Month: April 2011

Birds of a feather

Seems all the chicks are doing it.  You know, driving up the cost of your fly tying materials.  I’ve read several articles and heard countless people talk about it—it’s not exactly new news. Some folks have their hackles all in a bunch over the matter, but I’ve dismissed it as something that doesn’t affect me because I don’t tie flies. Why I don’t tie is a boring story for another time, so let’s focus on the matter at hand: the latest craze whereby women are getting feather extensions stuck into their hair and in doing so depleting the supply of tying materials.

Like I said, it has no bearing on me. Or at least it didn’t until my daughter, who is off at college, sent me a Facebook message that went something like this:

So if you haven’t heard, putting feather extensions in hair is the cool new trend! Just so happens that these fun little feathers I have in my hair are purchased from fishing stores. I guess everything really does have something to do with fly fishing…

The last sentence was a little jab at her old man’s tendency to turn every conversation into something having to do with fly fishing, which I defended a long time ago and in doing so silenced my teenage critic. My reply to her message above was, of course, “As long as you don’t pierce your tongue or get a tramp stamp, I don’t care what you do to your body.” Or something like that.

Anyway, since this industry phenomenon has now struck close to home it prompted me to look into the matter a bit more closely so that I might better gain some insight into what this whole feather-brained fascination is all about. I put on my journalist’s cap and issued forth some tough questions:

UA:OK, since we’re on the topic of hair and feathers, tell me a bit more about how you got the tying material in your head…where, who did it, how much, where did the feathers come from (which end of what kinda bird) etc. Seriously, I’m gonna blog it up ’cause its a hot topic in the fly industry. How many other chicks are getting it done?

Daughter of the UA:Well there is a girl from (another sorority) who learned how to do it from a Youtube video! She said she got them from a fishing store and I have no idea what kind of feathers they are but they are thin and one is tan and black striped and the other is pink and black stripped. It cost $4 for a bundle (3 thin feathers) and I have 2 sets of feathers.

At least half the girls in my house have them done and SO many girls on campus are wearing them. It’s the cool new thing because it isn’t permanent and doesn’t ruin your hair. It is clamped in like a hair extension. Let me know if you need more information haha 🙂

(she likes to insert smiley faces and hahas–must be another chick thing)

UA: I want to know what fly shop she got the feathers at. This is all in the name of responsible journalism. Readers want to know. FB her for the answer. Please.

Daughter of the UA:Okay. I just messaged her and I will alert you as soon as I get a response!

(There was a long delay while the request for information was being processed. Unfortunately a response never materialized, so this journalist forged on).

The fact of the matter is that this craze, while it may have made the price of tying materials spike like rivers gorged with Spring runoff, is temporary. And it’s obviously good for those selling feathers. Wholesalers are moving product, albeit into a non-traditional market. Obviously that increased demand is forcing fly shops to jack the price as well, but it’s helping sustain one segment of the fly fishing industry at a time when the revenue stream could stand for some increased flow.

A brood of chicks gather at Orvis Bellevue to shop feathers.

But this supply and demand phenomenon is not without its dark side, and in addition to driving up costs it’s also forcing the rise of another, uglier business practice:  the black market feather merchant.  Opportunistic bottom feeders solo entreprenurs are tapping into their own personal stashes of hackle material and selling it out of their trucks to hoards of young fashionistas everywhere. We can only hope that no backyard chickens were harmed during the harvest of black market hackle.

Chicks flock to "Black Market Bill"

Black market feather feeding frenzy.

If you’ve not seen firsthand where your tying material is ending up, I’ve managed to capture a few photos for reference.

In this last photo the feather extensions can also be seen woven into the hair of two young chicks. Apparently lime dental implants are all the rage now, too.

Just when I was about ready to jump in and finally start tying my own flies, it’s now economically impractical. I have to save my money for gas anyway. And 3 more years of my daughter’s college education.

For now, you can still purchase your tying materials, but whether you’ll find them at your local fly shop or a neighborhood hair salon is yet to be determined. I just hope Thingamabobbers don’t become the next fashion fad.

PS- if you need some grizzly hackle for tying or decorating your hair, I know a guy…and can get you into some top grade material  for a reasonable price. I’m your Unaccomplished Middle Man.

No More Weekly Drivel® on Fridays

This is the last Thursday night I’m going to have my arse growing roots into the chair in front of my computer, frantically trying to make up compose some sort of eloquent prose filler material for a fly fishing blog. Because of my self-induced Friday deadlines, you can imagine the quality programming I’ve missed on Thursday nights for the past year and a half.  Good hell, I have lost touch what is going on over at Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice! It’s time I got myself a life. Time I spent some time with my wife, sitting three feet apart, watching television and texting each other on our iPhones (“Get me some popcorn, woman–and a beer!”…”LOL like that’s going to happen.”). The foundation of a strong marriage lies in the quality time spent together. I seek more of that quality, at last on Thursday nights.

No, I am not retiring. Again. Believe you me, I would not put you through that, again. However, the winds of change are a-blowin’ and we all know that wind is not the fly angler’s friend. And frankly sometimes change is bad. That being said I assure you the wind is not the howling gale that blows a drift boat upstream in the Yakima Canyon, nor should the change cause any angst. It may just in fact be a nice cooling breeze, so sit back and relax. Think about fishing, or something else.

All that’s happening is that the Weekly Drivel® of the Unaccomplished Angler is moving to the middle of the week…smack dab on the hump.  You know, Wednesdays. It’s not a big deal (and no, as tempting as it may be it will not become known as the Weekly Hump®). While the changes should be virtually invisible, I do realize that most of you plan your weeks around the Drivel®, intentionally leaving a gap in your Friday schedules so that you can read the UA when new material is posted each week. I apologize for the inconvenience, but remember– just because it’s coming out on Wednesday doesn’t mean you have to read it right away. You can continue to read it on Fridays.  It’ll just be like a two day-old fish by then. That was left out on the counter. During the heat of summer.

So, I’ll see you all next Wednesday.  And Mrs. UA – get the popcorn ready on Thursday night. I’ll send you a text as a reminder.


PS- My friend Derek Young was just honored as the 2011 Guide of the Year at the Orvis Outfitters and Guide Rendezvous in Bozeman. Congrats, Derek, on a well-deserved award. Now get a hair cut.

Rickets and gas pains

I’ve always professed that as an angler I leave a lot to be desired. Yes, I catch a few. My casting isn’t really all that bad. But lately my integrity as an angler is becoming suspect and that has me worried. Last year by this time I’d fished several times since the beginning of the new year, for steelhead and trouts.  This year, I’ve written more about fishing for steelhead and trouts than I’ve actually gone fishing.  For example, last weeks Drivel suggested that I might be headed to Rocky Ford Creek to settle an old score. Any angler worth his salt would have taken one look at the weather forecast, clicked their heels and been on their way.  A one, maybe two day window of decent weather was predicted, and given the foul weather we’ve had in this part of the country as of late, that should have been enough to set me on a course headed east.

It was not to be.

Because I suck. Now there may be good reasons for this and while I am not seeking an excuse, I am looking to find an explanation. I’ve spent the past few days examining the possible reasons for not going fishing, and have come up with the following:

Rickets caused by extreme Vitamin D deficiency

1. Vitamin D deficiency. Not enough to cause rickets, but it’s a factor. Prior to April 8th, the Seattle area had 41 days without sunshine. That will beat a man down, drop him to his knees. There really is a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a sort of depression brought about by the long gloomy months of short, dark days during the winter.  Now I grew up in the Pacific Northwet and one would think that this would forge a certain resolve; toughen me like a callous; make me impervious to the crap weather. Well, apparently not.  La Niña did a good job of kicking me in the groin this year, and I must admit I’ve been a little pouty. What I need is a kick in the other side and a good day fishing.  But what I really need is a heaping dose of Vitamin D, dished out by the sun, not a jar.  It’ll get better. It has to.

Green slime caused by too much rain

2. Green slime. Thanks to the fact that the Seattle area had 41 days without sunshine and copious amounts of rain in recent weeks/months, the yard has been neglected.  This isn’t a problem until the grass starts to grow in March, and when it starts to grow it needs to be cut.  In order for it to be cut, there needs to be a day without rain, or better yet– a couple days without rain: one to dry things out, and the other to get things done. “Dude, how long can it take to mow the lawn?” you ask. A long time.  And it’s my fault that we have a huge yard comprised mostly of grass, because we had a large piece of bare dirt to cover when we built our house and grass was the easiest way to do so. I’d say we have 3/4 of an acre that is actual “manicured” yard grass- it needs mowing twice a week. I had one narrow window of opportunity where a dry day presented itself (the same day that going fishing was a possibility). Going fishing or mowing the grass?  Should be an easy choice, right?  Well, it was and the grass won out. It was a two-stage process that involved mowing the  6 inch tall grass first with the mower deck set high, and then going back over it a second time to cut it to the length it needs to be. Even after a day of no rain the grass was wet. The mower plugged countless times. I discovered piles of canine fecal matter hidden in the tall grass only after it was too late.  Very messy. And did I say it was wet? I discovered something this year that I’ve never seen before: some sort of green slime oozing up in sections of our lawn.  It looked just like lime jello your grandma used to serve. When I first noticed it I thought the worst (whatever the worst is), but upon investigation I learned that “green slime in the grass” is a harmless condition caused by over saturation. Too much rain. So much to do, so little time. And so much slime.

Gas pains caused by politics and economics

3. Gas pains. Yep, I’ve got ’em. Actually, we all do.  With the price of 87 octane nudging $3.90 a gallon locally, unless you’re wealthy or senseless, burning through a tank and a half of gas to go fish a place that’s probably just going to deliver a skunk becomes something of a ridiculous notion. Don’t get me wrong– I will continue to fish no matter what the price per barrel of oil becomes, but I will be more particular about how far I drive to voluntarily subject myself to not catching fish.  It’s one thing to get skunked.  It’s another thing to get skunked and spend $100 in gas doing so. Talk about frustrouting.

The obvious side effect of my personal misery is that I haven’t been fishing enough to provide ample fodder for blog-worthy posts. On the other hand, I never once made any guarantee to my legion of 12 Unaccomplished Angler followers that I would provide good subject material.  A hack writer can fill a blog with anything.  For example, this.

Bahamas bonefishin’, Unaccomplished style

Leaving the drawing to the pros. Just sayin...


A month or so ago a poorly-drawn, corrugated depiction of the Unaccomplished Angler went steelhead fishing in Idaho.  A couple weeks later *I* was seen holed up in a dark room somewhere in Michigan, waiting for the day that was promised *I* would get to go fishing.  There’s been not a peep from the Corrugated Angler since, but that doesn’t mean the Virtual Unaccomplished Angler has just been sitting around not fishing, like the real flesh and blood Unaccomplished Angler has been sitting around not fishing…no way.

Recently the Virtual Unaccomplished Angler made an appearance at Andros South Lodge on South Andros Island in the Bahamas. That’s right, the Bahamas, baby!  While everyone else in the northern hemisphere was shivering and cleaning moss from between their toes, *I* was fly fishing for Bonefish, drinking local beer, eating fabulous food and enjoying all the amenities offered to those fortunate enough to have been invited to partake of FIBfest 2011. We live in a world where acronyms reign supreme, so for those not in the know, FIB stands for Fly Industry Bloggers, FYI. This trip is hosted by Andrew Bennett of Deneki Outdoors. Oh, and BTW, “fest” is not an an acronym, but rather it is an accepted abbreviation for “festivities” or perhaps “fester” which is what can happen if you step on coral and it becomes infected. However, I believe that in this case “fest” refers not to the latter.

If you want to read up on the experiences shared by some of the others in attendance at FIBfest, check out these folks and their blogs:

I’d love to share  with you my experiences, but remember—I wasn’t really there. Only a t-shirt shirt bearing the logo of the Unaccomplished Angler was in attendance, and that’s good enough for me. It has to be.

Oh, and *I* had a blast.


Rocky Ford Frustrouting: then…and now?

Two weeks ago I went steelhead fishing to the Olympic Peninsula with the boy, Schpanky.  I talked in that two part series about how I desperately needed to get the boy on a fish because he had suffered many Frustrating Trout Outings (Frustroutings) with me over the years. I explained how he needed to catch something that would kick his arse and rekindle his faith in fly fishing with the old man. Well, we succeeded in that. Now steelhead fishing is behind us for a while, and we look forward to trout fishing. Or at least I do.

I may be going fishing for trouts this week, although with nearly all rivers out of shape on both sides of the mountains, my destination is yet to be determined.  The one remaining possibly is Rocky Ford Creek, the infamous Central Washington spring creek that is known for scuds, giant hatchery rainbows that have seen every fly pattern imaginable, scores of other angling folks and some of the finest natural scenery the eye has ever had the pleasure to behold a healthy supply of ticks.

I’ve been to Rocky Ford only once before. That was almost exactly 5 years ago and it will be remembered as perhaps the frontrunner of many great Frustroutings I’ve shared with the boy. Schpanky was in 6th grade at the time, I think. He’d only been fly fishing with me a couple times prior, but he liked to fish, showed impressive patience as an angler in general and was already fairly competent with a fly rod.  I had planned to take Schpanky to fish the Yakima River during his Spring Break, but weather was unfavorable that year so we took our camper a bit further east and introduced ourselves to Rocky Ford.

The first mistake we made was not stopping in Ephrata at the Desert Fly Angler to find out exactly what color scuds the fish were eating that day. I’ve since learned that yes, they can be that picky, and pity the fool who offers them a pink scud on a day when they fancy the olive variety: you may as well jump in the stream and try to grab the fish by their tails.  But don’t do that, because wading is not allowed in Rocky Ford Creek. Still, I recommend wearing hip boots, if not full-on waders.

So east we headed, the 12 year-old Schpanky and me, in our camper, destined for Grant County.  No stranger to this general part of the state, I’d duck hunted nearby on countless occasions so I had no trouble finding the place.  Like so many other destinations in the Central Basin, it’s out in the middle of nothing. We went out of our way to stop in Moses Lake for a visit to the Dairy Queen, which is owned by my wife’s sister and husband (not my wife’s husband, to be sure–but her sister’s husband).  I love visits at the Moses Lake Dairy Queen because it’s the one place I can get away with dining and dashing.

We pulled the F350 dually and Bigfoot Camper into the vast gravel parking area overlooking Rocky Ford and claimed our spot.  There were other rigs present, but we had plenty of elbow room and our own private fire pit. We both looked forward to a good campfire that night, sitting beneath the clear skies (it very seldom rains in Central Washington) and staring into the flames as we contemplated our origins and how hot we could get the soles of our boots before they actually started to burn. Men are, by nature, pyromaniacs, and that fascination with open flame had been passed down to my son. But before we could preoccupy ourselves with fire, we had fish to catch.

Armed with 5 and 6 weight rods, we hoofed through the cattails that line the banks of Rocky Ford, careful not to step in deep holes carved under the mud by muskrats (thus the recommendation for hip boots).  The day was overcast with, amazingly, no wind (a rare thing in Central Washington this time of year). It was very comfortable weather for fishing and it felt good to be there– father and son. A man’s outing. And a campfire that night.

The first thing we both noticed were the huge trout, cruising slowly within just a couple of the bank in shallow water as they slurped a multitude of tiny fresh water crustaceans from the weeds.  These were big fish- 25 inch hog rainbows and bigger. It was the kind of stuff that gets a Rocky Ford first-timer’s blood boiling instantly, and both the boy and I frantically tried to toss a scud in front of the noses of these fish, expecting an easy hookup.  The fish responded by simply moving out of the path of the fly and giving us a sideways glance as if to say, “Wrong color, dumbsh_t.” We were not discouraged. So we’d have to work it a little harder. No big deal—we had all afternoon and the entire next day to catch a few of these slabs.

We spread out along the bank, Schpanky taking up casting position on a point of mud that afforded maximum clearance behind him. At Rocky Ford, clearance for backcasts is not to be taken lightly, as a wall of cattails can will sneak up on you while you lose yourself in your casting. Lest you remain vigilant, that wall of cattails will grab your fly and not let go. I seem to recall telling the boy to shorten his casting stroke, stopping high so as not to offer any more flies to the cattails than absolutely necessary. Apparently it was necessary to sacrifice plenty of flies to the cattails before the abbreviated casting stroke became committed to memory, and frustration began to set in–mostly on the part of the parental angler whose responsibility it was to wage battle with the cattails, untangle and cut away the leader and tie on a new fly every few minutes.

An unlucky, stupid fishing hat.

As the afternoon wore on and the big cruisers continued to swim slowly under our noses and refuse our offerings, we tried a variety of different techniques: Casting farther out and stripping woolly buggers, tossing and twitching small dry flies…nothing seemed to work.  We saw trout rising, just not to anything we offered them. We covered some ground, moving up and down the creek in hopes of improving our luck. To his credit, Schpanky was a patient angler and seemed to be enjoying himself even though not a single fish touched his fly all day.

I did land a small trout of about 13 inches on a mayfly emerger, but a 14 inch trout in these waters was almost worse than a skunk, and the fact that I caught a fish and the boy did not served as a bit of salt in the wound as far as he was concerned. But it got worse. At one point another fly fisherman set up on the same bank about 50 yards from us.  On his first cast he hooked up with a very nice fish which Schpanky and I both watched him land. On his next couple of casts he hooked nothing, but over the course of the next hour he must have landed no fewer than 10 fish. Big fish. Looking to his father for sage words, Schpanky asked what this other guy was doing differently than us, to which I may have responded, “Probably using bait.” Anything but fly fishing is of course illegal on Rocky Ford, but I had no better answer than to lash out critically. “I bet I could beat him up,” I added.

As evening approached and the boy’s blood sugar plummeted, we decided to call it quits for the time being and grab some dinner. After refueling and rekindling our outlook fishing and life in general, we decided to ply the waters for one last hour before dark.  Not surprisingly, the evening hatch yielded nothing and it started to rain hard as we retreated to the camper. We could live with a slow day of catching, but we’d looked forward with great anticipation to our campfire. That was not to be as the rain increased and pelted the roof of the camper.  Still, we managed to enjoy the evening by each drinking several beers before hitting the sack. We needed a good night’s sleep because tomorrow there were fish to catch.

When we awoke early the next morning the first thing I noticed was the sound of the all-too-familiar Central Washington wind, which had replaced the Central Washington rain that had fallen most of the night.  After breakfast we geared up and headed back to the creek. The air temperature was no longer quite so comfortable and the wind made casting considerably more difficult. None of this would have mattered had the boy been catching fish, but that was not the case for the first two hours of the day. At one point I glanced toward his location only to find him seated on a rock, his fly rod laying the ground next to him and a blank expression on his face.  He had hit a wall. Stuck a fork in himself. He was done. The logical thing to do would have been to send him back to the camper for some juice and cookies while I continued to fish, but frankly I was kinda done myself.  As I reeled in my line one final time, a 30 inch trout cruised by within 3 feet of where I stood and gestured with it’s pectoral fin as if to say, “So long, sucker…” As it slowly swam off I could swear I hear the muffled sound of underwater laughter.

I haven’t been back to Rocky Ford since.

I may be going back, and in fact may be there by the time you read this.  But I’m not taking the boy.  After his successful steelhead outing on the Hoh River two weeks ago, I’m not sure he’s ready for Rocky Ford just yet.  I’ll give him a few months to savor the memories of his last fishing trip before I take him on a yet another Frustrouting.

Adopt an Acre in the Northern Rockies

I interrupt the usual Weekly Drivel with something of substance and importance.

I was recently contacted by a gentleman by the name of Alan Parker, who wrote:

I’m trying to earn support for the Nature Conservancy. Unless there’s some sort of major environmental accident (like the BP spill) the environment usually isn’t the first thing on our minds.  To help raise awareness, a few friends of mine and I are trying to get small messages posted on sites like yours that encourage readers to get involved.   I have a specific piece of text referencing their efforts that I’d be looking to have posted on, and we’ve pooled some funds earned from freelance writing to compensate webmasters if needed.  Let me know if this is something you could help us out with, thanks!

I replied to Alan that I would be happy to consider this, and that there would be no money exchanged. I couldn’t imagine why someone would want to pay the Unaccomplished Angler I would accept money to post a message as important as this:

The Nature Conservancy and Dow’s Andrew Liveris are preserving fishing habitats in the Rockies. You can help too by adopting an acre.

Give it a look and let me know what you think.  I think the Conservancy is one of the most legitimate organizations out there, and I like that they allow you to have more control over what projects your donation would fund if any of your visitors followed the link and wanted to make a donation.  Anyways, I look forward to hearing from you, thanks again!



Alan, and others.  I think the Nature Conservancy is doing and has done some remarkable work to preserve places that are desperately deserving of our protection and preservation. I must admit that I am not intimately aware of all their work, but I’ve read about certain projects in the past and will certainly pay more attention looking forward.

Thanks, Alan, for bringing this to our collective attention.

Please take a minute to read up on the Nature Conservancy’s Northern Rockies Adopt an Acre program.