out of curiosity looking on eBay just to see if by chance there might be an old Ricoh like the one I had, and if it was for sale. I did one search and click...there it was. It was up for auction, located in Great Britain, and just for kicks I put a small bid on it. Two days later it was mine. I never expected to win it on auction for such a low price. Sure enough, when it came it was an identical camera to what I had.
Too make things even more strange, I was up on the South Holston again with another client/customer Lynn Roloff, and she had a nice brown on, I bent over to net it, and new Canon camera was in the drink. You would think I would learn! In any case, I took the batteries out, let the camera dry for a week, and it was good as new. A miracle! I just knew that I had ruined that new camera.
Did all that stop me from still taking nice cameras on the water? Nope. Funny, I get onto my kids for doing things like that all the time...................go figure.

My Favorite Dry Fly Would have to be a Beetle......

As I sit here pecking away at the keys on this blog I dream of the summer and fall days of 2007 gone by I can't help but think of all the wonderful terrestrial moments I had both myself and with many of my guide clients. It makes me look forward with great anticipation of the coming 2008 terrestrial simply can't come soon enough!

My favorite fishing has to be summer beetle fishing to large fish that are in inches of water. There's something that makes it like hunting and fishing, and in the end one of the things that makes or breaks it is an angler's ability to stalk a fish. What a heart throbbing thrill it is to see a large fish, make a cast to the rear of its position (fish hears fly hit, turns and takes, and never sees angler, line, rod, or leader....). I have seen large browns lift half of their head out of the water. Then you, the angler, have to wait a microsecond as the fish starts down with its head to set the hook. Its interesting that so many folks bypass these opportunities, like walking upright into the tail of a pool without ever seeing the fish at their feet. The problem is that once you spook the near fish, he then runs upstream and spooks the next, and then all of the fish are spooked just like dominos, once set in motion, fall one by one. If there's a way to catch the fish of a lifetime, and maybe the brown of a lifetime, this may be the way to do it. Did I say I love to fish beetles........?

In the above clip, we had been casting to cruising fish in Dunlap Creek near Covington, VA. It gave a really neat opportunity to watch the slow, deliberate rise to a beetle that trout often do. I got really excited, and my first words were "there, he's got it, ....sweet!!!!!......." and to which the person fishing, Mike Perry of Thomasville, NC, whom I was guiding replied ".......that's intoxicating." And it definitely is. Once you've had a taste of it, you can never get enough. I can't wait !

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wild In Wyoming....

Wild in Wyoming........what a wonderful place to be with a fly rod in hand. One of my favorite trips of the past was the group Wyoming sampler trip that I led a couple of summers ago, one which I have done several times. This trip was especially good, with lots of fish, unbelievable scenery, and developing of some great friendships with not only folks I consider great customers, but also friends. Read on in this journey and join me in remembering a fantastic trip in one of my favorite fly fishing places.I arrived early to sample some of the waters we'd be fishing, as well as get to spend some time with our outfitter as well. Our trip log was an interesting one:Aug 22 I arrived early and with all gear okay, which is always a relief when you are traveling this far away to fish. The way I figure it is if my tackle makes it, I am good. If my underwear and toothbrush don't, no problem ----that can be replaced!!! After arriving and picking up my vehicle, I later met John Lilly and Charlie Peters, both of Greensboro,NC. John runs his own business, Cherokee Forest Products, and Charlie is CEO of RedHat, Inc., the developer of the Linux operating system. Once meeting them, we headed off to the Hoback River, only to have very heavy thunderstorms run us out of the Canyon. The water had been low and clear, but it would be interesting to see whether or not this would affect the river. John and Charlie headed back to Jackson Hole for some food, while I went south to Salt Valley to check the conditions on the Greys River, which we would later fish.
The Greys is a 60 mile stretch of water ranging from slick meadows on the upper end of the river to boiling whitewater canyons on the lower end. At the upper end there's a special regulation fly only stretch above Murphy Creek. After catching some beautiful wild cutts, I drove the forest road back down to Alpine. As is normally the case, most all things were closed and I was starving, and found Frenchy's ---a local greasy spoon---was open. From there I headed back to Jackson where I would be getting ready for an early start in the morning.
We rose early, and after breakfast at the lodge where we were we headed out to fish the Gros Ventre River(pronounced "grow vont"), which is French for "Big Belly". The water, also low and clear, was absolutely gorgeous. We grew more giddy as we drove along and eyed its glistening runs and smooth glides. To the left of us as we drove was an area of several square miles that had caught fire and burned the day before. We fished a short bit and then drove by the airport to pickup our friend Denis St Aubin. We immediately drove to get Denis a license. While there, the guys saw two folks they knew from back home, and come to find out--after talking with one of the shop guys there Denis' brother had worked there at the shop long ago. We went to Schwabacher on the Snake and fished some of the side channels and caught some wild cutts, then headed to Flat Creek on the Elk Preserve, caught a few more, and then headed back to get dinner in Jackson.
We got an early start and after breakfast we drove to Elkhorn in Bondurant, WY to meet up with Tim Peters, Don Wackerman, and Paul Critman, famous trailboss and true Wyoming cowboy to the max. Rumor has it that during the 60's Paul basically ruled the town in that he was the Tough guy contest winner and was known as the toughest guy in the Rockies! After meeting up with Paul, we headed off to fish the Green River above the Warren Bridge, a super stretch of fly water. We fished #2, #3, and #8 and caught lots of wild rainbows and browns---which are plentiful in the Green R. Around 4:00pm we headed off to the trailhead and the camp where we would be riding out of into the magnificent Gros Ventre and Wind River Wilderness areas. We arrived to a magnificent camp, and enjoyed a fantastic dinner cooked up by our camp cook "Uncle Jim" as he was known by the guys. We had roasted garlic pork, potatoes, corn, a salad, and even a homemade blueberry cobbler cooked in an iron skillet over an open fire. These guys know how to cook, and how to eat!!! Forget your Atkins diet here!
We awoke to some moose in the meadow, they remained at a distance as we watched the bushes shake and bear only a slight glimpse of their large velvety racks. After breakfast by the fire, we loaded up our horses, mine, whose name was Richard, was an older horse. I was amazed at his agility in navigating some of the skinniest and steepest paths I have ever seen. Never would I have believed that an animal this large and heavy could be this graceful and precise. With a little help from Paul and Tim we managed to get our horses loaded, and in a few more minutes were off on the trail to the Waterdog Lakes, some beautiful lakes that would prove to be a cutthroat paradise. It was incredible. Over the next four hours Charlie, Denis, John and I would go on to catch well over 100 wild cutthroats from 15-20", and some of the largest were 22-23". It was unreal, not only were they abundant, but they were nearly dumb as rocks! Around 4:00 we'd had all our arms could stand, and knew that a 5 mile horseride was ahead of us. Being in real grizzly country they didn't have to ask us twice if we were ready to leave---especially since there was evidence on many of the trees that a grizzly or perhaps several had ripped the bark off trees looking for worms and grubs --which they love to do. We did see a wolf that remained at a distance as we rode, he watched us but never would get close to us. We returned in camp to a Steak dinner, with Garlic mashed potatoes, cowboy beans, and bread.
After another unbelievable breakfast, we packed the horse up again and Denis and I rode out with Tim to fish Twin Creek and Big Twin Creek, where we fished tons of beaver ponds that turned out to be brimming with wild 10-16" brookies---these fish would suck down a large dry fly with gusto. Denis caught maybe a dozen nice brookies. Charlie and John took a couple of the guys' Polaris ATV's to Jack Creek just over from camp, where there were also beaver ponds. They caught several as well. The Wyoming backcountry is loaded with literally thousands of miles of small creeks like this that literally never see a fisherman. Period. No wonder they attack most any fly. In the afternoon, we returned and packed up our gear, told the guys good bye until next year, and we were off on our way. We headed back to Jackson where we stayed the night and got ready for our next several days of fishing. There's something about backcountry fishing that changes you forever.....and even today the guys still talk about it.
We got up early, grabbed some eats at the Virginian in Jackson, and headed off to fish the fly water on the Greys R., a beautiful wilderness river that is to the south of Jackson, and in the town of Alpine, WY, and the Salt Valley, which interestingly is just above where the Greys meets the Snake and then flows into Palisades Reservoir---out of which the Snake flows as the world famous "South Fork", a cutthroat dry fly fishery that is regarded as probably the easiest quality dry fly fishing in the lower 48. On the Greys, we turned up and access road and drove the long gravel road, which is full of overlooks and nice vistas....not to mention a couple of places that you could run off the side of the mountain and fall several thousand feet if you weren't paying attention. Yikes!!!! But we headed up to the serpentine bends, above Murphy Creek, to the special reg water. The river changes significantly in character here, the crashing, whitewater nature of the Greys becomes a meandering, beautiful, flat, and gorgeous piece of dry fly water. We fished a couple of different areas, and caught lots of 14-18" cutthroats. I remember parting with Denis and Charlie while they fished the main channel, I walked up a side channel, which at first only held a few inches of water. The side channel, which was maybe a hundred yards long, had several rising 18" and over wild cutties...and they were rising. I picked them off in order, each of them finding a Red size 12 Turck's Tarantula to their liking. What an awesome place....a wilderness, and nearly 60 miles of river in which in two days I nor anyone else saw or ran into another angler.....and this is the busy season? We finished up around 5:00pm and then packed it in for the hour and a half drive back to Jackson.
After another huge breakfast, we headed up to fish the upper Snake and waded several side channels upstream of Grand Teton Nat'l Park. We caught lots of 12" cutts, Denis and John both each caught an 18-20" cuttie. We saw a brown trout that could have been used for a canoe paddle....easily 30"+ and many pounds. As you might expect, when we got into position to make a presentation the fish slowly slithered into the depths of the pool, never to show himself again. We later went upstream and fished the Buffalo Fork where it comes out of Yellowstone, and saw a few fish but no luck. Very windy conditions prevailed so we headed back to Jackson. We ended up having dinner at the Million Dollar Cowboy for one of their famous steaks......these folks know what portions are. One of the steaks would have fed three of us...Unbelievable..but I guess everything is bigger out there. We headed back to the Lodge for some shut eye, and were getting ready for our final day, a float on the Green R in Pinedale, WY, through a private 10 mile ranch stretch that is loaded with large fish.
Our guide Steve Wilkerson and his fellow guide Tom Smith picked us up at the Lodge at 6:00am, where we piled in their trucks with all our gear and headed east toward Pinedale. We stopped at the Daniel Store in Pinedale to grab some eats, and some last minute junk food and water. We put in in Pinedale, and before we had drifted 100yds Denis banged a 22" cuttbow on a JJ Special, casting to the bank and stripping back as fast as he could. We caught lots of smaller fish, but rainy and very windy weather and a cold front came upon us. We stopped at lunch in a bend about half way through the ranch section, while we were anchored Steve, Charlie, and John noticed a fish rising in the slow water. He pushed water, obviously a large fish. As Steve got out some lunch stuff, a few of his Lays Barbecue potato chips fell into the water and drifted downstream. At first we didn't notice anything other than this fish occasionally rising, but then he started realizing that he was rising more regularly and showing more fervor in his feeding rhythm. Turns out he was eating the small pieces of potato chips!!!!!! As the fish started working his way upstream toward the source of the potato chips, Charlie tossed him more. We watched as pieces of chips floated down....GULP! I could not believe what I was seeing. Wild trout in the Green River in Wyoming eating potato chips... unbelievable. We all knew if we told this back home we'd be risking our fishing reputations. After tossing more chips, Charlie grabbed his rod and with a red Turck's Tarantula made a splashy cast to the fish and just like the chips he GULPED it. As his 4 weight doubled under the weight of the heavy fish, Charlie worked carefully to get the fish under control. The fish made several good runs toward the middle of the river, Charlie was able to get him under control. Steve made a lunge with the net in an attempt to scoop the fish, knowing that if the fish took off he'd be gone for good. The fly popped loose and one of the largest fish we'd ever seen disappeared into the unbelievable story that just became more so!
We headed back to Jackson, had some Mexican food at Apuelito's, and enjoyed our last evening in this wonderful place----as we would all be rising early to catch our flights back to Greensboro. As were had dinner and recounted all our memories of the week we all talked about next year.....the places we'd maybe return too, all the great wilderness scenery and incredible fishing there....and even the flies we'd used and what we'd create or tie of our own--and what we'd bring next time. Then the real question came up.......a Potato chip dry fly? Maybe we've gone too far....
We will be doing a return trip here in 2008. Anyone interested in finding out more about this trip or in going can contact us via our website .