sage fly fishing

Swingin’ the Chubby Cousin.

The text message from Derek Young indicated that the upper Yakima was fishing well, and suggested that perhaps we should pay a visit.  “Fishing well.”  I’ve heard that before. Derek guides for a living so he’s on the river a lot. He fishes it with great frequency so the recollection of a slow day can easily be lost amidst the hustle and bustle of productive fishing days. I fish it much less often – certainly not often enough for the rare, exceptional days to shroud out the other kinds of days. In other words, I get my arse handed to me by the Yakima more often than not. And so I hesitated to commit to Derek’s invitation. As much as I enjoy fishing with him, to be honest I was starting to have steelhead on the brain this time of year. When I reminded myself that a day of steelheading would be a guaranteed skunking, I opted to float the Yakima instead.

Yet another weather system was parked over Western Washington, causing moderate to heavy precipitation to fall from the skies all the way over Snoqualmie pass and even a few miles to the East of the summit.  I hoped that the gloomy weather wouldn’t translate into a dark cloud of despair. As I crested the summit I passed a semi bearing the name WERNER, and thought to myself, “Could this be a good omen? Could this be MY day?” I put the silly notion out of my head and proceeded East.

The sky lightened and the rain tapered off just before I pulled into the town of Cle Elum where I met Derek at 11:00 AM. We dropped the Green Drake into the low, clear waters and floated perhaps 5 minutes before pulling over to work both sides of an island.  Rocks were teeming with small green caddis larvae, so a size 16 olive Caddis (standard Elk Hair variety) was selected for initial duty.  Good choice. Armed with my 4 wt. Sage Z-Axis (yes, I will shamelessly throw the brand out there in hopes that Sage will see it and choose to sponsor my blog), the fish played nicely from the get-go. I landed a small handful of 10 inch rainbows in the first half hour before pinching myself to see if I was dreaming.  Except for when I visit the Firehole River in Yellowstone each year, it’s never this easy for me. I didn’t question my good fortune, however, and continued drifting the olive-colored magic through trouty looking water. At one point I was hooked up and playing a fish as another jumped within 6 feet of the action.  I’ll admit that as the frenzy continued I could be heard carrying on a conversation with myself that went something like this: “With angling skills to make all others envious, you sir, are a fish-catching machine!”  It doesn’t take much for me to become dilusional. For those of you who regularly catch many and impressive fish, this may not sound like anything extraordinary.  Fish a mile in my wading boots and you’ll come to appreciate my glee in the moment.

We continued downstream under partly cloudy skies and mild temperatures.  Clouds threatened rain, but none fell and for a short time I felt overdressed in my waders and long-sleeved shirt.  When a hatch of Blue Winged Olives came off for a bit, there was no point in switching patterns because the olive caddis was still drawing numerous strikes. The action did taper off after a while though, proving that nothing good lasts forever. When the fish seemed less willing (though not entirely unwilling, mind you) to take surface offerings, we fished below.  Derek grabbed his nymph rod and ran his bobber through fishy slots.  I wanted to avoid nymphing, per se, so I decided to try something a little different.  Reaching into my fly box, I grabbed a pattern that I usually only fish when in Yellowstone each Spring: a small soft hackle bead head nymph by the name of the Chubby Cousin.

When we fish the Firehole, we forego dead drifting double nymph rigs and bobbers, and instead cast downstream at a quarter angle and swing the small bugs through the current. Strikes usually come when the fly begins to settle into the seam where the faster water meets the slower holding water. It’s like swinging streamers for steelhead only on a miniature scale. I enjoy this type of nymph fishing but had never employed the tactics on the Yakima.  Why not?  Well, to be honest I just never seem to think of it at the time. This time I thought of it and I’m glad I did.  There was plenty of good swinging water and the fish took a liking to the Chubby Cousin. With it’s swept-back hackles and rubber legs, there’s plenty of movement in the water.  A few 10 inch rainbows were fond enough of the soft hackle to commit with solid takes at mid swing. Many more came unbuttoned during the course of regretting that they’d fallen for the Chubby. It was rare to not get at least a bump for every couple swings of the fly.

Rain began to fall intermittently in the late afternoon, but it dampened neither our spirits nor the enthusiastic appetite of the fish.  Switching to an October Caddis proved to be a reasonably wise decision, but it wasn’t as effective as had been the olive Caddis, so I tied on another of those. The only downside to fishing the small dry was that it invoked many a strike from tiny troutlets. For a while the number of greedy little gamers grew aggravating but eventually the fry left me alone and I was able to hook and land a beautifully colored 12 inch rainbow. At that point I offered to row so Derek could fish as we drifted.  I enjoy time on the oars, and to be honest I had wanted to try my hand at the helm of the Green Drake since fishing out of it earlier in the year.

The Green Drake is a 13 foot Maravia raft custom outfitted for fly fishing by Stream Tech Boats out of Boise.  It’s nice to fish out of and as I found, a pleasure to row.  I’ve rowed a drift boat many times but I’d never been on the oars of a raft before. I instantly liked the high perch of the rower’s seat which offers even a wee feller such as myself a commanding view of the river ahead. I was easily able to see approaching rocks before bouncing off of them, as opposed to banging and scraping as I’ve done in The Hornet a hard boat is prone to do. The hard inflatable floor is nice for standing on as one leans into the casting brace, and that same floor creates very little drag, making the boat very responsive and easy to hold against the current. For the first time I started to think that if I were to one day acquire a boat of my own I would have to give such a raft some serious consideration. I could see one of these boats providing a great deal of enjoyment and opportunity to spend quality time together on the water for Mrs. UA and myself.  If it weren’t for those damn college tuition payments that we’ve only just begun to make…

While I rowed and Derek fished we marveled at what a tremendous day it had been in all regards. As the sun grew low in the sky it provided for some dramatic scenery, casting a glow upon the trees and causing them to stand out vibrantly against an ominous looking sky. Fall was definitely here: salmon were spawning in their redds and the trout were eating like there was no tomorrow. It was one of those days where if the water looked like it should hold a fish, it nearly always held a fish. It’s so rare that I have a day like this that for a fleeting moment I almost forgot the multiple sub-par days I’d had on the Yakima during the preceding months. I’m not one to openly declare that the Fish Gods owe me anything, but every itchy dog has his day and I was long overdue to be scratched.  It’s not just the scratching catching that made the day great, but the opportunities that presented themselves: There were several fish landed, many more hooked and released prematurely, and countless strikes.  It was those strikes that made the day particularly rewarding because it showed just how many fish were in the system and eager to take a swipe at the fly. The largest fish caught were no more than 12 inchers, but I was a happy angler. In fact, so good was my mood that I even let Derek pose for a photo with my nicest fish of the day.

We were just minutes from the termination point of our float and about to pack it in save for a particularly fishy piece of water that begged for one more cast.  “I’m gonna run my little Chubby through that sweet spot one last time,” I announced.  Derek looked at me and very matter-of-factly said, “Fly fishing is the one activity where you can say that and not get in trouble.”  I had a couple tugs but didn’t set the hook fast enough.  It didn’t matter – my day was compleat.

As we neared our take-out, the unmistakable odor of skunk filled the air.  We laughed at the irony of that. It was too late for a skunking. Way too late. But it did remind me that had I not gone fishing with Derek I would have probably gone steelheading.

Fly Fishing is a stickery business.

It’s been said that the type of car one drives says a lot about that person. That may be true to some degree, but the stickers that one adheres to their car say even more about that person.  Many people put stickers/decals on their cars to show an allegiance to a cause, or dedication to a brand or product, or simply to make a statement (which sometimes they ought not do – just sayin’). As a micro sampling of society, fly angling folks seem to be even more prone to the practice of decorating with decals than any other group of peoples, except maybe surfers.  But I digress. Even with fly fishing folks it’s a generalization that all are sticker-hoarders because clearly not all who angle with a fly slather their vehicles with adhesive-backed messages.  However, many do and that is the focus of my report.

I’ve had a few stickers on my vehicles over the years, but until recently I kept the habit in check.  The downward spiral started innocently enough when I purchased a 2003 Toyota Tacoma that came complete with a Leer canopy on the back. That rear canopy window was prime real estate just waiting for development, and the vast empty expanse of glass taunted me. Being desciplined, I started slowly and tastefully with a lone Sage sticker applied top center. When my buddy Marck went and applied a much larger Sage sticker to his Toyota Forerunner, I got competitive and devised a plan: my mission became that of, “Marck ‘s may be bigger, but I’ll have more.” And so began my quest for domination. I like to rep the local fly fly shop, so on went an All About The Fly decal. Next I decided I should fly the colors of the Coastal Conservation Association and the Euro-style STLHD sticker from Moldy Chum to profess my fondness for the anadromous fishes.  That trifecta provided a nice clean look: simple, balanced.  Being a graphic designer I like order, and design principals call for odd-numbered groupings (such as 3 and 5). Three was good, so 5 would be better, right?  Simple algebra, so a couple more were applied. Then came the annual  trip to Montana and Yellowstone Park which resulted in a couple more stickers from the Stonefly Inn & Outfitters and Blue Ribbon Flies. I paused to take stock of what was happening on the canopy glass and reassured myself that it wasn’t too bad. So I added a couple more.

Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler took notice and commented on the growing collection. “I see you got some new stickers,” she said in a tone that was clearly one of judgment being passed more than a simple observation being made. I shrugged it off as jealousy and went about sifting through the stash of stickers I had collected over time but never applied. I extracted a few strategic samples and placed them in an orderly arrangement flanking the perimeter of the window glass. I told myself that as long as I maintained an order I wasn’t out of control. Soon after that I got my hands on an Airflo sticker that didn’t fit neatly into the existing arrangement so I put it where I could and acknowledged that it marked the beginning of chaos. Mrs. UA now just rolls her eyes each time she notices a new sticker.

But I am not completely alone in this strange obsession, and misery loves company. Today I’ll take a look at a few folks – some of whom I know in person, others whom I know virtually in the interweb sorta way – all of whom are passionate about fly fishing and have something to say about the stickers on their vehicles. Disclaimer: It is the responsibility of the press to report the news, not impart opinion or edit facts to suit the personal needs of the reporter. To that end I have not edited any of the information, nor do I necessarily agree or disagree with what has been stated by others. Edward R. Murrow would be proud, for journalistic integrity is not dead.

Mike Nutto: Scandalous Fly Fishing Brothers blog

“I only have companies I think are good on my truck. There is a ton of garbage out so I wont support them. I wouldn’t even support them if they asked me to be sponsored by them! So it is like that when it comes to stuff on my truck. I try a lot of stuff out and if it fails me once I’ll take the sticker off my truck, I have a Ross Reel sticker on my computer. I hate my Ross Reel so much and I hate that the sticker is on my computer now so I’m slowly covering it up!”

A fly fishing sticker on a computer is cool. However, a computer sticker on a fly fishing vehicle is not. I love my Apple G5, but I’m not putting an Apple sticker on my truck. I’m not one to judge, but I will say that I’ve got several Ross Reels and I’ve not had any issues. In fact, I like ’em all. Making a product that can stand up to the rigorous demands of every hardcore fisherman is a tall order. Speaking of tall, our next featured fisherman is Josh Mills.

Josh Mills: Chucking Line and Chasing Tail

“I have to keep it somewhat classy in the advertising field… so I keep my logo’s to three:

1.  The Silver Bow–my buddy’s fly shop in town, and a really cool logo if I must say
2.  Moldy Chum’s steelhead logo…cause it’s all I want to fish for
3.  The original Moldy Chum fly…cause I dig it and it looks classy. I also added the license plate holder.  My wife says that if I add more, a line will have been crossed – the invisible one that separates normal from nutty.”  [Josh also sent along a photo of the sticker collection belonging to his father, Old Man River, who reportedly out-fishes Josh every time they go out.]

Classy?  What’s that? Cross that line, Josh.  Throw caution to the wind and publicly jump into the waters of nuttiness –the water’s fine!

Which raises an interesting point: When is too much of a good thing a bad thing? As far as I am concerned, never. Unless the mass of stickers becomes so dense that the driver can no longer see out the rear window of their rig.  One way to avoid that is to apply the stickers to the side windows, like Cameron Mortenson has done.

Cameron Mortenson: The Fiberglass Manifesto and Fishy Kid

“At last count I have almost fifty decals on the vehicle which represent TFM and Fishy Kid sponsors, friends, or just companies that I think are doing a good thing.  The badged-out Element has been a great conversation starter and a way to spread the word about Fishy Kid and TFM.”

Roger that, Cameron. Your rig certainly would be worthy of inquisition – great job with Fishy Kid and thanks for the photos.

Speaking of photos, the next offering was provided by Rich Schaff, who takes some amazing photos, and not just of his stickered truck.

Rich Schaff: East Fork Fly Photography

“You guessed right I’m a ’DECAL FREAK’…figured it safer than getting actual tattoos and earrings at my age. Guess they are a mid-life crisis sorta thing anyways… Guess we just want to
stay as immature as long as possible…Hope that’s a good thing.”

Yeah, Rich, I’d say it’s a good thing. And your immaturity makes me feel better about myself. I like the rationale that stickers are perhaps a safer choice than tats or piercings.

You won’t find body art anywhere on our next guest, even though my buddy Large Albacore is big enough that he could host a full size tattoo of the Space Needle on his back if he were so inclined.

Large Albacore:

“The STLHD, Airflo, and spey sticker are all about my love of fishing for steelhead w/ the two handed rod.  The other stickers, UA/Ross Reels/Winston rods are all my attempt to promote quality fishin’ stuff in my small way.  Overall, they communicate that a large part of my life/identity is tied up in fly fishing.  Kind of sick when I think about it.”

I’m not sure how the UA sticker qualifies for “quality fishin’ stuff” status, but thanks for flyin’ the colors. As for it being kind of sick, I would have to disagree. It seems a rather healthy indulgence if you ask me.

And for some like Derek Young, the indulgence isn’t just a personal thing, it’s professional advertising.

Derek Young: Emerging Rivers Guide Services and Fly Fish the Yakima

“To me, my stickers represent a few things. I’m proud to be the only Orvis Endorsed Guide here in WA, and I fly those flags proudly. I also think conservation is important, so I support TU and CleanAngling.org. But, and it’s reflected in my blog, my stickers (I think, anyways) signal my inclusion in the fly fishing culture that I am proud of, and it’s a personal signature of who I am.”

Just when you thought that fly fishing culture was reserved for just fishermen, our next featured angler is girl and an outdoors person through and through. You might even call her an outdooress…

Rebecca Garlock: The Outdooress

“I just got a the new FishCruiser a couple of weeks ago =) About the stickers. I’ve only put one on so far. I recently bought a new Waterworks-Lamson reel and it came with a sticker, so the timing gets credit for the first sticker placement. I plan on slapping a few more on the rig since I figure if I’m going to have an official FishCruiser, I might as well make it look the part. Now I just need to buy more crap so I can get more stickers. An angler can always find a legit excuse for buying new gear right? I should mention I’m also taking sticker placement applications, so if you want the official Unaccomplished Angler sticker on the FishCruiser you can submit the proper paperwork for review.”

Done. Anyone else who wants to apply for representation should contact Rebecca for the paperwork. I can vouch that it’s an easier application process than applying for a building permit.

In sticking with our female contingency, next up is a woman who can outcast most anybody – man or woman – with a Spey rod. I observed Mia Sheppard casting at the Jimmy Green Memorial Fly Fishing Expo and it made me realize I’m not a real Spey caster, no matter how long my rod.

Mia Sheppard: Little Creek Outfitters and Metalheads blog

“Our cars are pretty stickerless currently. Our old guide truck use to be covered in stickers.” But her husband’s ammo can is certainly worthy of mention.

Unfortunately no photos were available of the old guide truck. I hope you get those cars stickered up, Mia– the ammo can shouldn’t have all the fun.

Interesting that the subject of ammunition has come up, because Pat Konsoke applied one of his stickers to deter break-ins.

Pat Konoske: Fishing for Words

Zero Limit (http://www.catchrelease.com/) – While I do subscribe to catch and release, the hope is that advertisement of this principle will allow my car to go unmolested on waters away from home and guarded by fanatical fly fishermen.

Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen logo (http://www.diablovalleyflyfish.org/) – Carefully placed in acknowledge of my turning away from the dark side. This is the club through which I attended an all-day fly fishing class, and for which I now serve as secretary and webmaster. (I never did learn to keep my head down.)

California Department of Fish & Game Warden Stamp (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wardenstamp/) – The first California Game Warden stamp, from which the $5 cost supposedly goes into a special fund supporting game wardens. True or not, it warms my heart that in some small way I may be helping protect our resources. I figure in a few years, among the outdoor sports crowds, it’ll be like the now common “KMA” license plate frames of today. (KMA refers to the prefix of FCC callsigns for many law enforcement agencies.)

That’s my story…”

Nicely stated, Pat- what are you, a writer or something? I see and appreciate your reason for the Zero Limit sticker. Allow me to suggest a firearm sticker not in lieu of but in addition to your Zero Limit sticker for discouraging break-ins. Nothing scares a tweaker faster than an “Insured by Smith & Wesson” sticker.

I wouldn’t wish a break-in upon anyone, but if you were to be granted a welcome entry into the trailer of Rocky Maley, you would be in for a treat. I’ve only seen photos of the inside, and it’s awesome. The outside is like a billboard on wheels.

Rocky Maley: Fly Tier extraordinaire

“I bought it to tie in. It would be a lot cheaper than an addition to the house. And it’s easier than tent camping on fishing trips. I put the stickers on to add character to it.”

Not only cheaper, Rocky, but a whole lot cooler than an addition to the house, too because you can take your tying room with you on the road.

And if that road takes you in the vicinity of Ashton, Idaho, make sure you look up our next guest, Marc “Rowdy” Crapo.

Marc Crapo: Fly Wallets and No Sports Allowed

“I’ve held off for many years when it comes to putting decals on my rig. I hate to advertise for anyone unless they are legit and badass, a sponsor, and or (of course) me.”

Rowdy, you’ve got high, if not impossible standards! Guess those high standards are why your fly wallets kick so much butt.

Anyway, there you have it – a few perspectives from folks who are stuck on fly fishing and fly fishing’s stuck on them (or at least their cars). Fly fishing is more than just a sport, it’s a culture. It consumes and defines many who venture into it, and we fly the flags of our obsession proudly.

It’s no coincidence that this hot topic is being discussed elsewhere as we speak.  Take a click over to  Fishing for Words AND Fly Fish the Yakima for more on this matter of the fascination with fly fishing stickers.

PS– if you have some vacancy on your fishing rig, drift boat or tricycle, please consider adding an Olive the Woolly Bugger sticker. All proceeds go to support Casting 4 A Cure to help find a cure for Rett Syndrome and support those families dealing with this terrible disease. They’re available over at Myflies.com.