Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rest in Peace, Barbaro

This is how I choose to remember Barbaro. None of those bothersome legs painfully testing the ground beneath. Flying. Unbeaten. Unbeatable. You were a special horse.

(Photo by Ed Reinke, AP)

Florida Wildlife

Well, not a lot of fishing got done this weekend, and no fish to report. But many photos were taken. So instead of a fishing report, here's a photo essay from the Sunshine State...

Why the long face? Pelicans on the pier at Flagler Beach. They didn't catch any fish either. At least not while I was there.

Royal Tern, same pier. I thought this guy looked like a candidate for hair plugs. If your bald spot meets your receding hairline, it's time to do something.

Is there a bigger dork in the animal kingdom than this guy? I think not.

We watched the sandpipers for hours...

...well, we weren't JUST watching sandpipers. That would be boring, now, wouldn't it. (Yes, I have been known to drink watery mass-produced American beer while at the beach. After all, you've got to stay hydrated!)

I had never driven on the beach before! But you can do it at Ormand Beach, north of Daytona, where I snapped this picture of my Fishing Transport Vehicle (note the license plate). It was pretty fun, a little like driving in the snow.

Also fun: This bar in Orlando where the bartenders danced on the bars and where I think there might have been some other band thing or something. Details fuzzy.

One more note about wildlife. We saw three bald eagles on this trip. Two in Florida -- one was actually eating carrion off the highway, I did not know they did that. The other we saw flying. We also saw one on the drive back, in Virginia, north of Richmond. I know they are making a huge comeback in the east, but it is ALWAYS a special occasion when you see one.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Previous Life

Almost three years ago, I picked up a fly rod for the first time. My golf clubs have been gathering dust ever since. But Wednesday we're heading down to Florida for a few days to visit some family and get away from work and winter for a while. My father in law loves to golf and told me to bring the clubs, so I dug them out of the basement. Something else you should know about my father in law: his house is right on the Intracoastal Waterway. So I figured that golf bag has room for one extra club.

I'm bringing my 8 weight because the reel that goes with it has a non-corrosive finish that will be okay in saltwater. But I have no idea what kind of fish are in there, if they are catchable, or how to catch them. But it's definitely worth a try, so I'll bring some baitfish patterns and other streamers, and see what happens. What's the Florida state record for a manatee caught on a fly?

This is kind of funny and I hadn't thought about it until I hauled these clubs out for a photo. But it seems that even before I all but gave up the game for an even quieter sport, I must have had fishing on my mind...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sketch and Release

Josi Etter has come up with a unique way to utilize her talents in both art and business. I have seen her work displayed at Whitaker's in Pulaski, NY while salmon and steelhead fishing up there, and it's beautiful. She creates wonderfully detailed paintings from a photograph of your fish, and she creates them life-sized. So if you've got a photo of a special fish and you're having trouble convincing your spouse that a fiberglass mount would look great hanging anywhere other than over the washer and dryer, a painting by Josi might be just the solution everyone in the house can agree on! Bookmark her web site, and I'm adding her to my list of links.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Photo of the Week

I came across this photo while surfing some fly fishing sites, this one comes from Alaska Adventures. I emailed them because I really wanted to know if this was real, if someone actually captured these sockeye salmon underwater and a big-ass bear onshore, all with one snap of the shutter. They have not yet responded, but if this is an undoctored photo, I'd like to shake the hand of the photographer. Very, very cool.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Flyfishin' Product Review: Beer

My last post made me think about an aspect of fly fishing that is not as necessary as rod and reel, but can punctuate a nice day of fishing perfectly: Beer.

More than once I have made a 'novelty' purchase of some beer with a trout on the label, thinking it'll be the perfect addition to a weekend fishing trip. The bottles are great conversation pieces but, more often than not, the beer inside ranges from forgettable to (nearly) undrinkable. However, Mad River Brewing Company's Steelhead Extra Pale Ale was not only the perfect beer to bring along on my first steelheading trip, it happens to be a product I have tried before and like quite a bit. Here is what Mad River has to say about it:

A bright golden hued ale with a medium body and a crisp spicy/floral hop character and very mild bitterness. This unfiltered ale has a pleasing mouth feel and remains our most popular brew. This beer goes with everything and every occasion.

Okay I have no idea what any of that means, but I do agree with the last part. And I know for a fact it goes well with cold rivers, good friends, cheapish cigars and, of course, angry steelhead.

Honorable mention goes to a fine beer I sampled many, many times during my brief time fishing the mighty Missouri River around Cascades, Montana. Bayern Brewing Company calls their Trout Slayer Ale a "specially brewed top- yet cold-fermented wheat beer with a very distinct wheat flavor and a golden color." Uh, okay. I guess that's right. All I can say about this one is, it goes great with bison burgers and the Big Sky.

But then again, what doesn't?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Steel in hand. Water in boots.

Matt and I showed up in Pulaski, NY after dark Friday. He had never been there before so I drove him around a bit to show him the river from a few easily accessible viewpoints. The river was flat out raging. The flow out of the dam at that time was 1,800 c.f.s., adding a few feeder creeks after that and the end result was probably close to 2,000. Extremely high. But the hotline called for a reducton to 1,250 for the weekend, which is still very high, but fishable. It rained all night, but the river was down to the less angry 1,250 and at 7:00 a.m., we were in it.

After a brief but intensive lesson in the art of fly fishing for steelhead from our guide, Randy, we were putting our newfound knowledge to use. The first fish on was mine (my only fish hooked all day), and Randy did an awesome job of coaching me through the fight. Letting the fish freely take all the line he needed, letting the drag of the reel decide if the fish was ready to bring closer, and letting the distance of line out determine when to move downstream in pursuit. Twenty minutes of pure fun and maybe a hundred yards of clumsy, exhausting pursuit downriver and he finally got close enough for Randy to net him. My first steelhead safely in hand! I can say without hesitation that without Randy's coaching there is zero chance that I land that fish. I learned more about fighting big fish in that one fight than all my previous knowledge on the subject combined.

We didn't see many people hooking fish at all, so when Matt hooked two but lost them, we felt like we had done okay, although I really hoped Matt could have landed one. The tug of a big fish on the line has gotten to him, and he's already signing on for spring steelhead and fall salmon trips back to the Salmon River.

See this water? It's 34 degrees. Air temperature started at 37 degrees (and snow) first thing in the morning, and steadily dropped to about 24 by the time we were done. But my attempts in the weeks leading up to this trip to prepare myself for cold weather were a waste of time. Of the many, many things I learned this weekend, the one thing I know I will retain is this: Make sure your waders are waterproof. I struggled through an eight hour day of fishing with ice cold feet, thinking I had just not purchased or worn the right clothing for a mid-January upstate New York fishing trip, only to get back to my room and pour a quart of ice cold water out of each leg of my waders. My brand new heavy duty Cabelas socks, loaded with technology and, evidently, irony, mocked me with the word "Genius" stamped across the toes as I tried to peel them off my frozen feet. Must have been a hole in my waders higher up than my usual wading depth, I'll find it tomorrow and repair it, and will never go cold weather fishing again without checking my gear thoroughly.

One final note for you steelheaders out there, I'd love to get your opinion on how big this fish might be. We didn't weigh or measure it, and I think it's probably below average for that fishery, but I'd just kind of like to know.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Go for Launch

Well we're driving up to NY tomorrow, my friend Matt and I in our first pursuit of steelhead. I think there is a possibility that I am crazy. The fact that I talked Matt into coming with me is the only thing that prevents me from being certain. I mean, what are the odds that we're BOTH crazy?

Don't answer that.

I know we'll learn a lot from our guide. I'd love to land one my first time out, but I intend to learn as much as I can so I can go up on my own whenever conditions are favorable and time permits. Regardless, I will report back with pictures. Hopefully of fish. Wish us luck!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Another Species for my Wish List

I was watching fishing on TV and a guy who was fishing for bass caught an enormous muskie. He wasn't fly fishing but I know people do target muskie on the fly. So I did a quick search and found the Muskie on a Fly site, a guide service out of Minnesota. The site has loads of awesome photos and information on tactics to target these monsters. Man, I would love to get one of these scary bastards on the line! I've never even seen one in person.

Shopping for Weather

Anyone who has ever really looked forward to something, whether it's out of town or not, has probably done what I did this morning. A friend and I are going steelhead fishing in upstate New York this Saturday, we're taking a guide and this is our first time steelheading. A greatly anticipated outing. So this morning I checked the weather online for Saturday in Pulaski, NY.

35 and 'rather cloudy.' Sounds pretty good, really. But it could be better. So I do the logical thing and check another weather site. This one had similar temps but included chance of rain (not a bad thing) and freezing rain (a bad thing). So I did what you have to do if you want to control future weather conditions at a distant location: I checked yet a third site. Now we're talking! 43 degrees with showers. Sounds like steelheading weather to me! But with so many conflicting forecasts, can I really trust it? I felt like a gambler in a casino as I let it ride and rolled the dice again: Another 43 with showers!

Not only did I shop around for the forecast I wanted, but I found it twice. How can I be anything short of confident that conditions will be favorable for fishing this Saturday?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Photo of the Week

This week's photo comes from my favorite place: Montana, courtesy of Joel of Rock Creek Cattle Company. Joel promises large western trout and cold Montana microbrews when I come out there in July and I will hold him to at least one of the two. Thanks Joel!