December2011

Out with the old, in with the new: 2011, the year in review

This will sound like an all-too-common cliché , but the older I get the faster time seems to fly by. It’s some sort of conspiracy–I’m convinced that someone has actually sped up time and/or shortened the calendar, because it seems nigh on impossible that 2011 is almost one for the archives. Whatever the case may be, the fact remains: another year has passed and another is about to begin. Because I’m a sunny optimist whose glass is always half full, I am all about looking ahead rather than dwelling in the past. That being said, let’s dwell for just a bit before we move on, shall we? Here are a few highlights (a term that is up for interpretation) from the UA in 2011.

January 

2011’s umbilical chord had barely been cut when it became clear that Charlie Sheen wouldn’t be the only one winning. Within a couple weeks of the New Year, I was declared the lucky winner in not one, but two contests. First, I won a box of Clif Bars and then a subscription to Flyfishing & Tying Journal. I shoulda quit while I was ahead, but I didn’t. On January 14th I posted what would prove to be my Magnum Opus as a blogger: Fly Fishing Needs Dirty Harry. That defining entry was the beginning of the end, and before the month was out I announced my retirement from the blog industry by declaring goodbye to the blogasphere. Because I no longer had a public fly fishing image to uphold, I promptly fled to Idaho for some steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River with a bunch of roe-fondling gear chuckers. It felt so dirty, and so right.

February

If January’s events were an indication, there should have been no February for the UA. But after some soul searching, I decided to unretire. During my three week hiatus from being an active-duty blogger, there was a lot of speculation about my whereabouts and I felt compelled to put to rest the rumors. Turns out I wasn’t quite ready for the AARP. But it was clear that nothing I ever posted again would take me close to the level of widespread acceptance that Dirty Harry afforded me. I just hoped that readers would accept me for who I was: a one-hit wonder, of sorts.

March

Befitting the month that is said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, I came out with both barrels blazing. The website got a total makeover thanks to the amazing help of Rebecca Garlock of the Outdoor Blogger Network and Outdooress fame, and a new logo thanks to Itchy Dog Productions (which is rather self-indulgent). If I couldn’t offer consistently good content, at least I could package the Weekly Drivel® in such a way that it looked good. Perception is everything, right? Somehow during this month, a cardboard cutout of “me” sprang up and began to slowly circumnavigate the globe, or at least the country. At the end of the month, I took my son steelhead fishing for the first time. We paid a visit to the mecca of Vampires, Forks, WA. My intent was to show the lad how it’s done. He caught two fish, the last of which was landed under a double rainbow. I came home smelling of a skunk and my angling unaccomplishments had me feeling quite sheepish as March became a thing of the past.

April

I opted not to engage in April Fools Day trickery this year, for some reason. I’m not even sure why in retrospect–perhaps because it was to be expected of me?  The year prior I had crafted an April Vokey April Fools lark, but I wouldn’t stoop so low as to do that again. Perhaps I was attempting to become not so predictable. Or, I simply had nothing to offer. I’ll admit I was beat down by the weather, which continuted to be much colder and wetter than normal. A lack of Vitamin D brought and gas pains had me in a bit of a fishing funk. The only thing of note for April was that the schedule changed for the Weekly Drivel®: no longer would I be posting on Fridays, and instead moved the weekly deadline up to Wednesday. This may have been due to the fact that internet statistics show more people read blogs on Wednesday than on Friday, or it may have been due to the fact that I wanted to spend my Thursday nights watching quality TV with Mrs. UA instead of handcuffed to my keyboard, sweating a Friday deadline. Oh, April also marked the crowning of my good buddy Derek Young as the 2011 Orvis Endorsed Guide of the Year. It’s good to have friends like Derek (I’m quite certain he cannot say the same of me). I did not get out to fish this month, which normally would be a fine month to do so at least a couple of times. April showers proved to be incessant rains.

May

In a month that normally brings good fishing and Spring flowers, May was a lousy weather month across most of the West this past year. Thanks to La Niña (the Bitch), which had a stronghold on the climate for several months, Spring sucked eggs. Bug hatches and everything else were a month behind schedule, at least. I managed to get out and fish twice: once with Derek and Jason Small (a semi-pro photographer who intended to come along to shoot photos and ended up stealing all the fishing glory); the second time as part of the annual Children’s Hospital auction float trip. Actually, I wasn’t even fishing but rather was tasked with rowing a raft for the Reverend and The Father. But no matter how frustrouting May was, it was also the month that marks the annual pilgrimage to Yellowstone. I always look forward to that trip, no matter how much or how little it changes year to year, which it does.

June

Fed up with the crappy Western Washington Spring weather, I proposed a radical solution that never gained much traction: removing the Cascade Mountains. Unlike the removal of dams, breeching the mountains may have been an idea that was ahead of its time. I posted of our Yellowstone escapades, but as part of my ongoing campaign to be not so predictable, I did so out of sequence. I thought this cutting edge approach to journalism might increase my readership from 8 to 12. The jury is still out on whether or not that worked, but by month’s end the UA was up to 10 readers. And those 10 readers were treated to a review, sort of, of John Gierach’s newest book, No Shortage of Good Days.

July

Ah, summer finally arrives to the Pacific Northwest. At least in theory. The calendar may have indicated that it was the first month of summer, but there were obstacles that prevented it from fishing like a typical July. Eventually La Niña would loosen her grip, but July was still  month of developmentally-stunted weather. That didn’t seem to bother my son too much, as he became a professional bass angler. Olive the Woolly Bugger began her quest for Hollywood in earnest with a campaign to garner support from the internet. She could still use your help (hint-hint).

August

August was a big month for the UA as he ventured via Montana to Victor Idaho to participate in the Casting 4 A Cure event. I felt very fortunate to be able to participate, and hope to do so again. What I do not hope to do again is hit another deer while driving in Montana. The first leg of the journey took us to the Bitterroot River for a day of fishing with Jay Dixon. Having never before fished “the Root”, it was a real treat.  And I outfished Marck, which was also a first, but I would certainly never boast about it. Recommend you give Jay a shout if you plan to be over that way.

September

The UA celebrated it’s second birthday this month and predicted that readers should expect some irrational behavior fitting the terrible twos. If you were Owl Jones, you didn’t have to wait long for that unsavory behavior to come your way as I announced a Boycott of his website. Fortunately Mr. Jones caved into the pressure and the boycott was soon lifted and Owl resumed his quest for world domination. An epic Crane Fly hatch this month spawned a concept that I thought would be more popular than it turned out to be. Based on the luke warm reception, apparently the world wasn’t ready to combine their love of yard maintenance and fly fishing: Lawn Trout.

October

With a run of Pink Salmon numbering in the gazillions, I sought to harvest at least a few of these fish and made an attempt at doing so. The score after two attempts?  Pink Salmon: One Gazillion; UA: Zero. The erratic toddler-like behavior predicted a month earlier manifested itself once again as I declared war on Canada. A Cease-Fire was announced within a week. Having crashed and burned in my attempt to humor the world with my antics in September, I announced my idea for another radical idea that combined fishing and another popular American past time: BASSCAR. This proved marginally more popular, but I realized I would have to go back to the drawing board if I hoped to conceive of the next big thing…something that would attract Google’s attention. As it turns out, people seeking a fly fishing blog apparently want something actually having to do with fly fishing, as my review of the Sage One got more traffic than BASSPRO and Lawn Trout combined. Go figure.

November

The eleventh month of the year is not typically a very productive fishing month for me, and this November was no exception. However, my fishing unaccomplishments are rivaled only by my elk hunting unaccomplishments. Another thing you can do when you aren’t fishing and consequently have nothing to write about with regard to fishing, is conduct interrogations interviews with people who do fish. To that end I did my first interview with a fly fishing celebrity this month, as Olive the Woolly Bugger sat down for a chat. Interviews seem to be a popular fad in the fly fishing blogasphere, as I was grilled over at Eat More Brook Trout. Continuing with the whole interview theme, I gave Chris Hunt a dose of his own medicine in the form of 20 Questions. I began to realize that I really need to do more fishing.

December

I continued to acknowledge that I needed to do more fishing, but December isn’t the month to acknowledge this because fishing tends to be in limbo this month. I had several excuses for not fishing, however. Some of them were even valid reasons. I sat inside, attempting to fend off a case of the Shacknasties, and putting my creative brain to work. The jury is still out on whether my creativity will be rewarded, but pouring energy into a series of greeting cards is better than pouring alcohol into my system or writing about pink Fish Tacos.

As we say good riddance to 2011 and look ahead to 2012, I wish my 10 loyal followers a very Happy New Year and thank you for your continued support. With 8 more months of potential antics befitting a two year-old yet to come, I make no promises that you will read anything here worthy of your time. I do however, offer apologies in advance. I just hope we’re all still here this time next year.

Knocking on wood: excuses for not fishing

I haven’t been fishing in what seems like a long time. For those who live in trout country, this probably isn’t such an odd thing. After all, when the water temps dip into the 30’s and the trout enter their catatonic wintery coma, fishing for them tends to grind to a halt. That’s when the trout fishermen (which is a term to describe those who fish, be they men or women, or some surgically-created hybrid) turn inward and do other things related to fishing to keep them busy. They tie flies, clean lines, rearrange gear,  make plans to attend some of the upcoming fly fishing tradeshows, etc. This is all well and good. And because I do fish for trouts I do have the excuse that trout fishing is shut down for the winter.  However, I live in Anadromopolis.  I should be out casting a Spey rod for sea run rainbow trouts: steelhead. But I haven’t been yet.

Why not?  There are reasons, and three of them sound like valid excuses to me:

• Winter steelhead fishing really starts in earnest in January. That’s true. There may be some early fish in the river systems, but typically January marks the true beginning of winter steelhead fishing around here. 

• There aren’t that many fish in our local rivers. Again, true. But that’s nothing new. Our local Puget Sound rivers have not been very productive for steelhead fishing in years. It’s not getting any better, but that shouldn’t stop the fisherman who enjoys getting out for the sake of practicing their casting, with the remote hope of hooking up with a fish.

• The weather has been crappy and the rivers are blown out. Not true. While that was definitely the case last year thanks to La Niña, the same cannot be said of this year. And while the meteorologists told us we were in for another La Niña winter this year, that has not proved to be the case so far (knock on wood). We had early snow in the mountains before Thanksgiving, but precipitation since then has been low. The weather has been cooler than normal, but also drier. Consequently our rivers are in good shape.

• I’ve been traveling for work and unable to find time for fishing. HA! I don’t travel for work. In fact, I rarely leave my home office for work. Truth be told, my work has been slow for the past couple of months. Too slow. I’ve had plenty of time for fishing, but I’ve been burdened with anxiety over the lack of work, which has kept me from feeling much like fishing. Work has to pick up (knock on wood).

• My waders leak and I’ve been waiting to get a new pair for Christmas. False. My waders are fine. They do not leak (knock on wood), nor am I getting a new pair for Christmas.

• I broke my Sage Z-Axis 7136 Spey rod on a huge fish, had to send the tip section in for warranty repair, and Sage has been very slow to return it. This is both false, and a crock.  I did not break my 7136 (knock on wood). But even if I had , Sage would have turned it around in short order as they are known to do.

• I’m recovering from knee surgery. An old college football injury that has plagued me for years finally begged to be corrected. Uh, false. I did not have surgery. I have never had a knee injury (knock on wood). I did not play college football.

• I’m just a worthless excuse for a fisherman. I’ve been in some sort of funk, have no gumption and simply have not gone fishing. This is true.

I’m out of excuses and there’s no more wood upon which to knock. There’s only one thing to do…

 

 

Card game

 

Years ago, when I was young and idealistic, I had dreams of being a syndicated cartoonist. I used to draw a single panel cartoon strip which I called abserd, in which I took fairly common daily things and put a certain ridiculous spin on them, or took advantage of what I saw were obvious puns. Often the theme was rather, well, absurd. My strip was published in a local paper, but nothing beyond that. Eventually the demands of a real job caused my cartoon ambitions to wane, and my abserd days fell by the wayside. My downfall may have also been that I lacked the talent to overtake Gary Larsen in popularity. After all, The Far Side had a stronghold on American pop culture at the time.

Well, as they say, you can take the boy out of cartooning, but you can’t take the cartooning out of the boy. To that end I’ve recently rekindled the flame, sort of. I’ve decided to publish a line of greeting cards (mostly fishing themed) and put them out there for public consumption ridicule. I’ve only got three cards available right now (2 of which have fish themes), but will be adding to the collection as I get time and inspiration. Or, this idea may also die a quiet death.

In a previous blog entry I talked about the 1987 Christmas card that I recently breathed new life into. I’m happy to say that since I added this card to Zazzle.com, I’ve sold over fifteen (15) copies. Woo Hoo!

With Christmas nearing, you too can send this card out to friends and family. Be sure to order today so you have it in time to send it to your friends who support PETA:

 

OK, it’s December 16th. With only 9 days until Christmas, admittedly it may be too late to be able to order the above cards and get them sent out to your list of recipients for this year (but there’s always next year, right?  Be proactive). However, your procrastination can be rewarded, as the following card is suitable as a Happy New Year greeting. Or, it can also be used as a birthday card, anniversary, etc. I was surprised when recently someone ordered a sizable quantity of these (way more than 15). I’m guessing that it was probably a friend of mine taking pity on me. I guess I’ll know for sure if I receive one in the mail:

Inside Caption: "Here's to another great year."

 

While every occasion needs a card, not every card needs an occasion. For example, maybe you have a steelhead fisherman in in your life who is in need of some encouragement? For that matter, every steelhead fisherman needs encouragement. Surely you must know a steelhead fisherman who is lacking the requisite 1000 casts between fish:

Maybe in time I will sell enough cards to at least pay for the hosting of my blog. The commissions paid are rather unimpressive–even less than the royalties paid to book authors, so please take pity: consider buying a card, even if only so you can send one to me. I’m nowhere near the 1000th cast needed before I catch my next steelhead, and I could use some encouragement.

To do so, click HERE.

 

 

Pink Fish Taco

It all started when Marck recently sent me a photo of a fly pattern he observed whilst at Creekside Anglers in Issaquah, WA. The photo quality is not great, but it’s clear enough that it caused me some alarm.

Fish Taco Pink 2

A casual glimpse at the photo is no immediate cause for concern to average person. After all, it’s simply a photo of a pink fly pattern in a bin labeled “Fish Taco Pink 2”. We can assume that the “2” is the hook designation. It’s obviously some sort of streamer fly. Given the time of year and the location of the shop in the Pacific Northwest, it’s some sort of steelhead pattern. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Wrong.

Last I checked, there was only one Fish Taco, and it was parked in my garage. And it is white, not pink.  I’ve made countless references to it over the past couple of years: the Fish Taco is my 2003 Toyota Tacoma. Now before you jump all over me for being cute, let me state that I don’t typically give pet names to my vehicles. Prior to the Fish Taco there were two exceptions to that rule: the Mack Daddy and Diesel Daddy–trucks I’ve owned in the past. These were trucks so glorious that they begged for their own identities. There was nothing cute about them.

Actually, the Mack Daddy was already named when I bought it.  It was a 2000 F350 Crew Cab, 4wd, long bed, with the Triton V10.  The sales manager had scribed “Mack Daddy” on the temporary key fob at the dealership. Coming in at just under 65 feet in length, it was by far my biggest truck up until that point in time, and it was deserving of the Mack Daddy monicker, so I kept the name intact. It was replaced a few years later by the Diesel Daddy, which was even larger, or at least wider. It was the same basic truck, with the added girth of dual rear wheels and of course the 7.3 Powerstroke Diesel. It was a tool for hauling a very heavy camper and it did an admirable job of doing so. With it’s wide hips it was not very condusive to daily driving situations–situations in which one might encounter drive-through windows or narrow country roads occupied by bicyclists.  I miss that truck. Sigh.

Fish Taco, white

These days I drive a much more reasonably-sized truck, one of the duties of which is to get me to and from fishing locations, thus the “Fish” designation. “Taco” is simply an abbreviation for “Tacoma”. I thought I was being rather clever when I bestowed this name upon the truck, assuming I was the only person in the universe who had named his truck the Fish Taco. Therefore I have a sense of territorial ownership when it comes to the name. You can understand why I was alarmed when Marck sent me the photo of the Fish Taco Pink 2.

As anyone would naturally do, I began wonder what the Fish Taco would look like if it were in fact pink. So, using “Pink Toyota Tacoma” as a search phrase, I set about on an internet quest for enlightenment. I had hoped to find a similar, if not identical, truck to mine. Only in pink. After all, it’s a vast world and one can find just about anything on the internet if one is willing to delve into the bowels of Google or Bing. Unfortunately it was not meant to be. The results were interesting, but mostly just disappointing. And frankly, more than a bit disturbing.

This is a pink Toyota Tacoma.

This is also a pink Toyota Tacoma.

And another pink Toyota Tacoma.

Yes, this is a another Toyota Tacoma and yes, it is pink.

A pink-ish Toyota Tacoma, with the hood up.

Look! Another pink Toyota Tacoma with the hood up!

As is evidenced by the above photos, a certain theme began to reveal itself and I began to give up hope of ever finding a Toyota Tacoma like mine, in pink. But just as I was preparing throw in the towel I happened upon this gem, which is a flaming hot pink Tacoma. Still a far cry from the Fish Taco, at least it’s not a lowered street truck:

I am left speechless.

This final search result isn’t even a Tacoma, but it showed up on the first page of  results so it’s worth mentioning. I believe this is nearly identical to the Toyota FJ that Chris Hunt (featured in last week’s Drivel®) just ordered.  Have fun driving around eastern Idaho while you blast Lady Gaga in that, Chris (wink, smiley face).

A pink Toyota FJ...Solid.

With search results that left me verklempt, I embraced the theory that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. With that in mind, I offer forth THE Fish Taco, pink:

Fish Taco, Pink.

I’m confident that by now I’ve lost most of you, but if you’re still reading you may be wondering about the Fish Taco fly pattern that inspired this entry. Google revealed more favorable results with regard to information about that here.

I may have to stop by Creekside Anglers and pick up a couple flies, because clearly I need to go fishing.

Merry Christmas, 25 years later.

The year was 1987. Ronald Reagan was president and disposable contact lenses were invented. I was two years out of college and into my second year of being employed in the business world (I was running a typesetter for a software company, producing documentation for end-user manuals). I used to call it my first “real” job but that reflects negatively on my first job, which I’d had for 7 summers. In that job I worked on a Christmas tree farm with a bunch of old stoners, hippies and logger types. It was there that I learned to appreciate hard work, the Allman Brothers Band and how good a cold beer tasted after a 10 hour day in the hot sun—before I was even 21 (*gasp*). To put things into perspective, I was making more on the Christmas tree farm than I was at this “real” job, so it begs the question: which was really the real job?

But I digress (I’m prone to that).

Terminal.

1987 was back before there was such a thing as an internet (for the public anyway), desktop computers, or color laser printers. I had a desk, and on it sat a computing device, but it was referred to as an email terminal, not a desktop computer. To get this terminal to do much of anything required basic FORTRAN, which I didn’t know, so you can imagine how productive this terminal was. Email could only travel between computers connected within the local network: there was no access to the outside world. In essence it was a dead end. But a CRT monitor with a black screen and glowing green text was cutting edge technology at the time, and it seemed pretty cool just to have this thing called email. Ignorance was bliss, as this was back before email overload became the bane of daily existence.

In 1987 we still went to libraries to do research, coveted the yellow pages to find listings, and read the newspaper classified ads to find used fishing gear. There were black and white photocopy machines, but if you wanted to print something of any quality, even in black and white, you had to have it done the old fashioned way using offset printing. And offset printing printing was expensive (still is, actually). I had not a pot to piss in back then—as a bachelor, most of my spare change was spent on pizza and cheap beer (microbrews weren’t all the rage yet). But that year, with Christmas nearing, I found myself in a festive mood and I wanted to create Christmas cards to send out to friends and family. I had an idea, and I drew it on paper using a Rapidograph ink pen (not a pen tool). If I made a mistake, I started over (there was no “undo” command). I scraped together every penny I had so that I could afford to have a couple of hundred black and white cards printed (color was out of the question). That Christmas the cards went out, and while details of 25 years ago are hazy at best, I do remember that the cards were well-received. I don’t know if people actually liked the cards or just appreciated my efforts. Afterall, nobody printed their own cards back in those days.

Then.

Ultimately a couple cards were left over and somehow found their way into a folder. Amazingly that folder has followed me through the years, through marriage and kids and a few different moves to new houses. Jump ahead 25 years when recently I was cleaning out my desk sifting through a cluttered, junk-filled drawer and I came upon the old card. Brought back some memories it did, so I thought I’d have a little fun with it. Once scanned I posted it to a popular social networking site and to my surprise I got over 30 “likes” and several comments.  A couple of folks even contacted me, asking how they could get cards.  I had no good answer to that because there was no way to print the old cards–the original artwork had long ago vanished. At the insistance of a nagging associate suggestion of a friend (thanks, Les) I decided there was something I could do. First, I would have to recreate the original illustration in what has become, over the years, my personal style.

Now.

Once I’d redrawn the card, I then posted the file to Zazzle.com and fashioned some 5×7 cards using the design. No need to spend money out of pocket to pay for printing. No risk of having unwanted inventory sitting around in a folder, stuffed to the back of a junk drawer in my desk to be discovered a quarter century later. And so there you have it: a 25 year old idea that has stood the test of time has been revived thanks to modern technology. A textbook example of something old, something new.

The cards are available for purchase if anyone is interested. Envelopes included. Disclaimer: I make a very small percentage of every card sold–so small in fact that I’ll have to sell hundreds of cards in order to afford a frozen pizza and a six pack of cheap beer (I still don’t go for microbrews), or a half tank of gas to go fishing.

If interested, you can order the cards by clicking HERE. I’ll be adding other designs as I conceive of them.