February2011

Sage: Saving America one rod at a time

A recent article about Sage Manufacturing in the Kitsap Sun newspaper gave me cause to ponder publicly something that I’ve pondered privately before…taking my love affair for Sage fly rods to the next level by getting a job at Sage. I make no effort to hide the fact that I like Sage fly rods. Nobody pays me to say that. In fact, nobody pays me to say anything else for that matter. I just like their rods and what they stand for: excellent products, with excellent warranty service, made locally. After reading the article, it sounds like a place I’d love to work. They’re a company that stands for something and sees the value in not letting their growth get the better of them. American made, by real people, in America.

“We want to be a case of American manufacturing that works,” he said. “We want to buck the trend both nationally and locally.”

Read more:

When I got my first Sage rod, my decision was based on favorable reviews of their many rod offerings, but also on the fact that they’re a local company.  I like to support local anything whenever possible. But I didn’t let the reviews be the conclusive factor, so I went to a local fly shop and test casted a few others in addition to the Sage model I as interested in. I told myself to not fall head over heals for the Sage just because it was locally made.  I demanded personal objectivity.  And I did not disappoint myself. And after testing several rods I walked out with my first Sage and eventually began adding other Sage sticks to my quiver. I won’t say exactly how many I have because Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler may read this, and it’s best if she remains ignorant on the matter. In my defense a couple of the rods were purchased used so I didn’t spend money that would otherwise have gone to cloth and feed my children.

Back to the matter of getting a job at Sage. The company is located on Bainbridge Island, which is a short ferry ride from Seattle, and Seattle is about 25 miles from where I live. That doesn’t sound too far, and to the person not from this area it might seem like a reasonable distance to commute for a job, with a short ferry ride that would be an enjoyable part of the commute (who doesn’t like going for a boat ride, right?).

I’d love to work for a company that I believe in, and working for Sage would be a dream. Waking up each day, passionate about the company one works for, is not something that comes along very often.  I’d be happy working as an Office Boy if Sage were my employer.

Without any traffic whatsoever, and assuming I caught the scheduled ferry I desired, I could be on the island in just a little over an hour after leaving my home.  Unfortunately, the greater Seattle area is home to some of the worst traffic in the country (9th worst according to this ranking by the Chicago Tribune), and if I were leaving on workday mornings it would take me well over an hour to get to Seattle on a good day. Add to that significantly more time if when the rural roads are closed due to seasonal flooding.

I probably wouldn’t make the boat I wanted, so I’d have to wait for the next one.  If all went well I’d be on the island 2 hours after leaving home.  Then there’s the return commute which would probably be even worse.

No job would be worth the 4 hours a day I’d spend in transit getting to and from the office. So, until Sage moves their operation to Duvall, WA (shall we start a rumor?) I guess I’ll just have to continue to be a huge fan of their rods and other gear. Sorry, Sage, but that lucrative Office Boy position will have to go to someone who doesn’t live out here in the sticks.  If When the company decides to move to Duvall, rest assured I’ll make the best Office Boy Sage has ever known.

Thanks for doing what you do, the way you do it.

I am a gear chucking fly angling person

I recently returned from a steelhead fishing trip to the Clearwater River in Idaho. There was not a fly rod to be found amongst the selection of fishing sticks on board the boat. Of course I knew that this would be the case well in advance of the trip, and yet willingly I went along. Rather than a fishing trip on which I would exercise my preferred method of angling, this was a gathering of college fraternity brothers who had not all been together in the same place in some 24 years. This was to be more about a gathering of old friends from the past than it was about fishing, even though it centered around fishing. Just not fly fishing. This was no time to get all uppity about the how the fish would be tempted into swallowing a hook.

The trip very nearly did not materialize due to incessant rains across the region that caused all rivers, including the Clearwater, to bulge their banks. I waited anxiously for the call from my buddy Jawn, the orchestrator of the trip, declaring whether or not it was on or off. I’d been watching the flows, and I was nervous. Then the call came in. According to our guide, Jim McCarthy of Hells Canyon Sport Fishing, the Clearwater was running at about 27,000 CFS. Normal flows for this time of year are between 5,000-7,000 CFS. Gulp. But fish were being caught, and we were set for launch. Sigh. The plan was for myself, Bryan, Micro, and Red Pig to converge upon Jawn’s home in Lewiston the night before. (It should be noted that the names of those in attendance have been changed to protect their reputations – all except for Red Pig, his real name). After I hung up the phone with Jawn I clicked my heels and chortled like a schoolgirl. It was going to be great to see everyone after all these years.

Of the 5 of us on board, excluding our guide, only three of us are what one might call regular fishermen, and of those three only two are decent fishermen. The other is merely a catch-challenged, unaccomplished angler.  What we may lack in a commonality as far as fishing experience we make up for with a bond that goes much deeper. We’re brothers in a way that is perhaps even stronger than blood:  our fraternal bond forged in college, at a time when our social skills were still a bit rough around the edges. On other words, we’d seen each other at our collective and individual worst. That’s a strong foundation for friendship for sure, but 24 years is a long time to be apart.

Fond memories of yesteryear are highly cherished and certainly invaluable, but one really doesn’t know what to expect when reconnecting after such a long hiatus. How much had everyone changed?  Could there be any substance to the friendships of yore or would it get awkward after we ran out of old stories to tell?  Face it, when a person is in their early 20’s, their outlook on life is a bit simpler than when they’re pushing 50. Raising a family (or not), ascending the career ladder (or not), and facing trials and tribulations associated with life as a middle-aged adult can alter a person over time (or not).  Most people grow up and mature, but I’m happy to report that we were all able to enjoy the trip as if no time had passed between us. Everyone was pretty much the same person they were back in the day, and thankfully another thing that hadn’t evolved over time was our taste in beer. Well, at least for me.

Ode to the idle Spey rod.

Good judgment dictated that we would stay up into the wee hours drinking micro brews (begrudgingly, in my case) and a few other assorted bottled beverages (the Speyburn Scotch served as a reminder that my Spey rod would not be used in the morning). We reminisced and solved world problems until 2:30AM, awaking a few short hours later. I was lucky to have gotten any sleep at all thanks to Bryan’s ability to saw logs at a volume that rivaled The Goosemaster.  Amazingly we were mostly bright-eyed and coherent when we met up with Jim McCarthy at the Pink House launch at 7 AM. Under heavy fog and chilly temperatures we boarded the jet sled that would take us up and down the river in pursuit of the infamous B Run Clearwater steelhead: fish that spend at least two years gorging themselves and bulking up in the salt before returning to the rivers. Jim gave us a quick run-down on how to fish the high flows.

Foggy, but at least not raining.

Fly fishing?

Popular pattern: Egg Sucking Moss

I determined that even if I could not be angling with a fly, I would do my best to stay as pure as possible and represent “my people”. To that end Jawn and I designated ourselves “Team Synthetic”, electing to fish with the yarn egg as opposed to the yarn egg with a gob or roe looped in. A chunk of lead attached a couple feet or so above the hook got the tackle down in the slow seams that weren’t really all that slow given the high water. As the lead bounced along the bottom it provided a rhythmic feedback that could best be described as a “thunk-thunk-thunk”.  Occasionally that rhythm was interrupted by a fish, more often by a snag.  When Jim wasn’t maneuvering the sled alongside the best holding water, he was busy replacing leaders and netting fish. And occasionally ducking.  With a line of 5 guys standing shoulder to shoulder and systematically firing out casts, it was amazing that nobody suffered a flossing or other injury. Given this display of on-boat combat casting, the potential for friendly fire incident was high. However, we maintained proper rank and file and not once did Jim have to impose a time-out on anyone.

Heated debate: synthetic egg patterns vs. synthetic egg patterns with bait

It wasn’t long into the day that I had a sense of deja-vu settle over me and I harkened back to a trip to the upper Beaverhead in Montana the year before. On that trip I had employed a very similar method of  fishing with heavily weighted tackle that bounced rhythmically along the bottom of a river. The main difference was that when I was on the Beaverhead it was much more difficult to cast sling shot the heavy junk with a fly rod. The line between chucking gear and fly fishing began to blur as I pondered a distinct overlap in fishing methods. Also reminiscent of the Beaverhead was that my buddies were catching more fish than I was.

Best fish of the day.

Runner-Up (in more ways than one).

Throughout the course of the day we laughed, pitched each other a healthy ration of crap, drank cheap beer that thankfully Jawn had brought along instead of that fancy micro stuff, and generally had a great time. There was also a particular beverage supplied by Red Pig known as Fireball which was effective in keeping the chill at bay. Catching fish was secondary to the largely juvenile antics comradery of the day, and while perhaps the catching was not red-hot, 9 fish were landed, not including Red Pig’s 2 white fish or Bryan’s belly-hooked sucker.

A Red Pig and a Whitefish.

A very nice Clearwater B Run Sucker.

There were a couple of cute little 25″ fish caught, but most were of a respectable size, with the largest being 34+ inches. These were not the dime-bright coastal fish of western Washington rivers that I always catch on a swung fly, but they were impressive fish that had run several hundred miles inland from the salt. I marveled at the size of the tails on these fish: they were well suited for their long commutes. Adding to our good fortunes of the day, every fish hooked was landed. All were fin-clipped hatchery brats (or as my friend Joe Willauer so eloquently describes them: pond monkeys). On other words, at the end of the day we had a generous amount of fish in the cooler and a few empty beer cans to unload from the boat.

Nice fish. The coat, not so much.

Another nice fish, a better coat, and a great hat.

True to form, at the end of the day I was out-fished by everyone, even the hacks Micro and Red Pig, who aren’t regular fishermen.  My four fishing compadres each landed two fish while I brought up the rear with one.  But mine was the biggest, almost. Only two others taped out longer.

My fish had the biggest scars.

We all agreed that this needs to become an annual event, so plans are already being laid for next year’s adventure. Between now and then I’ll fish with a fly, drink cheap beer, and remind myself that fishing is all about the experience and the memories created. When the second annual trip rolls around, I’ll set aside my fly rod and take on the role of a gear chucker– it’s good to see how the other half lives. From what I saw on this first trip, it ain’t so different from fly fishing.

Great friends.

Great day.

I want to publicly thank Jawn for putting this trip together: he’s a wonderful guy and a generous host.  In fact he’s generous nearly to a fault, insisting on picking up the tip for our guide and the cost of our out of state licenses. He also put us up up with us for two nights in his home, and kept us well fed and hydrated. Jawn is the type of guy that will do anything for a friend, so I’m going to submit a reimbursement request for the cost of my gas to drive the 656.1 mile round trip (yes, I have receipts).

The Best of SPAM

For the past few days the Unaccomplished Angler blog has been flooded by a sudden torrent of SPAMMERS. I always get an occasional SPAM message in my comments queue, but this past week the volume has skyrocketed (I probably need to change the filter in my SPAM filter). Apparently the SPAM nation heard that I had been called back to active blog duty and wanted to throw me an unretirement party, complete with discounted Viagra, Topsy Turvy Tomato Plants and Pajama Jeans.

Not to worry, I can sniff out a rat so there’s no threat of these lowlife miscreants running amok in the comments section. I’ve often pondered the reasoning behind the mind of a SPAMMER and concluded long ago that their sole intent is to make life difficult by wasting our time. Well, if their intent was to annoy me, they failed miserably. I actually find these quite amusing, and in fact, worthy of sharing.

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APB on Colorado Fly Shop Thieves

The Unaccomplished Angler doesn’t usually get involved in serious matters, but spreading the word in hopes of busting these punks who have been robbing Colorado fly shops seems like the right thing to do.

Read the article on Angling Trade. Pass it along.

Another strong argument for why the fly fishing industry needs Dirty Harry.

Not quite ready for the AARP

Well, that didn’t last long. Retirement, that is.

During 2 weeks of liberating freedom that included a steelhead trip to Idaho’s Clearwater River with a group of college buddies, I had a chance to clear my head and do a bit of soul searching. What I found was that I need this blog (more than this blog needs me). Before the inception of the Unaccomplished Angler I used to just go fishing, and in doing so have some laughs, maybe take a few snapshots, etc. But after I went public with my blog every trip became something to enjoy just a bit more (for me anyway). I began looking for a story when a story didn’t seem obvious, and therein lie the essence of fishing: it became about much more than catching fish (overused cliche). Yeah, my fishing buddies began looking over their backs, worried that their every move was being closely monitored (true). But luckily for them it is nearly always my own unaccomplished angling antics that keeps them safe from public ridicule. This realization, or re-awakening, may have been a key factor in my decision to unretire. Some people suggested that perhaps it was just a clever ploy, and that maybe I was just trying to shake off the doldrums of a long winter with some sort of shameless publicity stunt.

Another factor in my decision to renounce my retirement might be blamed on the Association for the Advancement of Retired People. Just this week Mrs. UA received a snail mail membership solicitation with her card included. Hell hath no fury like the premature recipient of a membership offer from the AARP, and I have never seen a piece of mail get torn up and tossed into the recycle bin so fast. I thought folks didn’t start getting harassed by the AARP until they were 50? She’s got another year before they’re supposed to come a-callin’ and I’m even younger, so the AARP can bite me. Besides, my IRA isn’t worth squat any more.

There was also a modest outpouring of well wishes and even a couple pathetic requests for me not to cash in my chips just yet. I feel bad for those people, but who am I to judge? (Surely, I jest—your support is not taken lightly). I want to personally thank Sipping Emergers for the public vote of confidence. An email from a stalker “Greg” in Belgrade, Montana also gave me cause to reconsider my retirement. Greg recently discovered the UA and alleges to have actually spent a couple of days reading it (winters are long in Montana). Greg had some nice things to say about my Weekly Drivel, and we have some things in common (including best friends with drift boats). He even invited me and my band of hooligans to hook up with his group sometime.  Thanks for the generous offer and good words, Greg, and congrats on having the “Greg Sucks Hole” named in your honor. Maybe we’ll meet up in Yellowstone this year.

Then there was the weighty matter of a bounty having been placed on my head–well, sort of. Over at the Outdoor Blogger Network, “missing posters” were distributed and there was a $50 Cabela’s Gift Card issued for the person who guessed where I was and what I was up to.

One bounty hunter in particular posted a rather engaging bit of speculation as to my whereabouts and what-upness.  Jump on over to The Naturalist’s Angle and take a look around (Jay, thanks for taking the time to poke around on my Olive the woolly bugger website).

Another seeking fortune was Pat Konoske. With a  penchant for Photoshoppery he likened me to the Terminator, as evidenced over at his Fishing For Words site.

Then there was the matter of the fine gentleman Jason, keeper of the Fontinalis Rising blog, who went so far as to suggest that I am tucked away in a remote valley writing Judy Blume-esque novels for adolescents. If that accusation isn’t enough to make a man crawl out of his cave to defend his honor, I don’t know what is.

Next we have a very forthright man named Fred man who admitted publicly that my absence was “good riddance” and that he actually needs $50 to justify his blogging over at Mystic Waters Alaska Fly Fishing. Cajones, sir. You must be an Alaskan fishing guide. 

Actually nobody guessed correctly, which is not to say that anyone was right or wrong—it was a random drawing. And the winner was Jay, over at The Naturalist’s Angle. Kinda pitiful that I was only worth fifty bucks, but whatcha gonna do? If you have an issue with the drawing, please take it up with Rebecca over at the Outdoor Blogger Network (she loves hearing from irate readers of this blog).

To Josh Mills over at Chucking Line and Chasing Tail, thanks  for your inspiration. Some day I want to be as tall as you.

The George Foreman Grill

There’s a chance that my decision to come out of retirement was also influenced by the dream of having a small kitchen appliance named in my honor. George Foreman came out of a retirement after 20 years and surprised everyone by becoming, at age 45, the oldest boxer in history to win a championship belt. After that he got a grill named after him. I’m thinking “The Werner Burner” has a nice ring to it (thanks to Elizabeth Walker for the idea).

And lastly, my return to the ring may be due to the fact that, like Sly Stallone’s character in Rocky Balboa said, “I still got some junk in the basement.” (For clarification, that is not the same thing as junk in the trunk).

So it’s back to the grind for the Unaccomplished Angler.  I may have a lot of quit in me–just not quite enough. Yet.

Stay tuned, and thanks for the support, I think.

P.S.- Mr. Eastwood, since I’m not done, I expect the same from you. Give us that one last great Dirty Harry fly fishing movie before you retire. Please.