Monthly Archives: July 2018

The New Guy

Throughout school and beyond, I was an awkward person. I guess it rings true today as well. I don’t dress right, never did, or fit in within social groups. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends. They just happened to be in that same “the weird people” social class. It was the waiting room of sorts, the people you hung out with while you were waiting to be a cool kid. Not me though. I was a permanent fixture. I was made fun of a lot for having big ears or just being generally weird looking. Totally ok with that if you are concerned.

Bluewater Lake seems to be that same sort of outcast, the underdog. If anyone knows me, they know that I constantly root for the things and people I see great amounts of potential in. This lake, as sad as it has become to watch a struggling environment, is one of those places. I’ve asked and suggested on numerous occasion to stock new and interesting fish to fill the gap between super predator and minnow. The state usually responded with a canned “no” and a slew of reasons why my ideas were not the best courses of action. Understandable, I’m quite used to it.

Last year, we heard rumors that a couple of private ponds on the west end of the lake had overfilled their boundaries. Ponds loaded to the brim with sunfish and largemouth. We didn’t think much of it, but hoped that something cool would come of it. Time went by and we fished for trout with the back-handed excuse that we were really fishing for something else. To fit in. Come May, nothing interesting happened. We did see a couple of photos of perch and sunfish, but using these fish as bait is both common and illegal. We thought nothing of it. There is no way a dumped bait bucket could survive in a population density of musky that rivals all other lakes on the planet. It would take tens of thousands of perfectly placed fish for them to take hold.

In my years, I’ve gone through the rounds of seeing this lake ride the rollercoaster of having loads of fish and having none. I’ve fished the creek when it flowed year round and was chock-full of little rainbow trout who made their way up the creek. I watched it dry up and die. I’ve seen the white sucker population explode and been through throwing 5-6lbers on the banks for the crows. After that, goldfish. The state response, at first, was the implementation of largemouth bass. They grew to great size very quickly, but suddenly disappeared after the musky were stocked. This was all over the course of about 6 years. Then in 2004, 1.1 million sterile trout were stocked, a deviation from the norm due to whirling disease in the hatcheries. For 7 years, things remained the same and the goldfish were gone. The muskies were huge. After 3,000 adult muskies were released, things quickly spiraled out of control. Their food quickly disappeared and the muskies began to starve. The stocking program could not support it. By the end 2016, the lake had reached a low I had never seen and the future looked dismal.

This lake has held (at some point or another) multiple records for every fish that has lived in it. Even rainbow trout. The distribution of the food web for minnow, insect and algae eaters is one of the best in the state and can grow fish to their full potential. Pair that with the long growing seasons and cool summers and you have a lake of great potential.

Enter the new guy, overlooked and typically made fun of. Not targeted or desired, just invisible. Not instagram worthy. A fish full of potential in a lake full of potential. A fish that I am very happy to have. One of the most exciting days that I have had on the water in years. Two undesirables hanging out on the water together.IMG_1417

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Acting On A Myth…

Short and sweet this morning. Not often do I have the opportunity to find new water or new fish. It did happen a couple years ago and might just happen again today. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to find new things in New Mexico, we don’t have much to find. Water, at least. I mean the accidental fish in waters you normally fish is cool and all, but I get to hunt one, to see if rumors are true.

Having a great deal of experience with the fish I’m searching for. But from experience in Illinois, no matter how stupid a fish seems to be, they can also be very elusive. Today, I’m strapping on the hiking boots and darting across fields of boulders to (literally) find the best news of my life.

The crazy part of all of this is, my life does depend on it. My future decisions depend on this fish. It seems mundane an unexciting to some, but I’ll see you later and hope to come back with fantastic news. As anticlimactic as that news may be. Until tomorrow!

To be continued…

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A Day In The Life, Folie à Deux

Whether Rita Mae Brown, Albert Einstein or Narcotics Anonymous mentioned it, the saying holds true. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I wouldn’t define it as insanity, but rather, the human condition. We are unrealistically repetitive in our actions. I have mentioned Game Theory before, but at what point in the game do both competitors rely on pure delusion? Thus, giving rise to Folie à Deux.

The conditions were perfect. A gentle breeze blew across the lake, erasing rise forms as they appeared, but a keen eye can detect a musky’s slow surface roll. “Hoppers” (the minnows who flip out of the water when they are balled up tight) splashed on the surface, heightening my senses. The wind picked up just enough to send lapping waves to shore. Every splash, flip, slip, slop, glop and whoosh diverted my attention. The delusion had set in.

Rookie anglers typically ask what you are using, where you were fishing or how you caught fish. The five W’s and the H. All questions can be answered with one word, time. You can literally throw anything, and if you do it long enough, you will eventually catch a fish. The best anglers are the ones who follow the golden fishing rule; Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Time is one of the only things that humans can’t manipulate. We can’t sense it, it is not concrete. We use it to measure things and psychologists are notorious for making money with it. Unlike money, you can’t get more. Time is both infinite and finite, held perpetually in obscurity.

The one hour clock was ticking. That big, inevitable fire bomb began to fall below the horizon. Sand tainted line slid through the guides of the fly rod with a familiar drone of repetitiveness, a constant reminder of my delusion. Bumping sticks and rocks sent adrenaline to my fingertips. Hold. Wait. Time was slipping away and in my deepest moments of delusion, a crayfish.

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The feel is so similar at first. Much like a large perch can crush a fly with the voracity of a pike. The delusions creep in and make you do things. You set and feel weight before rationality sets in. With time, the process becomes mechanical. Move, cast, differentiate rocks and crayfish, repeat. With each move the outcome seems it will be different. The shoulders slump from running out of time, the depression becomes physical, the body is giving up. The mind remains delusional, incited by muskies out of reach crashing the surface violently. They are on the feed. Keep going.

There comes a moment in every anglers day when the body and mind are in disagreement. Your body is telling you to give up, to leave. The mind, like a child in a bluegill pond, wants you to press on. I should have listened to my body and left. It was not at all prepared for what was about to happen. I made a musky angler’s greatest mistake. I didn’t wait.

Standing on a rock that dropped around three feet into the water, I brought my fly in through the murk washed in by the rain. When in front of a drop like this, it is good to linger for a solid minute or so. Indecisive muskies love to eat right at the shore and sometimes they need a little time to readjust and attack. I didn’t. My body said to move or go home, I lifted instead of lingered. From the hazy depths rose a shadow behind it. My face waxed curious, I kept lifting. The fly broke the surface as the musky exploded behind it. Missed.

I knew that was my only chance for the evening, but the delusion took over entirely. I blame the muskies. Yet, I walked the banks pounding the shoreline. Searching for something I wouldn’t find. Repeating until finished just like the fly that I had tied just minutes ago. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results because the musky told me to.

To be continued…

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A Day In The Life

People do not generally ask what my daily life is like. Being behind the counter of a fly shop drums up comments such as “must be nice” or “I would give anything to be in your shoes”. Unfortunately for most, the assumptions fall a bit short of the real thing. If you really love being broke and being asked “what are they biting on” on a regular basis, the shop life is definitely for you. Lucky for me, I hate money and love answering questions. I also love to be outside, which is what brought me here in the first place. Such a rookie move. I should have just buttered up to someone with a huge trust fund account that likes to fish. A paid personal fishing assistant if you will. (In case you are wondering, yes I would)

Here I sit though, compelled by past choices, trapped in the same fishing conversation I’ll be having for the rest of my life. It’s almost like Groundhog Day, the movie. As cringe-worthy as the movie is, I loved it.

Staring off into the void, that numb indirect stare not focusing on anything in particular, my mind races to flies and other assorted items that need improving. Building and rebuilding in my head until it flows effortlessly off of the vice. Which never happens as poetically as you want it to. Usually just a glob of materials dangling from a hook.

Without further ado, I write to you today, off the cuff. This comes with every intention of answering a question nobody has asked. I guess it fortifies how much I enjoy answering questions. I’ll even ask myself. Really, the only goal of the day is to tie a fly and fish it for about an hour till sunset. Just to possibly entice a musky into the most exciting moment of his life, a photo op.

I have been toying around with suspending style walking flies for some years now. The latest iterations involve restrictions in the articulating joints but tinkering with weight distribution is showing positive results. Summer is definitely not the time for giant articulating flies though. I am, however, going to spice up an X-tail. If you haven’t seen the X-tail video… Here Goes!

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The absolute magic! Shimmer Fringe in bronze, yellow and blue!

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Too big for the omni jaw, luckily I come prepared.

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Voila!IMG_1324

Such a sexy hook! Run through the tulips!

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It is important to note: that is .035 lead free wire behind the barb. It is centerish between the head and tail of the fly. With mass there, in the middle, the fly sways left and right.

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Add feathers… (should’ve picked some more photogenic stuff)

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Add bucktail…

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Add flash…

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Add more flash…

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add even more flash…

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Repeat till complete!

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A tiny morsel of yum.

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Gah! Choices. Too much of a hurry to deal with this!

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Throw on some chill tunes…

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Conditions are PERFECT!!!!

To be continued…


And Then, Rain

“Here comes the rain again.”

It is a line in a song to which I know neither author nor title. For that matter, any of the other lyrics in the song. Probably comes from my youth, sitting in front of the television, singing along to the sales pitch of boxed set cassettes. Hits from the 80’s. The commercials were prevalent in those days and in my innocence, I would think they were the same song. To this day, I remember the lines and sequences of the commercials. Something you would learn after being in a boat with me on a slow day.

I digress… The misplaced line of the song in question is sort of doldrum and probably not about rain at all. It is reminiscent of most songs in the rain genre. Minor keys, sadness, bankruptcy, all elements of rain apparently. These people must come from Seattle where nonstop, boring, minor key rain is a way of life.

It has been 19 years. NINETEEN YEARS of extreme to exceptional drought here in New Mexico. In case you were wondering, exceptional is not positive. All those years I thought my P.E. teacher was complimenting me… Allow me to preface, I don’t live in the mojave or similar, it just doesn’t rain much here. Our record high temperature was 99 degrees some years ago. Our rainfall has just been unusually low. It may change, and I’ll be waiting.

The adage, when it rains, it pours, is fitting around these parts. Most often comes as a surprise to us muggles and meteorologists alike. Not the Louis Armstrong Muggles or the ologists of meteors, for that matter. I can see for parsecs out here and one would think they could see it coming. You can’t. At first, a puffy cloud, a normal anomaly of humankind. Don’t blink, it’ll get you. Much like the rhythm. When I see that water column falling from the sky in my path, I rejoice. Everyone does, it is a powerful virus out here (do I keep referencing stuff… The Thing) that spreads joy. The end of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, cannons and all. Somehow, in my demented little mind, destruction via rain is something I’ve always wanted to be a part of and there is no storm as potentially destructive as a New Mexico storm. It just has nothing to destroy here.

Maybe we do not have big rivers that expand beyond their banks, so what!? Here, both rain and rivers are a new surprise every time.

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Wide Open

Perpetually gray, continually covered in a thin layer of clouds, desaturating the overwhelmingly drab hues of the desert, it gave a sense of twilight. To decode the reasons for the lake to maintain a mysterious air brings me back to my first visits. Sunny day trips were inevitably squandered by the cloud cover looming over the proverbial castle of Frankenstein himself. Conjuring thoughts of the deranged, but the thoughts were not unfounded. Some years ago, someone lost their truck down the boat ramp and when the scuba divers went to retrieve it, they found a different vehicle with an entire family trapped in their car at the bottom of the lake. No sign of the truck, however. Maybe it was the dismal brown of the lake that hid its secrets, maybe the clouds hovering above that covered up what the lake had done. Maybe staying too long could pull you in as well.

During the summer, the water changes from heavily creamed coffee to a chalky shade of green. In neither situation does the light penetrate to see what is underfoot. Could be anything down there, any depth, any creature. Around the bend could be a skin walker or any number of mysterious beasts. The air of the unknown. The landscape and the imagination wide open and empty. Rather than be filled with real and rational, instead, the mind wanders to parts unknown.

Colloquially, it is referred to as “THE DEAD SEA”. No fish in New Mexico is more tight-lipped than the ones found here. All the while adding to the idea that secrets are abound. There is the distinct possibility, they too, fear what is around the corner. Fear of the beasts themselves who lurk within.

We shuttled along the riprap of the world’s 11th largest earth-fill dam. The blackness of the massive basalt structure disappeared at the shoreline. For the second time in my life, the skies overhead were clear. Only, this time we didn’t have a wayward rattlesnake trying to seek refuge in the boat. The high altitude sun was brutal. The air was still and quiet. No other boats or children playing, no airplanes or birds, just a fly line sailing through the air. That familiar whistle evoking the mind’s deepest thoughts of the world.

No fish yet. No carp stacked in the inlet of the mighty Rio Grande, no bass on the cliffs, no pike in the grass. All hope was fading, ushered out by the burden of heat exhaustion. Our options dwindled equally. The last hope was a small population of bluegill and perch that I knew were in the lake. There have been rumors of white bass, but in all of my days I have yet to see one. I sat in the boat looking at materials to jumble together to make a small enough fly and commenced tying the stupidest fly to date. Just a hook with black dubbing and black shimmer fringe. I lobbed a cast at the bank with everything I had left and saw a familiar white flash. Game. Set. Match. I had found the elusive white bass.

…Or so I thought

Maybe the beasts and denizens around the corner, although unexpected aren’t really that unreal after all. Definitely not as frightening. Unless, you are afraid of crappie.

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The Story is Dead

I hope you are prepared to read. I offer no pretty pictures or frill, no shark eating grouper or fail compilations, just words. I know the drill with online articles these days is to leave you hanging and put a thousand words between you and the punchline of the story. Forgetting to make the title clickbait worthy is also a mistake on my part. Who said the rules should be followed anyway?

They used to say, “print is dead” back in the days when blogging was the thing that cool kids do. Looking back on those years, it was. Magazines and books were caught up in a choke-hold underneath the hairy armpit of the all-powerful blogger. For a time, it was cheap (free) advertising and companies basked in the light of offering a lighted keychain to a fellow willing to write about their company. Many, clamoring at a glimmering hope of recognition, jumped on the opportunity. If they didn’t, someone else would. Boy did they learn from us.

In the earlier days when I was reading more than writing, it was about the story. The old it’s-not-the-destination-it’s-the-journey tagline was rampant and serves a dual purpose in this circumstance. The love of fishing brought us to read stories from others about our internal thoughts. We related to one another. We commiserated in our failures. We cheered our fellow man. And the plot thickens…

Times have changed my friends. Each of us, whether in the industry or not, is now free advertising space for those who choose to use it. Fly fishing companies KNOW it happens and can’t say no to it. Which, in turn, forces us to accept almost any offer. The state of the internet knows how to drive sales in the market and has entered “visibility” as pay to play. “The Big Boys” dump money into and focus on relevance (now figured in total postings rather than engagement, visitation and quality) to get that coveted top listing. All fueled by links and clicks over content. Pair this up with the free advertising companies get from posts in the insta that are absolutely dripping in hashtags, and you get a magical outcome. If you’ve got money, even if you don’t know sh#t and your content is sh#t or regurgitated sh#t, you are on top. See what I did there?

I caught wind of this situation some years ago, but didn’t really say anything about it. Totally turned me off of the blogging scene and there was no sense in fighting against it. It was the journey, after all. Writing purely for the enjoyment of another reader seems to be lost in the black and white, or orange and black, depending on your blog settings. They’ve gone back to print and paper. The wordy and unruly renegades of the blog, famished and tired, lay quietly in the dark. Bottom-listed, unshared and unloved (and more than likely working on a book or a publishing deal).

[Insert cat meme here…]

Really, all of this rambling brings me to the point (after only 500 words). The story is lost among all of the internet trash, the top listed filth spewing from articles disguised as helpful with the only goal of selling you a product. Even if the article is profoundly misleading or from a poorly educated source. They have no fear of the publish button on the top right hand side of the screen. Just efficient, content producing machines. They have become popular opinion and their fuel is, “this works, it drives traffic, let’s continue even when it gets annoying”. Here lies the rest of us, telling stories beneath the freight train of advertising. After all, from the heart is not as valuable as from the wallet.