December2020

Following the cold trail of the JanSport D-series packs.

My somewhat odd fascination with the JanSport D3 backpack was explained in an earlier post: Ode to the JanSport D3 backpack. What follows here is a very general roadmap of the D3’s history, and that of its sibling packs, the D2 and D5. I have tried to piece together an approximate timeline to satisfy my own curiosity and this information will be of absolutely zero interest to those who continue to follow this blog, hoping to read about fly fishing. I’m merely putting this information out there for the rare person who, like me, may find it somewhat interesting or even useful.

Ebay listings

And why, one will surely ask, might this information be useful? Well, because there are a fair number of vintage JanSport packs available through various online marketplaces, and most of those packs are clearly being sold by people who don’t know much—or anything, really—about their item. For example, I’ve come across more than a few eBay listings for packs that are often described as follows:

“Vintage 70’s 80’s JanSport K2 External Frame backpack Hip Wings HUGE”.

While I acknowledge that most of these ads merely feature popular search terms to draw buyers in, there is also a lack of knowledge about the items being sold. Nearly always the seller doesn’t even know what decade the pack is from and seldom do the ads list the model of the pack. That’s because the sellers don’t know. And likely the seller could care less could not care less. Chances are they came to obtain the pack at a flea market or second-hand store and they just want to sell it for a quick profit. I’ve encountered only two sellers who actually knew something about the origins of their packs: One was selling a D3 they had acquired from a friend who was the original owner. And while the seller had access to the year of manufacture, the original owner didn’t know the model of the pack. Another seller was the original owner of the pack they were selling, but even they did not remember the model. I’ve also lurked in various hiking forums where certain JanSport packs were being discussed, and many folks, while they know enough to use the term D2, D3 or D5, don’t know really one JanSport model from another. I’ve even seen “D4” used to describe these packs, and of course there was never a D4 pack.

It’s understandable that there can be so much confusion over an item that was manufactured as long ago as the early 1970’s. And despite there being some level of demand for these vintage packs, it’s a very small number of people who make up this market. I personally find this micro-niche to be quite interesting, and while I’ve gathered what information I could, there’s still an awful lot I don’t know about the history of JanSport’s D-series of external frame backpacks of yore. JanSport as a company is a far cry from what it was during the 1970s and it’s not as though one can call up customer service and get any sort of meaningful information about products from an era long-removed from the present. I’m sharing what I have been able to track down to date, and would kindly request that if anyone reading this has more detailed information, please leave a comment so I can correct/update my information.

JanSport began making innovative panel (front) loading packs in 1967, the frames of which were the first adjustable aluminum pack frames. Based on that early design, the D-Series of technical mountaineering packs was launched in 1971, originally designed for a Dhaulagiri Two expedition in the Himalayas. Specifically, this first expedition-oriented pack was called the D2 (Dhaulagiri Two) and was the largest capacity pack of the D series (5220 cubic inches). It can be easily identified by the large “JanSport” logo across a removable fanny pack attached to the outside of the man pack bag (this detachable bag was for carrying crampons). The D2 also had a single, large pocket on either side, with sleeves for carrying skis or poles. It was a panel-loading pack with a U-shaped upper bar, from which the top of the pack bag was suspended. This trademark feature carried across many other JanSport models, giving them all a somewhat similar appearance. In 2011 JanSport released a modern version of the D2. The re-issue pack even featured the original style hip suspension system and a retro second-generation JanSport logo. I’m not sure how well the reissued pack sold given the trend toward internal frame packs and ultra-lite backpacking.

JanSport D2. Likely from the mid- to late 1970's.

JanSport D2. Likely from the mid- to late 1970’s.

Jansport D2, mid-late 1970's.

Another JanSport D2 from the late 1970’s (owner believed it was 1978).

JanSport D2 (reissue), 2011.

JanSport D2 (reissue), 2011.

Similar to the D2, the JanSport D3 seems to have been designed less specifically for mountaineering expeditions and was geared more toward the long-haul backpacker (which is not to say that the D3 wasn’t also a mountaineering pack). The D3 was a large capacity pack (4146 cubic inches) capable of carrying very heavy loads more comfortably than other packs of its day. If availability on the used market today is any indication, the D3 became the most popular of the JanSport D-series packs over time. A trademark feature of the D3 is the large leather attachment patch (or crampon pad) on the outside of the lower bag compartment.

The JanSport D5 was the little brother (or sister) to the D3. Both models are virtually identical in appearance although the D5 was designed for smaller folks up to about 5’7″. While the D3 measures 39″ from top to bottom of the frame, the diminutive D5 measures a mere 34″. The depth of the D5 is about 8″, which is 2″ smaller than the D3. The width of the D5 bag is 14″compared to the D3 which is 14-3/4″ wide. The upper frame extension on the D4 is contoured as well, likely to provide more clearance for the wearer’s head. It is not impossible to find a D5 on the used market but it is more challenging than finding a D3 because sellers do not know what they have. To the untrained eye, a D5 may easily be mistaken for a D3, but if one knows what to look for, they can find it. I’ve been able to find only four packs that I determined to be the D5 based on measurements provided me by the seller.  After months of scouring listings I was fortunate to find one in excellent condition that was worth purchasing. The D5 is a very reasonably sized pack that I actually intend to put into service. I’ll save one of my monstrous D3’s for when I do a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail and don’t want to stop to resupply 😉

JanSport D5 (left) and D3 (right), of the same vintage, circa mid 1970s.

JanSport D5 (left) and D3 (right), of the same vintage (circa mid 1970s).

Another look at the diminutive JanSport D5 and monstrous JanSport D3.

Another look at the wee JanSport D5 and monstrous JanSport D3.

In addition to being 5 inches shorter, the depth of the D5 is 2 inches smaller than the D3.

In addition to being 5 inches shorter, the depth and width of the D5 is notably smaller than the D3.

Another thing that the D-series packs had in common—and what also set them apart from non-D-series JanSport packs—was the much-ballyhooed hip suspension system. Apparently this was an optional feature so you may find an old D3 or D5 without it. As time progressed and JanSport added more models to the lineup, other non-D-series packs could be had with the hip suspension system. But it was the D2, D3 and D5 that first featured the hip suspension bars, oft-referred-to-as “Hip Wings”. These U-shaped tubular bars were attached to the pack frame via pivot joints that allowed the wings to swing inward and outward (and to be folded out of the way or laying the pack flat). The suspension system can also be adjusted fore and aft to adjust the angle of the pack while being carried. Early versions of the hip suspension joints featured pivot joints that were metal on metal. JanSport obviously saw this as a design flaw which they soon remedied by adding plastic/nylon bushings on subsequent models. Overall the quality of the D3 was considered to be very good, although it has been said that the bushings in the hip suspension were prone to cracking over time. One of my late-70’s D3 packs has a cracked bushing but is still perfectly functional. The hip wings were attached to the hip belt via clevis pins fastened through leather-reinforced nylon patches (JanSport used ample leather in their design of these packs). The shoulder straps were also anchored to the hip wings.

I’m not sure exactly when but I believe that it was circa 1979-1980 that JanSport moved away from the tubular hip wing and began using straight aluminum bars for the hip suspension system. I base my assessment on the fact that in 1979 JanSport launched the Alpine Phantom mountaineering pack which featured the new hip bar design. This newer design was attached in a similar fashion to the hip belt, again with a healthy patch of leather for reinforcement. Ultimately JanSport changed the hip suspension to feature all plastic parts and, from what I’ve read, this was not necessarily an improvement.

Early 1970's hip suspension system. Note the lack of white nylon bushings where the pivot joint attaches to the frame.

Early 1970’s hip suspension system. Note the lack of white bushings where the pivot joint attaches to the frame.

Mid 1970's era hip suspension system. Note the white nylon bushings where the pivot joint attaches to the frame.

Mid- to late-1970’s era hip suspension system. Note the white bushings where the pivot joint attaches to the frame.

JanSport D3 hip bars, early 1980's.

JanSport D3 hip bars, circa 1979 or 1980.

1980s (?) model hip suspension bars.

Hip suspension bars on a late-1982 D3.

1990's newer (but not better) hip suspension.

1990’s newer (but reportedly not better) all plastic hip suspension.

JanSport was owned by Vashon Island-based K2 Corporation from 1972-1982. If your pack has the frame tag bearing reference to K2 you can be sure of the decade in which it was manufactured. After 1982 frames featured a different tag.

JanSport was a division of K2 from 1972-1982

JanSport was a division of K2 from 1972-1982. This is on a mid-late 1970’s model.

JanSport frame tag, post K2 era (1983–)

JanSport frame tag, post K2 era. This is on a late 1982 model).

The D3 retained virtually the same appearance until around 1982 (when the company was sold by K2). After that, black compression straps with plastic side-clasp buckles replaced the tan-colored straps and metal ladder buckles. Back padding, shoulder straps and hip belt also were black and featured mostly plastic hardware. Around the beginning of the post-K2 era JanSport frames changed from the earlier bronze-colored, anodized aluminum to a bare finish. Later in the 1980’s the D3 further evolved in appearance, incorporating areas of contrasting black nylon on the different colored main bag. The bag become attached to the frame via plastic clips as opposed to the previous-era packs which used fabric straps and metal ladder buckles. The shape of the zippered main compartment changed from the earlier, rounded/half moon shape, to more of a somewhat squared-off look. In the late 1980’s a zippered pocket was added to the outside of the main bag. By the 1990’s the D3 took on an even more different appearance and the trademark large leather patch appears to have become no more. I believe by this time leather was no longer used anywhere on the packs. I’ve heard it said that later versions of the D3 were not of the same high quality as were the older packs, and based on my limited experience I would agree. I have three D3 packs from the early, mid and late-1970’s and every component remains intact and solid. I bought a mid-1980’s D3 that was in like-new condition for the most part, but both of the shoulder straps were broken where they attached to the frame using plastic tabs. The seller did not disclose this, so I returned that pack. The cost to repair the straps was nearly as much as the cost of the pack itself.

Perhaps as old as 1972, the first year of the Jan Sport D3.

A very early 1970’s model JanSport D3.

A pair of JanSport D3 packs from the mid-1970s.

A pair of JanSport D3 packs from the mid to late 1970s.

JanSport D3, post 1982.

JanSport D3, late 1982 model. Note the black straps and frame color.

JanSport D3, mid 1980's

JanSport D3, mid 1980’s.

JanSport D3 from the late 1980s.

JanSport D3 from the late 1980’s. The last of the leather.

JanSport D3 from the 1990s.

JanSport D3 from the 1990’s. Where’s the leather?

Another JanSport D3 from the late 1990's.

Another JanSport D3 from the late 1990’s.

 

JanSport changed their logo over the years and that—depending on the logo your pack bears—may help place the approximate age of the pack. I wrote to JanSport’s customer service department but they were unable to tell me what years their different logos were in service. Instead, they suggested I send my packs in to their warranty department for assessment. The cost to ship the packs is prohibitive, however, so general approximations will have to suffice.

Jansport original logo.

JanSport original logo. You won’t find a D-series pack with this version.

Early 1970's JaSport logo (note the two words)

Very early 1970’s JanSport 2nd generation logo patch (note the two words and open letter spacing).

JanSport logo, second generation.

JanSport logo patch, later second generation (note the single word and tightened spacing of letters). This patch is from a 1975 pack.

JanSport logo, 3rd generation.

JanSport logo, third generation. Probably later 1970’s to early 1980’s.

JanSport logo, 4th generation (earlier).

JanSport logo patch, likely mid to late 1980’s.

JanSport logo, fourth generation.

JanSport logo patch from the late 1980’s and 1990’s.

JanSport current logo.

JanSport current logo. As much as things change, they stay the same.

 

If you have a JanSport pack that appears on the surface to be a D-series but has neither the large leather patch on the front of the bag, nor the hip suspension system, the pack could be the JanSport Cascade. There were enough similar (yet different) models of JanSport packs made over the years to make it confusing today. There is no mistaking a D2. The D5 and D3 are easily identifiable with their large leather crampon pad and hip suspension system (although, as mentioned earlier, this was an option). Another JanSport model, the Appalachian, was similar to the D3 but has a different pocket  configuration and is easily identifiable. It’s too bad JanSport didn’t affix the model name to every pack they made through the years. If they had done that we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

JanSport Cascade? (not a D3).

JanSport Cascade (not a D series).

JanSport Cascade: Look, Ma-no wings!

JanSport Cascade: Look, Ma-no wings!

In 1973 a JanSport D3 would have cost $75 (source: article from Field & Stream, December 1973). Back in the day that was a fair chunk of change to drop on a pack. Factoring in the cost of inflation, that $75 would amount to $439 today. I’ve not seen one listed for even half that amount, so despite there being a market for these old packs, they’re not keeping pace with inflation. Prices are not unreasonable on the used market (typically less than $150), but shipping is not cheap for such a large item and that can be as much as or more than the pack itself, depending upon where the pack is being shipped from. As collector items, these old JanSport packs are probably not the best investment, but hey—you can’t place a value on nostalgia. Perhaps in another 20 years my collection of vintage JanSport D-series packs will be worth a little more than what I paid for them.

 

JanSport ad from the mid (?) 1970's. The price of a D3 was $129.

JanSport ad from the mid (?) 1970’s. The price of a D3 was $110.

JanSport Ad, date unknown.

JanSport Ad, date unknown.The price of a D3 had shot up to $124.99

 

I’m looking forward to a multi-day backpacking trip this summer, and filling my JanSport D5 with much lighter gear than was available when the pack was manufactured in the late 1970’s.

Catching up, and a few fish

As 2020 enters its final month (good riddance, you piece of dog turd year), I give pause to think back on the strangeness of the past several months, hoping to remember some good things that occurred since the COVIDS swept the globe. I didn’t have to think too hard to realize that despite the weirdness of it all, I can’t complain about the fishing during 2020. I no longer fish with great frequency, but I do rather enjoy a high quality of time when on the water when I do fish. And this is despite that most of the guys I fish with are unsavory lowbrow types who lack social refinement and would say the same about me.

With 2020 still in its infancy, the whole COVIDS thing seemed fairly obscure and didn’t have much significance as pertaining to my life (or the lives of most Americans for that matter). Then suddenly in early March it became clear that the pandemic was going to affect things close to home. On March 13th (Friday the 13th, no less) Washingtonians were presented with guidelines for 3-foot social distancing. In late March the Gubna of the great state of Washington closed down pretty much everything required for outdoor recreation, including access to all public lands and all recreational fishing.

Fishing During the COVIDS: Part One

Fortunately I was able to get out with the Brothers Albacore for a day on the Yakima River before the lockdown was mandated. I don’t recall any fish being caught other than one whitey, but I do remember a fine time being had by all. There may actually have been some trout caught, but that wasn’t the measure of success on that day. Three foot social distancing was easy to maintain as the distance between seats in the boat is at least 3 feet, and the Brother’s Albacore are each about 3 feet (or more) taller than I am.

There's never a shortage of laughs with Large Albacore.

There’s never a shortage of laughs with Large Albacore.

Junior Albacore is a beer snob.

Junior Albacore is a beer snob.

A Big Tuna with a Small Whitefish

A Big Tuna with a Small Whitefish

Once the lockdown was in full effect, no fishing took place. In fact, not much of anything else took place, for that matter. During this time I begrudgingly rode my mountain bike on the streets and binge-watched Shameless on Netflix (highly recommended if you haven’t seen it). As April approached I did as I always do and began thinking ahead to the annual pilgrimage of the Firehole Rangers in early June. However, during the months that preceded the trip, it became uncertain if we would actually be able make the trek to Yellowstone, as the state of Montana had closed down fishing to out of state anglers, barring a 14 day in-state quarantine. Fortunately for us the ban was lifted just in time and we were able to pull off the trip. And it was a success, as always.

Fishing During the COVIDS: Part Two

On June 3rd we fished the Bighole with the guys from 4 Rivers Fishing Company in Twin Bridges, MT. The river was not crowded and we enjoyed a fine day on the water. It was a beauty of a weather day and some typically nice Bighole fish were caught. And plenty of them.

Put in point for our float on the Big Hole.

Put in point for our float on the Big Hole.

The Big Hole up in the canyon is a beauty of a place.

The Big Hole up in the canyon is a beauty of a place.

Jimmy with a pretty typical Big Hole brown.

Jimmy with a pretty typical Big Hole brown.

That evening we made the 2 hour drive to West Yellowstone. It wasn’t a ghost town by any means, but it wasn’t crawling with the numbers of tourists that we come to expect each year. The big change for us this year was that instead of staying at the infamous Ho Hum Motel (which has been our home away from home since forever) we were forced to find other accommodations. The Ho Hum was not open for business this year, and while we missed our time with Bernadette (AKA the Cat Lady), we adapted as best we could to the change and stayed at Al’s Westward Ho Motel. In all honesty it was a considerable upgrade, and it was comforting to know that there is still a Ho in West Yellowstone.

The next day the Firehole Rangers were once more on our namesake river in Yellowstone National Park for another beautiful weather day. Fishing was better than it had been in recent years, though still not on par with what it was 5 years ago, and before that. The weather was brilliant and there were far fewer people fishing than is typical for this time of year. And there were no tour buses. Win-win-win.

The Firehole Rangers 2020

The Firehole Rangers 2020

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As is always the case for this trip, a good day on the Firehole was followed by a good day on the Madison, and on June 5th we made the stop at Three Dollar Bridge for some Madison River humiliation. We are never the only anglers here, and the river is always high this time of year. This year there were scores of other anglers spread up and down the river, the Madison was higher than I’d ever seen it before. It would be easy enough to know where the fish would be: tucked under one’s toes at the river’s edge. As every angler knows, the wind always makes casting a double nymph rig a pure joy, especially along a brush-lined river bank. And it wa windy. After an hour I had all but resigned to having my ass handed to me by the fish of the Madison. Then, surprisingly I landed one decent 16″ brown and had another, bigger brown, break me off and leave me with one fish for the day. That was cause for celebration, as that single fish ensured that it was not my worst day on the Madison.

The Madison River, high and dirty.The high and dirty Madison River.

Other Rangers who typically do better on the Madison did better on the Madison that day as well, though not as well as they typically do. It had been two years since our last visit to Three Dollar Bridge, and the changes there were impressive. This area is so popular that it gets loved to death by anglers year round as they trample the sensitive areas that are in close proximity to the parking area. But a collective effort by Western Rivers Conservancy, Montana Fish and Game, Montana Land Reliance, and Trout Unlimited had seen to it that this would be remedied. A new picnic shelter had been constructed, as well as hundreds of feet of boardwalk for accessing the river while protecting the sensitive riparian zone nearest the bridge.

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Thanks, all's y'all!

Thanks, all’s y’all!

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As the day wore on the weather continued to deteriorate ahead of an incoming storm. We departed Three Dollar Bridge, but not before attempting to make the annual donation of $3. Unfortunately the donation envelopes were not available this year—another sign of the COVIDS, no doubt. And with that we headed off down to road toward Twin Bridges. The next day we were scheduled to fish once again with guides from 4 Rivers, and the forecast promised an interesting day of thunderstorms and potentially torrential rain.

The next morning, under dark skies and rain, we met at the shop and it was decided we would fish the Jefferson as overnight storms in the hills to the west had caused the Big Hole to blow out. I love fishing the Big Hole, but I was excited about the prospects of a new river as I had never before fished the Jefferson. We had worried overnight that the wether would force us onto the Beaverhead so we were relieved when that would not be the case. I’m glad we made that decision because the Jefferson, while it may not have given up the numbers of trout that the Big Hole is known for, did produce some serious brutes.

This put in on the Jefferson requires confidence in one's parking brake.

This put-in on the Jefferson requires confidence in one’s parking brake.

A day of weather drama on the Jefferson.

A day of weather drama on the Jefferson.

We got fairly lucky as far as the weather was concerned, too, as we managed to dodge the only squall that dumped rain on our boat. The bridge that provided shelter from the storm could not have come at a better time as we pulled in and waited out the brief deluge. A few miles behind us, the other boats didn’t fare so well and got a bit wet throughout the day.

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Waiting out the storm.

After that single squall we continued to catch fish with the wind being our only complaint. Truth be told, even the wind wasn’t all that bad, and even if it had been I wouldn’t have complained because the fish kept us distracted. I caught my biggest brown to date and would have been able to say the same of a huge rainbow had she not broken me off at first sight of the net. Suffice it to say that the Jefferson made some new fans of the Firehole Rangers that day.

A rare angling accomplishment.

A rare angling accomplishment #eattheworm

Nash didn't catch the hog of a lifetime, but he wasn't working so there's that.

Nash didn’t catch the hog of a lifetime, but at least he wasn’t working, so there’s that.

Goose with a dandy of a Jefferson River brown.

Goose with a dandy of a Jefferson River brown.

I guess Jimmy did pretty OK too.

I guess Jimmy did pretty OK too.

The Jefferson was good to us on that day.

The Jefferson was good to us on that day.

After the fine day on the Jefferson, the fishing part of our fishing trip was concluded. The next morning we arose early and departed Twin Bridges for the 10 hour drive home, which would be a bit longer due to Ma Nature. As we climbed the Continental Divide we enjoyed winter-like driving conditions. Descending into Butte, the snow continued to pile up and we were escorted westward by a June snow storm that dumped several inches of white stuff and turned interstate 90 into a winter wonderland of driving snow, limited visibility, and spin-outs (though fortunately not for us out-of-state drivers).

Just another June day in Montana.

Just another June day in Montana.

Fishing During the COVIDS: Part Three

The remaining weeks of June flew by quickly as July fishing in Idaho neared. The annual trip to the Idaho Panhandle has become my favorite trip of the year for many reasons, but most notably because it entails backcountry fishing where we rarely see many other angling types. Certainly it’s not completely devoid of other people, but the state forest campground is accessed by a forest road in an ever-worsening state of deterioration that likely keeps out some folks with RV’s. The campground is limited in size, and not all other campers are there to fish. And those who are there to fish don’t usually hike as far upriver as we do, which means we often have a lot of good water to ourselves. This year was different. Because people were not living their normal lives and taking their normal summer vacations, apparently they were all in the Idaho backcountry camping and fishing.

Goose and I arrived late in the afternoon on Tuesday following the 4th of July weekend, and by doing so on any normal year we would expect to pretty much have our pick of the best campsites. Well, to be completely honest, the best campsite is usually taken, but we can almost always have the second best spot. This year we felt lucky to have gotten the last site available, a site that we have always avoided with intention. The other campsites were filled mostly with multiple families that were dug in and appeared to have been here for several days already. There’s a 14 day limit here, and from the looks of things many were testing that limit. And the majority of the campsites revealed the presence of fishing gear as well, so we knew that no untouched water likely awaited us.

Goose and I set up camp, noting that it was more than a tad chilly for this time of year. We walked down to the river and dipped a hand to check the temperature: it was COLD. Back at camp we put on warm jackets, built good fire and waited for the next arrivals. Jimmy, and Marck rolled in after dark that night and couldn’t believe that the campground was full. Our second-rate campsite turned out to not be so bad, and in fact afforded us a vantage point close to the trailhead. From the comfort of our chairs which we could keep track of the several vehicles that would drive in from downstream campgrounds and park across from our site each morning.

No vacancy at the trailhead parking area.

No vacancy at the trailhead parking area.

On the morning of our first full day we sipped coffee and relaxed as scores of anglers made their way up the trail that follows the river. The day was cloudy and cool, and we decided we would avoid the morning rush and let the day warm a bit before heading out. After breakfast and a second cup of coffee, we decided that the fire needed more wood and we needed something a bit stronger than coffee. As the day progressed, we did just the opposite: ambition levels were low.

My pal Chuck was driving down from his home in Whitefish, MT, and would be joining us that evening. When he finally arrived around dinner time (which was a good thing because that was his meal to provide), Goose, Jimmy, Marck and myself were all gathered around the warmth of the campfire. Chuck enthusiastically asked how the fishing had been and no doubt our response both surprised and disappointed him: We had not left camp. The day had never warmed to anywhere near summer-like temperatures and we just never worked up enough gumption to leave camp, especially knowing how many other angling types were upriver fighting for a spot to fish. In full disclosure, Marck and Goose did gear up and walk downstream of camp for about an hour of fruitless fishing earlier in the afternoon. It was obvious that their half-assed effort was merely an attempt to feel better about themselves. Conversely, Jimmy and I had been content with our decision to stay behind and hold down the fort. Lest one should think the day was wasted, think again. We had brought plenty of liquor and even more firewood, and while we kept both going all day long we had not burned through either supply yet. Fishing could wait until tomorrow.

This would be a new river to Chuck and I’d previously captivated him with children’s story-like tales of a vast wilderness, ample solitude and plentiful Westslope cutthroat trout. Suffice it to say he was eager to set foot in the fabled waters of the Idaho Panhandle, and the next morning we set out to make his dreams come true. Unfortunately the fish were not real welcoming of Chuck, or any of the rest of us for that matter. The recent, unseasonably cool weather had ensured that the wildfire danger was low. It had a similar effect on the fish, which were not particularly active. There were exactly no hatches coming off. With the river as cold as it was, waders were donned by the majority of us (or at least those of us who had brought waders). It’s easy enough to endure the cold water if the air temperature is warm, which it was not. Waders in July?  Blasphemy! I’d never have believed I’d be wearing anything other than shorts and wet wading, but this was 2020, after all.

Marck hooks a nice fish from a typically productive hole.

Marck hooks a nice fish from a typically productive hole.

The typically productive hole is also lined with logs that make it challenging to land a fish.

The typically productive hole is also lined with logs that make it challenging to land a fish.

Chuck manages to save the day from a skunking.

Chuck manages to save the day from a skunking by landing a finicky fish from a typically finicky hole.

Marck and Goose work a typically good hole for surprisingly few fish.

Marck and Goose work a typically good hole for surprisingly few fish.

UA managed to scratch out at least one decent fish.

UA managed to scratch out at least one respectable fish, though nothing of size.

Jimmy, Chuck, Marck (in waders), Goose (in waders) and UA (cold).

Jimmy (cold legs), Chuck (cold legs), Marck (waders), Goose (waders) and UA (cold legs).

We ate good and drank plenty.

We ate good and drank plenty.

On our second day of fishing I left the waders behind at camp. My legs below the knees were numb most of the day, but the air temperature was a bit warmer than the previous day so it was bearable. Fishing, however, never heated up and our catch rates were way below what is typical for this time of year. Obviously the weather had something to do with it, but with the numbers of other people camped and fishing, the pressure on the fish was also a factor. 2020 was certainly a very different experience on the Idaho Panhandle river and this phenomenon of overcrowding was something that was seen all across the West this summer. Hopefully next year will see a return to the way it was before the COVIDS. Then again, maybe this will be the new normal?

Fishing During the COVIDS: Part Four

It was late August when I next grabbed my rod and wet a line. My buddy Lancelot had invited myself and Large Albacore to join him for a Friday float on the Yakima. Backstory: Lancelot and Albacore grew up in the same town of Wenatchee and were school chums, so they’ve known each other for countless decades. Albacore and I were college fraternity brothers, so we’ve known each other for nearly countless decades. Lancelot’s wife and Mrs. UA were college sorority sisters, so he and I have known each other for almost nearly countless decades. So, that’s the connection. Anyway, the three of us had enjoyed fishing together before, but apparently not enough to have done it for a few years. After hounding us incessantly for months, Albacore and I finally ran out of excuses and conceded to take Lancelot up on his invitation to fish the Yakima.

It was decided that Lancelot and I would maximize the opportunity and slip in a quick evening float the night before, and spend the night in Cle Elum. This would allow us to sleep in until 6:00 the next morning, as opposed to getting up at some ungodly hour to drive over the pass to meet Albacore at 7:30 on Friday morning. And so at around 5:30 PM Lancelot and I met up at the Bristol put-in with Young Bill (Lancelot’s eldest spawn). Young Bill had recently passed the bar exam to become an attorney, but rather than put his hard-earned education to use as a productive member of society, he had opted to waste spend his summer as a fly fishing guide on the Yakima. Young Bill is not the first overeducated fly fishing guide I’ve known, and I’m not here to judge him—or anyone else.

At any rate, the plan was to have Young Bill take us in his raft, just as if we were real, paying clients and he was a real, paid fly fishing guide. But before we began our float we would need to run our own shuttle.  While Young BIll waited with the boat, I drove his beat-to-hell Toyota Tundra and trailer to our take-out as Lancelot followed in his not-so-beat-to-hell Toyota Tundra. Along the drive I marveled at the condition of Young Bill’s truck. It certainly looked the part of a guide’s truck: random flies strewn about the visor and dash, food scraps and spent burrito wrappers on the floor. A thick layer of dust covered the interior, and nearly every dash warning light was fully illuminated. The odometer showed somewhere over 200,000 miles and exhaust sounded as if the muffler was missing entirely. Suffice it to say that when if Young Bill decides to pursue as career as an attorney, he’ll likely need to replace his fish bum truck with an Audi sedan, and get a haircut.

But enough about Young Bill’s life choices. Lancelot and I left Young Bill’s truck at the Green Bridge take-out and backtracked upriver to begin our float. We got into fish right away and our overeducated fly fishing guide continued to put us on many good fish. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I’ve had as much consistent action on the Yakima—it was fantastic! Why would a young man with this much talent as a guide choose another vocation? I cannot imagine!

Lancelot, in his pink shirt, holding one of several Yakima trouts as his attorney approves.

Lancelot, in his pink shirt, holding one of several Yakima trouts as his attorney disapproves of the fish grip.

The evening was pleasant and we were on the water well past sunset. It was, in many ways, a near-perfect float and we pulled into the takeout in high spirits. The only thing that kept our float from being perfect—aside from Lancelot’s pink fishing shirt, which he maintains is actually “salmon”—would have been the presence of the keys to Young Bill’s truck. Which were, of course,  in Lancelot’s truck. Which was more than 10 miles upstream. That’s a long walk in the  dark.

Young Bill and Lancelot waiting patiently at the take out.

Young Bill and Lancelot waiting patiently and in good spirits at the take out.

Fortunately Young Bill’s roommate back in Cle Elum had nothing better to do that evening than to drive 20 miles to our current location, pick up Young Bill and take him to Bristol, where Lancelot’s truck was parked with Young Bill’s keys locked safely inside. Right where I’d left them. While we waited in darkness for Young Bill to return with the keys, Lancelot made me promise to publicly document my moronic actions, and so here I am to open myself to public ridicule and harsh judgment. You’re welcome.

The next morning Lancelot and I met Large Albacore for full day float on the Yakima. Missing from this day were any shuttle snafus, and the numbers of fish. While it was a grand day willed with debauchery, foul jokes and the corresponding laughter, the fishing was more typical of what I’ve come to expect from the Yakima. This may have been due in part to a low pressure system that had begun moving in during the day, bringing strong winds ahead of heavy rains (fortunately we dodged both while on the water). More likely it was just a normal day on the Yakima, with the exception having been the evening before. At any rate it was a fantastic float and Large Albacore and I look forward to fishing with Lancelot again. In another five years.

Lancelot and Large Albacore laugh off a slowe day of catching.

Lancelot and Large Albacore laugh off a slow day of catching.

Different shirt, same backward fish grip.

Different shirt, same backward fish grip.

Fishing During the COVIDS: Part Five

I actually wrote a separate entry about my final fishing trip of the year, to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. If you missed it, and aren’t tired of reading by now, it can be found here: Finding our Groove on the Middle Fork Salmon.

And so there you have it. I’m all caught up on fishing for the year. I wish all 11 of of my remaining UA followers a peaceful and COVIDS-free Holiday season. Here’s looking ahead to a New Year that sees an improvement over 2020, which, in hindsight, wasn’t such a bad year for fishing. Just different.