Monday, October 4, 2010

An untimely update.

Alright, I'll admit I've been a little lackadaisical in blogging recently. OK, non-existent. Bottom line: it was a busy summer, me and a bunch of other people were wrong about the water thanks to A TON of rain during April-June, and the fishing was great, albeit odd. Hatches were stalled, if not "canceled" altogether, and up until just yesterday, we were still waiting for the first solid overcast of the fall season to bring on mahoganies and BWO's (at least with any consistency). Now that fall weather seems to be here to stay, I'd anticipate awesome dry fly and streamer fishing from now until it gets cold. Bow, backcountry, and waterfowl seasons are open, and the willows are turning yellow. Four days from now I can legally shoot technicolor ditch parrots. It's here, and it's all good.
Irregardless, I kept ya'll out of the loop (who are "ya'll?" No one reads this shit.) for the whole season. So there's no better time than right now, the start of hunting and steelhead season, when all the really beautiful things in the western US are happening, than to reflect on a season of trout fishing with some gratuitous hero shots of some of the more impressive fish that made the mistake of eating my flies this summer. Enjoy, and in the coming weeks make sure to take advantage of all the stuff that doesn't have ice and snow on it yet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tailing Loops

Observation: I'm slipping. There was a time when I proudly placed myself in that now so often-overused category of trout bum; I didn't make any money, but I also didn't have any real responsibilities that prevented me from fishing eight days a week. Although certainly not the best trout fisherman in the world, or the county, or even this neighborhood (you have to consider my surroundings. Insert appropriate Norman Maclean quote here), I was good. Really good. If practice makes perfect, I was doing my best to achieve a perfect 10 in the trout-nerd subculture.

Fast-forward 49 dog-years. My obsession and "drive," if you can really use that term in this context, has kept me in the Big Sky where I'm managing to scratch out a living rowing boats and keeping people alive and entertained while they catch some trout. A lot of folks say I've got the best job in the world. I agree. Taking people fishing and introducing them to an activity I feel so strongly about is the most enjoyable thing I've ever received a paycheck for, and even if it comes with it's share of ups and downs, there's nothing else I'd rather be doing.

The fact that I love my job is not the point here, however. The point, per se, is that while I have managed to pay the bills while working in the fishing industry, all while continuing to live in the best place in the lower 48, the amount of time I spend actually fishing these days is surprisingly low. And it shows. Sure, I get out this time of year, when the warm weather melts away the seasonal affective disorder and the first stoneflies of the year begin to die untimely deaths in the mouths of hungry, heartless predators. Every spring I'm reminded of why I love this game when I see my skwala disappear in a confident boil: the first dry fly eat of the season. It will always be fun.

But I'm also reminded of how quickly one can fall from grace without practice. I haven't forgotten how to cast; the fly still gets where I need it to be, it just isn't very pretty (I'm a big fan of the overshoot-drag-mend-it-in-to-the-spot technique). And it's not a matter of knocking loose the cobwebs, breaking in to my stride just as the salmonflies pop, because there won't be any time for cobweb-clearing. About the time I remember how to not throw a tailing loop in a 30 foot cast and the big bugs start crawling down my neck, John and Jane Doe climb in my boat, and they don't leave until October. John and Jane don't let me fish very much, and they shouldn't, because this is their time on the water and I need to make a living.

Where this leaves me by mid-season, however, is sitting in my office chair with a fairly comprehensive understanding of where the fish live and what they want to eat, but with a personal inability to catch them myself. I can row the boat for days on end without tiring, and tie blood knots with an efficiency that surprises even me sometimes. But ask me to stack mend a drift in to a pod of risers and you might as well throw a lit quarter-stick of dynamite at the lead fish's nose and hold your breath.

There's an old motto in the guide community that you never want to make a cast with a client's rod, even if they ask you to for demonstration purposes or otherwise. The assumption being, and I've seen it happen many times, that even if a trout hasn't made an appearance all day, as soon as the guide makes a cast, a fish will eat the fly. This can brighten some client's spirits, inject them with a renewed sense of confidence, and place you on a pedestal of Poseidon-like stature in their minds. Or it can piss the fuck out of them and you can kiss your tip goodbye.

I think when it all boils down, however, the real reason behind this old rule of thumb is most guides just don't want to show their clients how bad we actually are with a fly rod in our hands.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Time Tough

There's no excuse for my lack of posting/activity on this blog of late other than I'm busy, distracted, and lazy. It's been a weird winter so far, with sketchy waterfowl hunting, sketchier snow pack, and variable temps ranging from frigid to balmy. So although I have done some recreating here and there, there's hardly been anything consistent to write home about (literally, since I think my Dad is the only person who reads this), and I certainly haven't found the motivation to script volumes of cyber-prose about how awesome my adventures have been recently.
Now that school has started back up, I've found myself even more pressed for time, distracted by challenging projects to work on, new software to learn, and pretty girls to chase. To make matters worse, the weather the past few weekends has been unseasonably pleasant, and since I figure we'll probably be f@#ked come August because of it, I may as well go fishing now while the water's still cold. So yes, some trout have been caught in 2010, and there are skwala nymphs that are starting to get a little bigger and a little closer to shore with every 40 degree day in the Bitterroot valley. The forecast for the Clearwater valley is also remarkably mild for the next week or two, so we're all optimistic the water will bump soon (eventually?) and the freakishly big boys will make a push upstream, a little closer to home where we can get to 'em.

So hopefully you'll understand if my posts on here are somewhat less than consistent in the coming weeks/months (years); I'm well-aware this earns me few bonus points in the blogging biz where shiny pretty consistency is the name of the game, but that's the way it goes. I wish I could promise it will get better once things start happening this spring, but in reality we all know that won't happen either. The fact of the matter is, the more stuff there is to do outside, the less likely I am to want to be inside hunched over this computer spewing literary vomit out across the airwaves. So check out BS Missoula, bear with me, and go outside and do something instead of sitting on the internet reading someone else's stupid blog all day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

K-Hole Daycare

The following post originally appeared over at BS Missoula, a satirical social commentary/news blog a buddy and I started last fall. Check it out. Since that's where most of my writing priority has been recently (and the major reason why this blog has suffered), I figured I'd be even lazier and link the two:

It’s no mystery that we here at BS Missoula enjoy our beer. Preferably cold and homegrown, but hell, I’m not picky. On a hot summer afternoon when the cooler’s suddenly gone empty, I’ll pick an abandoned Bud Light (undoubtedly jettisoned from the cooler of another float party) up off the river bottom, wipe the slime of the top, and knock ‘er down. You do what you can to get by these days.

I digress. I love microbrews, and of all the fine breweries we have in this town, I’m not alone when I say I prefer Kettlehouse beers over the rest of the lot. Their beers are tasty, well-made, and downright effective at their intended purpose. I would argue that a good Double Haul hangover rivals the most vicious of mornings following a whiskey binge.

So when the Kettlehouse opened their new Northside brewing operation/tasting room this past year, I, along with many of my fine beer swilling compatriots in this town, rejoiced. A Northside resident at the time, I could think of no better scenario than a sparkling new K-Hole a mere block and a half away from my house. Their new place is swanky: a tastefully-designed blend of old and new in one of Missoula’s most historic neighborhoods. There’s plenty of room to gather in the wood and brick structure, the place reeks of hops, and the bubbly potion flows from the taps every evening until 8pm. It’s glorious.

But something has happened inside the Northside brewery since those first opening days last year, before there were any tables, or an espresso stand, or anything filling the giant empty space, save for a couple dozen brew enthusiasts standing around imbibing.

Call it a Missoula thing, or a Northside thing. Whatever the case, the place has turned in to a daycare center for young Missoula couples hopping to knock a few back with their toddlers in tow, and frankly, it pisses me off.

The historically-accepted policy surrounding bars and other places that serve alcohol is that they are for adults. Hell, a lot of bars in this fine country have big signs on the doors, inside the place, behind the bar, etc. that read “No one under 21 permitted.” You know why? Because drinking in the States is illegal if you’re under 21, and it’s generally agreed upon that drinking gets you drunk, people do stupid shit when they’re drunk, and therefore it is left to the adults, who can be held responsible for their actions, when they do stupid shit when they’re drunk.

I’ve never been to a bar in my life where I needed to worry about tripping over a Tonka truck, much less a three-year-old. So it can only be explained as a uniquely-Missoula phenomena that it is now acceptable to drag the whole entourage: kids, dogs, strollers, toys, etc, down the street to the local watering hole to knock back your allocated 48 ounces of Cold Smoke. Am I the only one to whom this does not make sense? Are you parents not the least bit concerned about the negative influences and potentially dangerous situations your child may be exposed to when you allow them to crawl around on the floor of a bar for a couple of hours? I personally do not go to the bar to mind my step, watch my language, or pull the Good Samaritan card and keep someone’s toddler out of trouble while Mommy goes to the bathroom, nor do I feel I should have to.

Word has it that Kettlehouse management has received complaints about the now nearly-constant population of munchkins running around their new tasting room. That’s because crying, toddler tantrums, and unwieldy games of throw-the-ball-across-the-room do not belong in a bar. Call me an asshole if you like, and no, I am not a parent, so I don’t know what it’s like to have young children and still try to satisfy your passion for good beer and camaraderie. But I do know that little kids don’t belong in bars, Northside Missoula or not.

I fear the day one of these little critters gets tripped over, or falls down and hurts themselves, or wanders out the back door and down the railroad tracks of the Northside because Dad is busy yakking it up with his buddies about how sick the Bowl was today. I don’t want to see little people get hurt, much less have one of my favorite beer drinking establishments get boarded-up because of a lawsuit stemming from irresponsible parenting. I feel especially sorry for you if you actually drove there…and are planning on driving your family home after your beer card is full. Come on parents, this is why they make babysitters and Kettlehouse beers in cans.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


It's difficult to say whether one can be less motivated to write than I have been in the last couple of weeks. I can't blame it on being busy; frankly, you'd be hard-pressed to have less structure or obligations in your life than I have these days. Winter break at UM is long almost to a fault, and in the absence of a job, ducks, decent snow, or a plane ticket to the tropics, I'm finding myself pretty f**king bored. I've managed a handful of solid pow days riding the lifts, read a couple of good books, and shared plenty of stories over beers with buddies, but winter is the season of the shack nasties, and they're creepin' on me.

It's times like these that I should be most entertained tapping away at the keyboard. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, and besides, what else am I doing? Well, 400 San Juan worms sit pre-rigged in cups to my left, ready for the final few stages of thread wraps and Zap-A-Gap that will turn them in to the bill-paying weapons they'll become in a few short months, but that will be an extended, gradual process. I've started my winter fly production this year earlier than most, and so long as all my clients need next season are #14 Princes, #16 tan elk hair caddis, 30-dozen incomplete worms, and the odd articulated bunny critter, we're good to go. I can just quit now, right?

I guess the upside to the mild, dry weather we're having is things are thawing out a little over in Idaho...maybe just enough to go harass some of the fish that passed us by last fall. There're some big boys to be caught this time of year, and with the playoffs going most of the locals are still bedded down in front of their TVs or sitting in ice shacks somewhere. In another couple of months, the smaller tribs that the big B-runs are stacked up in will become redneck battlefields, and the fishing will bring with it some inherent hazards, like being hit in the forehead with an ounce of pencil lead and a foot-long bobber...or being shot at. Classic steelheading at it's finest, and I can hardly wait.