Month: December 2010

New Year’s Survival Tip: Wipe the slate clean

Ah, January first. This is the one time of year we can flush away regrets of the past and begin anew. As 2010 becomes a thing of the past and we look ahead to a New Year, many of us resolve to make changes for the betterment of our lives. I don’t usually write down actual New Year’s Resolutions because the formality of doing so just leads to measurable disappointment when I fail to make good on those promises to myself. That, and I hate lists (much to the dismay of Mrs UA). Instead, I may just think of things I can do to improve the quality of my being, and if I don’t make good on those things it’s no big deal because it was just a passing thought. Having said that, I think one thing we can all do is be better prepared for emergencies.

Anyone who spends any amount of time in the outdoors knows how critical a basic survival kit can be, and an essential part of any angler’s survival kit is, of course, Toilet Paper.  Outdoor adventurers understand that when nature calls there’s nothing that can be done to ward off the need to lighten one’s load. And while it may be perhaps an inconvenience, laying cable in the woods is not the end of the world, though it may seem so should one run short on TP while engaged in the act. Therefore it’s always sound practice to ration the supply. However, one need not despair should they find themselves running low.

This critical information won’t be found in any Boy Scout handbook, nor will it help if you find yourself up Shit Creek without a paddle, but thanks to an old family tip passed along to me by my grandfather there’s no need to panic when you find yourself with nothing left butt a single piece of TP. That’s right: a single square can save the day if you simply follow these easy step-by-step instructions:

Step #1

1. Square One: your last piece of TP.

Step #2

2. Fold the square in half.

Step #3

3. Fold once more in half. Be careful to note the center corner of the folded edges.

Step #4

4. Having carefully noted the center of the folded edges, tear off a very small piece of the TP. Do not tear off too much!

Step #5

5. Unfold the TP. Set aside the small piece you just tore off. Do not discard the small piece.

Step #6

6. Select the hand with the best dexterity. Insert middle finger gently through the hole in TP. Use only the middle finger.

Step #7

7. Insert finger. Wipe.

Step #8

8. Carefully slide TP upwards (use your other hand for good measure), pinching the TP tightly to middle finger so it cleans as it is lifted. Take your time – be very thorough. Properly disgard of the TP according to backcountry rules for personal waste.

Step #9

9. Use the little piece you tore off earlier (and hopefully saved) to clean under the fingernail on the middle finger. Again, discard of properly.

Step #10

10. Resume fishing.

Happy New Year!

December 26th: The Day of River Panties

In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas everyone is busy preparing for the big day by shopping, running errands, tending to honey-do lists and generally being in such a constant state of motion that there’s little time to just sit and do nothing. Then the day is here and gone in what seems to be an instant, and what follows is a strange sense of calm and a certain feeling of emptiness.

When my kids were little the excitement of new toys spilled over into the days following Christmas: Hot Wheels tracks were laid out on the family room floor with races taking place every hour; GI Joe was deployed on countless missions that often involved scaling the fireplace rocks or patrolling the makeshift waters of the kitchen and hallway; and the Barbie motor home embarked on an extended camping tour of every room in the house. All manner of loud games were played with a level of frantic enthusiasm and resulted in the inevitable emotional meltdown of young children who were over-stimulated, sleep-deprived and strung out on too many Christmas cookies. All that hustle and bustle ensured that there was very little peace and quiet on the day following Christmas. Now that my kids are more or less grown, things are a lot quieter around our house. It’s kinda boring actually—a bit of a let-down.

And so it was on this lazy morning after Christmas that Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler  and I found ourselves essentially alone. As teenagers are prone to do, both kids were still sound asleep as we enjoyed a cup of coffee while admiring our new slippers and discussing what to do with ourselves. There really wasn’t anything we had to do, and in fact getting dressed wasn’t even on the radar: We wouldn’t be going anywhere, and certainly nobody would be stopping by to visit. And then the doorbell rang.

Lo and behold who should it be other than my buddy Marck, who readers of the Unaccomplished Angler have come to know as the one with whom I fish on a fairly regular basis. He’s the guy who, by virtue of the fact that he is one seriously fishy dude, is inadvertently responsible for my low fishing self esteem. Don’t get me wrong–Marck is an amiable fellow so fishing with him isn’t socially unpleasant by any means, and he does own a drift boat so he’s got that going for him as well. But whenever we fish together, the results are always the same: He catches many and sizeable fish from the same waters that yield small fry and often a skunk for yours truly. I’d be better off fishing alone save for the matter of his boat and the fact that I get to be witness to angling greatness from time to time.

So there was Marck, on our doorstep on the day after Christmas, to bring us tidings of good will and reminders of my shortcomings as an angler. The spirit of Christmas still hung in the air so I couldn’t very well turn him away, and besides that he came bearing gifts and I am not above admitting that I like receiving gifts. He had apparently done a little bit of shopping at the local drugstore and I was the lucky recipient of a bottle of Beano, which Marck and others have been begging me to try recommending for years.

He had also dropped a bit of coin online at The Fly Shop so I was also the recipient of a few flies, including but not limited to, the Thing from Uranus and one known as the The Pellet Fly, which may be just the ticket for catching hatchery steelhead.

But without a doubt the best gift of all was the pair of “Wet Wading Briefs” (which really deserve a better product name than they’ve been given).

No longer will the day after Christmas be considered a day of let-downs.  Thanks to Marck, the day after December 26th will forever be known as the day I received my first pair of River Panties.

Everybody needs a fishing buddy like Marck.

Christmas is not about fly fishing.

During this most wonderful season of the year we are given the gift of a reprieve from the often hectic routine of our day to day lives. It is an opportunity to reflect on all the good fortunes we have, which hopefully include health, happiness and the love of friends and family. If only for a single day we should be mindful of all that is truly important as we set aside shallow and meaningless indulgences such as (gasp) fly fishing and share the joy in our hearts with others. Just as there’s more to fly fishing than catching fish, there’s more to life than fly fishing. We should all cease with thoughts of selfish endeavors and get our priorities straight. It’s Christmas, folks – put away the tying materials and hang up the waders. Purge all thoughts of fly fishing as you gather ’round the tree with loved ones, sip some cocoa and sing some carols and remember what this time of year is really all about (and no, it’s not winter steelhead that define the season). Christmas is no time of year to be distracted by thoughts of fly fishing.

So it is with a heart filled with joy and a mind devoid of all fly fishing thoughts that I wish a very Merry Christmas to all 8 of my loyal fans followers.

PS- Have you ever noticed that Thingamabobbers bear an uncanny resemblance to small Christmas tree ornaments?

I’m appointing myself Ambassador

The December 2010 issue of Angling Trade touches on a topic of great importance to those involved with the business side of fly fishing: attracting new participants to the sport. Editor Kirk Deeter talks of some ways people in the industry can grow the sport, and suggests 7 things that must happen in order for this to be successful. I won’t go into detail with the 7 things here (if you want to read all about it, sign up to receive your free subscription (it’s quite good, and an interesting point of view to get a take on the world of fly fishing: from the inside out). But Deeter has some good ideas that include: ensuring the success of next year’s IFTD in New Orleans; aligning the fly fishing world more closely with the American Sportfishing Association and putting the “fishing” back into fly fishing; reconnecting the fly fishing world with the Outdoor Industry Association; doing away with the perception that fly fishing is a difficult endeavor with a learning curve that’s too steep for beginners; increasing on school-based programs such as TU’s Trout in the Classroom and Fly Fishing in Schools Program (which I am embarrassed to admit I wasn’t even aware of until Deeter’s mention of it, which means it’s clearly not promoted enough); reaching out to the bass nation; encouraging fly fishing retailers to talk with one another.

On the last page of the issue, contributor Tom Bie goes on to suggest some other ways that the fly fishing industry might effectively grow the sport. For those who don’t know, Bie is the editor of The Drake magazine, which is regarded by many to be one of if not the coolest of the print magazines serving the fly fishing world. At any rate, Bie voices doubt that reliance on a professional organization or trade group will result in what is needed to really attract new folks to the sport of fly fishing. Instead, Bie says this:

“Also, adding to Kirk’s (Deeter, not Werner, FYI) list in his editor’s letter, there is one thing I’d like to see happen: Since fly fishing has 10,000 freelance writers, all of whom have apparently written a book, I’d like to see these authors start focusing their flyfishing pitches toward some non-flyfishing publications. I’m not suggesting writers stop sending queries to Kirk Deeter, Frank Amato, Joe Healy, Andrew Steketee, Ross Purnell, Steve Probasco, Steve Walburn, Tom Bie or any other flyfishing editor. I’m just requesting that you also query some general interest magazines to see if we can place a few flyfishing stories in front of people not in the choir…let’s bombard them with some flyfishing destinations and see what happens. And if you really love the taste of rejection, send something to Mens Journal or Outside or Esquire. True, they’re a lot harder to get a story in, but if you can pull if off, a half million people will see it. And that would be cool.”

Lately I’ve been struggling with what I want to be when I grow up, but Bie’s words have motivated me.  It’s like he was talking directly to me because ironically I’m one of those writers he mentioned–you know, one of the 10,000 who has apparently written a book (actually three). At first I wondered how he could possibly know who I am, and then I remembered that way back in October 2009 I sent him an email inquiry about possibly submitting some work for The Drake. I never heard back. 😉

Well, since I know the taste of rejection (it’s similar in flavor to that of skunk, which is something I’m all too familiar with), I’ve decided to take Bie’s advice and hit up some outdoor magazines that are not flyfishing related.  Surely I can demystify the notion that fly fishing is a difficult sport that’s too challenging for beginners.  If someone like me can learn to fly fish, anyone with the intelligence of a Labrador Retriever and the dexterity of a gorilla can learn it. Maybe it is The Unaccomplished Angler who becomes the ultimate ambassador of fly fishing to the outside world: someone who is a nobody in the fly fishing world–just a regular, Budweiser and BBQ’d ribs kinda guy. My mantra will be, of course, that thankfully there’s more to fly fishing than catching fish.

So fair warning to you editors of outdoor-related, non-fly fishing  magazines: The Unaccomplished Ambassador of Fly Angling will be knocking on your door. Please be gentle with your rejections.

Spey fishing is a fad

As I mentioned in the previous Weekly Drivel, I received comments from a reader suggesting that fishing with a Spey rod is “like Tai Chi”. Another interesting comment was also made:

“I find the whole fad a little curious…”

For the sake of argument let’s just agree that this statement is inaccurate. Fads are short-lived crazes that gain widespread popularity and then quickly and thankfully fade away (fad = fadee).  Yes, sometimes they tend to linger like the smell of dead fish but eventually they go away and become nothing more than laughing stock for future generations. Nearly always we will look back upon fads and feel ashamed of our participation.

The way of the Spey has been around for a very long time. It may have seen a more recent spike in popularity in some areas as folks have come realize the merits of the two-handed rod and Spey casting techniques, but this gradual discovery seems to me more like enlightenment than fad.  The Pet Rock didn’t last long and thankfully neither will Justin Bieber. Let’s look at a few other fads from recent history just for giggles:

  • TV trays
  • Bean bag chairs
  • Leisure suits
  • Streaking
  • Disco
  • Sea Monkeys
  • Yahtzee
  • Shag carpet
  • Tang
  • Space Food Sticks
  • AMC Pacer (and Gremlin)
  • Pop Rocks
  • Earth Shoes
  • Pukka shell necklaces (someone please tell Kenny Chesney to let it go)
  • Water beds
  • Swatch Watches
  • Izod shirts (collars flipped)
  • Leveraged buyouts
  • Parachute pants
  • Gigapets
  • The Clapper
  • Reality TV shows (like a kidney stone, we pray that soon they will pass…please, God)
  • Crocs

Well, you get the idea. I am neither a historian nor an accomplished Spey angling person, so I thought it best to consult some pedigreed anglers bring in a couple of the big guns from the world of Spey for their thoughts on the matter.

Simon "Speybro" Gawesworth

Simon Gawesworth needs no introduction. He is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on Spey casting and has taught and demonstrated Spey casting around the world. Simon’s thoughts on the “fad” are as follows:

“According to my dictionary, the definition of “fad” is: ‘1.  an intense but short-lived fashion; craze , or 2.  a personal idiosyncrasy or whim.’ Many of those that indulge in the art of Spey casting do so with extreme intensity, that much is true, but considering that the roots of Spey casting date back to the mid 1800’s, it is most definitely not ‘short lived’. The duration is irrelevant, even if Spey casting had evolved from the 1990’s the tremendous advantage that anglers have with Spey casting techniques – both in fishing and casting disciplines – ensure that this is an integral part of the sport of fly fishing, and long will remain so.”

Mike Kinney, the "The Skagit Godfather" (photo by Rich Schaaff)

Mike Kinney, a legend when it comes to fly fishing, has been at the cutting edge of fishing with a Spey rod in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years.  During that time Mike has become highly respected for guiding, instruction and rod design. When asked his thoughts on the matter of Spey casting being a fad, Mike had this to say:

“I started over twenty years ago. It became popular over ten years ago here in the US and has been around over 150 years in the UK. A fad usually does not last 150 years. While certain trends in two handed rods, spey casting, and spey fishing will probably go away over time the actual use of long rods for change of direction dynamic roll casts and enhanced line control will definitely gain favor as time goes on.”

There seems to be a common thread here, and if I were an authority on the Way of Spey I could not have said it any better myself. Thanks, gents, for weighing in with your thoughts on the matter. In my less-than-experienced assessment, the Spey thing is less like a fad and more like evolution of fly fishing (something Charles Darwin would have embraced).

To cite an article by Rob Kolakowski in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, “Spey casting is not just a passing fad, it’s around for good.”

Case closed. No further arguments.

More Fan Mail. Sort of.

Seems as though my first “Fan Mail” post was a little bit like pouring rocket fuel on an already hot burning fire. From somewhere in the Great Lakes region (I’m just guessing), Chuck sends this photo of a big and beautiful un-clipped hatchery lakerun Skamania steelhead:

I’m so tired of this nonsense about wild versus hatchery steelhead – real , not real!
The argument has it’s foundation in the perception of how well fish fight when hooked.

Anyone who thinks hatchery fish don’t fight hasn’t caught a Skamania steelhead in lake Michigan! They probably haven’t hooked a stocked Atlantic salmon in the St. Marie’s Rapids either! Even the Manistee Steelhead fish fight really well!

I’ve been spooled by everything from a hatchery , lake run, Brown trout to a Carp!  Yep, that’s right …….even a carp!

This argument is asserted by those who want to perpetuate the romance of wild fish – which is great, but it’s nonsense to assert that all wild fish provide a better angling experience than hatchery fish! It’s even greater nonsense to insinuate that catching the wild fish makes them better, which I suspect is the real endeavor!


Thanks for taking the time to weigh in with your thoughts, Chuck.

Real quickly let’s explain something for those not in the know, and before I do so let me state that I won’t pretend to know much anything about the steelhead in the Great Lakes region other than what I’ve read. Skamania steelhead are one of the strains of steelhead introduced to the Great Lakes system, and these Skamania fish run up the rivers in the early summer. Other strains head into the rivers in the fall and winter.  On the left coast similar runs of fish occur in both the summer and winter, although our real anadromous fish come in from the ocean before heading into the rivers. I do know that the steelhead in the Great Lakes originated in the Pacific Northwest and no, they did not migrate east of their own accord.

And actually, Chuck, if there are anti-hatchery sentiments as far as steelhead are concerned, in my assessment it has less to do with how well they fight and more with the fact that many left coasters want our dwindling runs of wild, native fish to be given a chance to rebound. The presence of hatchery fish in our west coast rivers is keeping commercial harvest alive, and as long as there is commercial harvest it’s bad for the native fish. Hatchery fish also serve the purpose of providing a recreational fishing quarry (and generate license sales for the fish and game department), but they also compete for food and habitat with the native fish. What’s worst of all is that the presence of hatchery fish serves to shroud the issues surrounding native fish.  There are a lot of anti-hatchery sentiments and I can’t begin to communicate in any valuable manner.

I’ve caught a couple native winter fish that didn’t exactly light me up with their fighting ability, but in their defense they’d come a long way from the ocean, into Puget Sound and up many miles of river, avoiding nets and seals and sea lions and treble hooks. I’ll cut them a little slack for not tail-walking me into the next county. 😉

Interestingly I’ve only had one West coast angler send in their thoughts and fish porn.  Consider this your call to action!

Spey fishing is like Tai Chi

Recent comments from a fan reader of the Unaccomplished Angler gave cause for me to sit back and do a bit of pondering. The first comment asserts that, “Spey fishing is like Tai Chi!” The second comment was equally amusing:  “I find the whole fad a little curious…”

We’ll address the matter of Spey fishing being a fad next week. As to the first statement about Spey fishing being like Tai Chi, I believe there was an unintentional revealing of profound enlightenment in those words.

Fishing with a Spey rod is in fact like Tai Chi. As activities both practiced by humans, they have common roots that go back millions of years to the first ancestors of modern Homo sapiens. Over time, as modern societies established themselves, various activities grew out of the different societies: martial arts evolved in Asia; fly fishing evolved in Europe. So, yes, the Spey Way of fishing and Tai Chi are alike in that they are both activities practiced by human beings, and all humans are alike in that we have common ancestors. That analogy, however, may not be quite what the originator of the statement meant.

In researching the origins of fishing, I was surprised to discover that the Chinese are often credited for having invented the fishing rod around the time of 1300. Less surprising is that the Chinese also developed Tai Chi. So yes, the Spey Way again has something in common with Tai Chi. Still, I believe that isn’t where the originator of the comment was going with the statement.

Actually I know exactly what was meant by the comment–it was intended as a backhanded comparison suggesting that fishing with a Spey rod is not a very effective means of catching fish, and Tai Chi has no inherent physical, tangible benefits.

Spey casting was developed as a means of delivering the fly effectively and efficiently in certain fishing circumstances. Nobody ever said it was THE most effective way of fishing, but if your goal is to cover a lot of water with reduced casting repetition and limited room for back casting, Spey casting may just prove worthy of your consideration.

Tai Chi, with its familiar slow, meditative-like physical movements may not look something you would expect from a martial art but to say that it has no physical value is to not understand. When translated literally it means “supreme ultimate fist” and when practiced at its most advanced level, it’s movements are a series of strikes, blows, sweeps and kicks, etc. There are even Tai Chi forms that involve swords and spears. It’s important to acknowledge that fighting and practicing martial arts, just as fishing and catching fish, are two different things. To draw a comparison: on one hand you have Yin (Spey fishing and Tai Chi); on the other you have Yang (gill netting and cage fighting).

Back in 497 A.D. when Bodhidarma walked into China from India, among other things he taught martial arts to the monks at the Shaolin Monastery. This was necessary as a means of defending their domain against invading bands of marauders. To study a martial art today is much more simply an alternate form of exercise done for mental and physical health and to adopt a philosophical outlook on life. Bottom line: we no longer need to be able to fight for survival. Still, the benefits of martial arts training are not insignificant and include improved balance, stamina, flexibility, emotional and physical self control and stress relief. Those seem like fairly tangible benefits to me. It’s certainly easier on the body than other high impact martial arts/physical activities, with which I do have some experience.

Back before the marketplace economy when people lived off the land, fishing was a means of harvesting food needed for survival. Since the overwhelming majority of us no longer fish to feed our families, fishing (whether done with or without a Spey rod) is simply a means of engaging in a recreational activity for the sake of enjoyment and for many it also becomes a way of life. A day on the water casting and swinging flies is a sure way to relieve stress (it sure beats a day at work) and there is much less repetition involved in Spey casting than there is with typical overhead casting with a single handed rod. Therefore it’s much easier on the arms and shoulders, and I have experience with regard to shoulder tendonitis.

So yes, the Spey Way is remarkably like Tai Chi. Let’s examine some of the other similarities:

  • Both Spey Way and Tai Chi have been around a long time. Spey casting was invented in the mid 1800’s. Tai Chi is said to have been founded in the mid 1600’s.
  • Both Spey casting and Tai Chi have many fluid, circular movements.
  • In Spey casting they practice the Snake Roll. In Tai Chi they practice Snake Creeps Down.
  • Long sticks are not uncommon to both Spey Way and Tai Chi.
  • While one may learn Spey Way and Tai Chi from a book or video, it is highly recommended that one seek instruction from a master.
  • There are very simple, helpful diagrams which can be used to supplement instruction in both Spey casting and Tai Chi.
  • One can find large groups of people engaged in both Spey Way and Tai Chi.
  • To the untrained eye, it may look like large groups of Spey casters and Tai Chi practitioners aren’t really doing anything.
  • Spey casting is usually done in the water and Tai Chi is often practiced on grass. Sometimes Spey casting is practiced on grass and Tai Chi is done in the water.
  • It’s not uncommon to Spey cast among large rocks in a river. Apparently the same goes for Tai Chi.
  • It may look as though the two Spey casters are fighting, but one is actually telling the other not to push his top hand. Similarly the two Tai Chi practitioners are not fighting, rather they are practicing Push Hands.
  • There are cool photos of  Spey casters at sunset. There are cool photos of a Tai Chi practitioners at sunset.

There’s more to practicing a martial art than learning to fight, and there’s more to fishing than catching fish. So yeah, fishing with a Spey rod is a lot like Tai Chi. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised but what someone combines the two graceful practices some day, and when that day comes I’d like credit for the idea of Spey Chi. Even if it does turn out to be just a passing fad.

Close your eyes and listen to this video. Spey casting or Tai Chi?

Review: Sage DXL Typhoon Chest Pack

When I started this blog I never intended to review anything, as stated on my WELCOME page. And I’ve stayed mostly true to my words, although occasionally in moments of weakness I’ve deviated. Well, that ends today with my official review of the Sage DXL Typhoon Chest Pack.

Sage DXL Typhoon Chest Pack

For you naysayers who might proclaim that the Unaccomplished Angler has no grounds for reviewing anything, I would agree for the most part. However I submit to you that I am perfectly qualified to review the Sage DXL Typhoon Chest Pack if only for one reason alone: I live in the Pacific NW where water falls from the sky 10 months of the year.

This chest pack by Bainbridge Island-based Sage Manufacturing hails from the family of DXL Typhoon Bags that include the large and small waist packs, backpack and boat bag. The common elements of the Typhoon series is that they all feature hybrid zippered/magnetic closures and welded construction for exceptional waterproof qualities. And they’re pretty cool looking. DXL is an acronym for “Destination X Luggage”, suggestive of the fact that no matter where your fishing destination takes you, this is the luggage for the trip. And if your destination takes you into a Typhoon, don’t despair: this stuff can take it. For you techno material geeks, the gray rubberized stuff is TPU coated Nylon.  The green material is PU coated HT (high tenacity) Nylon. Tough stuff that appears to be very durable.

This is the first chest pack I’ve ever owned, and it’s ironic that just recently I said I didn’t have a chest pack. Luckily I also said that I would never say never to owning a chest pack. Upon receiving the DXL Typhoon Chest Pack in the mail, I quickly headed out into the cold, damp late November weather to put it to the test on the banks of a local river. It was wet and cold. Winter steelhead season. Did I mention it was wet? I performed as I had hoped, keeping everything inside nice and dry.  I also mentioned it was cold, so I came back inside to write my review and shoot some product photos.

First off, I like the size.  It’s not terribly large, and that’s a good thing.  When I want to carry several boxes of flies and all my fishing doo-dads, I use my Sage DXL Typhoon Large Waist Pack and usually I’m fishing for trout.  Steelheading is a much more minimalist endeavor, requiring a fraction of the gear I carry with me when chasing their resident cousins.  A box of nymphs and beads streamers, a pair of forceps, a spool of 12lb tippet material, a couple of protein bars and a flask (for medicinal purposes) fit neatly into the Typhoon chest pack, with room for a few more items.

Like my Typhoon waist pack, the chest pack has built-in sheaths on either side for stowing forceps, a magnetic storm flap closure and magnetic points for keeping tools from flapping around. On top of the pack is a velcro strip fly patch to keep nymphs and beads streamers at the ready.  I realize it’s not needed, but I like to attach a foam patch here (not included). While the pack is designed to be worn as a true chest pack, it’s very versatile and I prefer to wear it as a sling, keeping the bag at my left hip and out of the way when executing two-handed Spey casts. The waist strap, which holds the pack securely in front when worn as a chest pack, is easily detachable for wearing it as a sling.

A feature common on any good chest pack is the fold down tray so that you have a mini workspace right in front of you.  On the Typhoon chest pack this platform is completely adjustable, allowing you to open the tray as much or as little as you prefer. The velcro tray securely holds flies while you’re selecting the right pattern for the job, or perhaps tying up a double nymph rig (although there would be no reason for this when fishing for steelhead because any respectable angler only swings flies).

Inside the pack are a couple of fairly large pockets for holding a few doo-dads and keeping things organized. You’ll note a tube of sunscreen in the photo which is just for staging appeal–clearly there is no need for sunscreen while winter steelheading.

The Sage DXL Typhoon Chest Pack gets two thumbs up from me. It’s not large enough to carry everything, but it fills a niche nicely. Unfortunately it doesn’t make me a better caster, nor has it landed me a steelhead, but it does a great job of carrying a few necessities. If you’re looking for a waterproof, rugged, versatile pack and don’t need a lot of carrying capacity, look no further than the Sage Typhoon Chest Pack.

And with the Holidays upon us,  if you’re looking to give a gift that will put a smile on any angler’s face, this is it.

Blue sky, sake, and a good winch

If you’re like me, you don’t have a winch on your truck and you naturally assume that most of the folks who do, don’t use them (or know how to use them, for that matter).  It looks cool to have a stout front bumper with a winch mounted on it, attached to the front of a truck that’s all jacked up on Mountain Dew with multiple shocks, chrome differential covers and monster off-road tires: you know, the trucks that have a set of rubber testicles dangling from the tow hitch. These trucks are always spotlessly clean and likely never see any off-road use. There was a time when I was 18 that this might have appealed to me, but when I was that age I couldn’t have afforded the truck, let alone the thousands of dollars wasted on decorative custom add-ons. Actually, no — that sort of truck would never have appealed to me.  A winch?  Really? AAA is cheaper, or better yet – don’t get stuck.

Late last spring I went fishing on the Skykomish River with my friends Derek Young of Emerging Rivers Guide Services and Leland Miyawaki, fly fishing manager at Bellevue Orvis. Our intended target species was steelhead, though I for one would have been happy with anything that happened to hit a swung fly (a bull trout, or dolly varden or native char would have tickled me pink). The day started with a forgettable breakfast in Gold Bar before we arrived at our launch site at the Big Eddy.  As is always the case, there’s much excitement and anticipation to get on the water, and it was my first time to be a passenger in Derek’s new Green Drake raft by StreamTech Boats, so the eagerness level was running high, like the river.  The only thing that prevented us from quickly getting on the water was a truck.

A stuck truck, that is, at the bottom of the ramp. With its drift boat trailer completely submerged and it’s rear wheels sinking deeper into the wet sand with every attempt to get unstuck. It was not a good predicament for the owner and his buddy. Luckily, we arrived on the scene before the truck became buried up to its rear axle. Enter the cool winch on the front of Derek’s truck.  Now, in all fairness to Derek, his truck isn’t a showy piece of ridiculosity as described above.  In fact, Derek’s rig is simply a functional vehicle that serves his purposes well and is understated, if anything.  It just happens to have a hefty ARB bumper up front to hold a winch, which he actually knows how to use.  Without the winch, the stuck truck may have remained so for a good long while, which would have put a real damper on the fishing for the guys who belonged to the truck. We could have still gotten the Green Drake in the water and been on our way, but Derek’s winch made short work of the extraction and everyone got to fish that day. I doubt those two guys caught any fish, but after getting them unstuck karma was on our side, or so we assumed.

And thus ended the excitement for the day, so if you’re hoping to read about more hair-raising adventures and epic battles with hot summer steelhead, you may as well close your browser window right now. There weren’t even any harrowing encounters with savage white water. Not that I remember, anyway, because the Green Drake effortlessly carried us downstream in comfort and safety. No fish were encountered as we plied miles of fishy looking water with our Spey rods.

Fat Train by Leland Miyawaki

This was only Derek’s second time with a two-handed rod, so sitting back and watching him was not nearly as enjoyable as sitting back and watching Leland masterfully sling his favorite Fat Train pattern, which is a sparsely dressed fly that most closely resembles a bare hook with some hackle and seems to be anything but fat. In fact the Fat Train looks like something tied by someone who couldn’t afford the rest of the materials to tie a proper fly, but less is often more. Derek’s status as a neophyte Spey caster made me feel good about not being the most unaccomplished caster for once, but Derek is a quick study and by the end of the day I was clearly once again at the bottom of the Spey casting food chain.

After enduring a miserable, cold, wet Spring that seemed would never end, this day found us enjoying blue sky and plenty of sunshine.  Being philosophical in our approach to fishing, there was much to enjoy even though the catching left a bit to be desired. Being able to enjoy a fishless day is a skill that doesn’t come easily to everyone, but skill only comes after much practice.  I’m well practiced in the art of not catching fish and so highly skilled in finding ways to enjoy a day spent not catching fish. Good weather and good food are a couple ways to ensure that maximum enjoyment is achieved, and to that end we were not disappointed.

Sunning ourselves on the rocks while enjoying a traditional Japanese lunch provided by Leland was fitting reward for simply being outside on such a glorious day. Lunch included, among other things, what Leland described as “peasant sushi” which are essentially sushi without fish. Leland says it best:

“I come from a Japanese farmer family that could never afford the expensive raw fish “city sushi.” So we had vegetable “makisushi” and “agesushi.” (maki are like the futomaki you see at sushi bars, agesushi is the rice stuffed into tofu boiled in soy).”

Apparently Orvis needs to give Leland a raise so he can afford fish, or perhaps he simply felt neither Derek nor I were deserving of the city sushi. Either way, it was delicious and much better a drastic improvement from what I typically eat for lunch on the water (sparsely dressed sandwiches, stale chips, cheap beer).  In keeping with the Japanese lunch theme, Leland provided sake (酒) as a beverage.  I’d never before had sake, and found the rice beverage to be quite enjoyable and rather easy to drink. I cannot say that the sake helped with my casting any, but it helped me not care so much about my casting. I think that may be some form of Zen-like enlightenment, although I’m not sure.  Maybe not.

By the end of the most enjoyable day I found myself grateful for the company of good friends to not catch fish with, and also contemplating the need for a Green Drake and a winch for the front of the Fish Taco. And more sake.