Bittersweet Montana


Montana Night Driving

Marck and I departed his home in North Bend, WA at just after 3pm and headed east on I-90 toward our destination of Hamilton, MT. Along the way we stopped in Kellogg, ID for a massive hamburger and fries, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Within 15 minutes it became apparent that perhaps a green salad may have been a better choice and thus we did drive into the night, windows down. Montana welcomed us with 40 miles of road construction which slowed our progress a bit. That progress would be further delayed about 20 miles west of Missoula at 10:30 PM. Anyone who has driven through Montana knows that there are game animals aplenty on either side of the road, and often in between either side of the road.  It’s here that they show themselves mainly at night.

Seconds before impact the deer wore a certain expression, and so did I. Fortunately we weren’t going the posted speed limit and it wasn’t a large deer. The damage to the front passenger corner of the Fish Taco, which we examined after pulling over to the safety of the center meridian, wasn’t horrendous: we lost a turn signal and rearranged the bumper and some sheet metal, but the headlights were in tact and the tire was still round. Fortunately we were able to use a cargo strap to secure a piece of flapping plastic and Marck was able to put his 250 lbs to good use and bend the bumper just enough that we could continue our journey.  The unmistakable smell of deer feces hung in the warm air of the evening as we limped down the road toward Missoula, a fair amount of tying material stuck to the front end of the truck. If only we’d hit a decorative chicken instead–the damage would have been less, and grizzly hackle is worth more than deer hair.

Any significant bump in the road resulted in cringe-worthy scraping of metal on tire, and it just so happened that there was about 20 miles of major massive road construction between Stevensville and Hamilton, the results of which were countless significant bumps in the road. Amazingly we arrived without having to change a flat tire at 12:30 A.M. The next morning we stopped by Wimp’s Body Works where a helpful gentleman with a slide hammer was able to increase the clearance between the tire and a certain bolt that threatened to make our trip less enjoyable.

Bitterroot River Fly Fishing

After seeing to it that that the Fish Taco could once again drive in more than a straight line without scraping metal on rubber, we headed down the road to the River Otter Fly Shop in Florence where we met our guide, Jay Dixon. Jay lives off the grid (literally) high in the hills above the Bitterroot Valley in a solar-powered home that he shares with his wife and two young boys. Owner of Dixon Adventures, Jay is passionate about getting kids out on the water and that’s how we met initially: I had contacted Jay about adding his outfitter business to the Kid Friendly Guides page on Take Kids Fly Fishing. From there we struck up a conversation and I knew right away that I needed to fish with Jay, so Marck and I decided to book a Bitterroot float on our way to Idaho to participate in the Casting 4 A Cure event in Victor on August 26th and 27th. And so it was that we came to be fishing the Bitterroot on August 24th.

We put in near Florence and proceeded downstream toward our take out near Lolo. The day was headed well above 90 degrees and after record high flows earlier in the season, the Bitterroot was running about 700 cfs (about normal for this time of year). Other western Montana Rivers were still running higher than normal, but the Bitterroot Valley is heavily populated (relatively speaking), and irrigation demands are high for the alfalfa and hay that grow in the surrounding fields. There was concern, on Jay’s part, that the fishing would be slow as the water temperature pushed just past 70 degrees. The lower river doesn’t have much gradient and with long stretches of flat water it’s easy to see how the water temps can get too warm for fishing to be good for either the fish or the fishermen. Our bodies retained every ounce of fluid that we pumped into them all day long. Well, nearly every ounce.

When Lewis and Clark passed through the Bitterroot Valley in 1805 they wrote of a certain plant that would eventually become the state flower of Montana. The roots of this plant, when consumed without cooking, left a bitter taste in their mouths and thus the plant was named accordingly. Marck may have had a similar taste in his mouth after the Unaccomplished Angler struck first and pulled to a 3-0 lead over the superior fisherman.

Jay Dixon with an Unaccomplished Bitterroot rainbow

Unaccomplished Bitterroot 19" Cutt-Bow

Unaccomplished Bitterroot Cutt

If the taste in Marck’s mouth was bitter, at least it was not the taste of skunk–I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, particularly someone with whom I would be spending the next several days. He pulled out of his funk with a nice cutthroat, and ended up with 4 good fish on the day: 3 cutts and a rainbow. I finished out the day with a cutt-bow, a brown, a cutthroat, and 3 rainbows. That’s 6 fish for the Unaccomplished Angler and 4 fish for Marck, although it was not a competition and nobody was counting. Despite concerns over the water temps, the fish were all very healthy, fought hard and were in great shape when released.

Marck's first fish of the day: a beautiful Bitterroot Cutt

Marck's nice Bitterroot rainbow

Actually, Jay may have been counting (he’s one of those freaks who is actually good a math) and he was glad to at least put 10 fish in the catch column. After all, it’s beneficial for a guide to be able to say that his clients had double digits on trout in small water during hot weather. He’s a great guide–perhaps the best I’ve fished with as far as his overall intellect, knowledge of casting and fish fighting (ask him about “corking”), and his Little Johnny jokes.  I learned a lot and had an absolutely awesome time, and I think Marck did too, despite the ass kicking he received. According to the measuring tape sticker affixed to Jay’s boat, neither of us were Yanni or even John Denver, but we’ve got a ways to go before we reach Steve McQueen Status.

How Badass Are You?

Luck continued to be on my side after we got off the river, too, because the Sheriff who pulled us over on our way back to Hamilton let me off with a warning. It may have been due to the fact that I have a clean driving record and was very polite, or perhaps because I told him I was simply in a hurry to get back to the hotel before dark because I don’t like driving at night in Montana.

Montana Blue (and red) Light Special

As we prepared to depart Montana for Idaho the next morning, we took with us both good and bad memories. The deer-in-the-headlights encounter, while it could have been avoided had we been going 20 mph, was certainly unfortunate and is going to cost me at least my $500 deductible (which is more than the cost of the great trip we had with Jay). But it could have been much worse (it could have been an elk or moose). And I suppose the fishing could have been better, but any day that I can catch more fish than Marck is a pretty remarkable day.

An Unaccomplished Brown, for the win!

Rugged Eddie Bauer Man

As I pack the last of the things for my trip to Montana and Idaho, hoping that I remember the critical items before getting there, I wanted to leave my 8 loyal followers with one last, worthless post.  If for some reason I don’t return, I want to be remembered for having left you all with a blog entry that is so unworthy of your time that it’s not even deserving of a “Weekly Drivel®” designation (and thus is appropriately filed away under the category of “Pointless Wastes of Your Time”). I should probably have deleted this before ever publishing it, but hey–a guy needs traffic for his Google Analytics, right? That, and I like to keep the SPAMMERS employed.

Eddie Bauer, the rugged man

Eddie Bauer wasn’t always just a clothing retailer. Seriously. My first fly rod was made by Eddie Bauer, back in the days when you could actually buy outdoor recreation gear at the one Eddie Bauer store in Seattle. Back in the mid 70’s I had a backpacking tent made by Eddie Bauer, and down jackets and sleeping bags filled with Premium Eddie Bauer Goose Down were the shit–the seriously good stuff (which I never had because I was allergic to down). You see, Eddie Bauer (the man) was an avid outdoorsman, and the company reflected that passion. I won’t go into detail about him here because I don’t know much about him other than what is provided on several websites. Suffice it to say Eddie Bauer was serious about his love of the outdoors: he was an avid hunter and fisherman and it would appear that he was a fly fisherman as well because he sold trout flies and made fly rods. He also sold tennis racquets and badminton shuttlecocks. Hey, he wasn’t perfect – nobody is. At least he didn’t sell golf equipment. While an article int he latest Angling Trade talks about the similarities between golf and fly fishing that provide potential new ventures for the fly fishing industry, I prefer not to recommend hybridization. But I digress.

In the many decades that have passed since Eddie Bauer (the man) sold his company, Eddie Bauer (the company) has wandered farther from its roots and has become synonymous with clothing. While a far cry from the outdoor industry that gave rise to the success of the brand, the company is holding onto the proud, rugged history of Eddie Bauer as evidenced by its summer catalog Summer Resource Book. Gracing the pages inside you’ll find Rugged Eddie Bauer Man. And he is just that: rugged.

Here he can be seen climbing the mast of a sailing vessel, holding on with one hand while he looks down with contempt toward his undisciplined crew. Clearly he is a man of few words, and even less humor.

And why shouldn’t he be? Afterall, there is nothing funny about carrying a large cargo net and a gasoline can, and getting your new shirt covered with grease and grime. It’s serious work. It calls for a serious man. A rugged man.

Here, Rugged Eddie Bauer Man can be seen looking at a thick rope. He appears lost in thought, as if deeply troubled. If he were to speak, one could imagine the few words, “Who the hell tied this knot?”

But lest one should think that Rugged Eddie Bauer Man is all work and no play, we see him here–embarking on a recreational endeavor. His face still wears the stern expresson of a humorless man, but he does seem a bit more relaxed.

But no matter what he’s doing, Rugged Eddie Bauer Man does it with serious conviction. Maybe serious is the only way he can be. And we wouldn’t want it any other way, would we?

We can only assume that like Eddie Bauer, Rugged Eddie Bauer Man is also a fly fisherman. And a seriously good golfer, too.

The rugged Eddie Bauer Man


You have my apologies for this blog entry.

Destination Victor, Idaho


I’m about to embark on a trip, the likes of which I’ve never taken before.  It’s been a long time in the making, and as the departure date draws near I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t giddy as git-out. Fishing is part of the trip, a big part of it to be sure. But there’s much more to the trip than fishing.

In May of 2010 I was contacted by a gentleman by the name of Bill Farnum, who is the Executive Director of Casting 4 A Cure. He buttered me up by telling me he enjoyed reading my blog, and then invited me to join his organization for one or both of their two annual fundraisers. I questioned his taste in blogs and told him that unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to make it to either event last year. But I gave Bill my word that I would be at one of them next year (this year).

Casting 4 a Cure is an organization that was started as a means to raise awareness and funding for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. Rett Syndrome is a neurological disorder affecting almost exclusively young girls. It’s a rare, life-shortening affliction that robs them of their verbal and gross motor skills. Bill’s daughter, Ella, was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome in 2007. After the diagnosis, it became Bill and his wife Beth’s mission to help find a cure. By combining Bill’s passions for fly fishing and fund raising, Casting 4 A Cure was founded with the help of Bill’s longtime fishing buddy, Jim Copeland.  In the first four years, Casting 4 A Cure has raised over $200,000 for Rett Syndrome research and family support. Funds raised this year will got to 2 different projects: 1) a new clinical trial for a drug that could really help with some of the more excruciating symptoms and 2) funding for a new Rett Syndrome clinic in Denver at Denver Children’s Hospital.  This will allow Rocky Mountain families in Colorado, Idaho, Utah etc to access Rett Syndrome specialists for the care and advice they desperately need but is hard to find locally. Casting 4 A Cure holds benefit events each year in Steamboat, CO and Victor, Idaho. The goal is to raise $1M by 2015 and have a cure in hand by 2020.  As Bill says, “Lofty goals, but we have the people with the passion to make it happen.”

It’s Victor where I’m headed. The South Fork of the Snake River.  Never been there, never done that. I am, to state things mildly, out of my mind with excitement.  Yes, the fishing should be good. In fact, there’s a very strong chance that it should be out-of-this-world good because after a summer of raging flows, the river is just dropping into shape. There should be clear water, and big fish including cutthroat, rainbows and browns. Hungry fish. Big, hungry fish. But whether the fishing is good or not, I’m excited to meet Bill and Beth, and Ella. And the many other great folks who are converging on the town of Victor for this great event.

I spent the last year finding creative ways to raise money through auctions, raffles, pledges from friends and family, and from the modest sales of my Olive the Woolly Bugger books, to cover the majority of cost of the entry fee for Team Olive.  My team mate and I came up a little short so we scraped together the rest. Had I been smart I’d have sold grizzly hackle to teenage girls and easily been able to sponsor two teams.

There are 24 teams coming to the event, and each team will fish with a guide from World Cast Anglers for two days. I recognize some of the names of the other anglers, and some of them I’ve never heard of. People come from all over the country for this event, and so one thing I am sure of is that they’re a group of accomplished anglers. For obvious reasons I’m going to be out of my league. This is a tournament of sorts and that means competition (albeit of a friendly variety). And that’s exactly why I’ve chosen the team mate I have…someone who is as fishy as they come…a man who can stand trout to trout with the best of them. That’s why the backbone of Team Olive is Marck.

We’re leaving a day early so we can fish the Bitterroot in Montana along the way.  The Bitterroot is a river I have long wanted to fish but the opportunity has never presented itself until now. Having passed by Missoula countless times on I-90 with my nose pressed against the car window, staring south into the Bitterroot Valley like a forlorn pup, it’s about time I did something about it. So, this time we’re getting off the interstate and spending a day with guide Jay Dixon, who runs Dixon Adventures. It’ll be a great way to tune up those hook set reflexes and break up the long drive to Victor.

This trip is going to include some great fishing on some beautiful rivers, but the ultimate point isn’t just to catch fish–there’s much more to it than just that. There always is. But this time is special. I encourage you to take a look at the Casting 4 A Cure website–maybe you can be there next year.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Bill Farnum knows what he’s after, and I feel privileged to join his group for this event, because each cast gets will get us closer to a cure.

Works in progress?

A few weeks ago I posted an entry in which the new Ross Reels logo was discussed. I’m not here to dredge that up again, I promise.

But it’s the time of year when new products are being launched and images rebranded. When I saw the logo for the brand new Sage the One rod I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the new Ross logo.  You don’t have to be a logo designer, though I happen to be one, to note the similarities. See for yourself:




I like Sage, and I like Ross. I have several Sage rods, and several Ross reels. I’m not going to say whether I like or dislike either logo, but I just wanted to point out that they’re each missing something. I’m sure the same designer didn’t do both logos, and I am quite sure the folks at Sage had no idea what the folks at Ross were planning and vice versa, which makes the similarities all the more uncanny.

Even though the Unaccomplished Angler was given a new logo this past year, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t rethink the design. Maybe the Unaccomplished Angler is missing something, or maybe it’s not and should be?

App Review: Fishing Flies Encyclopedia

One of the many benefits of being a hot shot fly fishing blog keeper is the number of requests to review gear. Unfortunately I’ve never been approached with such numbers of requests, although I do occasionally get an email from someone asking me to review smaller ticket items, such as say, sunscreen. Well, I think I’m making progress in that regard because I recently had an opportunity to review an iPhone app: Fishing Flies Encyclopedia.

The good news is that 6 months ago I crawled out from under my rock, ditched my 6 year old flip phone and got all fancy, which is to say that I do in fact own an iPhone 4 (3G service). However, I am not a power user–I actually put my phone down several times a day and even forget where it is from time to time. Therefore I am not a big app guy (I have a few, but none that I’ve paid for). At $6.99, Fishing Flies Encyclopedia probably isn’t something I’d have gone out on my own and paid for, but I was given a free copy to try out with the understanding that I would post a review.  So here goes.

First off, a description of the app says, “Collins Fishing Flies enables the fly-fisher and fly-tyer to select new flies for their local waters, or to select flies when heading off, to far-off rivers, lakes and seas.” I’m not likely to consult this app as a guide for selecting flies I want to use on a specific river, but it is a source of interesting information. Other users may find different ways to benefit from this app.

The first thing I did once I installed the app was jump right to the listing for Woolly Bugger.  I’m a stickler for the proper spelling, which includes two “l”s (woolly). If it’s spelled any other way, I tend to lose interest immediately. Fortunately, my interest continued (although I was a bit surprised not to see olive featured as a main color variety).

The title of the app suggests that it is exactly what it is: an encyclopedia of fishing flies. It’s just like what one would expect to find in a set of Encyclopedia Brittanica, if you remember what those were.  However, this encyclopedia takes up considerably less room than a full volume of books, and is actually richer in content.  According to the description on the website, “there are over 1300 photographed flies, together with tying and fishing notes and an extensive bibliography of fishing flies.” The  main menu for the app consists of: Fly Gallery; Fly Encyclopedia; Quiz; The Art of Fly Dressing; Index.

The Fly Gallery contains a list of 41 categories covering every grouping of flies I could imagine (actually more than I could imagine).

The Fly Encyclopedia contains an Introduction to fishing flies, Fly Tying Materials, Parts of a Fly, The Earliest Flies, and 33 categories of flies,

The Quiz is just that. I failed, miserably.

The Art of Fly Dressing is a section that talks about those who tie, why they tie and what they tie.

The Index is a comprehensive, alphabetical listing of of all content, with the ability to search by All, Author, Books, Family and Fly.

The amount of content is impressive. The design and navigation is pleasing and sensible. The work that went into creating this app makes it easy to understand why it’s not free, or 99 cents. I’m not sure if at $6.99 they’ll sell as many copies as they could. It might be better to drop the price and go for volume sales. But for the fly fishing junky who has everything, $6.99 isn’t much to spend on something that you may not need but should probably have just to round out your obsession. After all, nothing about fly fishing is rational. Based on how poorly I did on the Quiz, I should probably spend some time with this app. 2 out of 10 correct–quite an unaccomplishment I’d say.

As for performance of the app, I had no problems. Seems stable. One thing I would like to see added to the app would be the inclusion of the Olive the Woolly Bugger series of books in the Books section of the Index. The Olive books may not be specific to fly tying, but they certainly are a first introduction to fly fishing, and they do contain photographs of actual flies. Maybe the developer will issue a kid version of the app in the future.

Fishing Flies Encyclopedia is available for purchase on iTunes.