Day 54 – Hot Tips

31 10 2009

First of all, I must say that I’m a little excited about reaching Day 54. That number is somehow connected to me in a myriad of ways. In grade school I rode bus 54. In Boy Scouts, my troop number was 54. There’s a few other connections but at this time I can’t remember (it is 11:33 PM, and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open).

Yesterday I received a hot tip while out on the stream. It was about what pattern is “hot” right now. So today, I spent some alone time with my vise with some music playing in the background. I ended up tying that particular pattern and then tying up a few more that I had success with yesterday (since towards the end I had either snagged the sunken log, or the overhead branch and broke almost all of them off).

I started thinking about tips, and wonder if this is how certain fly patterns migrated across the country. I also thought about how often times these tips are said only after a glance over the shoulder. Somehow in my groggy mind these two things seem to contradict each other. I mean a tip should be kept on the down low, it should be kept quiet, and left to be a mystery to other anglers as you reel in fish after fish (all the while you secretly smile and think you are the next trout whisperer).

Despite this exclusive knowledge, or maybe in spite of it, news travels around. They are whispered in secret at the coffee shop, or shared in hush tones by the water cooler at work. Occasionally a smart fly shop owner may give cryptic ideas about what was hitting last week (which when you look in the fly bin you see dozens of that pattern tied waiting patiently for your fly fishing spending money to purchase (suck-er!)).

There are patterns in my fly box that I have purchased because someone or another told me that they were the hottest thing on the stream since God made the mayfly. And if you know me and my search for the Holy Grail of Flies, I’ve purchased it wide-eyed and hopeful of big trout. Of course, the tip never said anything about the time it had to be fished, what color that pattern had be in, whether or not it had to be tied on the short shank curved scud hook, the long slow curving heavy wire of a nymph hook, or that the hundred year hatch (that incidentally only last 24 hours) was on. Let alone how this pattern had to be fished: cast short over the fast moving riffles, or fished on a slow retrieve in deep pools, or the bottom hackles clipped short so that it rides better in the water.

Regardless of the outcome, these flies have crept across the United States and into our fly boxes. Sometimes they take on modifications such as color, experimental material, or proportion differences. Sometimes they skip whole states and go from the Appalachian Trail to the streams of the Rocky Mountains.

Whatever the case may be, I’ll be happy with my cheese colored Y2K’s that I tied up today. I usually drift them just above the river bottom just past the tail of a riffle. But please, keep this little secret to yourself. And remember, when you start catching fish and the others anglers are starting to scratch their heads in befuddlement of your angling powers, try not to smile to hard.


Day 53 – Fun filled crazy day

30 10 2009

Today’s post may be a little shorter than normal. That’s because right now it is 10:34 PM and I’ve had a long fun filled day. It was full of adventure: new friends, small fish, big fish, and Tschaikovsky. And now I’m sitting here at the laptop, showing commitment to the blog (and you readers).

Today’s recap goes like this…

6:30 AM I’m awake and brewing coffee. I’ve managed to put some clothes on and am waiting for my wife to get out of the bathroom so I can brush my teeth.

6:45 AM I kiss my wife as she gets ready to go to her physical therapy for her foot.

6:46 AM Wife comes inside and says that she has backed into a car across the street

7:00 AM I knock on the neighbor’s door and explain that their car has been bumped into, I give them our insurance information (FYI, this is officially the first time I’ve introduced myself to them).

7:10 AM I’ve finished gathering my stuff for the fishing trip, and put the dog into the kennel

7:30 AM Gas is now in the Trout-mobile and heading towards Stone Mountain State Park to meet up with John

8:00 AM Expecting to see the turn off for Dunkin’ Donuts

8:15 AM Where is that turnoff?

8:30 AM Seriously! Did I miss it?

9:00 AM Turn off to grab McDonald’s, still thinking about donuts though

9:25 AM Pull into the ranger station at Stone Mountain State Park. Meet up with John. This is the first time we’ve met. We bumped into each other on this blog & Twitter. You should check out his blog. It is Seven Bridges Road.

10:00 AM – 3:30 PM We fish the streams at Stone Mountain State Park. I manage to net about 5 fish (maybe 6, but today I’m going to go conservative). I’ve probably missed twice that many in hookups due to bad knots, missed strikes, and bad hook sets. John and I realize that we’re going to have to fish more often. Also, before departing we decide that we’re going to try and go to the WNC Fly Fishing Expo in Asheville next weekend.

4:30 PM After talking to my wife, I pull over off the interstate and find Burger King.

5:25 PM Pull up into the carport at home. Manage to kiss my wife before she heads out to bell choir

5:30 PM Realized that I missed South Park yesterday so watched it online. Starting to wonder if all they are going to do anymore is mock TV shows.

6:00 PM Headed into the shower to wash off the fish slime.

6:30 PM Getting dressed, found weird green stuff in toothbrush and thought, “How long has this been there?” Time to get a new brush I suppose.

6:45 PM Time to feed Wonderpup and let him outside

6:50 PM Wonderpup put in kennel and starting to lock up the house

6:55 PM Wife calls to ask where I am at, I was supposed to have been there by now. Somehow I thought I was supposed to pick her up at the church by 7:30, symphony starts at that time. Decided to be a little heavier on the gas.

7:10 PM Pull into church parking lot. My wife is waiting for me outside. I whip around and pick her up

7:30 PM Start to pull into parking lot for the Greensboro Symphony. Realized at the gate that neither one of us had cash, they let us in anyway and a parking attendant met us inside by an ATM.

7:45 – 9:45 PM Listened to some amazing music by Tschaikovsky. The conductor actually played the violin for one piece as the music was quite difficult. His fingers fled up and down those strings. Amazing…

10:00 PM Dropped wife off at the church so she could pick up her car.

10:15 PM Home. Wonderpup suddenly becomes my shadow (this is when I really like him).

10:34 PM Starting to write blog.

11:16 PM Blog finished. Now heading towards bed.

Day 52 – Panfish

28 10 2009

Panfish are dumb, and fun to catch.

After heading to Costco with my wife, I found myself with a few hours to kill. I tried to watch TV, and even managed to watch an episode of the Fly Rod Chronicles. However, I started to get restless, and thought about the fishing that I was going to do tomorrow. I decided that I would try and hit the private lake that our housing community has access to. I had just received the passcode to the gate after two days of playing phone tag with the property manager, and this seemed like a good time to use it.

I got in the car and drove the mile or so to the lake. I entered the code and like magic the gate opened. Success! I drove the car to the lower parking lot and I noticed a couple of teens hanging out. I felt like I got the death stare as I pulled into the lot. I shrugged it off, maybe I was just being paranoid.

I opened up the back hatch and started to go for my standard fly rod, a 5-weight rod. I stopped myself though. I wasn’t going for anything big (if at all really, I just wanted to practice my cast). Instead, I reached for the whippy 4-weight bamboo rod that I have. I pieced the rod together and gave the rod, sans reel, a quick snap or two of my wrist. Yep, just like I remembered. I placed the reel into the reel seat and started stripping line so that I could easily thread it through the guides.

“Is that a fly rod?” questioned one of the teens. I hadn’t realized that they were still watching me.

“Yep. Have you ever gone fly fishing before?” I asked in return.

“Naah, not really. Is it hard?”

“Can you ride a bike, or throw a football with a spiral? If so, you can fly fish. Just takes a little practice.” The kid looked at me with some skepticism. I added, “If you’d like I can give you a lesson.”

He shrugged, and went back talking with his friends. I proceeded to finish loading up the line through the guides. After running the leader through my hands to straighten the curls left by the reel, I added a piece of tippet to the end. The last time I used this reel, I must have snipped off the last of the tippet before putting it away.

I turned to vest, which was on a hanger hanging from the hook in the back, and wondered what fly to use. I looked at the piece of felt that held a plethora of hooks from previous outings. I spotted the pink squirrel, and the adage “Bright sky, bright fly” rang in my ears. Perfect. Today was a nice cloudless sunny day.

I walked down to the lake and gave a cast by the fishing dock. Panfish love structure, and this dock was perfect structure. I watched the Pink Squirrel sit on top of the water absorbing the water, before it slowly sank. A moment or two later, and my strike indicator started to dance.

Past experience has taught me to wait until the indicator is completely under, as smaller fish can’t take the fly outright. Another moment passed, the indicator still seemed to dance and then shot down into the water. A quick twitch of the line and the hook was set. I played the fish for a moment enjoying the feeling having electric impulses sent through my rod.

A decent size bluegill took the fly. I admired the blue-ish gray marking under its jaw before throwing him back into the lake. Within a half hour I would repeat the process about 12 more times (that could be a stretch, it may have only been ten, but 12 sounds like a good round number). Beside bluegills, I also caught a few sunnies.

Growing up in Iowa, I learned to call them panfish. When I lived in Minnesota, these panfish were sunnies, unless it was a perch or a crappie. Down here in North Carolina, they are called breem (pronounced brim). Whatever the case may be, they can be fun to catch. Today I witnessed breem pull like a hemi, fly through the air like sparrows, and toy with my patience as they eventually took the fly. Maybe that is why both adults and children love to fish for them.

Day 51 – Persuasion vs. Deception

28 10 2009

First things first, there is need to crown a winner in the name that fly competition that I presented last week. Names came in from all over the country (Minnesota and North Carolina to be more specific). America has voted, and the winner is… Lauren with her submission of “Woody Troutpecker”. I am currently in contact with her father to notify her of her winnings. And now on to today’s topic.

I have a metal sign that I’m going to put up in my “man cave” whenever I get to fixing the place up. It states something to the effect that “fishing lies are spoken here.” The sign is pretty campy and runs the typical course of fly fishing decoration/humor that many people share about our sport. And while I am of one mind to find the humor in it, the other half finds it a little offensive. I mean let’s be honest who wants to be called a liar?

Now I can understand where this mindset can come from. There’s a saying that “fish grow over time.” And to be honest, I’ve fallen victim to this idiom on occasion. I think this action comes not from any deception but lack of judgement. I don’t carry a measuring tape, so I truly can’t be sure how big it was. I mean who to say it wasn’t 14 inches versus 12 inches?

When I looked up the definition of “angle” as in angling for fish, it comes up with an “attempt to get something by sly or artful means”. Again, we joust around this idea of deception. Maybe it’s just the negative connotation that modern society has given the word deception, or maybe it truly is negative. However, I can’t say that this doesn’t rub me the wrong way. I’d like to believe that I’m a pretty honest person. Someone whose character can’t be called into question. And yet, I actively participate in a sport that engages in deception. I’m kind of a walking contradiction of terms.

Not to get too preachy on anybody (what do you expect when I’m married to a pastor and have an undergrad in Biblical Studies), but in the Gospels (Matthew 4:19 & Mark 1:17) Jesus states that if Simon (Peter) and Andrew follow Him, that He will make them fishers of men. This puts my faith under the bus, if we follow the above thinking of fishing as deception.

Personally, as a Christian, I can’t believe that Jesus’s intention is to deceive people. I’m sure there are people out there that believe that, but I whole heartily disagree with them. I believe that the intent was one of persuasion. The goal was not to deceive people, but to persuade people. There’s a big distinction here: deception requires the use of trickery or possibly even lying, persuasion doesn’t need to have those things. Persuasion is actually the ability to prevail over someone to do something. In some cases, lying and deception are used, but in others its just urging an individual.

I can go along with this clarification. I’m no longer considered a deceiver, but an urger. My intent when fishing is to urge the trout to take my lure. I’m persuading the fish that they want to bite my lure. If the fish had any brains, it would see that there is a hook there. Is it my fault that the fish isn’t smart enough to know the difference?

Somehow, all of this feels like some sort of legal loophole. I ultimately maybe trying to justify my actions. Maybe I truly am a liar and a deceiver of fish (and humans) and don’t want to give up fly fishing due to a conflict of faith. Yet, if that is the case I’m sure I’m not the first Christian to show up at the Pearly Gates with fly rod in hand. Plus, if Norman Maclean was right, I’m sure that the River of Life that flows through paradise will have the Apostle John casting dry flies to the heavenly trout. And if I’m really lucky, maybe Christ Himself will give me a few pointers like he did to Simon Peter (cast your nets onto the other side of the boat).

Day 50 – Outfished & Happy

26 10 2009

What a wonderful day. The weather was cooperative, the autumn colors were in full regalia, and it was spent with my wife and pup outdoors. Beautiful…

Since my wife gets Monday’s off, I suggested that we go to Stone Mountain State Park. I told her that we could do a little hiking and if there was time, maybe I could wet a line while she took photos. So after sleeping in (as much as you can with a dog and two cats) we managed to get on the road almost right at 11 AM. We decided to bring the Wonderpup with us as we thought he’d enjoy the car ride and hiking trails versus the kennel in the bedroom.

The drive out was spectacular. As I mentioned the trees were dressed in all their splendor. We might have missed the peak viewing time by about a week, as a few trees stood naked amongst their brethren. Despite our tardiness though, there were muted yellows, bold reds, burnt oranges, and even a few remaining green leaves to excite our eyes.

After stopping for lunch at Backyard Burgers just outside of Jonesville, we made our way to the state park. Again, autumn colors equals wow. We started off our visit to Widow Creek Falls. Nash was excited to explore, however he got a little freaked out when he went to go sniff the water on a granite chute and almost fell in.

Our next stop included about a 30 minute hike (uphill!). The rustle of leaves, the faint pine smell, and good conversation was good for the soul. Having reached the top of a hill that then started to descend, I made the arbitrary decision to go back as I wasn’t climbing that hill again.

Back at the Trout-mobile I changed into waders. We had saw a gentleman across the road trying for fish. I don’t want to judge, but I’m not quite sure what kind of angler he was. He drove a Mercedes convertible and his fly vest looked as though it was ironed. I’m just saying…

I rigged up a two fly rig with a Bubba Nymph on top, and a Bead Head Egg pattern below. I went back to where the “angler” was at and proceeded to cast to a school of brookies. After a dozen or so casts (and a missed strike) I decided that my system was too heavy and changed the Bubba Nymph to a black hare’s ear. I then caught a branch on the other side of the stream. I’m OK with losing a fly now and then, but two at once?! I waded across that stream, spooked the fish, and salvaged my system. At that point, I decided it was best to move on.

There was a spot further down the road that I had a feeling about. I had fished it in the past with only a few strikes, but I knew that this pool held fish (of decent size and quantity). After a few casts into the inky surface, I hooked a moderate sized rainbow. Success! I called my wife who promptly came and took a photo. Another few casts and another rainbow.

I looked at my wife, and she seemed to be interested. She asked if she could try a few casts. Now she’s only been fishing with me once before, and she only took photographs that time. Seeing that this was a hot pool, I decided to let her have a go at it. She took the rod from me and I directed her on where to cast and how to manage her line. The second or third cast, the strike indicator took a nose dive deep into the water… Fish On!

I coached her on how to set the hook, and then directed her to lead the fish over to me. I scooped the fish and saw that she caught an average sized rainbow. Nice… I unhooked the fish and as I handed her the fish so I could take a photo of the occasion, the fish wriggled and Kathryn lost her grip. No big deal, as she would continue to catch three more fish. The most beautiful was the brookie. While it wasn’t the same size of the rainbows, it was the most breathtaking.

As the clouds were gathering overhead and the sun was starting its descent, we decided to pack up, give the Wonderpup one last stretch of the legs, and then take the drive back home. On the way back, I noticed that Kathryn was starting to cry a little bit. She turned to me and said, “I don’t know when the last time I laughed so genuinely.” She explained that she’s laughed, but it has been either the fake laugh, or the forced laugh, or the good natured laughed, but all of those had been a conscious decision. Today, when she caught the fish, she laughed out of shear joy.

And so, I sit here at the end of a good day and reflect upon the memories made. I may have been outfished by my wife (which I’m OK with) but I was finally able to show her the pure joy that I feel when I’m out in the stream. Because of that though, my fly fishing budget may be cut in half (if you get my drift). I’m still OK with that, it just means that I gained a lifetime fishing partner. Life is good.

Day 49 – Fortunate Find

25 10 2009

Tonight I decided that “Nash the Wonderpup” need to go for a walk. He was getting a little cabin fever and I thought the walk would calm him down before my wife came home. Plus, he wasn’t the only one getting a little stir crazy. So, I grabbed his leash and we headed off on a walk around the neighborhood.

Previously, Nash and I would do the “loop”, which consists of going around the block (which could be about a mile). However, today I wanted to do something different. Shortly after we moved here, I had noticed a sign over by the golf course. It looked as if there was a little trail over that way. I decided to do a little exploring. It was a good thing I did.

Just past the treeline was a path that led up to an embankment. And there in full autumnal glory was a small lake. An asphalt path lined the lake. The trees in their glorious farewell colors rimmed the lake. Off to my right, were a few ducks trailing each other like a military squad. And if that wasn’t perfect enough, the sun was just at the correct height that gave everything a golden hue. I’ve been told by professional photographers that this a semi-rare phenomenon that is referred to as the golden moment.

Obviously Nash and I stopped to take in the beauty. I hadn’t expected this lake to be here. My wife had told me that there was a lake that our community could use, but I had it figured out to be further north of us. Looks like I was mistaken.

I have been wanting a small lake to practice on. That or a field. Either one would have been fine, but this gem? This was a gold mine. The closest edge to the parking lot included a fishing dock, but it also included an unobstructed waterline. For those who are not anglers, this allows me to be able to backcast without worry of tangling up in the trees. Plus, I have a float tube that has been in my possession for a few years now and I never had an excuse to put it together. Now I do.

As Nash and I continued to soak in the moment, I noticed movement behind the fishing dock. Crawling up from the bank was a gentleman with fly rod in hand. Now this was just too perfect. Not only did I find a “secret” lake, but it seems inhabited by other fly anglers. The dog and I watched as he walked to the end of the fishing dock and made a few casts out into the water.

Now, fly fishing ethics deem that I should give this man some space. And I held out for about 5 minutes before I decided to introduce myself. As I walked down towards the dock, I happened to pass by his truck. The back window was covered in fly fishing decals and beer stickers. The plot thickens…

After introductions, we started talking about different streams to fish in the area. I mentioned to him that my wife and I just moved to the area and that I was still exploring areas to fish. I told him that this was a gem of a spot and I couldn’t wait to get my rod to start doing some practice. We talked some more, and I soon discovered that he lives right up the street from me.

Now those of you that know me, understand that I always feel a little bit of a kindred spirit to other anglers. Yet when this gentleman described himself as a fishing bum, and that it didn’t matter how he caught the fish (although he prefers a fly rod), I knew at that moment that I liked him.

I initially struggled with the idea of going for a walk with the Wonderpup. Yet, something prompted me to go exploring. I’m glad I did, for now I discovered my practice lake and possibly a new angling friend. I guess sometimes you have to give in to that little badgering voice, you never know what your fortune may hold.

Day 48 – Silent Supporter

25 10 2009

I would hope that everyone of us has that person in our lives that quietly rallies the troops to our cause. Someone who can take on your adversary when you are too weak, too exhausted, or too tired. The silent supporter who sees only the good in your soul, when you can’t even see it yourself.

Thursday night I went and had dinner with my wife. Thursdays are long days for her as she usually puts in a full day’s worth of work at the church, then proceeds to participate in choir and bell choir. When it is all said and done, she goes into work around 8:30 – 9:00 AM and doesn’t come home until 8:30 – 9:00 PM. Thursday we managed to sneak away for an hour or so to have dinner.

On the way home, I told her that I wanted to stop by the fly shop to pick up some fly hooks (I’ve been wanting to tie up that pattern I talked about on Friday (still haven’t determined a winner on that one yet)). Like any good spouse she asked how much was I planning on spending. My first response was $10, I later changed it to under $20.

Now before moving on, I have to admit that in the past few weeks I’ve spent a fair amount of money on fly fishing. That wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for three things: 1) I’m still unemployed (despite actively seeking work). 2) Unemployment ran out last week. 3) My wife has been working extremely hard, and I’m talking about going fishing.

Having built a framework, I’d like to move on. Needless to say, the conversation wasn’t going too well for me. I offered a few lame excuses about something (they were lame, so I can’t really recall). Right as I was dropping her off to go back to work, she conceded her position and let me purchase the items.

In spite of all that has happened in the last year (losing my job, finishing grad school, travelling to Africa for grad school, packing and moving halfway across the country, purchasing a home…) my wife is still looking out for my well being. She knows that fly fishing soothes my soul and encourages me to go out onto the stream on a semi-regular basis.

While this blog entry doesn’t appear to have anything to do with fly fishing, it has everything to do with fly fishing for me. You see my wife is my silent supporter. She is the one that asks if I’ve written anything on the blog yet for the day. She is the one that brags to her friends and congregation members about my passion for fly fishing. She is the one that looks over my shoulder as I tie a #24 emerger and says that it looks good.

And so, I end today’s entries with two words. And these words are directed towards my wife: Thank You.