Dangerous Wading with The Bachelor

I don’t watch “The Bachelor” on TV so I would not have known about this if not for some impressive internet sleuthing on the part of Montana Fly Company’s Facebook page. Apparently Ben Flajnik (the guy who is The Bachelor) grew up in a fishing family so he took his harem to a lake near Park City, Utah for a group date and they did a bit of angling. You can read the riveting story here if so inclined.

I suppose there are worse places The Bachelor could have taken his gaggle of gals. But as much as I approve of fly fishing as a wholesome activity for anyone, there’s something wrong with this picture: Where are their wading belts?! Not only is it unsafe to be wading perilous waters without their belts, but wading belts offer a slimming effect.

And I believe PBR in cans would have been more appropriate than whatever they’re drinking out of their fancy glasses, not to mention that glass is to be discouraged when fishing. Glassware, that is- not glass fly rods. I don’t want to get in trouble with Cameron Mortenson over at the Fiberglass Manifesto.


Lefty Kreh declares “Tenkara is cool!”

Forgive the headline–it was a shameful act intended for no other reason than to get your attention. Ahem. Lefty Kreh actually said that Tenkara is a fad.

I personally don’t have any strong feelings about Tenkara, period. Fad or not, it is what is is. However, there’s been a great deal of buzz throughout the fly fishing world this past week with regard to what the legendary Lefty Kreh said about Tenkara. Anyone with a website that doesn’t feature the words, “Lefty Kreh Tenkara fad” is missing out on some great Google Analytics opportunities. All the kids are doing it:

Windknots & Tangled Lines
Field and Stream
Fontinalis Rising
Roderick Hawg-Brown
Eat More Brook Trout
Owl Jones
Mystic Waters
 (a shamefully late entry, posted even after the UA went to press, for no other reason than to get some Google love)

So, count me in.  While perhaps a bit late, I’ll jump on that bandwagon. And I’ve even got some pictures, of Lefty Kreh, Tenkara, and “only a fad”! I want some of those hits, if there are any leftovers 😉

lefty kreh tenkara is a fad


DVD Review: No Sports Allowed

No Sports Allowed, Volumes 1 and 2

When Volume 1 of No Sports Allowed hit the market 3 years ago, I was in line early for my copy of the dvd. Actually that’s lie, because I didn’t really stand in a line. Truth be told, I avoid lines and crowds whenever possible. But I did order an advance copy because I was eager to see what it was all about.

I am not what I would consider a connoisseur or collector of fly fishing videos, but I do enjoy good footage of fly fishing set to the sounds of good music, and to that end I was not disappointed with No Sports Allowed, Vol 1. In fact, I was rather pleasantly surprised by the contents. It was better than I expected, even though I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in the first place. Having seen a few fly fishing films with music soundtracks, I can tell you that they all have a couple things in common: fly fishing and music. And there’s nothing wrong with that (duh!). But after you’ve seen one, you may feel like you’ve seen them all. No Sports Allowed (NSA) Volume 1 was different from anything I’d seen previously, and what I particularly enjoyed about it was the approach the crew took when capturing the footage: those in front of and behind the camera are good, solid fishermen, but they’re obviously having a huge amount of fun and not taking themselves too seriously. It’s almost as if what you’re witnessing is just a bunch of unpretentious guys out doing what they love.

Actually, that’s exactly what it is.

So when the second dvd arrived in the mail recently I was expecting more of the same, and again I was not disappointed. Volume 2 is more of the same, with emphasis on more because No Sports Allowed, Vol. 2 is considerably longer. It’s also better than the first, in my subjective opinion. As I said, I liked Volume 1. But in the time since it was produced, the crew has honed their cinematography skills such that it’s even better this time around.

Like Volume 1, the second dvd is broken into chapters of sorts and each chapter is as different as its accompanying soundtrack. Footage spans everything from guys roping a raft through some water that is obviously best not floated, to 3 young boys exhibiting what fishing, when stripped down to the basics, is all about: having fun. There’s fast, furious fishing through harrowing waters where only an experienced oarsman would dare go, to a lazy bend in a small river that appears to be no more than 10 feet across. Some of the music is hard-pounding, edgy rock while other songs dial it back several notches and feature toe-tapping acoustic guitars. Chapters 5 and 6 feature my favorite tunes, respectively: Fly of my Dreams by Joe Rood and Robby Mason; and No More Time to Lose by Joe Rood. Your opinions may vary, but that’s the beauty of the dvd–there’s something for everybody.

Like the music and fishing footage, the fish caught are themselves widely varied.  Some of the trout caught are not large even by my standards, while others are real brutes. All are beautiful, as trouts tend to be, and fish of every size are featured, from diminutive brookies to respectable browns. For the “wow factor”, some absolute slab rainbows are caught in what appears to be a giant spring creek. The smorgasbord of fish porn is certain to entertain all, but you’ll be left with the feeling that this is all within grasp of the average fisherman.

What an unaccomplished angler like me enjoys about a dvd like this is that it’s real, not make-believe. In other words I can actually imagine myself fishing for those fish, on those waters. Videos shot in far off and exotic locales such as Mongolia, New Zealand or Patagonia are fun to watch, but face it–how many of us Joe Average anglers are ever going to experience something like that?  Conversely, fishing for believable fish in Eastern Idaho doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination. That being said, actually landing some of those fish may not be as easy as the guys in the dvd make it look.

If there’s one thing missing that I’d like to see included with the dvd’s it would be a detailed booklet complete with GPS coordinates for the waters featured in the film. Something makes me think that’s not likely to happen, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

If you want to treat yourself to some great music, lively fishing (and other) footage laced with a solid dose of humor and plenty of great fish, look no further than No Sports Allowed, Volumes 1 and 2.  Oh, and the teaser footage of Volume 3 looks to provide yet more of the same, plus a LOT more.  I’ll be first in line for it.

Get some at www.nosportsallowed.com


The Emotional Fishing Hangover

Anyone who has ever enjoyed a great weekend fishing trip will know what I’m talking about with the title of this entry. You’ve returned home from a weekend that was months in the planning and thus filled with extreme anticipation. Expectations were handily exceeded, and everything about the trip was an adventure. But now it’s over and you’re emotionally spent, because it was that great of a trip.

In this instance, the trip was the second annual Clearwater River trip with a group of college buddies. The trip this year was expanded to include additional characters and the result was something that I never thought possible after last year, when the bar was set pretty high: it was even better this year.  Not only was the day of fishing exceptional, there was more to the trip that made it extra special. It was a trip that very well might not have happened.

In the days leading up to the departure date, Mother Nature dealt a blow that attempted to alter my plans. The Pacific Northwest became the recipient of a winter storm beat down that, while arriving later than usual, came with a near knockout punch. A few inches of snow fell, then more. Schools were closed for 4 days. The snow shovel became a familiar daily tool. The Honda Rancher with the plow blade saw active duty for several days in a row, ensuring that we and our neighbors could escape the grips of a fairly steep road that was entrenched in snow; snow that has a certain high-level of water content that resembles concrete when it accumulates on the ground. One neighbor was so appreciative after I cleared their driveway for the second time that they brought me $20 for gas and a bottle of wine.  I’d have preferred an 18 pack of PBR, but I appreciated the thoughtful gesture all the same.

The insurance policy I love to have and love to use.

Over the course of the week, tree branches and whole trees came down. Across power lines. Just not our power lines. Hundreds of thousands of homes in the region were without power, but somehow we dodged a bullet of sorts (knock on wood). With the fishing trip weighing heavily on my mind, I watched the weather forecast with great interest. Depending on the news source the worst was either behind us or it wasn’t. Being a man who is not one to shirk my responsibilities, I informed Mrs. UA that I would not go on the Clearwater trip if the power was out. No man worth his salt would  leave behind to those he loves just to venture off on a fishing trip. There are things more important than fishing. On the day before our scheduled departure, with the worst of the storm hopefully behind us, I was confident that we would not lose power. Then came the sucker punch: freezing rain which added to the weight of 8-10 inches of already heavy snow. And so at midnight on Thursday, the house went dark. When we awoke on Friday morning (the day of departure for the Clearwater) the house was chillier than normal. There were no telltale flashing digital clocks to indicate that the power was back on. I immediately went into survival mode: the first order of business was to get  the generator hooked up and running, followed by the coffee maker.

The insurance policy I love to have and hate to use.

In the next few hours, our emergency heat source slowly took the chill off the house, bringing the inside temperature up to a cozy 67 degrees (fahrenheit). There were two, 5 gallon containers of gas to keep the generator in business for at least a couple days, but later that day I would send my son, Schpanky, to the neighboring town to secure another several gallons of fuel for good measure. The refrigerator would run to insure that food was not spoiled. The well would continue to pump water so that nobody would fall victim to dehydration. The septic system would remain functional so that toilets could continue to be used. If the power were to remain out of service for a few more days we they would be all right.

And so I loaded my gear into the back of Lenrod’s Suburban and off we went on our long, adventurous drive to Idaho. We would encounter considerably more snow and freezing rain as we made the 370 mile trip across the state. We would arrive 2 hours later than intended, but we would arrive safely. There would be much rejoicing and celebration as old friends were reunited and glasses were raised in many toasts. There would be stories told, behavior unbecoming middle-aged men engaged in, and many fish caught. There would be serious fun had, and there would be a perilous return journey over a mountain pass still gripped in a winter storm. I would return to a home that was back on the power grid, with a cooler full of meat to feed my family during the remaining months of winter that lie ahead. After all, I am not one to take my responsibilities lightly.

All that remains of a once beautiful snowfall.

Upon waking to this particular Monday, I feel physically fine but emotionally I am drained. A week of invigorating weather, during which I felt very much alive, has given way to a bland feeling that accompanies the calm after the storm. School is back in session and Mrs. UA is back at work. The ATV is tucked away in the garage and the snow shovel has been traded for the poop scooper. A memorable fishing trip is now but a memory. It feels too calm, and as I reflect on the drama of the past week that peaked with a great fishing trip, it could be easy to be left feeling a bit gloomy, as if there’s nothing left to look forward to. But a quick glance in the mirror reminds me otherwise: I still have the continuing progress of the beard to keep me going.

Depending on who you are, it just keeps getting better.

Real fishermen have beards

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait until the day I could shave. Let me rephrase that: I couldn’t wait until the day I had to shave. Shaving has always been a sign of manhood, and every boy looks forward to the day that he becomes a man. For me, that day (shaving, mind you) came decades ago, and after a few years of having to shave, I realized that it’s just another pain in the day-to-day arse, like mowing the lawn (although admittedly I’ve gotten some of my best ideas while mowing the lawn).

P.E. Werner circa 1870's

The simple presence of the “Y” chromosome does not guarantee that one will develop a thick beard, and exceptionally dense whiskers do not run in my family (although I believe my grandmother had some impressive chin hairs that she did her best to manage). Some of my German ancestors had some impressive mustaches, but I’ve never seen a full beard in any of the old photos. My dad grew a beard back in the 70’s, and if I recall it wasn’t a bad looking beard but it was never allowed to manifest into a thick beard; a real beard. My brother, Hal, has sported a neatly-trimmed beard for years, but he prunes it regularly so I’m not sure what potential lies within his chin follicles. I think he ought to show what he’s capable of by letting that thing go fallow…

Round about the time I was 14 or 15–if the lighting was just right–a faint trace of dark peach fuzz was visible on my upper lip. By the time I was in college, I was capable of growing a very poor mustache, and in fact I did just that. I reckon it made me feel like more of a man: a rugged, manly, virile man. What it really amounted to was a pathetic patch of immature whiskers attempting to be cultivated on a youthful baby-faced college boy. No amount of ridicule could convince me of that, although eventually I would come to see things objectively and hence the growth was removed.

That wasn’t the end of my dabbling in less-than-impressive facial hair experiments, however. There would be other times over the years, and each time I would eventually come to my senses and acknowledge that some guys look good with facial hair, while others do not. Those that can grow a thick beard are the ones that look good with a beard. Those that cannot grow a thick beard, like me, shouldn’t try. Particularly if they have any self-respect, which apparently I do not.

My first, and last beard.

Bobby Ayala circa 1993

UA circa 1993

The first, and last time I attempted a full beard was a little more than 20 years ago. It didn’t go particularly well, although my dog never rarely judged me. After deciding that the beard wasn’t working out quite as I’d hoped, it was reduced to a goatee of sorts.  At the time, every major league basbeball player was sporting this particular look, so why not me? That actually lasted for a period of nearly a year. When my daughter was born, one of the first things she saw was her father with a bad goatee, and there ensued much crying. Not wanting her to grow up with a false impression of what real facial hair should be, the goatee gave way to a clean-shaven face, and in the nearly 20 years since then that’s how I’ve remained. Yes, I’ve gone several days at a time without shaving, but it has always been with the intent of taking a razor to the whiskers sooner than later.

Now, at age 49, I’m coming to grips with the fact  that I may never be able to grow the beard of my fancy– certainly not The Beard, which is an enviable display of testosterone adorning the face of a man by the name of Marc Crapo. The Beard lives and breaths in Ashton, Idaho, where trout live in fear of such facial hair. I passed through that general area last summer and caught a few trout, but the trout did not fear me, nor did I stay long. Had I a proper beard, and the confidence that would surely have accompanied it, who’s to say how long I might have stuck around and how many more trout–trout that feared me–I might have caught?

THE Beard

Some things in life just weren’t mean to be, and being incapable of ever playing the guitar the way I want to is not the only thing preventing me from being more like The Reverend Billy Gibbons. One would think that I could accept this and ease into a clean-shaven middle age, complete with Dockers and sweater vests. One would think I’d have learned by now. But the fact of the matter is that Mrs. UA loves facial hair and lately has been urging me to grow a beard, which is something I’ve resisted. Until 7 days ago.

The beginnings of an unaccomplished beard.

I realize that the growth of hair which is currently spreading slowly across my jawline does not yet constitue a beard–I’ve a good long ways to go before it can be called that. I also realize that real men, with real beards, can probably grow more than this in a 24-hour period. But I have to give this thing time. In fact, patience is key in growing a thick beard, as pointed out in these instructions:  How To Grow a Thick Beard. According to these helpful guidelines, in 5 more weeks I should have a thick beard.

I remain skeptical of those lofty claims, but only time will tell. Maybe this time will be different, because I never before had guidelines.  As I sit here watching paint dry facial hair grow, my head is filled with both wonder and self doubt: Will a beard make me a better fisherman?  Will a shoddy beard make me an even worse fisherman? With all the white hairs sprouting in my beard, will I resemble a skunk?

There is so much yet unanswered, including whether or not this “thing” will last more than another week before I’m reminded that I cannot grow The Beard. Until then, damn does this thing itch…