November2010

Fan Mail

Not very often, but occasionally one of my +/-8 Unaccomplished Fans Followers will send me a photo depicting one of their angling accomplishments. While perhaps not, I’m fairly certain that they do this for the sole enjoyment of seeing me retreat further into a state of angling despair.  Whatever the case may be, recently I received an email which comes on the heels of a recent steelheadless trip to Catatonia where I may have mentioned that Great Lakes “steelhead” are not real steelhead:

Dear Unaccomplished Angler,

You suck. I know that this is not a real steelhead to those of you on the left coast because it came out of Lake Ontario via the Salmon River, but I have to say it was pretty darn exciting when we finally got this guy (35 1/4 inches…) in the net. The day started at 20 degrees but it had warmed into the 50s by the time I landed this fish @ 3:30 in the afternoon. I had 2 strikes all day. Missed the first one at 6:00 am, so it was great to have redemption later in the day…

-Bob

Bob, that’s a beautiful fish–I’d be proud to have caught something so nice.  Amazingly, with it’s chrome sidewalls it looks just like something fresh out of the salt! Thanks for taking the time to write and share the photo of your nice lake run rainbow trout. By the way, the weather looks balmy. The Catatonia River is now completely iced over.

If any of my other 7 followers have a photo of a nice fish and want to gloat, please feel free to email me:

unaccomplishedangler (at) gmail (dot) com

Fly Fishing Catatonia


Catatonia. Sounds a bit like Patagonia.  You’ll find Patagonia by getting to Chile. I found Catatonia by getting chilly (sorry, that was admittedly pretty lame). I’ve never been nor will I ever likely get to South America, but as far as Catatonia, I’ve already “been there”. It is not a fly fishing destination.

Now you may be saying, “Hold on there, son – catatonia ain’t even a place!” and you would be partially correct because it’s not a location that has GPS coordinates. But it is a place where you can go. Catatonia is defined as a being in a rigid unresponsive stupor. Been there.  In worst cases it can be a form of schizophrenia characterized by a tendency to remain in a fixed stuporous state for long periods. Done that. Whether or not clinically diagnosed, I did question my sanity on a recent fishing trip with my buddy, Large Albacore.

I was awake before my alarm went off at 4 AM. As I rolled out of bed and attempted to assume a vertical position it became instantly apparent that I must have done some heavy lifting during the hours that I was asleep because I had managed to throw out my lower back (I swear to you that when I went to bed the night before I felt fine). I was able to get dressed and in a mostly upright manner made it to the breakfast table where I slammed down a hearty offering of sausage, eggs and Aleve. We loaded our gear into Albacore’s pickup truck, which had tires that were admittedly in dire need of replacing – especially with winter approaching. However, there was only a 40% chance of some snow in the forecast so my offer to drive the Fish Taco was declined. There was a light snow falling, but roads were bare and wet,  and Large Albacore, in all his 6’8″ glory, fits more easily into his full-size Chevy than he does a 2003 Toyota Tacoma. A few miles into our commute north we  found ourselves on snow-covered roads with visibility that was greatly reduced thanks to blowing snow. Fortunately the headlights of the car behind us, which insisted on following at a distance of about 15 feet, helped to create a glare which greatly aided in our ability to see the road ahead.

Why we were headed into what appeared to be a snowstorm to go fishing can be blamed on me. Thanks to scheduling conflicts I had been forced to turn down 3 different invitations to partake of steelhead outings during the fall. As a consequence I was suffering from a serious lack of fishing and found myself desperate. Albacore was generous enough to accommodate my begging and pleading, and so we found ourselves on a two lane highway in blizzard at 5:30 in the morning.

When we arrived at our destination, 4-5 inches of fresh snow covered everything and it appeared to be accumulating at an alarming rate.  Since there was a 60% chance that this wasn’t supposed to be happening, I assumed the snow would stop soon, warm up and melt. I also thought that since Albacore had been here a week prior and caught three steelhead, the fishing might be pretty productive. Put that thought on ice for now.

One of Albacore's 3 steelhead caught the previous week

By the time I got my wading boots laced and tied I was unable to move, and for a few seconds remained bent-over while my back decided whether or not I would be allowed to resume an upright position. After we had strung up our rods my fingers were painfully approaching a state of numbness. I commented on the fact that I was glad I wasn’t trying to tie on a size 22 Griffith’s Gnat because that would have required a level of dexterity that was missing. Always the voice of reason, Albacore pointed out that it wouldn’t have been an effective pattern to be fishing, either. We paused for a few minutes with hands tucked into our pockets in a vain attempt to warm our fingers before heading toward the river. I wanted nothing more than to get a move-on, but the body just wouldn’t cooperate. Not wanting to appear weak, I took a deep breath through clenched teeth and lifted one leg over the guard rail. The pain was tolerable so I gingerly rolled the other leg over. With two Spey rods and a Meat Pole rigged up we somehow managed to descend the steep trail and avoid sliding on our arses. Snow-covered large rocks made for precarious footing, and each step was carefully placed to avoid sudden jerky movements which might cause my lower back to spasm in pain. Every third step or so resulted in lower back spasms. I convinced myself that once we reached the river’s edge, where each rock would reveal itself, everything would be OK. Destination accomplished, we began fishing.  “You first,” instructed Albacore.

My first few casts were characteristically unimpressive, but functional. Then began a series of failed casts that could only be described as deplorable. My hands, by now without feeling and further hindered by the gloves that impeded line control, inadvertently allowed my running line to slip while in the motion of the forward stroke. The results were casts that piled up pathetically at a distance of about 15 feet from the end of my Spey rod. After the second or third of such occurrences I just stood as if frozen (literally and figuratively) in a state of mental and physical numbness: Catatonia. “I hate fishing with gloves!” I yelled in Albacore’s upstream direction. “I hate cold hands more than fishing with gloves!” replied the voice of reason. I summoned my inner Navy Seal, regrouped and made a mental note to not let that happen again, which of course it did. In between botched casts I was able to swing the fly through water that should have held steelhead. In fact I’m sure that it did hold steelhead, but the fish were  simply unable to move toward the fly as they hovered near the bottom in a state of suspended animation: Catatonia. I came to this conclusion after an hour of working through what is normally a very productive run.  Albacore fished through behind me and had nary a bump as well. Not even the Meat Pole was capable of producing any action.

With the air temperature in the upper 20’s and the water a balmy 38.5 degrees F, I realize these conditions didn’t define cold in the way that, say, steelhead anglers from the Great Lakes might define cold.  Those folks would surely laugh at us for complaining whining. All I can say is that at least our steelhead are really steelhead. We were dressed for the weather, and with the exception of hands and toes that had lost all circulation, for a short while I was actually quite comfortable as long as I didn’t make and sudden movements or twist the wrong way or lose my footing on a slippery river rock or cough—any of which would result in lower back spasms.  When the body starts to get cold, a little dynamic movement can do wonders to get the blood circulating. When a little dynamic movement is out of the question due to a spastic lower back, cold sets it more readily. When the body gets cold, muscles begin to tighten up. My lower back was already tight, so it just got tighter. Guides on the Spey rod were icing up every so often, requiring that the ice be chipped away with the only tool suited to the task: fingers.  It’s amazing to me that pain can be felt even when complete numbness has set in.

After a couple of hours we decided to move on to another stretch of water, which was really just an excuse to sit inside the truck and warm up a bit. As we drove to our next destination the snow kept falling and the roads became increasingly more slippery, something we were reminded of given the state of the worn tires on the Chevy. Even with 4 wheel drive we had to chose our next parking spot very carefully: the thought of having to ask one of the locals for a tow was too unsavory to imagine. Had that happened I could have at least blamed Albacore and reminded him that we could have driven the Fish Taco. And he could have kicked my ass, too. Fortunately neither occurred, and I begrudgingly climbed out of the truck at our next stop.

For the next two hours we worked our way methodically through more water that undoubtedly held scores of catatonic fish that were willing but unable to move to our swung flies. It turned out to be a good thing that I didn’t hook up with a fish because my running line was completely frozen in iced-up guides, and my reel began to freeze up as well. Efforts to chip away at the ice were futile and it got to the point where all I could do was cast the 24 feet of Compact Skagit shooting head. At one point I found myself standing knee deep in a freezing river, so cold that as my fly settled into the hang-down, my mind became frozen as I drifted into a mental void. I had no idea how long I’d stood there when I heard Albacore’s voice, “Check out the eagle!”  Flying overhead at a distance of less than 50 feet was a Bald Eagle headed south. Probably to Arizona, I thought. The idea made me smile, then laugh. Then my back went into another spasm.

While hardware malfunctions seemed to indicate that conditions were at their worst, the snow did begin to taper and I could even feel the air temperature starting to warm a bit. For those who have ever had their fingers go completely numb, you know that the warming process – before it gets better – gets worse. As my hands began to thaw, the stinging pain became acute. Fortunately my feet were still completely devoid of sensation because I like to give one source of pain my full and undivided attention. While distracted by the searing pain in my finger I took an errant step on a particularly slick rock that resulted in the mother of all lower back spasms. For a few moments I could barely manage to breath. Somehow I was able to stagger to the nearest boulder, where I sat down and hoped a brain aneurism would take me right then and there. After sitting motionless for a short while I made my way delicately upstream past Albacore, who seemed to be enjoying himself almost as much as I was. Without the need to exchange words it was mutually agreed that the time of death would be called: 10:47 AM. Rigor mortis had already set in. Welcome to Catatonia.

A very special auction for Casting 4 a Cure

Casting 4 A Cure is a tremendous organization comprised of folks who love kids and fly fishing. The passion for one benefits the love for the other as fly fishing serves as a vehicle to raise much-needed funding for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.

Rett Syndrome is a cruel neurodevelopmental disorder which begins to show its affects in infancy or early childhood. It is seen almost exclusively in females, although it can occur rarely in boys.  The disorder severely disrupts gross and fine motor skills as well as robbing the girls of their ability to speak and communicate with the outside world.  Seizures and breathing problems can also be prevailing symptoms. It affects every aspect of a family’s life, as our girls are dependent upon us for almost everything, from helping feed them to helping them get around, bathing, and most other daily tasks that most of us take for granted.

Currently there is a very special Ebay auction taking place over the next 10 days. View the auction HERE – it includes some really great stuff. All proceeds will go directly to Casting 4 a Cure, and the auction includes the following items:

Scandalous Sticks Custom Fiberglass “Pygmy” Fly Rod
The Pygmy is a very special little fiberglass rod. It is a 5 foot 6 inch 4wt that has more personality than some people. It is not uncommon to toss a 60-foot cast with a 12 foot leader and a dry fly. Being designed for the dry fly genre it’s NEVER had a rough presentation. The Pygmy has the ability to fight BIG fish into the 30-inch range with ease. This beautiful custom-built rod is truly a one of a kind, with a custom blonde Israeli olive wood reel seat and a “Casting 4 A Cure”  label. This would be a great rod for kids to learn to cast with, but once you see it you’ll want to keep it for yourself! Price $450 Read my review of the rod HERE

Clear Creek aluminum rod tube and sock
Anodized brass screw-on cap with protected internal threads. Clear Creek tubes feature thicker .05” aluminum for super-protection and padded top prevents damage to contents. Rod sock is 60/40 poly-cotton, features flap and tie closure.  Retail $47

Redington Drift 3/4  Fly Reel
Titanium. Designed to meet the specific needs of the trout fisherman, the new Click and Pawl Drift Series is fully machined from 6061-T6 aluminum. These reels are custom anodized.  (pre-spooled with backing and line) Retail $99.95

Rio Mainstream Trout WF4F
Designed to optimize rod performance at normal casting ranges. The MainStream floating lines have a supple self-lubricating coating that remains memory-free in cold water. Retail $39.95

Fishpond Laurel Run Fly Box
In designing the Laurel Run, we challenged the notion that fly boxes must be made of plastic or metal.  Crush-resistant, molded construction; Zippered case; Colorful fishpond Jacquard accent webbing doubles as hand strap; Climbing cord loop for lanyard;High-density foam for easy identification of flies; Floats. 4 x 6 inches. Retail $25.00

Olive the Woolly Bugger books
This series of three children’s fly fishing books is signed by the author, Kirk Werner.  Includes Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream, and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride.  Also included is an embroidered Olive baseball style cap. Retail $38.85 ($12.95 each)

Tomorrow’s Fly Fishers DVD by Fanny Krieger
This DVD is an introduction to fly fishing for young people and beginners of all ages. It unravels the mystery of fly fishing into a simple, easy to under-stand and fun adventure. Fanny is a Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructor. If you know the Krieger name, that says it all!  Retail $29.95

Are you man enough for a Fanny Pack?

Chuck Norris sporting a fanny pack.

One of the most common questions I come across in fly fishing discussions, besides whether to nymph with beads or swing for steelhead, is the matter of personal luggage used to carry all of one’s doo-dads when out fishing.  There are many choices, from the traditional fly vest to all manner of packs worn either on the back, the chest, slung diagonally over one shoulder, or around the waist.  It’s all a very personal matter of opinion, and yes – I’m going to give you my thoughts on my experiences with doo-dad carrying devices.

For reference, “doo-dads” may include such things as tippet spools, nippers, hemostats, fly boxes, leader wallet, floatant, dessicant, sink putty, Thingamabobbers, hook sharpening file, Monomaster, stream thermometer, camera, bug spray, sunscreen, handwarmers, TP, first aid kit, flashlight, Leatherman tool, wallet, fishing license, etc. Your list may vary, but I tend to carry a lot of crap necessary items.

CHEST PACKS

Never had one so I can’t offer much there, other than that fact that I’m reminded of Dr. Evil and Mini-Me. I can see the advantages of having things right there in front of you at all times, so trying such a doo-dad carrying device is not out of the relm of possibilities. In other words, I’ll never say that I’ll never have a chest pack.

BACKPACKS

This gives me cause to harken back upon my days in the Boy Scouts, when ill-fitting and improperly-loaded backpacks were filled well past the Gross Combined Weight Bearing Capacity of both the youngsters and the packs. Given my tendency to carry as much as a device is capable of holding, it’s best that I don’t use a fly fishing backpack. I’m sure they work well for some folks, but it seems to me that if things are kept in a pack on your back, said things would be not readily accessed. However if you are hiking to a destination where you’ll need a ton of stuff I can certainly see the benefits to a backpack, especially one designed to carry rods and other fly fishing specific gear. If you use a backpack just be sure to check daily to make sure some hooligan didn’t hide a 5-pound rock in the bottom. If they did you want to find it immediately and not carry the rock around for several days before discovering it.

VESTS

Ah, the old traditional fly vest (and some vests are anything but traditional). I had one for many years, and it held a lot of stuff.  And that was the problem: it held so much that I felt compelled to take everything with me (see list of doo-dads above). I had a good system for stowing all manner of things in their own pockets, so I knew exactly where everything was when I needed it.  The problem was that after a day of fishing I felt the strain of having carried what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders.  Also, during the hot summer months I didn’t like having all that material wrapped around my upper body (although according to the photo above one needn’t necessarily wear anything under the vest). Still, there was something I liked about the carrying capacity of a vest, and I moved away from it begrudgingly.

Sage DXL Lumbar Fanny Pack

F#NNY PACKS

*Gasp* Just the sound of it causes uncomfortable shivers up and down my spine – so much so that I cannot even say the word. Butt after I did away with my vest I went with the Sage DXL Lumbar Fanny Pack. I liked it because when cinched snug around the waist it was like wearing a lower back support belt. The DXL Lumbar Fanny Pack has many nice features, though it is lacking a fly patch (easily remedied by adhering a velcro strip to the black plastic surface below the Sage logo). The pack is moderately sized and therefore limited what I could take with me. Lightening my load was undeniably a good thing, although I occasionally pined for a few of the items that I was forced to omit from the pack. The only thing I didn’t like about the DXL Lumbar F#nny Pack was that it was not very resistant to water. When exposed to wet conditions the pack tends to get damp, inside and out. When it happened to sit in the bottom of a drift boat on a rainy day, it would become waterlogged. And while I rarely wade deep enough for pack worn around the waist to get wet, that was also an issue on occasion. One day while fishing the Yakima River with Marck, a young lady who was part of a Rubber Hatch flotilla yelled to me, “Nice f#nny pack!” Usually I’m a fairly confident conversationalist, but this time I was left speechless in the face of the sarcastic comment. I became withdrawn because she was right: it is a f#nny pack. One would think that by the time a person gets to be my age, their self confidence would serve as a barrier to any negative outside forces. I never fully recovered from that sarcastic barb, so I kept looking for an improved option for carrying my stuff.

2009 saw a new offering to the marketplace that caught my attention:  The Sage DXL Typhoon Waist Pack. Now there’s something I could live with – a waist pack (take THAT, Miss Smarty Pants!). I read a review of the pack over at Deneki Outdoors and was intrigued. I was also initially put off by the price tag of $200 for the large model, which is the one that I was interested in. I thought perhaps if I waited long enough the good folks at Sage would send me one as a “thank you” for publicly proclaiming to be a Sage Whore Poster Boy, but that offer never materialized.  Some months later, in a moment of weakness while visiting my local fly shop (All About the Fly in Monroe, WA) I broke down under owner Ron Torda’s hard-sell pressure and bought one. The large size (the one with the large price tag).

Sage DXL Typhoon Large Waist Pack

The DXL Typhoon Large Waist Pack is in fact large (671 cubic inches), which in my assessment just means there’s more to love. And after doing some math I realized that the pack only costs 30 cents per cubic inch, so the price isn’t really as bad as I originally thought. The Typhoon Waist Pack is a waterproof/heavily water resistant combination of rubber-coated nylon and a heavy duty ripstop nylon material with one compartment that is completely submersible thanks to a dry suit-style zipper. Overall the waist pack is big enough that I can carry everything I want, including the kitchen sink. In fact this thing carries more than I ever dreamed of carrying in my old fly vest, but now the weight of the world is on my hips, where it should be.

The waterproof zipper compartment is roomy enough for carrying things that need to stay dry should one submerge oneself involuntarily while wearing the pack. This waterproof compartment is suitable for things such as a wallet, camera and perhaps blasting powder. The main storage compartment is a vast, cavernous place that’s capable of holding a few fly boxes, a case for sunglasses, a flask and even a shirt or article of clothing rolled up. There’s also room for lunch (I recommend placing the sandwich on top). Six inner divider pockets are slick for organizing all manner of small doo-dads. There is also a large velcro fly patch on the inside of the compartment. I opted instead to attach a smaller foam fly patch (not included) to the outside (just my personal preference). Waterproof (but not submersible) zippers secure the main compartment, which is then covered again by a storm flap that stays closed using a couple of magnets. Sometimes when I’ve overstuffed the pack the storm flap doesn’t want to stay covered due to the magnets not quite lining up.  That’s easily remedied by reducing the amount of stuff I take with me. Again, this is not a bad thing.

The exterior of the pack has several points where zingers and a tippet spool can be attached (get creative). As noted there is a velcro strip for a fly patch, a couple of quickly-accessed pockets for oft-needed items such as floatant, and a couple of ingenious sheaths for holding hemostats/pliers. There are also a couple of magnetic spots to keep things like nippers from flopping around. Cargo straps on the bottom of the pack will hold a rain jacket when rolled up (I’ve enjoyed this feature several times), and a small, zippered mesh pocket on the waist belt is handy for keeping things that you may need quickly and often. I keep my waterproof point-and-shoot camera there so that I can quickly extract it for shooting photos of Marck’s nice fishes.

Even when loaded up with all that its capable of carrying, the Typhoon pack is very comfortable. The waist strap is extremely well padded and when cinched tight gives that lower back support which can be nice after wading a freestone river all day if you happen to have middle-aged back. There is also a removable, padded shoulder/neck strap: I like to wear it like a sling: over one shoulder so the pack sits on my hip. That makes it easier to get at stuff and it also serves as a nice arm rest. When worn this way it does not interfere with either arm when casting.

Another comforting thing is the fact that this is not a “f#nny” pack: it is a pack that is worn around the waist. This has allowed me to enjoy my DXL Typhoon Waist Pack to the fullest – guilt free of any awkward association having to do with the buttocks region. The pack is quite masculine and rugged, so it suits me to a T.

Oh, and it also has two nifty beverage holsters so I can carry a couple bottles of Zima with me.

Fully submersible compartment for things that must stay dry at all times.

Cavernous main compartment

Outside pockets for easy access.

Plenty of padding for maximum comfort.

Sheath for hemostats (retainer strap not included- my idea)

November 20th is Children’s Day? Seriously.

I just found out that November 20th is, apparently, Children’s Day (even though the logo above says it’s the second Sunday in June). And not only that, but Children’s Day was celebrated even before Mother’s or Father’s Day, which is absurd because without mothers and fathers there would be no children. Children’s Day dates back as far as 1856 and was first celebrated in June. Since then it has it has gone through several changes in dates.  The fact that it has moved around so much may be one reason why I never heard of it.

Knowing now that there is an official Children’s Day sort of undermines my ultimate closing argument when silencing the complaints of my own kids throughout their young lives: Whenever they would whine or complain or simply state that they wished their birthdays or Christmas came more often, I would always remind them of how good they have it and how much we do for them every day, followed up of course by “when I was your age I had to walk both ways uphill, barefoot in the snow…” In other words, when dealing with my own kids it was my contention was every day was Children’s Day.  Apparently not, because Children’s Day is November 20th.

More detailed information from Examiner.com: Children’s Day was formally celebrated throughout the world in October of 1953, when the International Union for Child Welfare in Geneva sponsored the day. Then in 1954 V.K Krishna Menon, Indian Nationalist and Politician, debated a Universal Children’s Day, which was officially recognized by the United Nations General Assembly. November 20th also marks the anniversary when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959.

Again, this goes against another argument I’ve used for many years with my kids.  When they would get all self-righteous and uppity, declaring that our household rules were unfair and unjust, demanding that all their friends had ipods, cell phones and no midnight curfews, I would remind them that they are MY children and have no rights because this family is a dictatorship. Then I might throw in an unnecessary insult just because I could.

I never said I was a good parent – that role belongs to Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler.

Regardless of whether you knew about Children’s Day or not, it sounds like a good excuse to be nice to your kids. Afterall, they’re the ones that are going to be taking care of us when we get to that point in our lives. To celebrate maybe take them fishing, or buy them a token gift.  Might I suggest the Olive the Woolly Bugger series of children’s books?  At a mere $12.95 you can buy all three in the series for less than the cost of something else that costs more than all three books.

Happy Children’s Day.