Category Archives: Fishing Adventures

The Escape

The sun beats down on the water as pearls of focused light spray themselves across the projector screen of a stone face. The drama unfolds in some futuristic, alien movie. Untranslatable and silent playing a message across the world at all times. It is a moment of zen, of purity.

The breeze gently slaps waves into the hull of the boat and against the shoreline allowing a subtle break from the heat. The prime function of the cooling evaporative effect in the human body working in overtime. Beneath the surface of the water, mechanisms are working in concert to sustain life. Life is making decisions of it’s own, choices to eat or die, to be prey or be predator. From atom to amoeba, from insect to human. All right here for a reason. It is chaos on an imperceivable level. It is output and work to maintain what we simply know as life.

Far beyond this place lie structures, concepts, ideas. The notion the we are in control of this chaos. A place where we think we can turn abstract complexities into something more pleasing. Something measurable. Geometry. Utilizing science to define, to predict the coming of something else. To assume we can fathom the concept of life itself. The constant turmoil of our machines, and the chaos of trying to get somewhere within a certain measurement of time. Bickering over self worth and ideas to manipulate the thought processes of others to be like us. Numbing ourselves with scenes of violence, with keeping up with the Joneses, with contributing ideas to the idea of how society functions and keeping that ideal of what we should be. All the while keeping us believing the chaos is controlled. Delivering peace through the word “because”.

Seeing through the eyes of the nascent, surrounded by the chaos beyond the city walls, magically floating on water, squinting as though seeing the sun for the first time, I am. I am here, part of this chaotic situation, at peace. Shrodinger’s cat, both alive and dead, unobserved and unable to observe those who live in the cities. Both answers unknown to either side, I have escaped. Only manipulated by the abstract concepts surrounding me, only defined by my impact upon it.

 

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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


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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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…


Here Comes the Ice Cream Truck!

When I was a kid, it was a bell, it was a child’s call to arms. These days it is bad digital music through a megaphone often precluded by a child’s voice saying “Hello!?”. A process that further complicated the simple world of the ice cream man. I do not wonder why hordes of kids carrying pitchforks are not chasing these big white box trucks around. They have gone too far trying to make the truck acceptable and cool. What ever happened to good ol’ bright colors? Unusual, bright color combinations that just attracted children. Blue ice cream and hot pink sprinkles!? Yes please! There is something otherworldly about the colors, as they are not commonly edible. Why do kids love them? The answer is ultra simple. Curiosity.

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It is common in science to conclude that animals have minds equivalent to young humans. They can accomplish seemingly complex tasks in the wild, but when it comes to processing new information or training, animals seem to have trouble. We can teach them to speak sign language, yet it does not give us much insight into the way they think. We can only observe. Maybe observing a young child’s behavior when it comes to food can give us insight into highly educated fish. Which takes me right back to ice cream.

When I was young, chasing after the ice cream truck was a habit. If my parents did give me money, it might have been a dollar. Enough to get an ice cream cone, probably bubble gum. Yes, I wanted something more than bubble gum ice cream, the coveted “Rocket Pop”. It was $2.50 if I remember correctly. Never had enough to buy one. Something about it called to me and I can’t quite pinpoint why. It just looked like unending bliss, or maybe I would fly to the moon after eating one. Who knows?

Nothing has changed over the years. I was digging through my materials one day, looking for some that were rarely used. I saw it. A hot pink northern bucktail. Not something I would normally buy, but this one was perfect. I proceeded to tie some muskie flies. For some reason, I combined it with chartreuse and my brain exploded. Working with the hair took too long and I needed a quick and easy go-to pattern for the times when I’m in a hurry to go fishing (always). I bought up a handful of materials and began to tie. What I came up with was an articulating and suspending, not really fishy looking fly. It was the colors that looked delicious. The “Rocket Pop”.

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I know, it doesn’t look like a fish, but it was never meant to. It was meant to tap into the brain of a child, to make things that looked delicious and unreal. It was the idea that maybe children also have the same primitive instinct and curiosity as a predatory fish. The same fish that spends his entire life hunting prey, knowing exactly which fish to eat. One with senses about as sharp as his teeth. One quick in his reflexes and right in his choices. One with a weakness, the ice cream truck.

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Lesson #20: Be a kid. You never know when it might come in handy.


The Beginning

For twenty years, I didn’t know this photograph existed. It was buried away in a shoebox time capsule waiting for a time when it may be of some use. The use was an ear to ear grin about a time when things were simple, unadulterated. Although it may have been just the simple act of fishing, life was easy then. No quotas or deadlines, no bills or worries, and no liars or thieves. As a child, nobody was out to get what they could from you, their only goal was to add what they could. It takes a child or mother or father to see the real beauty here. Not that I’m saying that those are the only people who will see it. Rather, you have an element of one of those within you. To others, it is a poorly handled and obviously dead, fish. I would sacrifice that fish again, if it meant that I could live it all over the same way.

That's me on the left!

That’s me on the left! Please also note that I have the same hairdo.

Life beyond that moment was changed forever. In the following weeks, I would pick up fly fishing. For me, there were no hand-me-down rods and reels, no mentor, nobody to tell me right and wrong. Just magazines and books totaling endless hours at libraries and grocery stores. A kid dreaming about his first fly rod through a Bass Pro Shop catalog, asking his mom what we could and could not afford. In reality, we couldn’t afford any of it. Christmas that year would tell a new tale, beginning the life of a fly fisherman. Not one who entered by means of indoctrination, but one that entered by the majesty of the fish itself.

 

Through my pleading, my parents would take me to wonderful places. Montana, Colorado and Wyoming were some of the most memorable places. For some reason, New Mexico was where I could really get out and explore. It is where I felt the most comfortable. While looking through these photos, I realized that I had a fishing outfit. A very large white shirt. Most of my clothes belonged to older and larger people before they found their way onto my back, but no matter, I was doing what I loved to do.

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The first place I ever fly fished will remain in my heart forever. It was my companion and mentor. It was my teacher of life and self reflection. It was, in essence, a hero of mine. As the years passed, it remained a constant in my life and showed me some amazing fish along the way. The beauty of the canyon and the wildlife within it were my escape through high school and may have also been my saving grace from drugs and other crime amongst my childhood friends. The creek was there through it all. Rather than go to a party, I would find myself wanting to fish. Life just worked out. In the long run, everything was ok. I only ever saw one other fly fisherman on this creek one time. I think the creek knew me well and felt the same as I did. When I left for Florida, the creek died. It dried out from cattle ranchers damming up the springs and feeders. They killed the trout in the wake of it all. It died from lack of use, lack of people that loved it.

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What happened next, I feel is an odd turn of events. With the drying up of the creek, the white sucker and goldfish populations exploded out of control. The state had no other choice but to put a predator in to kill the rough population. With that, there was new life and a new species to fly fish for. They have grown to their full adult size around the time that I stumbled back to this place, the place that taught me that a river can be a friend too. The place where I found fly fishing. Is it chance?

Lesson #19: Secrets can be dangerous to some places. Without people, your secret can dry up and you will carry it with you to your grave. The real secret is sharing it with the right people.

Side note: One of the photos is of the San Juan LONG before any habitat projects. The hole I’m standing in is the “Kiddie pool”. I’ll try to replicate this image in another post to show you how much it has changed.


Seeing Red

The day started off quite well. I woke up early, took a shower, brushed my teeth and headed west. The brisk nature of high desert winter still loomed from the night before. The sunrise peeked assuredly from mountains slowly fading into the horizon. I felt as though I raced time herself, like the sun was setting again as I drove opposing the rotation of Earth. I was unknowingly driving back in time, back to the Miocene Epoch when ancestors of the modern Esox genus roamed the deep. Of course, this could have also been my imagination.

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These prehistoric critters have had a lot of time to become more and more efficient. If I was on the Earth for over five million years, I would be one hell of a fisherman too. Time after time, these fish remind you of how long their species has been smarter than ours. It only took us 20,000 years to develop the fly rod that we use today. Even after all of this time we have yet to develop polarized vision. They even have sensors on their bottom jaw that contain little tiny hairs that detect the signature of swimming fish. This is standard issue on these fish! We had to spend THOUSANDS of years just getting smart enough to figure out side scanning sonar! GAH! I digress…

These fish can present difficulties, they are even called the fish of 10,000 casts. There are intensely difficult days and I think I know exactly why. Have you ever brought a muskie up to your fly and it stares at it for a second, gives you a “Pfft” and a giggle as it meanders back off into the deep? Sucks, right? Let us say that someone drops a pink hat on the ground. Roughly 5% of humans would pick it up and wear it. The other 95% would look, but scoff at it instead. Due to the individuality among groups of muskie, they would also rather not wear a pink hat. At least not today. After all, it only took them five million years of being angry and territorial to become more individual. Although the group of fish has very common habits as a whole, each fish also has a set of personal tastes. Call me crazy…

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I looked over the partially frozen lake to find an ice free section of water that has been known to produce a handful of fish. I sat down to dig through my box for the weapon of choice. A green and blue double articulating streamer, deadly in the fall here. After one fish and a handful of follows, I gave up on the fly and fumbled through my box for other patterns. The idea here is common for me. Change flies, cast twenty times, count follows and takes, rinse and repeat. I tried many different patterns over the next few hours, ruling out common streamers and color combinations until one nearly punched me in the face. I felt stupid when I pulled it out of the box. Every other fly that day was weighted. This was not. Just simply a red and black articulating streamer. Armed with a sink tip line, this fly would suspend exactly where and when I  needed it too. Within ten casts, I was into two fish with no follows (follows are usually bad). This means the fish were taking the fly when they saw it. Red. It had to be red. Every other color did not produce results. I really think this was a sign. Muskies are, as usual, plotting against you.

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If you have been reading this blog for the past few months, you will know that the muskies and I are at war. Allow me to paraphrase, the muskie took flies and snapped hooks, I vowed to go after their entire race and here we are today. I should have known they were out for blood when they chose red as their feeding color. The bad color. When landing fish, I noticed they would tightly close their mouth. Unusual for all of these fish to display this. They were telling me something. Getting them to open up requires a simple trick, just put the fish underwater until they become buoyant. Their mouth will open right up. This puts you in a rather precarious position when fishing from shore. Crouched and unstable next to the subject who is in it’s element almost entirely. Mano a fisho. The last fish of the day went well. Quick fight, hook removed, easy release. Until I looked down. A pool of blood was gathering at my feet and the line was sticking to my fingers. I hadn’t injured the fish, the fish injured me. I did not feel a thing. I have nicked my knuckles and other parts of my hand on teeth before, but apparently thumb wounds are like head wounds. It was just bleeding and I couldn’t stop it. For a couple minutes I fished on. I never realized how important your thumbs are while stripping fly line. I had to stop. Since there was no superglue in my Jeep, I went home with my tail between my legs. The muskie won the battle that day, but I learned a very powerful lesson. Never trust a muskie.

Lesson #18: Although they appear soft and cuddly, the muskie is a voracious predator and a reckless surgeon. Try to keep your hands out of it’s mouth full of tiny scalpels or lose your scruples. And by scruples, I mean your digits. And by digits, I don’t mean your phone number.

*Warning!!! Graphic image below!*

Much like bigfoot, the culprit is always fuzzy.

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The aftermath

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