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.
At the beginning of this year I gave myself three goals, not resolutions, but goals.
I can confidently say that so far I've successfully accomplished these goals.
And, that by maintaining this lifestyle, right now I only have one major problem.
I'm out of books.
Currently taking recommendations, any are appreciated.
"For one so firmly hooked, there is temptation to linger over a farewell to the noble fish. An entire book, with such a pretentious title, devoted to one species of fish, might lead one to assume that everything in known about Salmo Trutta. But it soon becomes obvious that there is still much to be learned about this complicated creature.
So, speaking for the brotherhood, I say hail - but not farewell - to the brown trout, a fabulous fish bringing joy to the heart, solace to the spirit and enrichment to life."
-The Compleat Brown Trout, Cecil E. Heacox
There's something about driving down a gravel road. For some reason it makes you feel like you're going somewhere out of the way, somewhere "inconvenient" for the masses. I've always associated gravel roads with leading you to the woods.
On Wednesday, we headed down a pot-hole infested, washed away gravel road just as the sun was coming up. It curved around and back, over tiny bridges, narrowing and widening throughout the drive. The fog was still hung heavy on the mountains in the distance.
The water was still cold. There were no bugs yet, the sun hadn't hit the water, it was still moving into her place overhead. And yet, ambitiously, a small rainbow crept from the bottom of its deep protective pool to eat my fly, twice the size of its mouth. As the day persisted, in the same fashion, rainbows and brook trout of all sizes consumed flies the whole day. Many of these tiny creatures outsmarted us, more than once, taking the fly only to shake free from it before we could hold them in our hands for just a minute.
The heat of the day had just started to set in, along with the growling of my stomach, when we came upon a large pool, decorated with laurels on either side. Jacob fished this pool, tricking a few trout and being outplayed by others. I sat on a rock, observing all of it. Watching the bugs dancing on the top of the water, listening to the creek as it traveled over and under the obstacles in her way, and watching the nine-inch trout leap out of the water with such ferocity you have to admire it.
That's when I realized that this love I have for this place makes it mine to care for, to ensure that what I love about it so much remains.
This morning, while admiring others adventures and fishes, I came across a photo and comment that stuck with me, it read:
"While it's yours, while it's in your care, do your best to make it more beautiful."
-Jillian Lukiwski, The Noisy Plume
This creek, this little mountain, and many others are mine and in my care, for now at least. And, luckily, not mine alone.
There are many that don't believe it is their responsibility to care for the creeks, mountains, deserts, forests, and waters, but I believe that there are far more of us that do. I believe that we will take up this battle, each in our own individual way, in our own parts of the world, and make them more beautiful, more fruitful, more prosperous than we found them.
Because make no mistake, it is up to us and it is our responsibility.
"This was the best day I've had in a really long time."
Jacob and I frequent a bar regularly. It's not a particularly impressive establishment, but it is the most unique place I've every been.
The gas station bar.
That's right, folks, it's a bar right in the middle of a gas station. I don't know of anything more quintessentially redneck than that.
As with all good bar goers and bar backs a friendship was born. Steven, the bartender, has known about our fly fishing lifestyle for some time now. This weekend, after a few pints of locally brewed beer, we decided it was time he joined us on one of our adventures.
We caught fish.
We discussed sustainability, conservation, and ethical river practices.
We fished some more and caught more fish.
We drank beer.
We examined climate change, river ecology, and the preservation of nature.
It was a good day, and the best Steven's had in a while, he told us so.
That's what this whole fly fishing business is really all about, isn't it?
That dreaded, annoying sound started pinging at 4:30 in the morning. That awful repetitive sound that wakes you from your sleep, getting you on your way. I hate that sound. It was 4:30 in the morning when Jacob and I crowded into our little Subaru and headed west.
We didn't know what to expect, we didn't understand what we were in for. More than anything we didn't know the impact this trip would have. All we knew was that it was 4:30 in the morning and we were headed to Durango for the next two weeks.
We've always been "backcountry" fishermen. Sure the big trout are exciting, but I'd rather catch the little guys any day of the week. And so, we sought them out in Colorado, just as we do at home. One of these smaller, wild streams we were able to fish was Lime Creek.
It's not a particularly "special" section of water. It's not one of those sacred "no name" creeks that we all have. People spoke openly about it at the fly shops and we saw a few people out and about during our days spent there. So, I don't think I'm breaking any code by talking about it.
You can read my full post on Lime Creek, here.
In the weeks and months that followed I was convinced that this little body of water had changed me. I was more sure of that than anything. This creek was the catalyst to a total and complete life change.
I quit my job, because it was no longer enhancing me, but rather making me worse.
I gave away, threw away, donated anything that I didn't feel served me anymore.
I began to spend more time worried about everything and less time worried about myself.
I've recently discovered that Lime Creek didn't change me, who I am, but it did change my perception, of everything.
On our way back east we stopped in Lexington, Kentucky to visit Jacob's mentor. He gifted us a book, Lime Creek Odyssey, by Steven J Meyers.
(you can read more about Steven Meyers, here)
In a way, that book impacted me just as much as the actual place. To say it has become one of my favorite books is an understatement. I've read the book about six times by now, sometimes reading from cover to cover other times jumping chapters, reading my favorites first.
There are two reasons I've latched on to this book the way I have. One, it reminds me of that creek any time it starts to get foggy. Two, it reminds me that my odyssey on this creek is not unique, nor is it necessary to revisit this place to have another one, perhaps life itself is an extended odyssey. And more importantly, life in your own backyard.
Oddly enough, my favorite part of the book is the Introduction, what I found to be the intention for the rest of the book. It's an intention that I now try to set for myself daily, almost a mantra if you will. It begins by questioning The Odyssey, the differences and parallels between Homer and Penelope, while also introducing the geography and history of this sublime little creek.
"It seems appropriate for me to wander this little valley while others, more heroic, journey to Nepal, the Arctic, the tropical rain forest. This personal odyssey of place, this exploration of a mountain stream, is also a journey in the discovery of self, and a search for an appropriate definitions of man's place in the broader reality of nature. I stay at home, like Penelope, believing that ones home is the proper place for such an odyssey."
- Lime Creek Odyssey
The book moves beautifully from hiking Engineer Mountain to fishing the creek itself, moving through life, being human, and even death.
If you've never been to this special place, that's ok, the book is still very much worth the read and should be found on any fly angler's bookshelf.
I'm glad that a vacation landed me and my fly rod in Lime Creek.
I'm glad that a copy of Lime Creek Odyssey fell into my lap.
And, I'm glad to have gone on my own odyssey, small and unheroic as it may be.
"I have been in Lime Creek long enough now to have seen a child born while I hiked it's woods, to have seen a loved one die while I fished its waters. I have seen a generation pass and another begin to flower. I know the creek will outlast me and my memory. I know further that there will come a time when all human impact on the creek will be gone. For now, however, we share a place in nature. And I have named that place with my names."
- Lime Creek Odyssey
Here's a recent essay written by the author, highlighting Lime Creek Odyssey, conservation, and the responsibility we have to our home.
It started Saturday night and it hasn't stopped.
Thunderstorms and planing.
That's right, the weather has prevented us from fishing and so, Jacob started planing a bamboo rod.
I haven't seen him very much the past few days and I don't expect to for a while. The obsession has begun and it won't end until the rod is completed.
I'm going to hear endless rants about node spacing, angles, silk, and possibly shimmers.
Oh, the dreaded shimmers. But, that's ok.
It's always an interesting process to watch, seeing pieces of bamboo go from seemingly mismatches pieces of sticks to a completed work of art.
It's going to thunderstorm again today, so there won't be any fishing. The sky has changed from a muted sunrise to dark and menacing in just a few short hours.
I hear that the planing should be completed today.
Next up, gluing.
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.