May2012

Firehole Rangers 2012: dressed for success

There’s so much I want to tell you about this year’s Firehole Ranger road trip, but I’ve got a lot of photos to edit and thoughts to gather before I can post anything of significant eloquence and refinement, as you are all accustomed to here at the UA. So while you wait eagerly until I get something together, I wanted to share with you our 2012 team t-shirts provided, by Marck, for the recent trip to Yellowstone. By the way, fishing was good.

For the veteran Rangers, black t-shirts. Very outlaw, manly.

 

For the Rookie Ranger, a pink t-shirt (V-neck, no less).

Stay tuned for more, and thanks for stopping by.

What to forget

One of the best ways to enjoy a fishing trip is to start off with confidence, knowing you’ve not forgotten something important. On the eve of my departure for Yellowstone, I can’t help but obsess about this. One would think that after years of fishing, and specifically of going on this trip, that I’d have it all down to a confident science–a system, as it were. A checklist would seem a sound practice, but I’m not a list kind of guy. Lists make me nervous, and stubborn. Mostly because the typical lists I deal with are “To-Do” lists presented to me by others (I am not singling out Mrs. UA). When I see those kinds of lists, I often put up a wall of self defense and block them out; a tactic developed over many years of living under the same roof with women who are/were list makers. My mom was a list maker. If there was any perceived free time, check the list to find out otherwise. So, no–I don’t do lists very well. Nor do I lay things all out in an organized fashion so I can take careful, visual inventory. I mean, who does that, really? If you do, I’m sorry for insulting you. I’m just jealous of your patience and organization.

This person probably keeps a clean office, too.

And so I go through a fairly random mental checklist: flies, reels, tippet, strike indicators…check. Last I checked that was all in my gear bag so it should still be there, right? Rods, check. They’re large and awkward so hard to forget (stop laughing, Joe). Sunglasses- good catch, check. Suncreen?  Won’t need it, but, check. Flask, check (never forget that). Waders, boots, insulating layers, check. Long johns, warm socks, earplugs (in case I get stuck with the Goosemeister as a roommate). Check. Lucky fishing hat, check! Clean skivvies, extra t-shirts, check. Phone charger, check. What am I missing…?

The next thing I have to ponder is sleep.  Jimmy is meeting me at my house at 3:30 AM so we can be to Marck’s house at 4 AM where we will all pile into the “plush mini van” belonging to the new guy (I don’t have a name for him yet). I’m a night owl by nature, usually not retiring until well after midnight. If I go to bed at a decent hour, like 11 PM, I will lie awake until at least 1 o’clock, tossing and turning and sighing loudly out of frustration. That will not earn me any favors with Mrs. UA, and even if I do fall asleep two hours’ shuteye hardly seems worth it.  Maybe I’ll just stay up and obsess over what I’m forgetting. I’ll think of it, hopefully. Besides, there’s quality programming on during the wee hours.

The good thing is that if I do forget something important, there are 157 fly shops within spitting distance of each other in West Yellowstone. The bad news is that if I forget something important, an otherwise cheap trip just got more expensive.

Wallet, check.

Any bets on what I’ll forget?

In Anticipation of Yellowstone

As the annual pilgrimage of the “Firehole Rangers” (as I refer to us) nears and anticipation builds, I find myself easily distracted from daily tasks. This happens every year, without fail. Consistency–that’s what the trip represents. Every year on the Friday before Memorial Day, a rag-tag assembly of mostly the same group of guys departs the wet side of Washington for the 12+ hour drive to West Yellowstone, MT. We always stop at the same place for breakfast, for gas, for pit stops along the way. We always stay at the lavish accommodations of the Ho Hum Motel in West Yellowstone, purchase our National Park fishing permits at the same shop, and we always (always) purchase the same secret weapon soft hackle flies. There’s very little deviation. Creatures of habit the Rangers are.

On Saturday morning we’re always up early and one of the first cars through the gate. Fishing inside the park opens on this Saturday, and we drive as quickly as legally possible (and circumstantially feasible) to our destination: Midway Geyser Basin. Usually a herd of bison cows with their recently-birthed calves impedes our progress, but that’s just part of the ritual and one of the benefits of being in Yellowstone, where the wildlife rule. They’re never in a hurry, nor should we be. As hard as it is to control our enthusiasm to get on the water, the meandering Tatonka are a good reminder to slow down and take it all in. If you don’t you’ll miss all that Yellowstone has to offer.

In addition to more bison than you can shake a stick at, we also see herds of elk along the drive. One year a grizzly was seen loping along a ridge that runs parallel to the road. But it’s not a race to get to the river. Some years we’re the first anglers on the water; other years that’s not the case. It matters little because everything about this trip is an experience to be savored. I can imagine no other place on Earth quite like this, where two-and four-legged animals can peacefully coexist in such close proximity. However, the annual tragic encounter between a tourist and a native park inhabitant serves as a good reminder that these animals are very much wild and should be respected as such. Each year we see tourists ignoring the warning signs and getting way too close to the animals. I’m led to believe that the occasional culling of the human herd is a undoubtedly a good thing.

Yellowstone is big country. There’s room for everyone (animals and anglers). There are sizable crowds of tourists on Memorial Day weekend, although much less so than later in the tourist season. Relatively few people are in the park to fish while we’re there, so while I’ve heard that Firehole can become crowded with anglers, we’re fortunate that we see far more animals than fishermen when we visit. We always fish the same stretch of the Firehole river the first day and we always catch a lot of fish. Even on years when the river is higher than average, the Firehole produces enough cookie cutter-sized browns and rainbows in the 7-12 inch range to keep a bend in the 4 weight and a smile on the face all day long. There’s always that chance of a bigger fish that keeps an angler working a deep hole persistently. Stare at the river too long and you’re likely to find yourself flanked by bison when you finally look up.

If ever a river represented the essence that ‘there’s more to fishing than catching fish’, the Firehole would be it. As the river winds through the Midway Geyser Basin it changes personality with regularity: long, slow stretches filled with thick weed beds yield brown trout. These fish hit the fly hard and put their heads down. It’s not often they show themselves above the surface, though I did have a brown go airborn last year. Where the slow water turns to riffles, the trout become hard-fighting rainbows that will put on an aerobatic show once hooked. In many areas you can catch a brown on one cast and a rainbow on another. The Firehole is teeming with wild trout, but what you won’t catch are cutthroat trout native to the park.

Above Firehole Falls, where we fish each year, the river was originally devoid of trout. In 1889 the government began stocking fish as part of a park-wide effort to draw more anglers to Yellowstone. The stocking program was a simple economic-based decision that had a detrimental impact on the native fish in many of the park’s waters. Stocking programs ceased in 1955 and now there is great emphasis on controlling non-native species and protecting the populations of native fish. Although the browns and rainbows in the Firehole aren’t native, they are wild and I’m glad they’re there. Maybe that’s selfish of me.

The Firehole Rangers are creatures of habit, seldom (if ever) deviating from our long-established protocol. Truth be told, there’s little reason to change things up because we’re always rewarded with that which we seek. I must admit, though, I’ve always been curious about the fishing opportunities inside the Park beyond the Firehole. There are countless creeks, lakes and rivers that hold abundant fishing opportunities, so one may ask, “Hey, Firehole Rangers–why don’t you branch out and explore other areas?” That’s a valid question. After all, Yellowstone is a vast expanse with a long list of rivers that beckon the angler: the Bechler, Firehole, Gallatin, Gardner, Gibbon, Lamar, Lewis, Madison, and Snake Rivers. The answer is simple: seasonal timing.  Late May falls smack dab in the middle of the Spring runoff, and the other rivers in the park are all running high and off-color when we’re there to visit. The Firehole is unique in many aspects, not the least of which is that even when it’s running high, it’s fishable. It may turn a darker shade of tea, but it doesn’t muddy-up. And it’s a reasonably small river which can be crossed on foot in most sections, even when the river is high.

Another reason for fishing the Firehole early in the season is that with all the thermal activity along its banks, the water temperature in river far exceeds that of other rivers in the park at this time of year. Through much of the area we fish, the temperature of the river is near 60 degrees and the trout activity is correspondingly elevated. As the season progresses and weather heats up, the Firehole can become too warm and unhealthy for the fish. Not while we’re there. Late Spring at 7200 ft does not necessarily equate to blue skies and fishing in shirtsleeves. Although it certainly can be nice, on most years we’ll find ourselves fishing in sporadically winter-like conditions. Last year it snowed hard all day on our second day, accumulating 5 inches of the white stuff. The weather is unpredictable, you can count on that.

Very little changes about this trip from year-to-year, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. However I would like to see the park during the summer, when other waters are fishable. I wouldn’t mind being able to fish without having to bundle up in fleece and goretex. I’d like to catch a native cutthroat from the Yellowstone River, hook my first-ever Grayling and pierce the air bladder on a non-native lake trout. I’m also curious about lodging alternatives to the Ho Hum. There’s one way to make sure this happens…

Two fly angling blogger types will be chosen to participate in his year’s Blogger Tour 2012. Those lucky two will spend three days in Yellowstone, learning about the impact of Yellowstone Lake’s invasive lake trout population and the Park’s native fish recovery plan. It’s a tremendous opportunity to learn about America’s first National Park (founded in 1872), and one of the most unique places on Earth. This is my submission for the Trout UnlimitedSimms, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and the Outdoor Blogger Network – Blogger Tour 2012 contest.

 

Some clarity and a review: Revo Headway sunglasses

Finally I’ve made some headway on my previously ill-fated review of a new pair of Revo sunglasses that I’d been mulling over for some time. My mulling led to despair as last week I talked of how I’d been blind-sided by Sanders over at Up the Poudre because the idea I had for a review was apparently very much similar to the idea he had for his review. It’s all good though–Sanders was the early bird and got the worm.  I hope he enjoyed the taste.

Let me first state the obvious: Angling types need sunglasses for protection against errant casts, UV rays and glare from the water’s surface. I realize a lot of people don’t want to spend a lot for their eye protection, and that’s fine. I used to feel the same way until I purchased my first pair of quality sunglasses years ago. The difference was night and day. Clarity of the optics is noticeably better with quality lenses, and the glasses last a lot longer, as well they should. No matter what you spend on a pair of sunglasses, you want polarized lenses which cut the surface glare so you can see that fish as it refuses your offering. Without polarized lenses you may think there are no fish in the water. With polarized lenses you realize the fish are there, they just don’t like your presentation.

 

I selected a pair of Revos with the Headway frames. This model is new for 2012 and there are a couple cool things to point out before I get to the meat of the review:

1. Revos are made in the USA. As an American, that’s a huge plus.

2. The Eco-Use™ frames are made in part from the seed of the castor bean plant as an alternative to entirely petroleum-based nylon frames. Any way to cut down on petroleum-based products is a good thing, so we have more gas to burn in our cars.

One thing to note is that these sunglasses have glass lenses, not some sort of non-glass, plastic type material. I’ve always been fond of glass lenses because they don’t scratch as easily, but that typically comes with a downside: weight. You do not want the bridge of you nose to be toting a heavy load while you’re on the water all day. Fortunately, these Revos feature a very lightweight glass lens that is much lighter than a lot of other models out there. So light are they that I had to confirm they are indeed glass. They are.

With and without the Bronze lens

The lens color I chose is “Bronze”. I find that this color lens does a good overall job on the waters I fish, which are mostly rivers. At times, however, a bronze lens can be a bit too dark. After I broke an old pair of glasses with a bronze lens a couple of years ago, I bought a pair of Smith Optics with their (at the time) new lens color called “Ignitor”. It’s a light, rose-colored lens that makes it much easier to see under low-light conditions. The problem is that during times of the day when the sun is high and so is the glare, this lens doesn’t quite offer the protection during very bright conditions, in my opinion. Enter Revo’s bronze lens, which appears to be just about perfect for those long hours between long shadows. Revo offers other lenses to suit your needs. These suit mine, and since this is my blog, it’s really all about me.

The Headway frames are very comfortable. That’s a big improvement over the Smith’s I own, which grind on my ears after all day long. The Revos do not. They’ve got padded inserts where the frames rest on your ears and nose. These pads improve comfort and prevent slipping, and we all know how a greasy nose can be a slipperly slope for the wrong pair of glasses.

A PFD for your glasses

OK, so we’ve got lightweight glass lenses in a good color, and a comfortable frame. That’s all I really need in a pair of glasses, but Revo has added another cool feature worth mentioning: a leash and buoy. I always use some sort of strap/tethering device to prevent my glasses from falling into the water, or to let them hang around my neck while I reach into my pocket for my reading glasses so I can see to tie on the size 20 Adams. Revo’s integrated leash system is pretty slick: the frames have a small hole into which you insert a peg on the ends of the leash. Clean, simple, and low profile solution.  No bulk of a slip-over type retaining strap.

Quick-connect integrated leash system.

For an added measure of security should you still manage to drop the glasses into the water even though the leash is attached, a foam flotation buoy will make sure that the glasses don’t sink. If you drop them in a river, at least you’ll be able to watch them as they bob downstream in the current. I hope you’re able to retrieve them, but if not, the lucky angler who does find them will be very pleased with the Revos.

The retail price for these Revos is nothing to bat an eye at ($209), but that’s not out of line with what you’ll pay for other premium glasses. And when you’re on your 11th pair of cheap, $20 glasses you’ll wish you’d bought the Revos.

I’ve been blind-sided

Damn you Sanders!

Now I know how a blind person feels when they’ve been shamefully taken advantage of. There they sit with their  dark glasses on, minding their own business, when some punk-ass thug sneaks up on them and snatches a valued possession right out from under their unsuspecting nose. If the sightless victim is lucky they’ll have a seeing eye dog that will chase down the thief and rip their throat out.  I have no such seeing eye dog. In fact my dog Eddie is pretty much a lazy, worthless lay-by-the-door retriever. But I digress.

^^^ idea stealer ^^^

Before you close your browser window, please hear me out–I assure you that this has something to do with fly fishing. You see, I’d recently been laboring over a review I’ve been intending to write about a new pair of Revo sunglasses which will be my new favorite fish glasses. I had the outline in my head and was going to set aside an evening this week to scribe a formal review. It was going to be good, too.  And then a couple of days ago, what should my eyes behold but a review for Revo sunglasses over at Up the Poudre. Now, I wasn’t surprised to see Sanders writing a review for these shades. After all, manufacturers often reach out to popular bloggers for help in marketing their wares. Why they’ve approached the UA is beyond me, but who am I to judge?  Anyway, Sanders writes good, so I was eager to read his review.

Before I’d finished reading I was pounding the desk and yelling Sander’s name in outrage. I believe my outburst was actually, “Damnit, Sanders!  This is an outrage!”

What Sanders wrote was nearly identical to what I was planning to write, right down to referencing a specific other brand of sunglasses that I own, and like, except that they cause head pain. That was suppose to be MY angle.  I just can’t see forging ahead blindly with what I had planned to write because it would no longer be original. And nobody would believe me when I declare that the idea was mine first, and Sanders just ripped me off. Afterall, more people like Sanders than they do me. It would be a futile attempt to stake my claim. I’m not territorial. There’s room for the both of us in the blogashere.

At least the specific model of Revo sunglasses that I’ll be reviewing is different that those covered by Sander’s plagiarism review.

I assure you I am not bitter. It was my own fault for not getting to my review sooner. The early bird gets the worm, right?

Now where’s that throat-eating seeing eye dog when you need one?