Category Archives: Fishing Adventures

The Burning Cold

Beyond the window sill, stained dark from condensed water, lies a world picturesque and seemingly frozen by the chill of the winter air. Perched atop a stool, aswoon for the thought of a pleasurably warm fishing day, I spun cord to steel. Although thoughts of thawing ice stood toe-to-toe with wetting a line on the coldest days, my thoughts were directed to the future. Looking back through my personal patterns, the future is where my sights are usually set. It is always the next change of season. No matter the time of year, if you ask, I will tell you the same thing. “Oh, I can’t wait for winter” or “The best fishing is in the fall” or “The summer season kicks ass!” Even though I am looking forward to the next season, I will tell you that spring is by far the most exciting and most difficult to anticipate. To quell my thoughts of spring, I figure now would be a great time to follow through with the thoughts I had during the fall, to fish the winter. My timing of weather patterns was off. Way off.

welcome

Driving north out of New Mexico was as it usually is this time of year, cold and pretty miserable. The San Luis valley is by far the coldest area in the southwest, and close to the coldest in the lower 48. I know this valley well, for the past five years my journeys have skirted this valley and it has served as access to my favorite fishing destinations. I continued on, not thinking anything was out of place as the temperature varied about thirty degrees from hilltop to valley. The sun was out and that was good enough for me. Unbeknownst to me, a monster was working it’s way south that promised an icy temperature drop. Like fog, humans piled themselves into valleys and scurried about searching for gifts to present to loving families. I decided to pay a visit to some very good friends. The only gift I had to give was the gift of gab (aka “Shut me up before I overstay my welcome”). As I completed my final goodbye, I heard news of the coming storm. “Extremely cold with a little snow. Be safe out there.” I had to push south before the road conditions decided to get out of hand. My stomach growled as I passed through Colorado Springs and I figured it was time to find a rest area, eat some ramen noodles, and slip into sleep as snow began to accumulate on the highway.

ramen

I was twenty miles from my destination and as short as it seems, twenty miles can quickly turn into an eternity with icy roads and fishing on the brain. In the morning, my eyes peeled open, they were out of focus and white covered everything. I thought the worst and as I slowly regained consciousness, I realized that my jeep had been idling for the past four hours. It was warm and the blurry white turned out to be only a couple of inches of snow. Alas! I could travel! The cold wasn’t an element for me to think about just yet. My mind was solely focused on fishing and driving. At least it looked warm enough. I pulled into my favorite little parking spot and sighed. “Finally.”

parking

I knew it was cold, after all, there was snow on the ground. Regardless, I stepped out to retrieve my waders from the back of the truck. It only took seconds before the cold seeped in through my jacket quickly enough for me to let out a “holy crap” and scurry back into the jeep. I sat there with my waders in the floorboards. With my hands on the steering wheel, I convinced myself it wasn’t that cold so long as I did not look at the thermometer on the dash. Curiosity killed the cat and it was 14. Fourteen! I have fished the Taylor in early February, the Pan in late December, the Blue in January, I know this game. By noon it would be 30 and everything would be fine. I’m fine with the cold, but here, it isn’t supposed to be this cold. I briskly hiked to my favorite spot and fog rolled off of the water, it was warm and loaded with actively feeding fish. Standing in the water to stay warm, my facial hair began to freeze with aid from my breath. The snow rolled in and as impossible as it sounds, it became colder than anticipated. It was time to eat something warm and warm myself in the process. The thermometer now read 15. It was noon. When my fingertips came to temperature, they started to itch, a sure sign of frostbite. I am rarely ever done until the day itself is. Returning back to the water, my thoughts drifted back into spring.

action

Thinking about spring didn’t keep me warm. Inward, the coming year had a warming sensation. A warming of the heart. The future is always at hand. Like the cold, the fear is nearly crippling. As much as I would hate to admit it, the anticipation of spring scares me as much as publishing this. The fear of rejection in both cases makes it difficult to move forward, yet excitement of the anticipated end product pushes me to keep going. The burning sensation wasn’t just the cold air and frostbitten fingertips, it was the warming feeling of the coming future.

P.S. Here are some more pictures from the trip!

frozen

winterdry

hailtrout

snowtrout

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More Video!!! Hooray!


Reflection

cbwThey say the eyes are the window to the soul. When, if ever do we see our own? Throughout life, our shortcomings and judgment from others shapes our self image. Those things that we may think we really are. Who are we?

Staring down at the cold, moving water of the river, it began with a simple question. The journey to this water was difficult. As all “uncharted” sections of river are. I asked, “Why?”. Why did I drive for three hours to get to a place that required over an hour worth of hiking to get to? There was not a person to be seen in the canyon, not a single car in the parking lot. Emptiness. The river rushed through a place untrodden while a similar river rushed through my heart. I was here not because it was exciting, but because I needed to connect with something so similar to who I am. Searching for fish is only an excuse to search for something within myself. For the first time this year, I was able to think.

My fingers dipped into the river, the cold water like refreshing air, a gasping inhale after holding your breath too long. It brings to mind those visionaries whose psychic abilities only function upon touch of an old item to see if it has spirits attached to it. That water moving against skin flashed visions of those spirits. Among all of this, this canyon, the coyotes, the eagles, the heron, there is a river that represents life. More importantly, it bore my own reflection. Looking upstream to waters I have seen before, this day I had to move beyond my comfort zone. Downstream, to the future, to the heart of the river, to the heart of me.

I hiked down in an attempt to wear myself out, to get the feeling that I would never make it out. I needed to feel like I was alive and that life is fragile. Continuing on, I passed beautiful sections of water that held fish, passing bend and pool, log jams and riffles for no reason but to get to a destination that I never knew existed. To see if the river stopped where no one was looking, to see if it ever gives up or gets tired. What I found is that the river is absolute, it is relentless, it shapes the world around it yet allows the world to direct it.

Even though I was not aware, I had stumbled upon what I was looking for. It was a hole containing an abundance of fish. With every few casts, the river began to yield the treasure it held beneath that magical separation of water and air. As good as it seemed, above and below this hole seemed to be dead and void of fish. Even hiking out from the canyon I fished to no avail. Looking back at the path I had taken, I realized what the river was trying to say. I had taken this path that lead to a place. That path is where I stand now and looking upstream at the sunset, that path is directing me to a new horizon. To a sunrise that never seems to lose her grandeur. Reflecting upon the looking glass, I saw my reflection conjured by the river. Maybe I had found what I had been searching for all along.cbrowncbow


From Birth to Change

My birth into fly fishing began at age ten. My father, brother and I combed the shores of Bluewater Lake for catfish twenty years ago. Instead of finding catfish, we found a trout. At the time, I had no idea exactly what it was, but I did know that it was cool looking. My head was then wrapped around this fish. My nose buried in untouched books and magazines. My mother probably thought it was a child’s addiction, a passing phase. We were all unaware that this was a precursor to a life made from that addiction. A life so infused with fly fishing, time away from the water seemed like an eternity. Fly fishing ruined my life and saved it at the same time. Relationships were lost, friendships destroyed, all for one goal. To fish. The Lake...

Naturally, after twenty years, I returned to this lake. The lake of my fly fishing birth. Things had changed wildly. Upon my departure in 2002, the lake was so low and temps so high that the goldfish and white sucker population exploded. Gold bands largely covered the lake. Around the same time, Ramah Lake turned over and died taking its huge largemouth bass population with it. For the time, fishing was dead. I took my leave to Florida to study the worthless career path of “Audio Engineering”. Just before I left, there was talk about introducing bass to the lake. Then, talk of tiger muskie. The operation had momentum in 2003 when I returned. It takes a few years to grow a muskie and as I hiked down to the shoreline, thoughts of age began to surface. The oldest fish in this lake is ten, and we broke the state record five times last year. If you dig around in the world of studies and boring graphs, you will find that on average, these fish should only be around fourty inches. Not here, records are already topping fifty inches. This place has become world-class and it will remain that way for the next ten years.

I sat down on the broken shoreline and stared out across the lake. I was looking for signs of muskie. Ducks dove down into the water catching my attention, tricking me into the thought of swirling fish. There were no signs of fish, just calm and very cold water. I began casting clousers and other small flies to no avail. After the first couple hours, the story was about missed hook-ups and failing gear. I even had one snap a hook in two. Something wasn’t right. I tied on an articulating streamer pattern, only about five or so inches and the only one I had tied. On the second cast, I hooked up and lost the fly.frayed

It wasn’t long ago that I was out here and it happened in the same way. I swore I would come after the entire race to retrieve my fly. That day, I tied a ten inch double articulating fly that looked strikingly similar to a parrot. This could have been fueled by my subconscious hatred of parrots, but it was created to be big and bold. I tied with revenge on my mind.

On day two, I threw caution to the wind and tied on the monster. Within the first few minutes I had a fish in hand. They continually came after it, the fly bombarded by swimming baseball bats with teeth. In the wake of each miss, the fly would shed some hair and feathers, floating debris after being struck center mass by a torpedo. The fish came abundantly, sometimes waiting in the dark three feet from shore to come screaming out of nowhere. It became a suspense movie. My little brother was reeling in his lure humming “Pop!  Goes The Weasel”. Automatically, when turning that crank, you know a scary clown will pop out of the Jack-in-the Box. The question was, when? The clowns who stood before me in this lake weren’t happily colored clowns with red noses and a chipper attitude. These were voracious predators. Imagine a hand crank on the side of a lions cage, that is about the level of fear that works through you when you are trying to entice a strike from an unseen monster with a mouthful of razorblades. You expect the clown to jump out of the box at the end of the song. It never happens that way. Ever. That isn’t even the worst part of it! When you look down at the water and your fly, you will see the shadow lurking behind it. Even when there isn’t a shadow, your mind will create one. You will dangle that fly in front of the shadow, then the shadow disappears. It isn’t over yet. It’s like a dog waiting for you to throw its ball. Before you know it, you are evacuating your bladder while this fish tries to rip your arm off. You thought you would be casting until your arm turned to jello, but it isn’t the casting that gets you. It is the huge takes. They even give you a warning twitch! As if to say, “Hey! Watch this!”the take

The excitement never really ends. If you aren’t a smoker, by the time you finish muskie fishing, you will be. Just one to calm the nerves, just one more to calm the nerves… I couldn’t tell if my hands were shaking from the cold or from me being on edge. I walked around the corner into the sun for warmth. A cast and an immediate take and set. I didn’t know I was on with the biggest muskie of my life. As it lifted it’s head, I realized this fish could potentially put me in the hospital. I couldn’t tell the difference between excitement and fear. My whole life lead up to this moment. My life of fly fishing started here. Events of my life had been changing, as did with this lake. We evolved together. Even though we had our times apart, maybe the beginnings will be our future endings.Monster


I’m Alive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not much to say here… The season is tapering off and I need to put forth more effort into editing some things. Here is a snack.


Apex Predators, Lack of Teeth and Renormalized Rationality

tigerHumans like to believe that we are top tier predators. For most, it is true even without the use of weapons. For others, fearsome spiders and snakes reduce the ability to be any kind of predator at all. It is just a part of the human condition. Take away all we have and it wont be long before animals find out that we are delicious and slow bags of meat. What makes us the most voracious predator that walks the Earth is our ability to reason and control the environment around us. All predators do it to some degree. The Orca whale is a great example of this. Thanks to opposable thumbs of humans, we now drive cars with vanity mirrors and cup holders. To me, vehicular travel seems to be one of the most irrational things that humans have done. Why do I mention this? Imagine that there is only one car in the world. How much money and manpower would it take to create and maintain that single vehicle? You need a metal foundry, mines for each alloy, oil wells, refineries, and factories to produce all parts of the car. In terms of human survival, it makes no sense at all. According to some scholars and theorists, the only rational thing in existence is a computer or general computation, simple machines, artificial intelligence. To some degree, fish are simple machines with instinctual, rational thought. At least, this is how I see it. Days of a certain length, water of a specific temperature, optimal flows or height of water, and fish behavior can produce specific results. Fish do not retain memory of the past day, trout do not remember the exact look of the pteronarcys californica. They do know they are hungry around the second week of June. With this being said, there must be a certain instinctual reaction to insects. Much like a moth to flame. They just have to. Machines reacting to the environment.

It was day 33 in a row of work when I noticed a very distinct pain in my mouth. A tooth decided that it wanted to go. The pain was intense. The road trip that ensued was to get to a dentist, 4 hours southwest. I picked a doctor where I had planned on fishing, closer to where I grew up. Why not fish for something toothy when I had lost a tooth? It makes perfect sense to me, to desire the unattainable. Little did I know, my wisdom had slipped away, forcefully pulled from my mouth by a man given a doctorate by peers. Ironically, my line was also dangling in front of fish who should also have a doctorate. The elusive yet prolific Tiger Muskie, a true top tier predator. Their Achilles heel? Anything moving. The catch? They manipulate the environment around them, if your fly doesn’t fall within that harvestable world, kiss your chances goodbye. I see these fish as more curious and apt to strike at a moments notice. Very much like when your brother or sister points at you in the back seat of a car on a long road trip and proclaims, “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” Instead of slapping your sibling or telling on them, in the Tiger Muskie world, you would just simply eat them. That seems pretty rational to me. Rationality, by definition, is having the ability to reason. When a muskie looms a couple feet away from your legs, staring down your fly, you can see reason taking place. You can tell the fish is thinking. You know that it can see you, but can it also see you reason? This is the point where it becomes a game…workin

Fishing is a sport. Plain and simple. Fishing is not a means to attain food. I’ll go to the store and buy a fish to eat before I sit behind a vise for hours designing, thinking, redesigning, rethinking, and repeating. There are so many options of materials in the world of streamers. They begin as just options for coloration and become materials for the science that is swim. Back in the water, predators do not sit reading books of what it is that you will tie, but everyday they will see something new. Something you might already be working on. Everyday you are gone, they learn, they evolve. I can not help but to think the predator also sees you as sport. Like a dog with a towel, it just wants to see if it can beat you one time. Since I feel that these fish are involved with this game, I must play it. The game does not lie in the fight, it is enticing predator and predator into that fight. The acknowledgement of two warriors about to engage in battle, because the fish knows you are there and the acknowledgement is taking your fly.

Although game theory leans into mathematics to hypothesize the rational outcome of an event involving two competitors, one competitor always wins. To further dive into the theory, what happens when two rational players are involved? One would think the universe will fold in upon itself and we would end up in an eternal stalemate. Unfortunately, there will be no universal paradoxical conundrums here. 😦 The simple answer here is both players end up with zero loss or only gain, renormalized rationality. When fishing for predators, we are in competition. A game of evolutionary gain. They call the muskie “the fish of ten-thousand casts”. To me, on cast ten-thousand, you have just changed the game. You dropped your guard and became more like prey. Your actions of stripping became lazier and more erratic, your casts shorter, you sat down and became tired. You changed the environment by accident and by doing so, invoked the wrath of an apex predator that never drops its guard. Next time you are out there on the water with predators, rather than constantly changing flies, play the game and manipulate the environment around you. Change your game and attitude and you will find your huckleberry.photogenic


Mud, Guts and Glory

mudhdr

Fly fishing is for the sophisticated, the rich, the people who define class. As Johnny Cash would say, “They’re probably drinking coffee (whiskey) and smokin’ big cigars”. For most of us, this could not be further from the truth. Well, maybe coffee and cigars… People tend to view fly fisherman as a fine sort, a lot are, but most fly fisherman get down and dirty. Even further down the line, a select few get downright muddy. No matter how you try to glorify it and put it on the pedestal for those who only fish dry flies, the attempt can only be futile. Those who are “trout only” turn their noses and think of you as living in a sod house as they say, “Oh, I’ve heard that can be fun”. Please, allow me to get my straw hat, flannel shirt (or no shirt), and overalls. It is time you finally went a carpin’.

elkcarcass

The trip started out as a normal seven mile exploratory search around the lake shore. I was looking for trout who have remained unpressured for years along a section far too dangerous for boats. Fishing went very well, almost good enough to write about. I’m sure that you are reading this because you are not interested in 20″ trout. Right? On my way back, I found shallow water and saw fins drifting amongst the waves. I have read about this before. They call it the “freshwater bonefish” because you can see their fins moving about the surface, doing whatever it is that carp do. At times they would hurl their bulky bodies into the air so far that I would wonder how. Super-carp, that is the only reasonable answer. I stood in the mud awestruck, thinking how I could catch a beast like this. Digging through my fly boxes, I remembered tying a fly that I deemed curious looking. The Backstabber. Why? I have no idea. What does it look like? Well, like a classic poem, it is up for interpretation. In fact, you are wasting precious carp fishing time trying to figure it out. Buy one (or a dozen) and fish it.

Please take some time to read this letter that I am sending to the creator of the Backstabber.

Dear Jay Zimmerman,
You are the man!
Thanks,
David

backstabber

Where was I… Oh yeah! The brilliance of the fly is unparralelled. The secret is in the physics. Eyes on top of the hook shank put added torque on the fly to make it ride hook point up, but if you affix dumbbell eyes without any dressing, it will lay on its side. The marabou is what aligns the hook vertically, no matter how it lands in the water, it will right itself on the bottom. If you play with this fly in the sink, or take it with you to play with in the bathtub, you will clearly see what this fly is all about. It is a delivery mechanism for a hook to ride point up cleverly disguised as a… ummm… Well, whatever it looks like, a carp is about to be bamboozled. Think about it. Carp, mouth down. Backstabber, hook up.

I tied on the fly and in seconds I was into fish. Time began running away and I was still a mile away from my car. A mile through the mud. It was dark and I had caught more carp than I could fit into a couple hours of fishing. I was bursting with joy and excitement. I had to tell my friends. I received the typical blow off from some and others gave me a heck yeah, but one remained keenly interested. Sure enough, he’s English. A man who goes by the name Adrian, who happens to be a fellow guide. We had loosely planned a trip to chase these fish around the flats, but never really got around to it. In the mean time, I continued fishing after work until sunset, giving carp their daily workout. Also catching those pesky trout and pike.spotless rainbowpiked

The day finally came where Adrian and I both had some free time. We hiked down to the ol’ carp hole to give it a whirl. I told him that he would and showed him how to fish the fly. In no time, I saw a bent rod out of the corner of my eye. I smiled, knowing his feeling. “Absolutely incredible”, Those were his first words upon landing it. I needed no other words. I knew. I had spread the disease of the grungy fisherman.

adriancarp

The moral of the story is (if you are still reading), if your friends make fun of you for carp fishing, you need new friends. It takes guts and a strong forearm, the payoff is glory even if it is just in your own head. This post is out of the norm for me, but the only life changing thing about carp fishing is catching carp. I’ll take the easy way out and post a big carp picture.

hairy knucks