The annual pilgrimage of the Firehole Rangers is fast approaching, and while some may disagree, the idiots I’m referring to in the headline of this blog post are not the Rangers themselves.
As is always the case this time of year, my thoughts, and those of the others in our group, are consumed by Yellowstone. This year, however, Yellowstone is not only on the minds of the Firehole Rangers, but also at the forefront of the media. Yellowstone is a splendid place, but unfortunately the past few weeks have banner bad news weeks for Yellowstone.
First it was the story aboot the bison calf that appeared “cold”, thereby compelling a
man Canadian citizen to load the newborn calf into the family SUV and drive it to a park facility. Seriously. After the calf could not be reintroduced to the herd due to having been slathered with vile, human scent, the young critter had to be euthanized. Here’s one link to the full story on ABC NEWS. Thanks, Canadian person, for being directly responsible for the demise of America’s newly-declared National Mammal.
The Firehole Rangers see bison in all shapes and forms each year, and more often than not the weather is less than inviting at 7000 feet in the Rocky Mountains. The bison often look wet and cold but never once have we imagined that someone could be so unbelievably stupid as to actually put one in their car. Oh, Canada…
The following week 4 more Canadians engaged in behavior unbecoming an intelligent mammal by leaving the boardwalk at the Grand Prismatic spring and stomping across the delicate crust to the edge of the boiling spring to take the ever-important selfie. Huffington Post reports on that incident. High Life Hosers.
The Rangers have been to Grand Prismatic spring and never once, out of respect for the delicate environment (and personal safety), did we entertain the thought of stepping off the boardwalk. The closest thing to illegal behavior we witnessed involved a group of non-Canadian foreign tourists, one of whom had dropped the lens cap to his camera onto the crust of the geyser. But rather than quickly stepping off the boardwalk and easily retrieving the lens cap, this tourist group went to great lengths to avoid breaking the law. It was worth the price of park admission just to watch that drama unfold. Butt to their credit, they followed the rules.
Lest one should think the idiocy of park tourists stops with the two aforementioned events, there’s more! In April a visitor was caught on film doing something that’s hard to fathom. Apparently the woman (possibly Canadian, but as of yet unconfirmed) decided that Yellowstone is a giant, free range petting zoo as she not only violated the rule that clearly says to not approach wildlife, but she actually touched the animal. And not just once. Watch the video here. Note that the bull shakes off her touch several times (I counted 6). That was one patient bison. Not sure what she was smoking, but Darwin was watching closely and for whatever reason chose not to induct this moron on that day. The commentary in the video is spot-on.
The Rangers fish amongst bison every year that we visit the park. The massive older bulls, seemingly the size of black delivery vans, are often seen peacefully lounging by themselves while the younger bulls galavant in small bachelor groups. The cows with their newborn calves are grouped into larger herds. Without fail we see them while fishing the Firehole, and we always give them a wide berth. While bison appear docile this time of year, it doesn’t take a Canadian rocket scientist to acknowledge that these huge creatures could quickly dispatch of a comparatively small, slow, weak and often overweight, upright-walking mammal with opposable thumbs and what is more and more in question—a highly developed brain. Sometimes while we’re fishing the bison will approach our general direction, seemingly unconcerned by our presence, and certainly less impressed by
our my fishing prowess. On a few occasions the beasts have been close enough to reach out and touch with a good cast. Even that is too close for me.
The warnings are clearly posted throughout the park in plain English. If by chance park visitors can’t read English, illustrations make the warnings pretty clear: “Don’t be an idiot”. I can think of a lot of more pleasant ways to die than by being gored mercilessly by an American bison.
Breaking through the delicate crust of a boiling geyser and quickly turning to human stew isn’t high on my list of ways to go, either.
Note: Lest one should think this is an anti-Canada rant, rest assured I like Canada and have said as much, publicly, HERE.
If not for Jimmy being asleep at the oars (likely daydreaming of cotton clothing alternatives), I’d never have known there was such a thing as skivvies made from anything but good, old-fashioned cotton.
It went something like this:
Me, Jimmy and my much older brother, Hal, floated a section of the Yakima River that I had floated the week before with the Brothers Albacore. On that previous outing, on a beautiful day, we caught no trouts. In fact, not a single bump was had by any of us, unless you count Junior Albacore’s whitefish. Nothing wrong with that, particularly on a day when nothing else was happening, but a whitefish always seems like salt in the wound. Especially when it’s ass-hooked. For whatever reason, anglers seem to get their undies in a knot when they catch whitefish.
A week later and here I was on the same stretch of river, and things, which included beautiful weather, were shaping up to be pretty much the same as they had been the week before, save for the lack of a whitefish, ass-hooked or otherwise. Suddenly things turned on as Jimmy landed two smallish rainbows in the 10 inch range, followed by Hal’s 5 year fish (defined by my experience on the Yakima as a fish you can only expect to catch every 5 years). It was a solid, thick, 14 inch fish that, by the end of the day, was closer to 16 inches. A great fish that put up a very good fight. Being that we were in my boat and I was on the oars when all three fish were caught, I’ll take credit for that.
Then Hal and Jimmy took turns on the oars and things got quiet again, and remained so until the end of the day.
But the excitement wasn’t quite over just yet.
As we approached the Thorp takeout, I was fishing out of the front seat while Jimmy was on the sticks. I noted that the approaching bridge marked the location of our termination point. Right under the bridge. By the time we approached, it was clear that Jimmy wasn’t going to get us there, and we drifted quickly past. Fortunately the river is neither terribly deep nor fast here, but by the time the anchor was deployed we were 50 feet downstream of our intended goal. We hopped out of the boat into knee deep water and began to push and pull the boat upstream. The water was cold, and seemed to grow colder as it neared—and then passed— the inseam of my nylon convertible pants. Shrinkage ensued as we continued to trudge through hip deep water, not unlike Lewis and Clark as they pulled their keelboat up the Missouri, toward the ramp. When we reached our destination I acknowledged the sogginess of my cotton skivvies and mentioned that I was going to be going commando for the drive home. That opened up a conversation about synthetic underwear, the likes of which I had no idea existed. Jimmy, as it turns out, is a quite the afficionado of fast-drying, moisture wicking synthetic fabrics. And apparently one can purchase underwear constructed of these space-age materials!—who knew?! About that time Hal chimed in and between the two of them the discussion about high tech clothing reached feverish levels. As they jubilantly touted the merits of lightweight smartwool shirts I glanced down at my wet cotton t-shirt and slogged off toward the truck and trailer parked a short ways away.
Back at the truck I wrung out the bottom of my t-shirt and stripped down to my birthday suit, peeled off my waterlogged, cotton, tighty whities, and slipped back into my cold, wet, nylon trousers. By the time we had the boat loaded onto the trailer, gear stowed and were ready to hit the road, my pants were dry. The bottom of my cotton t-shirt, while no longer dripping, was still wet, and would remain damp when we got home a few hours later. My cotton skivvies were tossed into the back of the truck. They would be dry by the next morning, at which point I could put them back on and get another day out of them. Logically at that point I would turn them inside out so they could server another 24 hour period.
And so there you have it—tighty whities aren’t just made from cotton anymore. I suppose if Jimmy hadn’t overshot the takeout I wouldn’t have ever pondered the need for such a thing as synthetic skivvies. And while I don’t plan to go out and replace all my cotton, I can see they have a place in a world of wet wading.
It should be noted that Jimmy’s wife bought me my last 6 pack of cotton underpants. Maybe she’ll buy me the quick-drying variety next time.
Either that, or Jimmy is never rowing my boat again.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on the UA.
That could be due to any number of factors: lack of fishing and therefore fodder for scribing, lack of inspiration, too busy to take the time to post anything, etc. Whatever the case may be, I figured I better post something new, exciting and different.
Let’s talk about logos. Fly fishing logos, to be precise. I have designed a good number of logos for all manner of businesses over the past many years, and every once in a great while I get a chance to design a logo that pertains to fly fishing. When that happens it’s like getting paid to play.
I recently was privileged with the task of creating a new logo for John Hicks, a good man who is the shop keeper at Sea Run Pursuits, a guiding outfit here in the great state of Washington. John is a passionate angler of sea run (anadromous) rainbow trouts, also known as steelhead. Here is his new logo:
That got me to thinking so I decided to dig up all (or at least most) of the fly fishing related logos I’ve done and showcase them here. Many are on my portfolio (Itchy Dog Productions) website but I’ve not been diligent about updating that page. I also post project examples on my Itchy Dog Productions Facebook page from time to time.
Here are a few others.
Old Guys Flies. Tiny, High visibility (normally that would be mutually exclusive but not in this case) flies for those with challenged eyesight. These flies are a division of MK Flies, for whom I also did a logo, which makes for a good segue…
MK Flies is the home of the very talented tier of flies, Aileen Lane. Stop by and give her site a look.
Emerging Rivers Guide Services is owned by 2011 Orvis guide of the Year, Derek Young. Derek’s home water is the Yakima River, in central Washington. In addition to being a great guide, Derek is a passionate conservationist. He started and is currently president of the Yakima Headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Evolution Anglers is the website for Joe Willauer, longtime trout and steelhead guide with whom I’ve fished many times. He’s now a self-professed “hobby guide” because he traded in his waders for a suit and tie (or at least business casual). But Joe can still be found on the oars in rivers around Twin Bridges, Montana.
Mystic Waters Fly Fishing is a Kenai River (that’s in Alaska) outfitting company owned by Fred Telleen and Stacy Corbin. Salmon and ginormous Alaskan rainbow trout are the game when they’re not in Montana during the off season. They also have a Facebook Page.
Ah yes, the Outdooress. Remember her? At one time it was a very popular blog kept my the Outdooress herself, Rebecca Garlock. Don’t know where exactly she ran off to, but she is missed. She must be paying her hosting fees, however, because the site is still up and running.
Up the Poudre is another blog whose shopkeeper continues to pay the bills but hasn’t been seen in years. Too bad, too. Sanders was a splendid scriber of words and his thoughts were always engaging. I hope Sanders, and his bulldogs, are well.
ROAM Outfitters is a Bozeman based guide and outfitter owned by Brett Seng. I don’t see a ROAM Outfitters website where you can book a trip, but you can find Brett elsewhere, such as through ShuttleSnap or Brett Seng Photography.
The Sandy River Spey Clave takes place every year in Oregon. In 2014 I designed the logo for the annual event.
Scandalous Sticks is (or was?) a custom rod building business owned by Stephen Vance of Idaho. For some odd reason, the website is in Japanese, which makes me think that Mr. Vance no longer owns the url so I’m not posting a link to it here. I don’t even know if he’s still building custom rods, which would be too bad if he isn’t.
Steelhead Fly Anglers was a guide business owned by Brian Paige of western Washington. Brian still fishes, but he has a full time job that keeps him from guiding any more. He’s a great angler and teacher, and I’ll forever be indebted to him for learning me how to Spey cast and putting me on my first wild steelhead on the Sauk River years ago, when you could still fish the Sauk during the early spring season.
Tumbleweed Fly and Tackle is a retail shop in Prewitt, New Mexico owned and operated by David Goodrich. He didn’t always live in NM and fish for Muskies in Bluewater Lake, but he does now. Next time you’re in Prewitt, look him up. Where the hell is Prewitt, anway?
OK, time to get serious about fishing. The Rangers set out for their annual Yellowstone trip in about a month. I better start packing.
If you’re not from the Seattle area, the above photo may mean nothing to you. If you lived here then, you likely remember. Here’s the backstory on that sign: Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights.
Maybe you didn’t even know about the Open Fly Podcast, or maybe you didn’t care. Either way, this is to let you know that our final show was posted in February.
When we recorded Episode 31 we had no idea it would be our last. Yes, we knew some changes were coming, since Derek had already uprooted his family and moved east of the mountains to be closer to his home waters on the Yakima River. But we didn’t realize that the physical studios of the Open Fly Podcast would be placed on the real estate market shortly thereafter. You see, Evan is also leaving town. That leaves only me, the official Third Chair of the Open Fly podcast, who remains here in the Snoqualmie Valley. I’m like the resident trout that never ventures far and chooses to live out his life in the local river, whereas Derek and Evan are like salmon, who were here for a while and then spawned and died. OK, maybe that’s not quite the appropriate analogy. Maybe they’re like steelhead, who were here for a while, spawned, and then left to venture back out to sea again. Whatever. I’m still here.
They are not.
I feel so alone.
We had a good run, had us some fun and along the way we met some great folks and talked about some worthy conservation issues. Maybe we even brought some issues to your attention, which means we did our small part for the betterment of fisheries all around the country and even into Canada (sorry for the Canadian jokes, Canada).
While there will be no new shows (unless one day we can schedule a reunion tour) the shows we did record will last as long as Evan keeps paying the web hosting bills. So go on back through the archives, pour yourself a soothing International Coffee, and listen to what’s there. Chances are the issues we discussed are still relevant: The Open Fly Podcast
I’ll be doing the same, and crying into my bowl of soup as I do. Rest assured it’ll be chunky soup—something that requires a fork.
After sitting out last year’s trip to chase
unicorns steelhead in Forks with the Albacore clan (brothers Large and Junior Albacore, and their Pappy), I looked forward to joining them this year, if for no other reason than to enjoy their fine company.
Winter steelhead fishing is a dicey proposition in the very wet, very upper left-most corner of the continental United States. Forks, WA is located near the Hoh Rain Forest which is in the Olympic National Park. It’s called a rain forest for good reason: it rains a lot—like, 150 inches per year (that’s 12 FEET or rain). During the winter steelhead season it can be very challenging to plan a trip that doesn’t coincide with coastal rivers being blown out due to copious amounts of precipitation. The times I’ve gone in the past I’ve gotten pretty lucky—not to have avoided rain altogether, mind you, or even to have caught a fish–but to have at least encountered fishable rivers. When headed to this part of the country, to fish for steelhead this time of year, all one can do is hope that the heavy rains will be less heavy. Forge ahead with cautious hope. If the weather cooperates, that’s a victory. If a fish is caught, that’s a huge bonus. If a fish is caught while swinging a fly on a Spey rod, well, you best go buy yourself a lottery ticket.
The winter of 2015-16 has been very wet in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle proper (actually one of the drier locations in the region) has had “the wettest rainy period on record” according to local news sources. Officially, the rainy season is from October 1st through March 31st. As of March 13th, Seattle, which has an annual average rainfall of 36.15 inches, has racked up nearly 42 inches of rain (the average rainfall for that period is 25.97 inches). Rivers have been blown out on many occasions, and I’m not referring to just the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula. The local Snoqualmie River, which runs through the down in which I live, has flooded 5 times this winter, and winter isn’t technically over yet. But I digress, back to Forks. With an average annual rainfall of 99.5 inches, Forks is way wetter than the Seattle area. And remember, this has been a record wet year.
We knew a storm front was coming in late on Wednesday, the day of our departure. It was going to be wet but we held out hope. Ironically I bought a couple bottles of Olympic Rain Natural Spring Water for the drive. I probably shouldn’t have. It wasn’t raining when we boarded our ferry crossing. By the time we docked on the other side 30 minutes later we could no longer say that it wasn’t raining. 2-12 hours later, when we arrived at our destination (The Forks Motel), the bottled Olympic Rain was gone, but the rain was coming down in buckets. And the wind was starting to blow pretty good, or pretty bad, depending on how one chooses to see it. We hunkered down for the evening, passing the time by enjoying a beverage or several and watching Big 12 Basketball. Well, at least
some of us the others enjoyed the basketball part of the equation.
We had planned to fish with guides on Thursday. When we awoke the next morning a quick call confirmed we had already feared: there would be no fishing that day. It had rained 2 inches overnight and the rivers were all blown to smithereens. It was a rather dreary morning in Forks.
It continued to rain steadily for most of the day, but at least the rain was also accompanied by a strong wind. And fortunately there was more basketball to watch. All day. A basketball game may only last an hour or so, but there were multiple games to be watched. It was one of the longest days of my life. During one brief reprieve from the basketball and rain, Large Albacore and I took a stroll around the block and contemplated engaging in some tourist activities. But even those businesses were closed. Soon the rain resumed so we made a hasty retreat back to basketball central.
The day did improve, however, and by afternoon a double rainbow emerged, giving us a small glimmer of hope that tomorrow would bring better things–that we’d be fishing. I also hoped that if we weren’t fishing the next day, at least basketball wouldn’t be on television the next day. One can always hope, right?
The next day, Friday, we had planned to fish by ourselves. We did bring two boats with us, after all, so it would be nice to use them. Upon waking that moring we checked flows and it was determined that floating would not be an option. While the rivers were coming down, they were still way high, and the boats would remain on their trailers. To ward off cabin fever we hopped into Large Albacore’s truck and drive around looking at rivers, much to our disappointment. Everything was gray, from the sky to the rivers and everything in between. One might go so far as to say that there were as many as 50 shades of gray but I won’t go there. We decided to drive into the Olympic National Park and check out the upper Hoh, hoping that the farther upriver we went, the better conditions might be. We did not find much to give us hope, although we did wader-up and ply the gray waters of one run for about an hour and a half. Despite a solid 3-4 inches of visibility, fishing was an act of futility as there was just too much water. After losing my second fly to unseen rocks I was done. Large and Junior Albacore had no better success than me, although I believe they kept all their flies. Papa Albacore was the only one smart enough not to have donned his waders and strung up a rod. With age comes wisdom.
Lest one should think things were miserably without hope, there were many good things about the day: the rain fell only lightly, the wind was fairly nonexistent, and there was more basketball to watch back at our motel room. We checked flows (again) and remained desperately hopeful that we would be able to get our boats on the water the next day. An unexpected call from the guide both surprised and delighted us: they had moved some trips around (meaning they had cancellations) and could accommodate us on Saturday, if we were so inclined. We were. And so we slumbered that night, dreaming of low rivers and plentiful wild steelhead.
We awoke the next morning hoping for the best, and while the best may not have been what we encountered, we noted that it didn’t look like it had rained all that much overnight. We checked the flows (one final time), and ate breakfast. When we met with the guides they were honest in their assessment: we could certainly fish, but it didn’t look very promising. We mulled it over for a few minutes and even went so far as to drive down the road to take a first hand look at the Sol Duc River. It was then that we opted to cut our losses and called fishing time of death at 7:20 AM. I honestly felt bad, and not for ourselves but for the guides. It had been a rough year—no doubt cancellations had been all too common. Top Ramen would continue to be their meals of choice for some time to come.
Rather than spend the rest of another day watching basketball, we decided to pack up and head home a day early. Being the eternal optimist that I am—able to always see things in their brightest light—it’s actually a good thing we came home a day early. Had we stayed until the next day we’d have driven home during another, even bigger, storm; one that brought with it very strong, damaging winds. The Hood Canal floating bridge was closed for several hours, which would have added at least 3 hours to our return trip. And 2 of the 3 Albacores had to then proceed east over the Cascades, where a winter storm was dumping a foot of snow. So, at least we didn’t have to deal with all that.
I’ll leave you with a little Creedence Clearwater Revival.