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Winging It

Don't Worry, I'm all legal and stuff.
Don’t Worry, I’m all legal and stuff.

Its been a bit since I posted.  Been sick and busy and just haven’t had anything to really write about lately.  I haven’t even been tying really as I have been sick and uninspired to sit at the vise.  There have been a few awesome things that have happened over the past two weeks.

My license came which was cool. I always like having a permit or license for guiding, when I was backpacking and snowshoeing and I had my permit I was one of the only people who did and that felt really neat. There are a lot of guides on this river and a lot of people who renew every year, but it feels pretty wicked to have one again and I always found it to be a more “official” steward of the river or something. I also joined TU as an endorsed guide which is pretty cool for me, and goes hand in hand with being the Secretary of our new Yakima River Headwaters TU Chapter.

I also got a chance to take The Kid, from my previous posts, out on the river for a lesson/walk and wade.  What a time, it felt really good to work on the river and share my expertise and knowledge with someone.  Especially a young angler.  It was an absolute blast talking myself out of a voice, aggressively wading the river with him, and working water while giving knowledge and insight.  This of course brings me to the meat of the post today and what I like to call… Winging It.

Winging It is how I role…like all the time.  Now don’t be “scurred”.  A lot of preparation and thought goes into Winging It.  While I was working on the hiking and backpacking trails of the woods here, I found that nothing ever goes according to plan.  In fact throughout my adult life, just about…nothing goes to plan.  When it all boils down, being able to properly wing it depends on two things, both of which I have become pretty good at: Expertise and The “Dude” Approach.

Expertise:  Pretty simple, you can’t wing it properly without knowing what the hell you are doing.  Knowing your quarry, knowing the river, knowing everything you possibly can, then researching it, testing it, discovering it for yourself, and putting in the time makes you an expert.  Anyone can be an expert, if you put the time in.  For those who know me, really know me, and those who have fished with me, I wouldn’t be a guide if I myself didn’t feel confident in my abilities.  In order to be a “professional” or “expert”, dues must be paid and time must be put in…a lot of time.

The “Dude” Approach: Or being, Super Laid Back.  Its fishing, it shouldn’t be stressful.  Even slow days shouldn’t be stressful.  You just gotta roll with it man.  On any given day, especially when dealing with the outdoors, rivers, and trout, things are gonna happen that are not factored in.  It may be nasty wind, a crummy hatch, leap frogging other boats all day, or just a bad fishing day, just rolling with it and making the best of what you are dealt is a pretty good approach.  “Hey Dude, it beats working,” is a good motto, but being laid back pays off and it feeds into your clients and people you fish with.  This doesn’t mean having low expectations or anything like that, it just means realizing that, “Hey, even if there isn’t any trout in the net, its still fishing, and at the end of the day…it beats doing just about anything else.”  At least for me.  Besides, a laid back or Dude approach keeps things nice and fluid, stress levels are down, and things stay fun.  If I learned anything while hiking the woods with people here, its that enjoying the day for what it is, is the best way to do it.

Winging It requires a lot of preparation.  Lets detail briefly what goes on for me before taking someone out on the river.

It starts with the interweb.  Flows, weather, reports, temps, barometric pressure, fishing pressure, and bug activity all factor in to the preparation stage.  Then, I typically hit the river a day or two before the trip, even if its not a paying client, I still want the experience to be as positive as possible and that requires getting on the water oneself and figuring things out.  I look at myself as a tuning fork for the anglers in my boat.  Its my job to keep everyone on pitch and if I don’t know what tune the river is singing I can’t do my job right.  I refer to my fishing journals a lot as well.  I have logs of data and stories from my time on the river, and going back and reading things from previous years always helps me get in the right mindset for the day.  Reading over the journals also allows me to get on the river without actually, getting on the river.  I am able to recall most of the river from memory, spots, bends, log jams, boulders, troughs, seams, all that stuff is filed away in the crazy system I have in my head and using my journals helps recall it and helps me prep.

Once I have been on the river, I sit at the vise.  It allows me to calm down, get in the groove, and also tie up some flies for the day.  While I tie I go over the game plan for day on the river.  I tie up flies while getting the last of that tuning in sync.  It also allows me to go over the float in my head, how I would like to approach this area, river right didn’t fish so good so remember to hit the left side after that bend.  I run over scenarios depending on the info I have learned about my clients previously.  How much experience do they have, what are their expectations, what to do if things are off or slow?  All these things come together and finalize while tying up a half dozen flies or so.

So…”Winging It” may sound like I just grab my stuff and its a major crapshoot, but in reality, there is a lot of homework that goes into being able to Wing It effectively.  The bottom line is, if you put in all that prep work, you have a better understanding of the potential for the day on the river.  You are also more prepped for a not so great day as well.  There are lots of days that don’t require near the work described above.  The river can be on and require a bit less thought during the right time of year, but part of the fun for me is getting it all dialed in and tuned up to make the day that much better.  The trout just make it more awesome.

Now…its my Birthday and I am gonna enjoy the rest of the day nice and laid back and prep for the river on Wednesday.

Tamarack

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The Subtle Take

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The season seems to be upon us. More or less. While the river temps are rising a few tenths of a degree everyday with this lovely weather we are having, the winter as a whole seems to be on its way out. With forecasting models showing the same issues with pacific ridging and all that cool sciencey stuff that is making anglers swoon.

I took a look at the Cle Elum today, running around 272 cfs and the water was around 42 ish. I looked for nymphs under the rocks near the banks and found a few, nothing major. I also just took the time to watch the areas that always have fish this time of year. There were a handful of trouts feeding under the surface. Most likely midges as there was a pretty good hatch. Nothing on the surface in my observation but thats pretty normal with 42 degree water.

The season is approaching however, and the all to familiar and always awesome sight of driftboats with trailers lining mainstreet in the am is becoming more regular. Of course right now its usually like 1 driftboat. I took the afternoon to wash mine out. Was really dirty from the winter. During which I never clean her because well….its kind of a pain. Luckily my big plastic bath toy cleans up real nice. I love getting things ready for the beginning of the season. My birthday is this month and the Skwalla hatch usually coincides with it or a week after. I typically celebrate turning a year older, this year 29, by hitting the river for the day. This year will be no different and the dry fly fishing could be wicked. That is if a trip doesn’t get booked on that day, in which case I would just get to float another day that week which is never a problem.

This blog post is gonna plug the fact that I do offer guided fly fishing trips. Kinda sucky but I have already learned that these posts have a positive effect on the calendar dates filling up without having to outright say it so there it is. I just said it now lets move on.

Cool fishing story to end it all off from a birthday of mine a few years back.

Before I had my driftboat, I used to walk up river from the East boat launch outside of Cle Elum a lot. I just found there were less people and easier wading. Plus a lot of just killer water. Downstream is great too but thats another story.

It was on my birthday, and we had a really warm spell that led us into March. The dry fly fishing in the canyon was really starting to pick up, with almost 60 degree days of course it was. The upper river however, was slow to get going. Which is pretty normal. While everyone and their dogs crowded the lower river for a chance at a fish on the dry fly; I was more interested in a big fish on anything and I knew just the spot.

I don’t typically care for what size a trout is just as long as I get to chase them and trick a few. But, this particular spot and I had our runs ins and I always found decent sized trout in it. I was in the mood for a cutthroat but had had a moment with a few already for the day on the nymph. I came up to the spot and took a gander.

The sun was grazing the tree tops with her orange late winter hue. The shadows upon the river like jagged teeth closing in for the night. The light was touching the far end of the slack water at the front end of the hole and a foam line was just visible. A good 35 40 feet away from me with the breadth of the river and at least two different current speeds. Then…I saw it. Only just at first.

A nose….

Not just any nose…a nose and head around the size of my fist! Another sip!

I saw the trout rise a third time barely breaking the surface tension of the slack water. My heart panicked. I quickly switched out my rig and set up for a dry fly. I gave myself a nice long piece of 5x supple flex tippet and tied on a size 18 midge dry. One of the ugliest flies I have ever tied. Nothing more than a few strands of snowshoe rabbit, black thread, and some sparkle yarn for a tail. You can’t see the fly without really spending some time watching it on the water as it is so small. Rocky Ford in the early days was helpful.

The trout rose again. I made my approach. I stayed well down stream and kept my cast really low. If I spooked this fish I would never forgive myself. A rainbow that size is always a treat in the upper stretches and only a rainbow would sip so stealthily and delicately in this river.

The cast was quite difficult and left little room for error. I figured I would F it up big time but I gave it a shot.

Now before we finish this tale of trout versus angler we need to have a disclaimer. What is about to unfold….never happens to me…like in ever, and I have caught a lot of finicky Yakima Trout.

I gave three perfect false casts, and I mean perfect, that line just cut through the cool late winter air like warm butter. I remember the distinct sound of my Mastery Texture Series line as it sung through the guides. Zip…Zip….

I placed the fly 3 feet upriver from the infamous snout. I held the rod high, which I thought would be the end all, but with the cross currents the only way to secure a proper drift with such a fly made it necessary. Everything went silent…

My vision seemed to tunnel on the spot where the trout had rose before. I took a deep breath and held it in anticipation. 6 more inches…..

Whether I was blessed by the fly fishing spirits, my trout sense was in perfect sync, or I just got really bloody lucky that trout rose.

The snout broke the surface and I watched in sheer joy, horror, and the utmost excitement, as my fly, the size 18, fugly little midge gnat, was hoovered by this trout.

It was on. This trout was in no mood and I very much angered him by interrupting his late afternoon feeding. The head-shakes of this trout put fear into my rod. My reel screamed against the silence. The calm intensity of the prior moment was now broken with chaos and pure awesomeness. The fish leapt from the river and I got to witness his prowess. An immense trout!

The trout was not giving up and continued to work its way into the deeper water where I knew a rootwad was waiting for me. A high rod tip and a well played fish were all that was needed. Easier said than done. Like I said, I got really bloody lucky. The Wild Rainbow found his way into my net. I was amazed and dumfounded. 22 inches of pure awesome in trout form.

I pulled the fugly fly from my quarry and released the fish who said goodbye with a splash as if to get back at me. I was done for the day. I tipped my hat to the river, said thank you, and made my way back to my rig. There was nothing else in this river that would top that fish for today.

Just to see and chase such an impressive trout is an experience, but to actually have everything click into place and have that perfect first cast moment that tricks the old, sipping, rainbow is damn near…I’m gonna use it….Legendary! At least for me. Its just one of those moments that will go down as one of the greatest on this river for me, and it was on my freaking birthday!

I hope to share moments like the one with Mr. Subtle Take Trout, with my clients. I actually named my boat after that particular trout, and have “The Subtle Take” engraved in my transom plate in the back of my boat. Take a look if you are ever in the hog this season. We might even be floating by the same hole, and there are always decent fish in it.

Tamarack

#yakimariver #homewater #trout #flyfishing

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Just an Angler

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My Homewater and The Kid blog post shot my website traffic up more than any other day. More than any other day since the site went live. First off….thank you. I really didn’t expect it. I have been contacted by The Kids family, complete strangers, and fellow anglers about the post and the encounter I had with The Kid riverside. All positive, all overwhelmingly positive. It made me start thinking about something that I think has really changed in the culture of fly fishing.

When I was just A Kid, fishing this river, I would have loved meeting anglers riverside. It was a way to gain on site knowledge and hear stories. The problem I found was that the majority of people along the river really didn’t care to talk or share. When I started working at one of the local shops I had to join the “boys club” and went through the rituals and standard hazing that accompanies the “pro” side of the culture. At least that was my personal experience. I jumped through the hoops, ate stonelfly nymphs to join the club, but what I realized a few years back is that those types of things really can be intimidating to the new angler and detrimental to the continuation of the sport. I made a promise to myself to be different. Nothing negative should be said about the handful of people I worked with. I learned so much, became a better angler, and would not have come back to guiding if it wasn’t for the skills I learned from those individuals. A little “boys will be boys” isn’t a bad thing. In reality it boosted my confidence, and it makes me put up with a lot less shit today. Especially when it comes to angling.

That being said, I am not the “boys club” kind of guy. In fact things like innocent hazing, casting contests, fish count contests, or any of that stuff really turns me off in general. When I am met by those types of things today, I put on the hat, go through the motions, and forget about it. I typically make a mental note to steer clear of those types of things and the anglers that engage in them, just out of personal preference. I went through that stuff and I saw it as part of the deal. Something that needed to be done to be a part of the fly fishing community. I find that my connections with those types of people are face value and little more. It’s just not my thing.

While I have nothing against having fun and doing, “guy” things, I just have little time or patience for it anymore. I turn 29 this month and I should be ripe for that kind of behavior, but with three kids, a 10 year marriage under my belt, and more days on the river in the past 10 years than most people my age or in general, I would rather get to fishing and down to business. I have all the patience in the world for children, trout, and most people, but I paid my dues, went through all that stuff and have no time for it now. As I said, it boosted my confidence and left little room for bullshit.

I also have this weird thing that is new to me. I like to work. I used to hate working and just wanted to skimp by and trout bum it as best I could. Life tends to change that for you. I think that the people who meet me have a hard time understanding how much time I actually spend involved with fly fishing with all the things in my life. Its everyday, plus my family and I have simplified our lives and really downsized. It just makes life less stressful, and gives more time for more important things….like trout.

When I started tying 10 years ago, I found something that helped me focus and release stress. I never thought that it would envelop my lifestyle. Over those years I have had a few that were not very involved. I took a lot of time off from tying and fishing while working on other endeavors but I always was able to find days to fish. In college I would repeatedly be late for class and full on skip classes because the fishing was so good. There are a few grades on my transcript that suffered because of my addiction to chasing trout. Not recommended, but it does show you something in the long run.

As I have said before, all that stuff…the school, the work, the bills, the kids, it all fails in comparison to trout, for me. A solitary day on the river, is all that is needed for me to be content. I love my family and dog, but there are days that trout are all that I want or need from life. While I always come home from the river, there have been days when I have seriously thought about just staying. But, if I didn’t leave the river, and give the trout some time to chill out and for myself to chill; I wouldn’t be drawn back to it. Sometimes the mere anticipation of getting on the river is overwhelming. Trout if anything, are intoxicating.

I have met a handful of anglers that share as deep a passion and connection to the river that I have. Those are the ones I love to meet riverside now. There seem to be more of them. To me, the culture and industry has changed over the past ten years. If feels as if a lot of the ‘boys club” mentality has faded away. At least on this river, but also on some of the others I visit.

When I saw The Kid, casting…like a bloody champion! I just couldn’t help myself. I had to make sure, as a fellow angler, that this kid met someone on the river that would share knowledge and expertise, not just let him stand there casting while criticizing and never saying anything. I saw him and all I could think was, “I hope this dude catches a fish! That would be wicked awesome!”

I used to stand there casting like a noob, while anglers floated or walked by, some called out with not the nicest things, but most just saw A Kid struggling, and criticized to themselves and then moved on down river. In all my years on the Yakima I have never had another angler give me flies. Never once. Its sad honestly. I make a point to make up for all the times that a moment between anglers could have been shared and wasn’t.

Isn’t part of being an angler to share? Whether its a lie, a fly, or a not so secret spot, fly anglers are part of a larger community. A community that has decided to trick trout with flies. Not the most effective method, but there is something about it that draws certain people to it. I saw that in The Kid, just like my mentor saw it in me. I had to make sure that The Kid was welcomed into the community proper….at least in my opinion, and I just happened to be hauling a bloody motorcycle out of the river next to the run he was fishing.

I wanted to pass on the legacy that my mentor gave to me. Share the knowledge, share everything one can, keep the sport going, a good angler is always looking to expand their own knowledge while also giving what they already know to others. It may not even be fishing related. While The Kid didn’t teach me anything new about angling I did learn something about people. I also met a young angler, which is always something that deserves attention and some respect, we need more young people outside in general. Those who choose to be riverside are in my realm. Meeting another member of the fly fishing community riverside is something I always look forward to. Its just an added bonus to the day of fishing. I meet people from all over, of different ages, and all sorts of skill levels while on the river. When I saw The Kid I saw myself, and I saw all the other anglers that I meet, he was no different than any of them in my book. Just another angler.

I especially enjoy meeting the old timer guys, the ones in their 50’s and 60’s that used to fish the river before regulations and the interweb. They have the best lies and stories. They are always surprised when I give over a handful of flies for the hatch. Most of the time they are having trouble honestly. A simple fly switch to something a bit more unique or specific can change the whole day. I just can’t seem to help myself. I see another angler and I want to make sure, as an angler, a local and, an active member in the fly fishing community, that they have a great time on the river. They always appreciate it, its always positive, and it just connects you to more people who share the same passion.

I remember one guy who was having a hell of a time chasing trout during the cranefly hatch in late September. I watched him from downriver as he cast into some of the fishiest water with his October caddis imitation. Fish were rising all over the river. Nothing was being tricked by his fly. While 100 yards away fish were coming up one after another for the cranefly I was fishing. I could see him watching me and you just know what is going through their head. Or at least what would be going through my head.

“What the hell is he using?!” or “Some young punk is out-fishing me!” Again, I couldn’t help myself. I made my way over to him. Fishing along the way. He spoke first,

“What ya using?”

“Cranes.”

“What?”

So I walked up, did the formal riverside angler greeting and showed him. Then I pointed out the naturals. Then I pointed to the pool he was fishing and just told him to wait and watch. Sure enough, after the fish got over being spooked by his casts, a crane shot out across the water and a cutthroat came screaming off the logs for it. He couldn’t believe it. Always fished the October during this time of the year never even knew about craneflies. I handed him a few of the ones I had tied that morning, told him how I would fish them, shook his hand, and left. I don’t remember his name, I’m sure he doesn’t remember mine. He did ask where I picked up the flies, I told him they were hard to find in a shop and that I tie all mine. I saw him a few seasons later fishing cranes, in the same pool, catching trout. All I know is that little moment I shared with a fellow angler made his day better, and he came back to the river and was fishing something I had enlightened him too. That’s more than enough of a pay off right there.

As an angler, a steward for the river, a guide, or a “pro”. Which is a stupid word and should never be used in terms of fly fishing. No one is a pro at this sport. It is a never ending discovery of knowledge and fish. Pro just makes you sound douchey. I’m just an angler. The kind of angler that gets just as excited when others catch trout as when I do. An angler that cannot resist the opportunity to share. An angler that has little patience for time wasting and hullabaloo. Lets get the business out of the way if there is any, and lets get to chasing trout, which is always more fun. The type of fly angler one is can be an insight to the true nature of a person, at least in my opinion.

I…am just an angler.

Tamarack

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Trout Nerd

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Trout Nerd. Or Troutnerd. A term I use for myself a lot. I feel that I am that weird dude of the group that is way too involved with fly fishing and trout. I really get into trout and how they tick. I watch water temps, seine the river around the time the hatches are supposed to happen to see where the river is at in terms of food. Flows, barometric pressure, weather systems, and all the stuff, I just like to know whats going on. Even if I am not fishing. That way, if I run into someone who is or was, or wants to go, I know what to say.

I like to snorkel places during certain times of the year to watch what fish do. I like to see how many fish are actually hanging around too. Not always to catch them, well okay I am always trying to catch them, but in reality I also want to know just how healthy the river is. Especially the upper stretches. Places that are easy to walk and wade in the summer and take a mask and go check out the fish. It gives the angler in me more insight, but it also lets the outdoorsmen in me educate myself on the river. I especially like watching the salmon come in and how the river reacts. This past season was very fun as the Sockeye were more present in the upper river than I have ever seen. Our wild trout key in on this migration of zombified fish, that instead of flesh to eat, just want to get it on.

Watching salmon make the trek from the ocean, even hatchery fish, is still quite neat, but watching how these wild trout have benefited from them is even more interesting to the nerd in me. Huge populations of our rainbow and cutthroat move in behind these fish and feed on eggs and flesh. Always being mindful of redds the fishing can be rather spectacular, while you may throw eggs to them a lot, the sheer number that follow them up makes the dry fly and nymph fishing throughout the system super sweet.

Snorkeling in the upper river watching lots of 16 inch, and a few quite a bit bigger, rainbow feed on salmon flesh floating down river was pretty wicked too, catching them on big gray bunny leaches was awesome. I would have never thought to fish then or even know the large rainbows were in there without doing a little research and discovery for myself. It helps in all aspects of angling and only makes you a little crazy.

Simply taking the time to watch the river without chasing trout can be beneficial. Sure it makes you nerdy, but when you do have a fly rod in your hand, you are that much more in tune with what is going on. Being in tune means that those who are fishing in the boat have a better day on the river. Like a tuning fork, keeping everyone on pitch, with the river.

The other thing that being a troutnerd does is it gets me super excited about fishing. Good energy and vibes can make a slow day go by better, and a great day freaking awesome! Sometimes you gotta sing to them trout, get them to come into the boat. Other times they require really intense focus, a different tone, a different pitch. Setting that up is half the fun of fishing with people and being a guide. I get just a big a kick out of tricking a trout myself as having other people trick one. Especially with me on the sticks. When a friend is fishing in the boat, or client. When they trick a trout and the fun begins, it means that everything just clicked. The position of the boat, where the trout was, where the angler put the fly, the read, the drift, the take, the set, the anchor, the net, and the release. It all comes together and that’s what fly fishing is. All that stuff, that trout nerdy stuff that I can’t get enough of…it all syncs together, and we all share a bitchin’ moment with a trout.

Tamarack

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Homewater and The Kid

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The river is not without the need of care from those who embrace her. Whether it be the family that swims and plays along her banks, the angler fishing from the boat, the farmer who uses her water for crops, or the hundreds of others, she always needs to be cared after.

An interesting thing happened today. I volunteered to help with my local Yakima Headwater Trout Unlimited Chapter’s River Clean Up today. We had a great turnout, more than I was expecting to be honest. A clean up in February and the wonderful rain, is not always on everyone’s awesome things to do today list. It was on mine however. I checked in at work, took the rest of the day off, and gave back to my Homewater.

The interesting part about the day was at the end, the amount of trash piled into my boat on the very small section of river we cleaned was immense. Two fellow anglers and friends, and I hit the Cle Elum River, a favorite of mine. My entire drift boat was filled with trash. Beer cans, glass bottles, discarded rafts, an old projector, tires, wrappers, needles, gas cans, oil cans, jugs, MOTHER F’ING WATER BOTTLES!

People! It’s called a bloody NALGENE! Its like 10 bucks, you fill it up with water, hell buy a bottle of water and pour it into it for all I care, just don’t put that water bottle in the river! Buy four bottles of water and you almost pay for a nalgene, get one with a purifier in it and guess what?! You can put TAP water in it and its clean and safe to drink. Or just drink tap water like a normal person….Oh, shit, sorry…I have this thing about water bottles. Don’t get me started on ones that are filled with pee.

Where was I, cough…right.

We were one of the last crews to come in and everyone was waiting to see if we got the motorcycle out of the river. We did…the bastard. I’m making a trophy out of it. But what everyone was looking at was all the trash and junk in the back of my boat, no one even noticed the motorcycle strapped until a few second later. Way too much garbage. In fact…its quite shameful. I shared the photos with a few community members when I got home.

Their faces said it all. Complete disbelief and even a little shame. Everyone who lives here knows that the Yakima River is here. It is, in fact connected to everyone here in some way. As a local I was embarrassed. Especially after I saw a good friend and mentor looking over the heaping pile with a rather distraught look on his face. When I got a good look at it after everything died down, I’m sure I had the same look on my face. We, or at least I was disappointed in myself for allowing this.

Such a great things to have all that trash, junk, and people’s general lack of decency, out of the river and stuffed into and piled around the dumpster. But such an eye opener and a reminder. A reminder that the river needs care. Something that I will be engaging in more and more, and getting more people to become a part of.

Moving on to a fishing related short that also happened today.

We were hefting this bloody motorcycle with a wheel barrow, backwards, up along the river bank, and through the trees to the truck, and there is this kid fishing in the river. When I say kid I mean kid, teenager maybe not old enough to drive, not sure doesn’t matter. Dude looked like he was a teenager and that was enough of a surprise. His dad came and picked him up from the river, which I think is awesome! Here’s why this kid is so rad.

The Kid, as he will be referred to as it is a cool title in the fly fishing world.

The Kid is there flipping his rod through the air like a freaking champion! Like a Champion! His loop is tight, his backcast is timed just right, the loop rolls forward smooth with only a slight little dent in the line, he drops a little early, but he compensates with a little half tug of a haul and lays the fly out basically perfect. If he was in my boat, that cast would catch fish all day long!

As we were walking to get the damn motorcycle, I mentioned to my fellow angler, that he was fishing the wrong water, everything about him screamed brand spanken new to fly fishing! I love it! People may get down on those just getting into this sport. I had a hell of a time at first, especially with shops. I look at new anglers and see myself, I see my kids, I see someone wanting to do something that is completely pointless, catching trout has way easier methods, for some strange reason within them they want to do it with a fly and rod. It’s called being a fly fishermen.

As we are hauling this bloody motorcycle, back past The Kid, now throwing a nymph with a huge indicator. Way too big, sorry Kid, my bad, if you are reading this, I should have given you a few of my smaller ones but I totally spaced. I called over to The Kid and asked if he wanted some advice or had a question? He seemed interested in us anyway. Yes we were critiquing you, and no we were not making fun of you. Quite the contrary. The Kid gave a yes answer.

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We finished moving the god forsaken MOTORCYCLE, and I grabbed my gear and headed back down to The Kid. I was super anxious to help him out and maybe see if he could trick a trout. He was close to some areas where we spotted some feeding. I rigged up my stuff and kinda watched him for a bit. I am sure I made him nervous. His cast needed no help. He just didn’t know where the trout were, which is totally cool, hell half the time I spend half the day trying to find them, especially in the winter. I introduced myself and shook his hand. A teenager that shakes hands! Holy Shit The Kid is awesome! I asked him a few questions, and then complemented him on his cast. He seemed pretty surprised. I began briefly explaining where the fish would be holding, pointed out the few things to look for, and gave him a few tips for his fly set up. He had a great double rig on, rubber legs and a mayfly nymph, red, small, good choice for this time of year. Shorter tippet, better weight placement, and boom, ready to go. Sometimes its just a few simple tweaks to fine tune everything in, and things will work.

I love handing out flies, its just something I do. I gave him some sqwalla nymphs, he knew what they were, YES! The Kid did some homework! Handed him some dries, a few Salmon Fly Nymphs for later in the season. He thanked me, and I gave him my phone number, told him give me a call if he ever had a question. Call means text nowadays. I gave him my website too, told him I write some stuff, people read it, might help. Ya know, throw it out there.

Went on down river to chase my own trout. We had a nice winter stone hatch during the day, saw a few fish on the surface, a few flash under, blue wings here and there, nothing major. It’s getting there though. Not seeing a lot of nymphs out just yet, but we are close.

I love meeting new people on the river. I got to meet two new anglers with the clean up and The Kid was an added bonus to my day. There is a lot of great things that can happen riverside. The Kid got to see that today. He saw a team of guys cleaning up the river, he met some fellow anglers that shared some knowledge, got some killer flies, and made a contact in the fly fishing community here. I, got to give back to the Homewater today, meet new people, and see The Kid, who could have been at home watching netflix, playing video games, or whatever they do these days, mine are still young so I don’t know yet. Instead, The Kid was casting a fly rod, like a champion, in water ankle and knee deep, in February, chasing trout. There was A Kid, that stood in the river up to his waist, near Ringer Loop, in February, casting a fly rod like a noob, chasing trout; wow…10 years ago this year, I shared my first moment with a Wild Yakima Rainbow Trout. Cheers to The Kid. He’s got a wicked cast, and a whole river to explore…its a blast dude, let me tell you…its an absolute blast.

Tamarack

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Elder Trout

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There is a river. It cuts through mountains and carves out canyons. Its belly swells deep into the rock, slowly growing deeper as it ebbs and flows with each season. There is a river. It is powerful, relentless, and mysterious. It breeds life, it shapes the earth, commands its world.

Where there is a river, there is a trout. Where there is a trout, there will be an angler. This particular trout, was high in the mountains. The king of his pool. The largest fish in the upper reaches by far, his genetics raining supreme in the volatile world with which he was born. A fish aged and strengthened by the furious river that tugged at his now tattered fins and scales. A solemn trout, a solitary trout, a trout like no other trout. The trout that could only reside in such a pool, in such a river, so high up into the wild where no trout was thought to be.

Where this trout resides is seldom visited by an angler, and an angler would have to walk the blue unnamed lines of the map to find such a place indeed. This place could be on any map, but for each angler that understands, there is only one map, one blue line, one mental note about the location of such a place. No markings on a map unveil it, no names befall it. It is unknown, but known, to the few that know, and it is held in secret to all but a few in a lifetime. The lucky anglers have a few maps that have unnamed and unmarked blue lines which hold the above described secrets. Whether through self discovery or loose lips, these places are discovered and forgotten, rediscovered, and lost. Fished 20 year ago and maybe a few luckily anglers stumble upon it once again. It happens in even the most popular of fly fishing areas.

The joy of my homewater, is that the area for which many of my maps belong to, are within the glorious National Forest and Alpine Lakes Wilderness we have here. A little taste of the wild sandwiched between the west and east. The edge of the Cascades. An angler can hike and fish to their hearts absolute content here. Stillwater and trickles, creeks and streams, rivers and lakes, ponds, and backwaters. Its all here, and it is ever inviting to the lover of mountains and woods, and rivers and trouts.

My solemn, solitary, trout that is like no other trout; lives here in the upper reaches far up river, into the mountains, away from the world and off the trail. A solitary pool, near a mountain waterfall, hidden behind the woods and the folds of the mountains. A blue line barely graces the map near the place of which I speak. Such a special place, unlike any other I have ever witnessed. A place of birth, of life, the very roots of the homewater, with the ancient roots of the trout that populate the system below. The trout lies there for me. Chance and bordering on truly being lost brought me into the embrace of this place. The trout that should not have been. There…feeding…on the surface…

Silence….

The rod in my hand felt heavy from the hours of casting before happening upon this elder of trouts. Nothing but the sound of the falls and the forest were present. The surface broke as a mayfly was delicately plucked from under. A slight ripple and a slosh of surface water broke the silence. The heart syncs with some unknown rhythm lost in the fray of mobile phones, freeways, and crowds of people…civilization. The cast beats the rhythm…one…two, three…four. The feel of fiberglass and line whipping through the air just a few feet more. “We don’t want to spook the trout.” The worry of hooking a large trout on small tippet, and a 3 weight.

The drift falls to far right and the fish feeds on a natural in the correct lane and not the imitation 6 inches off. The tension is quite intoxicating. “Will another cast spook the fish?”

The cast falls correctly and the fish rises to the fly, only to refuse it.

One final cast, out of respect. “I tell myself this fish deserves to be left alone should it not want to share a moment with an angler today.” The cast places the fly upstream for a longer presentation to this old and smart trout. The fish rises…rises….rises, and refuses once again. The angler in me desires one more cast. The human in me disagrees. This place will be left undisturbed after my retreat, and I will be able to find it once again.

But…the angler in me always gets the better of me. I would not be a fly angler if it did otherwise. I leave the pool and give the fish time. The hatch is early, the sun is high, and the trout is withholding. I rest out of sight but still have a watchful eye on my quarry. I enjoy a smoke while writing in my journal of the place I am in and the awe for which it deserves.

The sun gives way and begins to touch the tree tops. The trout is feeding once again. I give him a wide birth, staying low and down river. The pool just large enough to cast across, but the trees behind made a proper cast quite impossible. A roll cast would surely spook the creature once again. A steeple cast was not a desirable solution either, but presented a higher chance of success as the shadows were in my favor. Waiting for the fish to stop feeding in between the drifts of the naturals presented an anxiety filled moment that seemed to last ages.

The window opened and a high cast laid the fly slightly off target but without spooking the trout. The fish rose but the fly was too far out of the lane. “One of the most finicky trout I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.” A slight breeze rippled the water and a large swath of naturals began floating down into the pool. “The trout may have been withholding but the river, was not.” Another cast and a perfect drift was granted to me. The fish rose and my imitation was in position….Silence…

I could feel my fiberglass pulse with the thrash of the trout. A surprise to us both, he by the imitation that foiled him, and I by the disbelief and amazement that I actually foiled him! “A quick but enjoyable struggle and the ratchet of my click paw drag was F’ing nirvana dude.”

The Elder Trout, was in my grasp. The trout and I shared a brief moment while holding him there in his pool…his lair…his ancient castle high above the river below. A Wild Trout that resembles his ancestors that lived in this river before Lewis and Clark met the Yakima where it enters the Columbia. Before the native peoples that lived off the river that this pool resided over high in the mountains.

I paid my respects to the trout. Released him back to his dominion and thanked him. I still visit his castle from time to time. He is long gone, I found him seasons ago while discovering the secrets of the mountain streams. Other trouts that resemble him reside there now. It has been several seasons since I was there. A visit is in order, with a fiberglass rod and a box of flies.

Tamarack

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Snow…what’s that?

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A topic that is floating around the fly fishing community here on the Yakima is Snow. Not typically something that fly anglers talk about as we just want it to leave so we can get to spring. However there has been very little snow this year. Checking the snotel sites of the high country we are looking at some of the worst numbers in the past few seasons for snow. This means a lot of things for anglers.

The river flow here is controlled by two things. Nature and man. With dams that hold water back for irrigation that helps grow the hops, grapes, wheat, pot, and of course hay and all that other great stuff, anglers are blessed with a river that can be very consistent during the prime angling season. While the issues of dams is not the topic here I support dams and also their removal. I come from a family rooted in the agriculture industry and lived a good chunk of my life in an area that feeds the majority of this country in the Columbia Basin. I see dams as one of those necessary evils in many cases but also love when we as a species can remove our impact on our environment to help let it return to its natural state.

The dams here help make this fishery what it is today. No question about it. These small dams that hold back water to create these large reserves are always in the back of mind when the season begins. With our dismal snow pack and our extended forecast looking more and more like spring, it seems that snow isn’t going to happen. This means that when we get our normal snow dumps in the late spring and early summer above 5-6000 feet, the river has the potential to be a very different lady come this season.

Water will more than likely trickle out of the dams all season long to help keep the levels up for the growing season in the lower valley. This means low flows, warmer temps, and hopefully….some wicked awesome fishing. There have been a lot of complaints about the lack of decent hatches in the past seasons. High water, bad runoff, and later in the year, low water, and high temps. This past season alone we saw temps go well above 65 degrees in the lower stretches and stay outside optimal trout habitat ranges for extended periods. I myself witnessed a massive shift in the hatches of several aquatic insects this summer and fall due to high water temps and high air temps. We also had a lot of high pressure systems fall upon us this season which also does not help the bugs.

The summer and short wing stonefly hatches this past season were amazing…from 9 to midnight. Massive hatches of stoneflies in the thousands on the upper river especially. More than I have ever seen in my 9 years on the river. Fish feeding through the night and into the dawn hours gorging themselves on these huge naturals. Of course I overnight on the river when I can and thats how I came across these observations.

I spent some time with a pair of goggles and a snorkel this year and migrations of insects for the hatch were much later during the summer in the upper stretches than any of my journal entries from previous seasons. I expect much of the same this year if the weather is hot and dry again.

While observing the trout without the use of a fly rod I found that by the time anglers got on the water even in the early mornings, the fish had already had their fill. Many days of frustrating summer fishing are not because of poor fish numbers or poor hatches. Its all do to full fish and irregular hatching times due to weather and water conditions.

When did they eat them? All night long! I remember camping riverside enjoying a smoke and a tea over a small campfire and all of the sudden there were stoneflies crawling everywhere. I was amazed, realizing that the hatch wasn’t in its full bloom until lower temps set in and the river cooled. Typically from 9 to midnight. A few reports in my journal show late hatches and night hatches but nothing like what I was seeing. Think prime caddis hatch but with stoneflies, and in the dark. I was finding them in my boat and clothing for a week after that. The hatch I witnessed for the two nights I was on the river in this instance, was epic to say the least. When I fished blind at night just to see if fish were on the surface at 11:30 pm, I was welcomed with some of the largest trout on the surface I have ever had the pleasure of releasing.

When I rose to fish around sunrise the fish were still coming up but sporadically and mostly smaller fish. Observing the fish again underwater I found fish were in rest mode digesting all the food they gorged themselves on the night before. That was how the whole summer went.

When the October Caddis came around the same thing happened. Fishing with the October in the upper stretches was by far more productive during the very early morning and late evening with the hatch happening in full force considerably later than usual. If I was able to stomach pump fish I can guarantee that they would have upchucked insane amounts of stonefly and October naturals.

What does this have to do with crummy snowpack? Well the water is going to trickle out of the reservoirs all season long. Only increasing when demand is at its peak and when shots of water are needed for salmon runs. Otherwise, it should be rather consistent albeit low, even through the summer. We may not see flows over 3800 to 4000 cfs in the lower canyon this summer. We could potentially see some of the greatest fishing conditions for the the spring and early summer season. When late July, August, and the fall come about, we could see another season like last year.

I am especially interested to see how the mayfly hatches are this year and their time frames. In the past years I have only seen an increase in the upper river of hatches, save for the mahogany dun in the fall, but I attest that to the previous described conundrum of midnight rendezvous of horny insects.

I witnessed some wonderful PMD hatches this year as well as drakes. I am hoping that if the river operates in the way the community is talking about, we will see some epic spring and early summer hatches. I am particularly excited for the March Brown but more so for the Drakes of the upper river and Cle Elum.

I fear for the late summer and fall but over the past few seasons that has been a normal worry. With the dry and high pressure we have been having and the bloody BURN BANS! (I hate burn bans but always obey them, but damnit not having the ability to have a campfire is quite irksome especially when hiking into the blue lines or overnights with the dog and the boat on the river.) The river could have a late season like last year. Which was not bad, but not stellar in my opinion. Even the salmon were funky this season due to the conditions, and we at least had some snow pack last year!

The window for snow fall is rapidly closing. We have about 14 days before, if it doesn’t happen, its not going to happen. We have 40 degree days and rain….inches of rain in the forecast for the rest of February. The models are predicting the same for March. The spring could be one of the better ones we have seen in a few seasons and I look forward to feeling the pulse of the river as I anxiously wait for the weather to change. We have Robins in the yard, no snow base, lots of rain, and days that feel more and more like March and not like a typical February. At least in my observation.

Chime in, lets talk about it, at least it gives us all something to do while we wait for fishing to pick up.

Speaking of fishing. Hit the river from Ump to Slab yesterday with a good friend and while the fishing was down right awful it was still a good day being on the river and getting a sense of where she is at. She will tell you a lot. We have warm days that bring her to life and bugs move and things happen, but we are still having days of cold and gloom that make for rather unproductive days. I fished everything, streamers, nymphs, light nymphs, and I went deep, shallow, looked all over the river for trouts. We had one nasty smelly white fish, seriously just a gross “teenage boy” smelling fish. Big but oh damn! We had one rainbow 15 inches, purple and blue, just gorgeous. She took the Yak Sandwich, or shit sandwich, as we like to call it. A rubber legs stone and a san juan worm below. Sometimes its all that works. Its a bummer but its still a trout.

The main reason for the craptastic fishing, at least my assessment, is as the river has dropped over the past week these fish went from being pushed into the banks from all the water and needing food to help with all the energy they used. We had great days of streamer and nymph fishing near the start of the drop in flows. We also had sunny warm days which kick things to life in the winter here on the river. Now we are at colder water temps, less current, and less energy used. Making trout revert into their normal winter lies and patterns. We also had a warm and sunny day previous and would have given the fish ample opportunity to feed enough to hold them over through the cold day we floated. If you listen to her the river will tell you all you need to know. Well, the river and a group of anglers talking non stop about fishing.

Join me this Saturday the 7th from 11-5 at Firemans Park in South Cle Elum near the South Cle Elum Boat Launch for our Trout Unlimited Cle Elum River Clean Up. Its gonna be soggy so bring your rain gear. We will have trash bags, maps, donuts, and spots in boats available but we will be doing a lot of walking. You can visit my facebook page or visit the link below to RSVP. We also have a BBQ after for volunteers! Help us clean up the river, catch a few fish maybe, and it gives you a chance to hang out with a bunch of anglers for the day!

TU Cle Elum River Clean Up

Tamarack

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Endurance and Tea

Photo by John Hicks of Sea Run Pursuits
Photo by John Hicks of Sea Run Pursuits

Good things comes to those who endure. Thats the best way for me to have a positive outlook on the life I have. Enduring hardships, loss, but most importantly, disappointments have been a powerful factor in my outlook and way of going about life. Positivity has not always been so easy.

As I described in the previous post, I enjoy the simple things everyday as much as I can. With a day off and a quiet morning here in the apartment, I am enjoying a strong Irish Breakfast Tea, the only tea worth drinking in the morning in my opinion. Tea, like beer and coffee, should be black, strong, and filling. My youngest daughter woke up rather early jabbering to herself, after the rest of the family left for school we hung out playing and talking before she decided to zonk out on me and fall back asleep. The amount of happiness and energy a baby wakes up with in the morning is down right unfair. Little minions have never been a stress for me except during birth, and with this third kid being my final, I take every chance I get to slow down and hang out with her.

I enjoy these slow mornings, sitting in my little room under the stairs at my tying table, typing, the wispy tendrils of steam rising off my tea, the lingering smell of smoke from my pipe at rest, a rolling bluegrass tune in the background, the thoughts of trouts swimming through my head.

A long journey to be able to enjoy the simple things. Seems rather backwards really. I feel as if I was lost for too long and am finally realizing what life is supposed to feel like for the wary but young trout bum. Life seems to be more and more like the river and chasing trout than ever these days. As if I had just finished developing a relationship on the most difficult part of the river, the torrent, upstream section, hard to access, hard to land fish, but worth the journey to learn how the river and fish begin.

Now I am on the prime water. The long stretch of “good” water. That 70 mile stretch if you will. There are still hard days on this part of the river, difficult and finicky trout, troublesome weather and water, but the days of great moments and easy floating are upon me. Indeed, life seems to be more like the river and chasing trout these days. When I do find myself on the actual river, not the metaphorical one that comes out in the cliches I write, there are days I fish less and enjoy embracing the river more. Don’t get me wrong I fish…like a lot. But there are days especially when I float solo or with the dog, that I find myself parked along the bank listening to the trees sing back and forth with the wind. The river adds her talking and babbling to the chorus. I hear a slight dimple in the water upstream and see the ripple of a now less hungry fish. Another rises, and another, I see the insects hatching, I feel the pulse of the river change as the life within her bursts into the fray. But my fly rod is at rest on my shoulder, I am just watching and enjoying this moment of life the river is showing me. Enjoying the simple things, of a caddis hatch, a slight breeze, and rising trout. Life should be more like the river.

Of course the angler in me always gets the better of me. I wouldn’t be a fly fisherman if it didn’t. I false cast three times and lay my fly and line upstream at the rising trout. A decent cast, a perfect drift, an eager but wary quarry, and a connection between angler….and trout. The disappointment, and memories of loss and hardship fade away. There is only the moment, the calm simple moment. What more is there really?

Another cup of tea and a few flies tied this morning is in order. Take a moment and enjoy something simple…and think about trout.

Tamarack

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Bytes, bits, and a life of bites.

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I enjoy the slower side of life. Being 28 I feel as if I stumbled on some secret almost a decade ago. Fly fishing seems to be the driving force behind my, “enlightenment” if you will.

I fell into a field of study at college that fed on the technology this country has such an appetite for. Even as I type this app and manage my website, check Facebook, send emails, and listen to internet radio while doing it, I realize the irony that sometimes presents itself here. Using the very tools I am somewhat condemning to write and promote myself, for a lifestyle that feeds on the complete opposite.

We live in a world of bytes and bits. Bytes of computing speed, bytes of internet speed, small sound bits, small clips and bits of video, bits of text coming on bytes of data, fed directly into your eye and ear holes. The more we use it the more they pump into it. Now I can watch how to tie a fly on the Internet, while watching a video of fishing in New Zealand, filling out a fly tying order, and checking my facebook feed, while also looking at whats trending, checking the flows for tomorrows float, and reading the news and blog articles. Oh wait someone just messaged me, and I have a new guide trip inquiry, and a voicemail!

Its a never ending comma stream of things we do every day on auto pilot at mach 10 going full speed all the time! Its exhausting to even type it all out.

STOP…

Fly fishing is the complete opposite. For me it all about the river. The river moves slow around the bends, fast through the drops, and light and airy through the riffles. It has deep slow troughs that can move trees, it carves canyons and hews rock with its very touch…slowly over time. A slow powerful giver. All a river does is give, it gives life to the valley, it carves beauty into the mountain side, and is home to species upon species of life. The river is the matriarch of the wild, if the mountains are the father.

They give the angler many things. Why everything starts with the river for me is two fold. It brings me silence, and it demands patience.

I suffer from some wicked tennittus, playing drums in bands when younger will do that do you. The ringing never ceases. Like most who suffer from this annoyance of a problem, it can make things rather uncomfortable sometimes. Sleep is a big problem at times, crowded areas with lots of crowd noise make it worse making it difficult to hear, staring at computer screens for extended periods also make it kick up. The river…is the ultimate cure all for it. It combats the ringing with its constant running and the silence that surrounds the river makes the annoyance disappear and I find relief. It sounds silly but it works. It doesn’t work for any real scientific or health reason. It works because of what the river does to me.

All that noise, the plugged in nature of everyday life today, can flare up all sorts of problems for people. Stress being the biggest. The river takes that all away. She gives me my cure, by drowning it all out and I can focus and find a sort of peace in the form of chasing trout and all that it entails.

There is none of the regular life on the river. The river doesn’t care for any of it. Mobile phones should be off in her presence, not always a reality, but try it sometime. The river demands your attention, your focus, and your patience. She gives, but not without testing. The gift I love most is the silence.

The river is anything but silent but it is silent to the world away from the river. She drowns out the world around with her subtle flow, birds sing and chat along her banks, squirrels talk at one another, a river otter chirps, a beaver slaps its tail, a bugle of a distant elk in the fall, or the loud call of an osprey or eagle riding the air in search of prey. The river uses all of this to clear out all the noise and fill me with silence. A silence we have lost touch with. Imagine a world without the noise? Just you and nature….some people can’t handle it. Its intoxicating to some who find a place of such silence. A mountain top where no plane flies overhead, a river with a roaring rapid around the bend, a snow filled day and the sound of a cutting ski, these bring silence to the noise.

Patience. A skill hard learned for an angler. The world off river is a fast paced one. I find that if life doesn’t slow down, insanity will ensue. It starts with that cabin fever you get. Some people don’t realize its cabin fever and they snap after 30 years of doing the same grind everyday and buy a sports car. Screw the car, buy a drift boat!

I get cabin fever about every three days to be honest. I find myself yearning to be outdoors and on the river more and more. The winter has not been kind, and even when I am not on the river she is teaching me patience. Be patient for spring Nate, its coming.

I hone my patience through tying when not on the river. Sitting and focusing on a singular activity for extended periods of time that is not plugged in helps my patience. All the while I am thinking about trout and the river that holds them. I’m like a drug addict. A patient, angling addict.

That patience has trickled and infiltrated into my everyday life. I am patient with my children, my lady, my co workers, the general public. I keep a cool, calm, steady, and patient demeanor, a giving outlook on things, and deep powerful passion; the river has no room for anything else so why should life? Why do those with money, large houses, and lots of things, envy the trout bum with a simple happy life? Because life is slower, and they see it, and they want it. It’s worth more than any amount of money. Pretty sure we are missing something about this thing we call life. Fly Fishing reopens a door for me. I enter into a world that is devoid of the very things we think make up life. Money, job, car, family, bills, the stuff that clogs up what life actually is, isn’t on the river. Where would it be…there is no room for it.

When you spend enough time on the river you start to figure some things out. The biggest one for me always comes back to patience. Life, much like the river, necessitates patience. My life has slowed down. I take my time to go about my day. Always trying to stray from feeling rushed or constrained. I take my time on the little things: the mornings are for slowly waking early, with the sun is best. A strong cup of tea is recommended, always taking the time to drink it fully. I typically enjoy a tea and a read, or I will write in the mornings. This sets up the rest of the day. Taking the time to enjoy it is the best method for a proper day. A good groom of the beard and a curl of the mustache in the morning makes for a dapper day as well.

I spend time enjoying the simple things. The turn of the thread while at the vise or holding my baby daughter and listening to her tell me all about her day requires attention and patience. Brushing things aside and rushing everything means you miss the whole point. You don’t jet boat down the river fishing one cast in every hole and moving on! You float or walk, with the river, at her speed, you slow down to spend more time and give each fish the proper attention. Should life be any different? Why not approach life as if I were approaching a wary rainbow lurking in the under cut. When you spend enough time on the river….you learn things.

The pace of my world has slowed so much I enjoy the simple pleasure of rolling the perfect smoke, tying the perfect fly, making the perfect cast, or spending hours with legos and a couple of kids, all of them making me fill fulfilled for the day. I may work 8 hours a day a few days a week and get a paycheck every month but it does not fulfill me. It pays for the off river world that is a necessity and allows me to spend more days on the river and chase trout with friends and clients. There is always the hope that my days of work are always ones that involve trout, but taking your time to accomplish your goals seems to be the best strategy in my experience. Rushed never works and sometimes doing things solo is the best method, much like a walk and wade trip into the mountains in search of trout and solitude.

So there it is! A few insights about life from a fly fishermen. Going the speed of the river seems to be a better way to get through things. Making a goal everyday of downloading less bytes and bits and making the only bites I have…from trout keeps me happy and content.

Tamarack