A few days ago Jacob stumbled across the trailer for a new film coming out from Bloodknots called Our Two Hands.
He was relentless in my stopping what I was doing immediately to watch it.
I urge to to watch the trailer, rent or buy a copy of the full film on August 28th, and do whatever you can to further this movement.
The problem with the fly angler is this, we spend the vast majority of our time on earth in an almost constant obsessive stalking of fish.
Days are meticulously timed out to allow the proper number of hours to reading, fly tying, possibly rod building, beer drinking, practice casting, and most importantly, the act of fishing itself, which naturally is allotted the largest slot of time.
Those who occasionally fish will pass up the opportunity to go if they feel that the odds are stacked against them, the devote angler does not. Perhaps in some ways the occasional angler is much smarter than the full time angler, but I've never met a fly fisherman who claimed to be smart or sane.
Summer has hit us hard in this part of the world.
The rain is becoming less frequent, temperatures are beginning to rise to unbearable numbers with no relief in the evening, and the trout have decided that they no longer want to play.
I don't blame them, even my dogs would rather spend the day lounging on the cool wooden floors than participate is any active nonsense.
It's the time of year where you wake up before the sun and quit well before lunch time.
Landing a large trout is no longer a goal, instead you've become a master at breaking them off of your barbless hooks.
Tubber hatches begin at 11 o'clock almost every day and even if you were having a decent morning, it's over now.
The odds of having a phenomenal fishing day are stacked horribly against you.
And yet, you persist.
Because really, what else would you do with your time?
I've been thinking a lot recently about the importance of things, or rather, lack thereof. Whenever a holiday such as Christmas of your birthday pop up people typically want to know what is that you want in celebration of that day.
I've been thinking about it a lot because today is my birthday, and a big one I'm told, but we'll forgo how big.
Many people have been asking me what I want and the truth is nothing. There is not one thing that I need or anything that's going to enhance my life in any way.
Buy me a beer, maybe a burger and take me to the woods.
Another situation that's been heavy on my mind these past few weeks are our conservation efforts and how we can make sure the outdoors, primarily cold, clean waters are around for the generations to come.
The answer is kids.
I recently posted about an experience Jacob and I had with Rivercourse, a kids fly fishing camp sponsored by our local Trout Unlimited group, and how much fun we had with it. I've been really thinking about the impact of that camp, the program Trout in the Classroom, and even Take a Kid Fishing Day.
I want to do more.
So, for my birthday, I want to be able to give back. That's why this month I'm going to be donating 10% of all rod sock sales to Land O' Sky Trout Unlimited,specifically youth education programs.
Need a rod sock or two, this is the month for it!
Don't need one, share with some friends who might!
If you'd like to know more about LOSTU youth education programs and how you'd be helping out, please take a look here.
If you'd like to know more about my rods sock, check out this page.
I hope to make a significant donation, but more importantly, I hope to be able and help some more kids find a passion for the outdoors and cultivate a desire to save it.
Sometimes I close my eyes, breathe in, and I can smell home. That familiar smell that's comforting and welcoming, the kind of memory smell that can change your mood. It's the smell of warm pine, honeysuckle, and crisp water. Whenever you return after a long trip it smells better than you remembered it. You feel welcomed back.
The smell hits you first. The sounds come second. The fast gurgling of water, the soft whispers of mayfly's, the birds calling to each other from across the valley. You're comfortable because you've returned home, but the anticipation in your gut bubbles over.
Every step down the trail is a new adventure, no matter how many times you've traveled this same path before. You can peer over the ridge line and still be taken aback by the beauty that's in front of you. It's almost like seeing a Jackson Pollock or Caravaggio for the first time, but it's not your first time. You're staring out over your mountains, your valleys, your river.
The goat path to slide down has no marker, no indication that this is the spot, but you know it is. You know the rock that's next to it, you've seen it many times before. The slide down isn't exactly safe, but you've done it so many times you know how to hold your rod and where to position your feet. You know to stop before you get too close to the hole, because you've met the 14-inch brook trout that's hiding out in the big eddy. Sitting on your heels you admire the beauty all around you, searching out the bright orange fins that are right below. The ant piles around your feet grab your attention and you maneuver your rod ever so gently to switch your Adams pattern to an ant.
You sit and wait a while longer, noticing that the wildlife has changed just since last week.
And suddenly, you see it. That bright orange flash you've been waiting for, followed by an even more exhilarating slurp.
You hook up on this brook trout, the one you know so well, the one you've caught countless times before, but this time is still just as good as the first. Your dance is quick, you know it's summer, you already know every move this fish is going to make. The release is quick and painless. You move on upstream, meeting some fish you've known for years and others you've never seen before.
You spend your day among the laurels and random pine trees in the distance. The ant pattern doesn't fail you all day, until your meet the brown that destroys it. It finds a place on your hat, a reminder of a day well spent.
Walking out on the same path you came in on, hours before, the sun is in a different place over the ridge. The colors have changed since this morning. The cool blues have been replaced with warm oranges, reds, and purples. Your artwork has changed once again.
Driving out over the parkway you feel a sense of pride in your home. You close your eyes and breathe in. The smell is still fresh on your clothes and deeper embedded in your mind. You hope that when you return on a week, month, or maybe more it's exactly as you left it.
Because this land is your home.
If you're a loyal reader of this little blog of ours (all 10 of you) you've noticed that the postings have been pretty sparse this past week.
I've gotten a ton of rod sock orders, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!
And, Jacob and I had the privilege of being able to help out with our local Trout Unlimited's camp for kids, Rivercourse.
I heard about Rivercourse a few years ago and like most things always meant to help out. But, the years came and went and there was always something that prevented me from showing up. This year, with my new found freedom from corporate life, I was ready to commit.
I can't say enough about it. There were so many excited kids and they were excited about fishing. Even better than that they were excited about conservation.
The truly awesome part of this year's collection of kids was the number of girls, and how they approached camp. Each of the two young ladies I was privileged enough to work with was so interested in the dynamics of fishing, maybe more so than actually catching fish. They constantly questioned me about their casting techniques, the names of flies, what bugs the flies imitated, rolling over rocks, the differences in the species of trout. They were conscientious about wetting their hands before touching the fish, remembering to always de-barb their flies, and proper releasing tactics. I was really impressed!
Which leads me to how great the day in, day out staff was. Their leadership, enthusiasm, and ethics trickled down to most every child who participated.
I'm not sure how the final tournament went, but I have high hopes that the winning team had a female on it.
If you've never participated in any program like this, I urge you to. Not only is it important to pass on the art of fly fishing, but it's important to pass on the ethics and conservation.
Plus, you may walk away with more from it than the kids do!
What does your local Trout Unlimited chapter do for conservation and youth education?
Tell me about it!
We weren't supposed to go fishing today.
We weren't supposed to catch a 16-inch wild brown on a small brookie stream.
All Mondays should be like this.
Lesson of the day:
ALWAYS bring a net, even when you "know" you won't need it.
All fly fishermen are easily spotted, they wear their passion for this sport on their sleeves.
Their cars usually contain a collection of stickers and fly rods are easily spotted, random flies can be seen adorning the headrests or flip down mirrors.
There's usually a healthy layer of dirt coating the car, no matter how old or new.
At some point in general conversation fly fishing will come up. You'll hear about an epic fish, blown out river or favorite trip, this is inevitable.
Quick dry clothes are all they own. You will rarely see them not sporting a t-shirt, flannel, and fishing hat.
When you go for a drive in their car, chances are it will smell like wet feet and some type of tobacco, no matter how clean they keep it.
You'll find fly tying material, specifically feathers, everywhere. In the laundry, in your bed, kitchen counter, everywhere.
You'll also end up finding flies, in all the same places, and you'll probably have to pull one out of your dogs paw at some point.
All coffee table reading material will be replaced with the latest issue of The Drake or Fly Tyer.
Vintage tackle and pipes will begin to appear on mantels, side tables and armoire's.
They'll take you to see short films and documentaries on the sport, they don't even know what standard blockbuster just came out.
Your casual dinner conversation will consist of what kind of reel seat would look best with a flamed bamboo rod. This should last roughly 30-45 minutes, depending.
No vacation is taken unless the main goal is fishing.
Eventually, you'll learn to ignore it or you'll give in and you'll become just as bad if not worse. And, the argument over finding random flies in dogs paws will turn into another conversation about why you should always fish barbless.
With guiding season in full swing and personal fishing trips being far and few between I've been keeping myself busy with a variety of things; from vegetable gardens to refurbishing decks to most importantly, sewing up some rod socks.
Over the next couple of weeks several socks, of all different styles, will be heading out of the shop to various builders around the country.
Six months ago when I started in the "rod sock" business I had no idea what was ahead of me. I've been able to work with so many different rod builders, varying from different fly shops, from western to saltwater bamboo builders, to glass geeks near and far.
This month I've been working on several socks for a few builders that utilize a flap rather than the straight hemmed top. I really enjoy this design. It's a little more "vintage" and has a real nostalgic feel to it, perfect for traditional bamboo builders.
If you're interested in any of my custom rod socks, please visit this page for more information or send me an e mail!
I don't have the room to mention everyone that I've had the privilege of working with, but you know who you are, and thank you!
Because of all you builders and anglers alike I've been able to create new designs, learn more about rod building than any non builder should (Jacob appreciates that), see so many beautiful works of fly rod art, and even come up with replications of old tattered bags that have seen better days.
So, thank you, it's been an honor, and I can't wait to meet and work with more of you!
If you were to give me the option between fishing a large, glorious river filled with honey holes and packed with giant, hungry brown trout or a small backcountry creek, I'd probably pick the creek. I'm not opposed to the first, in fact, brown trout may arguably be my favorite. But, there's a different kind of magic found back in the mountains amongst tiny, blue ridge beauties.
For many months now, if not years, Jacob and I have been discouraged by both the population and size of the wild water trout. Most of the time you're going to catch a tiny rainbow, if you're having an exceptional day you'll get to meet an even smaller brook trout, but probably only one or two.
We make it a point to try and fish known brook trout streams, making sure to climb high enough to reach them. We leave these streams having caught fish, but not as many, not the right species. The rivers are warmer, the bug life is not as plentiful. While there's still fish, it is discouraging to recognize that it has changed, that it's not what it once was.
We headed out this weekend with a friend in hopes of finding the elusive Southern Brook Trout. The filled parking lot in the wee hours of the morning was not an encouraging sight. Being good anglers, we scoured the cars for evidence of the tell-tale fishing stickers. None were found and we determined it was in our best interest to brave the hikers and campers for the fish.
And, fish we did find!
Pools, runs, slicks, filled to the brim with large beautiful brook trout, not one rainbow or brown was even sighted. The bright orange fins with stark white borders were noticeable a mile away.
Plenty of time was spent "resting" a pool, but really we were just admiring something that's so scarce.
I spend a lot of time on a healthy brook trout stream just savoring the artistry of it because around here, it's a rare thing.
I hope that maybe one day this will become the norm.
I hope that perhaps our past efforts and future efforts will pay off.
I hope that we will learn to conserve, to keep clean, and to treasure all of our streams.
But really, I hope that we, as anglers, will be better than we were before.
Jacob is a fly fishing guide with a passion for conservation and brook trout. He is an accomplished rod builder and restorationist.
Jillian is an outdoor photographer and blogger, using her voice for Public Lands and Cold Water Conservation. She specializes in trying to out fish jacob whenever she puts the camera down.