I cannot begin to say how excited I am about this! Thursday I'll be picking up a Sage ZXL 3wt 8'6". Now the hunt for the perfect reel for it begins... I have a couple in mind and I'll be on ebay all day tomorrow looking for some.
I have gotten a lot of grief from my wife and other close associates about the condition, appearance and general state of my favorite fishing shirt. I got it last year off the clearance rack at Target, so it's nothing fancy--just a white, 100% linen button-down. It, at least, started out white.
Since I first wore it out fishing, it has become my almost "always-gotta-wear-it" shirt. It has two handy pockets up top that are big enough for a small flybox, but not too big that they're baggy or loose when loaded. I don't use a fishing vest or chest pack, just an old, olive-drab canvas South African military bag (a whole separate post). That bag, when wet, oozes 70 years of grime, grit, and grossness that ranges from brown to...well, brown. After I first wet-waded up to my armpits one day, I noticed a horrible and very large stain on the bottom/back of the shirt. I figured it was mud from sitting stream-side, but it didn't wash off. The stain grew each trip I got wet and I finally concluded it was from my bag slowly cleaning itself on my shirt.
Since then, the stain has deepened, grown, faded slightly around some of the edges and generally has become a mature, well-worn-in stain. It has grown an appendage that reaches up and over my shoulder, presumably from the strap. Dots of rust spatter over the right side from the ancient steel fasteners, clasps and whatever else on that bag.
The collar is eternally blackened in spots from an equally old and rotting set of neoprene Chums for my sunglasses--I won't get rid of those either. There are multiple spots/spatters/wipes of blood on the shirt; they were each once redder and brighter, but have now darkened to that dried, reddish-brown color that war movies never really get around to showing. Some of it's mine, some from various fish, but it's all permanent for sure.
In short, I deserve the grief I get for the shirt, and I probably should have washed it more frequently. If I had, it probably wouldn't bear the camouflaged-look it's starting to have now; but I let all the stains really set up house and they aren't going anywhere now.
I had a good rationale for not letting it ever get to the washing machine: that'd be bad luck. Of course. There was a streak where I would catch little to nothing wearing that shirt "clean." It didn't take long for me to conclude that there was something metaphysical residing in that shirt and its stains. Washing it could bring nothing but unfortunate things.
It isn't that I think the shirt is good luck (I don't believe in good luck), it's that I believe in a sort of sub-superstitious way that washing it is bad luck. It is really just a statistical conclusion born out of a pattern of experiences and the belief that there is more to this life and world than I can possibly ever understand, and I know that washing that shirt is a bad thing. It disturbs something in the fish-world, or at least in the fishing-world. Whatever it is, I don't want to mess with it, disturb it, or take any chances. ...just don't wash the shirt. Besides, it's not as if I'm trying to win any girls' affections or a fashion contest out there in the water; I'm there to fish and, hopefully, bring a few to hand while I do.
Anyone else have superstitions or the like? I seriously doubt I'm alone....
Returning from saltwater fishing, a beach house and the beach would have been devastating at best had it not been for a pre-planned trip with the boys to Montauk for some coldwater trout. Here are a few photos from the day of salvation....
My first 'bow of the day on a borrowed rod. Both mine are in the shop, so Chris lent me his: am 8'6" Reddington CT. What a great rod! I described it as casting with butter, super-smooth and roll casts almost automatically. Another item of Chris' that I'm jealous of!
Ron did really well and pulled up a hog from the C&R area.
Ronnie caught this little bow and while it doesn't show up in the photo well at all, but this was a gorgeous little guy. Very bright colors and charcoal stripes covered its body; gotta love the tiddlers!
I wrote this and tried to post from the road on Saturday, but failed miserably at actually posting it. Technology and I aren't best friends just yet.
I found it interesting today while driving back to STL that you realize just how uninhabited and barren the US really is when you have an urgent need for some restroomed-civilization. There are vast stretches of not "nothing" just "no one." Or maybe its just need-induced impatience that makes the minutes and miles together stretch on like gum out of a teenage girl's mouth. Long...and irritating.
I saw a bumper sticker on a car that said "Live simply: that others may live simply." I was almost lured into the idea that this driver was actually a simple living sage who had--or at least was trying--found true simplicity. The idea found its mortality at the sight of the car's rear view mirror. There were more objects slung, hung, and dangled from that essential mirror to make it look like a hook for all things unnecessary. So much for the sticker.
There is something about memorable fishing trips--even though this trip qualifies more as a fishing-modified vacation--that sticks with you for as long as you can hold on to it. Sometimes its conversation or story or a near-death run-in. I don't see any evidence anywhere that you ever get to choose what does actually stick, but whatever does always seems like the right thing to have stuck and gives one the impression that we do in fact have a choice...and choose the best things. For me, at least this trip, what I cannot shake is the feeing of biggish Skipjack on the end on my 3wt.
There was such an intensity in their convulsive way of fighting that shook the rod so violently...for a few seconds each fish I felt as if I were hooked up with something really bluewater. I remember being surprised looking closely at the first one i brought to hand--"this is what did all THAT?!" Like a kid at the amusement park...I wheeled around again and again to get back in line for that one ride.
Roadtrips and fishing...they just belong together.
Here are just a few things I brought to be prepared for...if things didn't go as planned. I really thought I'd get into toothier stuff (hence the gloves, pliers and knife for ditching) and was concerned I'd have more downtime than I wanted (hence the book). Didn't use any of it!
One of the Wildlife Refuges near where we stayed. Sorry, Chris, no nudity allowed.
View of the lagoon in Bon Secour--I scouted this for fishing but never did anything here. I still don't know quite what to do with brackish water. There are plenty of fish in there, though, some of them large.
I pretended these were tarpon...on the end of my line...at the same time. But really they were just dolphin on a watch-tour. Bummer, no tarpon.
My favorite fishing pants: linen, sun bleached, salt stained, raggy-edged, blood spattered and comfy as hell. Best pants ever.
We had lots of contact with the local oil cleanup team and safety crews. They patrolled the beach looking for...I don't know what, but were all really nice guys and gals. I got to know a few of them fishing so much. I even got to sit in one and talk to Mike; he gave me some great tips on fishing. From what he said, word of the successful fly-fisher on Ft. Morgan spread. I definitely didn't see a single other flycaster this entire trip. I think people down here think its only for trout--no one could believe that I caught anything, much less as much as I did.
I found this the other day while searching for AL fishing info. It's one of those things you have to do while not fishing...otherwise you'll go mad. It was interesting to play around with the chart, and it includes lots of basic midwestern freshwater species. I'm sure if I looked around, I could find a more comprehensive one for FW fish native to Missouri.
No fish yet today, the coast is being hammered by some pretty heavy surf. I tried a few times to get out on the second sand bar...and got beaten back in every time. I'm venturing over to the bay side to check out the action there. We shall see....
Cheryl and I ventured over to the real Gulf Shores west of Fort Morgan to try to find some wavier beach action. There was none to be found, but we had some fun in the water anyway. As Cheryl commented to me, there is something about wildlife and...me. She never saw crabs, jellyfish or stingrays before we first came together a few years ago. That was the year of many rays and one bad sting by a bad, bad jelly on my arm. This year has been less filled with encounters, but today sort of changed that.
I was shuffling my feet like a good boy and all of a sudden I felt a strong shock shooting through my foot and up my leg. What the? Seriously? What just happened? Oh crap, I just stepped on a ray, I thought, as I saw it swim out from under me. I waited for the supposed excruciating pain...and waited, and it never came. Huh, that was weird. I turned to Cheryl: "I just got shocked by something!"
A few steps later (I was leaving the water!), it happened again. Crap it hurts! But no sting, no puncture, no blood. What the heck is doing this to me? Well, I got on Google tonight and found out--it's the Lesser Electric Ray. Read about 'em here.
Beyond that experience, I was able to add another fish species to my list during some sunset fishing. It's a Needlefish, and they can grow to three feet long--pretty fearsome sight at 3' I'm sure. This one was only about a third of that, but a fun catch anyway.
I am falling in love with this saltwater thing. I just wish there were more flyshops around--these boys tear up some flies...and tackle. Everytime I meet a local and ask about fly shops, no one has a clue. I don't think many are on the fly down here. Oh well, more for me!
Went out again and caught more Ladys and mystery fish. It turns out that Orvis Super Strong tippet....is horrible. I am cursing all things Orvis right now. That aside, had some more fun out there.
We also spotted a pod of dolphins just offshore. With the sharks I had spotted while fishing earlier in the day, I immediately thought these were more. At first, all that was showing were dorsals cruising, but that soon turned to porpoising and this one jump. Pretty cool stuff. And no, Chris, I did not cast to them.
I just returned from the surf, and I have a positive report. I finally started landing all the fish I was hooking up with. It turns out that these fish, while not huge, are strong enough to snap a 2x tippet in a run...horsing them in on a 3 wt is not possible. After I started playing them out a bit (even had one on the reel) I had success at bringing them to hand. I would've taken more photos, but I was pretty far out and didn't want to drop the damn camera in the water. I caught Ladyfish after Ladyfish, more than I remember. I lost about a third, but landed lots. I learned to tire them out just a bit and pounce on them for landing--that was, Im sure, quite a sight from shore.
The jumping and aerobatics of the Ladyfish are incredible, like Tarpon on a small scale. Having one run in, jump a few feet in the air just a few feet from you is one of the most incredible fishing experiences I've ever had. The water is gorgeous, the fish are amazing...and I'm catching them!
I fished from sandbanks 50' or so out that gave me much better visibility and options for casting.
My first Ladyfish on the 3wt, and my first ever salt fish!
I am in love with these "girls." I know they're everywhere, supposedly easy to catch, and whatever else. But I don't care--they're awesome on a 3wt.
I have no idea what this is, but its my second salt species. I am amazed at how shiny everything in the surf is. I felt like I was catching broken mirrors.
Well, I just returned from another go at the surf. This morning I had the 8wt out and flat wore myself out casting that! The wind is nearly constant 20mph from the right...not ideal for 60' casts. I gave up for a bit this morning, but as Cheryl and I were out swimming, a spincaster came along and drew me back out.
I took the 3wt out this time and really enjoyed it. The Salt Shaker did its thing and was much easier to cast on the baby-3 than the Crazy Charlie. I had 6 fish on, all solid and all ridiculously strong. The first came up, jumped shaking violently, and spit the hook. Its mouth was gaped open and I could've easily put my whole fist in. Big fish...especially for a 3wt. I finally came in for lunch after losing my Shaker on a mackerel. I had 4x tippet on--mistake. I'll be going straight back out after I eat my lunch, and Ill be taking the 8wt with 2x.
I know I haven't been posting as regularly as I like, or as much as I wish others would update their photoblogs. Since I have access to the interwebs here briefly, I thought I'd swim against the current of being too busy and get some new stuff up.
Chris and I headed out to Little Dixie CA one day a week or so ago in search of the elusive, Missouri 10"+ BG. While we didn't knock the fish out of the water by any means, we did have an encouraging reconnaisance report on carp. Apparently, from what we saw, the lake is full of them. We saw multiple carp in every cove we entered, and they were all very large. This particular carp was spotted when it was half out of the water, tailing high but lazily. By the time I got the camera, he was on the move again. Sorry.
After running the motor battery completely dead and barely making it back to dock, we decided to go on the hunt for a particular spot on the Big River. Among the numerous debaucles that plagued us at that day (Little Dixie: leaky boats, storms, maggots, heat, poor fishing, etc....) was a complete inability for us to remember where exactly the spot on the Big was. We visited 3 access points, each less correct than the one before. We finally gave up, but returned a few days later to the correct spot. We were able to fish it in the afternoon/eve, wet wading down the river.
There was something deeply satisfying about having finally found the spot. The fishing was minor, and we certainly didn't get into any smallie action, but it was a victory nevertheless. We met some odd foreigners who, being foreign--we thing--never spoke a word to us. They were fishing, and since every fishermen speaks something to every other fishermen he passes...we were surprised, alarmed, suspicious and slightly offended when they repeatedly spurned our "hellos" and "any goods?" A near toothless man who was equally as odd but far less foreign tipped us off to a hot spot very near by: "It's right over there behind those rocks; the water's about 40 degrees and there are bass all in there." I asked if they ate corn, which is my new debunking question, and he responded, "Oh I'm sure they do!" We visited it, and while the water was definitely cool and spring-fed, it was north of the 40 degree mark...far north.
Hard to believe this is in Missouri, and darn near St. Louis. Scenes like this made the epic effort and its relocation well worth the strains.
Much to the amazement of my co-workers, friends, and family, I took a half-day trip to Maramec Springs one day last week. I came up with the "brilliant idea" that would wildly benefit my bosses of me working a split-shift one day. That meant I would work 6-10am and again at 5-10pm. Sound awful? No way! To me that was an opportunity to go trout fishing mid-day after the crowds dissipated. I had very good success for Mara on the fly--one solidly hooked, but eventually spit. One trout "caught" at Mara is a miracle worthy of induction into some low-level hall of fame. I didn't even use a globug to do it! After the fishing got...completely dead, I spend the rest of my time there rooting through the stream bed.
I found these two caddis larvae almost immediately. I spotted one caddis adult being taken in the surface film earlier, but didn't make too much of it until I began seeing the larvae population. I'll be fishing some other patters next time down.
The best fishing trips always either start at or somehow involve a Dunkin Donuts. We'll see how it works on the current trip. I'll need all my Munchkin power.
My new Konic 3.5 on an old glass 8'/8wt Daiwa is in view here, in front of my faithful 3wt setup. The flies are suggestive of being deeply out of my element and high in hopes of needing that 8wt. Reports to follow.
Wednesday--and day #31--had me at Montauk on the Current River. Ronnie and I were once again in search of some trout we could convince to attach themselves to the end of our fly tackle. After three failed attempts, mostly involving the beautiful, but ultimately futile, waters of Maramec Springs (and one myth about corn-eating trout near Steelville). This time the luck gods favored us over the trout.
This is the first trout Ive ever caught. This is also the first trout caught on my flyrod. It was time.
While this one was taken on a dry cranefly, most of Ronnies and about half of mine were on Globugs.
Globugs are completely non-descript nothings that imitate nothing (besides possibly a salmon egg) and for some reason, a few of the trout love them. Their brains are about the size of a pea, but I still expected slightly more intelligent behavior from such a noble creature. I'm relieved to say that the other half of my fish fell to naturals: cranes and czech nymphs.
Ronnie did well and had some really large fish on the line.
I didn't catch huge fish, or all that many. I lost a few flies and almost an entire box at once. I stepped right on a Cottonmouth; he sure was upset about that. It was a 14+ hour day to get these trout...and totally worth it. I'm officially a trout-guy now. (I'll still be a dedicated BG bum, though.) I'm one happy bum.
This morning, at 8:45am CST, I completed my goal to fish 30 consecutive days. I have to say, it didn't seem like such a big deal at first (and still doesn't just thinking about it). It was, however, more difficult and far more exhausting than I originally estimated. I'm haggered.
It has definitely taken a bit of a toll on me and my gear. I've lost at least 7 pounds. Instead of eating food on my lunch at work, I usually spent them at the fly shop replenishing equipment or on the internet searching for the next day's fishing spot. I fished sick. I fished tired. I'm almost certain I have athlete's foot from wearing wet shoes almost everyday. I've been sunburned. I've been bitten by things. I've gotten more cuts/scrapes/bruises than I can count or remember. I froze and shivered uncontrollably, and I roasted and sweated uncontrollably.
My tackle isn't in much better shape. I broke the TFO at a male ferule about 20 days in, but limped in on it as it was still fishable. I can finally send that in for replacement (I'll fish on the backup, though...). I burned through two furled leaders, one Feathercraft and one Deercliff. I miss that Deercliff. I tore my 2wt DT line (no clue how that happened). I lost an entire flybox worth of flies, little by little each day. I imagined the other flies starting to miss their comrades, noticing that not all the troops made it back after each expedition. The replacements were, superstitiously, placed directly next to older, wiser flies for education.
I saw a lot of water, but I regret not fishing a new spot each day. That would have taken, actually, an immense amount of planning. My work schedule is chaotic, so I would have had to really plan ahead. There's plenty of water, though; maybe that'll be a goal next time. ...or 60 days.
I wish I could say that over the last 30 days my casting dramatically improved, my nymphing improved, that I can now drag-free drift, that I'm a clutch rollcaster, or that anything about my skill is better at all. I don't think it is, really. I estimate that I caught between 200-300 fish, which is respectable, but not record-breaking (is there a record?). I can say better things, though. I got to live, basically, the life that makes me happy for 30 days. Each day, stepping into a literal stream of water had me stepping progressively out of some other figurative stream.
A conversation I had with Chris last night punctuated and fixed this process as being both genuine and meaningful. The more I fish as a way of life, the more derelict and pitiful a "good American" I become. Afterall, here I sit writing in a hipster coffee shop full of young, wealthy "professionals" who doubtless drove up in a car with those fancy HID headlights. My headlights haven't pointed straight in years, and I am in my fishing clothes still a little damp with the cotton from cattails coating my shoes. I don't fit in very well.
Discussing the complexities of simplicity, the coterie of dedicated radicals that Chris, Ronnie and I have become has continually stirred the waters of "what ifs." It's not that we want to abandon the weights of "successful adulthood" so we can fish all the time, it is more that fishing all the time has opened our eyes to the relative worthlessness of the life we are each supposed to be living and/or pursuing. The uninitiated call us crazy, lazy, coping, escaping or just plain stupid. Not everyone gets to have a revelation about what life is supposed to be for them; I know three guys (including myself) that have had it through fly fishing. I'm sure it happens through other means, other passions too; flies are our gateway.
I remarked during one conversation (or two) that I never thought the way I do about life or fishing the way I do now while I was baitcasting. It was still fishing, but a hectic, burdened and downright heavy sort of fishing. My main tackle box weighed in at exactly 50 pounds; my second was 20 pounds. There is a certain parallel between choosing fly fishing and choosing to leave the modern, normal, typical, popular and generally acceptable way of catching fish. I've stepped out of the stream of modern expectation and into a stream of enigmatic tradition that makes me happier. At the same time, it is a simpler, lighter and often more effective means. A real bum will exhibit a go-anywhere catch-anything attitude born primarily from the versatility-through-simplicity of the tackle. It doesn't take a poet or genius to transfer that to the rest of life.
Looking back, I can say I did "it." I fished 30 days in a row. I could say that I'll stop now, go back to being a good boy, a good homeowner and a good husband. I won't be fishing every day anymore, almost, but not every day. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere in there it clicked that fishing everyday is less about fishing everyday than it is just doing what comes naturally. I'll always fish everyday; the occasional day where I don't throw a fly can't override that.
Last night, my niece got her first fish! It happened to be a respectable LM Bass that I would have definitely photo'ed and posted here myself! I haven't yet heard the whole story, but so far I am already so proud. Here is PROOF that there is hope for the younger generations of Americans.
Days 22 through 29 have been completed! Per the mission, I have one lonely day left (but I'll go a few beyond 30 because of a very convenient work schedule this week. Once again, here are some images from the past few days (that feel like weeks).
Chris and I finally made it to Fox Creek (one of the eight healthy streams Im trying to fish) and had some adventures there. While we didn't slay huge fish...ever, we did catch some very healthy, happy sunfish and chub. We also enjoyed some Boddintons on the way downstream. Most notibly, we fished ourselves into dark quite a way downstream, meaning that we had a dim walk back. I mentioned (stupidly) how this was the very same time/light/environment/conditions that I "caught" the cottonmouth a few days earlier. Not 45 seconds later, I heard Chris making evasive maneuvers to my immediate left. Apparently a large (guess what) Cottonmouth had come right up to his foot and slithered by. Close call. The real unfortunate reality of that episode was that it was right at the beginning of our walk back. That meant that every twig, rock and floating debris was a snake coming to get us.
Maramec Springs was the following morning. I met Ron at Dunkin' at 4 to drive down and we got there comfortably early. I walked onto the stream and saw things I never expected. I had an idea of what it might look like, but never having even seen a photo I had the pleasure of being blown away by the beauty.
The water was exactly 56 degrees and the air was in the high 80's. This made for an incredible fog that rolled on top of the water and grew with each cool breeze. The sun was still rising, and gifted us with scenes of rays breaking through the forest onto the stream in a true vision of golden warmth. I say "warmth" for a reason, and with futility. Ron (and everyone else) had waders. I had linen pants. I was mid-torso deep in the water for hours, shivering in August, and loving every minute of it.
While being the only person out of waders, I was also the only person fly-fishing. Ronnie had not yet fully converted to the fly, and did very well on his spincaster. Everyone did well; within about 45 minutes, all dozens of fishermen around me had caught their limit or at least had a brace of rainbows. The fishing was awesome everywhere, and sight casting was the rule. Oh, and while fly-fishing in the early stages of hypothermia ("Man Freezes to Death in August"?), I caught nothing. Come to find out later, this place is worthless for fly. Go figure. It sure was purdy, though.
Later that same day, we drove further down the Meramec River and I did a bit better than I did in the cold-water. I caught this relatively huge Longear. The floaters we were sharing that stretch of the river with seemed a bit puzzled at how I wondered over this "little brim."
Very long, very good story made short: Ronnie caught a gar on the fly. Comment on this post that you want to hear the story so that he starts his own blog and writes about it there. Flyrod. Gar. Fun.
The next day (I think), I was hunting carp at BWCA and having failed miserably at that, was happy to see the early signs of a Hex spinner fall at a pond. I was able to pick up and get some great photos of them...waiting for 8:30pm when the action would begin.
On the right side, the grey "can" is actually a dog poop pickup-bag dispenser. You can buy them at petstores, and have super cheap bag refills. I'll be using them to pick up the trash I keep complaining about at all the local ponds. So far, its been a completely unobtrusive addition to what I'd like to keep a Spartan fishing bag.
Sunday, Ronnie and I snuck out of St Louis in search of a secret trout stream described by a local of the area in which it supposedly resides. Another long, funny story made short: we caught shiners. Trout? Ha! ...maybe if we'd have used corn. (Again, post so Ronnie starts a blog; this one trip deserves a dedicated posting.)
Day 28 (and the search for the Mecca of trout in southern MO) ended with a trip to some secret ponds in a town on the way back home. Again, we failed to get into anything too serious, but it was fun fishing anyway. I caught BG...blah blah blah, but then I saw this. I still don't know what it is, but definitely made by animal(s). Its a tube of mud that sits on top of a deep hole in the ground. It looked exactly like an enormous earthworm casing. Any thoughts?
Day 29 had Chris and me out at BWCA again, in search of big Red ear. We got some (Chris really did, in addition to the 25"+ Channel he got just before I arrived), but the fishing tapered off and we boated/wandered/stumbled back to the cars and spent the next hour or so talking. The best part of fishing, and especially fly-fishing, is the friendships. It is, perhaps, one of the most important and fundamental pieces of what makes fly-fishing what it is (whatever that is), but cannot be bought at even the best fly shop, learned or practiced, or even sought after. It's something that finds you one day. This particular day, the friendship that found Chris and me began to change from "good friends" to "old friends." We aren't crazy, and we didn't spend a dime.