Month: June 2011

No Shortage of Good Reviews

BREAKING NEWS– John Gierach’s latest book, No Shortage of Good Days, is available! At the time of this writing I received my copy, special ordered from Bobwhite Studios, about three week’s ago. It’s a signed edition, autographed by Gierach himself and personalized by cover artist Bob White, which makes me feel pretty cool (although I’m not).

I’m no literary critic. As a very well unknown author myself, I fear respect those who would write reviews – at least honest reviews. Unfavorable ones are the worst, or perhaps the best, because they’re honest. And there should be no other type of review, because if the review isn’t honest then it has no merit. Reviews are, however, simply opinions of the individual and should be taken with a grain of salt. And maybe a splash of tequila for good measure in case it’s of the unfavorable variety.

If you want a good review of No Shortage of Good Days, I suggest you look elsewhere. By that I don’t mean go looking for a favorable review elsewhere, just a review written by someone who writes good. Here are a few blog reviews worth your time to visit:

The Trout Underground. Make sure you’re not in a hurry, and have a full mug of piping hot coffee at hand before you commit to Tom Chandler’s epic novel review. It’s comprehensive. Well-written. It’s long. I think when Tom wrote this he was in dire need of a fishing vacation. The suspense builds over the course 3 days as Chandler teases us – offering brief glimpses into what is to follow – 5 times before actually delivering the full meal deal. Good God man! Honestly, given the attention given to the book, it’s as if Chandler worships the paper Gierach writes on, in much the way that we hack bloggers idolize The Trout Underground. He’s clever. His review is worth the commitment required.

Up The Poudre. I don’t want to publicize the name of the blogger responsible for this review for fear of blowing his cover. You see, he has wisely exiled himself to the remote hills in Colorado. If you know where the Unabomber hid out, you know where I’m talking about. He (not the Unabomber) is in hiding: posting blog updates via a satellite up-link. Eventually Google Earth’s cameras will find him, if Gierach’s henchmen don’t first. Godspeed, Sanders man. It’s an honest review, if even for having only covered 2 chapters. It brings up some interesting things to ponder about blogs perhaps taking the place of books for some people.

Casting Around. I’ll admit that when I stumbled upon this review, it was the first I’d heard of this blog. I’ve no doubt there are countless other good blogs out there that I’ve never seen nor ever will. There are just so very many blogs, and so very little time. Blog keeper Anthony Naples scribes a good review here, and by that I don’t mean it’s favorable (though it is), but is well thought out and well written.

If I were to take a stab at reviewing No Shortage of Good Days I would have to say that there’s very little that I can find to be disappointed with, and quite a great deal that I enjoyed. However, I do have a couple issues that have nothing to do with whether or not Gierach’s latest book is being redundant and giving us more of the “same old same old” as he continues to weave insight into his entertaining angle on fly fishing…No, what I have a beef with are a couple of glaring inaccuracies. First, in Chapter 2, page 14, Gierach writes:

Vince and I rented a car at the Seattle airport, drove north along the coast, and got a room at a motel in a small town not far from the river. This was a typically characterless American burg beside an interstate comprised of cookie-cutter housing developments, strip malls and burger joints: everything quick, cheap, and temporary in the interest of hyperconsumerism.

He had me until “drove north along the coast.” Allow me to veer a bit off course for a moment as I explain.

People in “Eastern Washington” which is anywhere east of the Cascade Crest according to many wet-siders, are prone to referring to those of us in the greater Seattle/Puget Sound area as being from “the coast”. People from Spokane are particularly fond of this inaccurate term of endearment. Well, I’m here to tell you that while the salt water in Puget Sound may well be the same salt water that can be found in the Pacific Ocean (connected by the Strait of Juan de Fuca), Puget Sound is not the coast. In fact I fished within 10 miles of the coast this past Spring, on the Hoh River out near Forks. It was a 4 hour trip from where I live, which is near Seattle (you know, on “the coast”).

But back to Gierach’s book. In Chapter 2, aptly titled “SKAGIT”, Gierach is bound for the river by the same name to chase the elusive wild steelhead with Dave McCoy of Emerald Water Anglers and Dylan Rose of Skate the Fly. The Skagit River empties into Puget Sound not too far the town of Mount Vernon, Washington, which should not to be confused with George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virgina (by the way, there is a street by the name of Virginia in the town of Mount Vernon, Washington). The Skagit is not a coastal river. The body of water that Gierach would have glimpsed as he drove north along I-5 was Puget Sound, not the Pacific Ocean. In his defense, it’s a confusing region because Vancouver is located  164 miles to the south and also 141 miles to the north of Seattle (click on map for clarification).

One other inaccuracy that I had a hard time letting go of occurs on page 56 of Chapter 6: BAJA. Gierach talks of the hazards of standing barefoot in the surf while casting to roosterfish.

“…and the water can be filled with chunks of dead jellyfish that have been churned into pieces by the waves. They sting your feet and bare legs painfully, but they’re harmless unless you get a big piece. You learn not to complain because the only known remedy is urine—your own or someone else’s.”

False! I questioned this jellyfish-sting remedy years ago after watching a television sitcom (I think it was “Friends”) where one character was stung by jellyfish and another character peed on them. This organic first aid treatment is nothing but an old wive’s tale, according to an ABC News Health article. Perpetuating such a myth is irresponsible journalism because it may result in scores of people needlessly urinating on each other at the beach. It does, however, make for more entertaining prose than if Gierach were to have said, “It’s a sound idea to always carry with you a bottle of vinegar to treat a jellyfish sting.”

Having said all that, no doubt Gierach’s covert band of revenging henchmen will soon be seeking me out to issue forth a bit of discipline, thus, I’ll be entering the Witness Protection Program. I hope that they put me somewhere near the coast. Forks would be nice. There’s good steelhead fishing out there, and not many stinging jellyfish to be worried about. Maybe if Gierach had gone to Forks in chapter 2, he might’ve caught a fish.

As for the rest of the book? I liked it. I’ve read a few of his other books and liked them as well. Gierach’s writing style suggests that he’s a regular dude—a regular dude who just so happens to be a legend in the eyes of fly fishing readers worldwide. He doesn’t try to impress or intimidate by casually throwing around big words (I only had to look up one word in chapter 6: abrade). The format of his books works well for me as they are a compilation of short stories broken into chapters. The older I get the more my attention span seems to shrink (along with loss of muscle mass), so novels and such, which require great commitments of time and feats of strength, are something I find myself reading less and less often. With Gierach’s writing I can easily knock out a chapter during a brief respite in my day (I was going to suggest that these quick pit stops usually follow my first cup of morning coffee, but that was already alluded to on page 76 of chapter 8: BOOK TOUR).

Will you like No Shortage of Good Days by John Gierach? Maybe. Maybe not. Certainly what I’ve said here will not impact your opinion in the way that a good review might.

"Close to Home" by Bob White


By the way, the cover illustration for No Shortage of Good Days is worth the price alone, which happens to be $24. The illustration by Bob White is titled, “Close to Home” and was originally created to illustrate Gierach’s 100th column in Fly Rod & Reel magazine. It is available in 3 print sizes, signed by both the subject and the artist, via


Neo? Is that you?

The internet has been all abuzz with the announcement of Sage’s new stick, “The ONE”.

I first heard about it on Midcurrent and Angling Trade, which is not surprising because I often find out breaking news at these two sites. Then I saw a lengthy discussion about it on Washington Fly Fishing. It was also discussed in a LinkedIn group, and elsewhere. Surprisingly it even popped up in the webstats for this blog: to date, 30 people used the search phrase, “Sage One Rod” and ended up landing at The Unaccomplished Angler. I found that to be rather interesting since I hadn’t posted any mention of it here. I’m sure that whomever landed on the UA, expecting to find some inside scoop on The ONE, was disappointed. And so the reason for this post is simply to address that matter: if anyone else lands here after searching for “Sage One Rod”, I’d like to be able to provide them with something of value. Of course, I can’t do that because I know nothing about The ONE other than what I’ve read elsewhere, so consider this a redirect. Here is the Press Release.

God speed, dear adorable friend

I will say that since The ONE will replace the love of my life, the Z-Axis, it must be a REALLY great rod. I absolutely adore my Z-Axis rods, and that’s a pretty bold statement since I never use the term “adore” (because it’s not very manly). I have a Z-Axis 4 weight which is my go-to rod in every possible situation. I love casting that thing. When the wind is howling and I’m chucking big junk to big fish, then I employ my 6 weight Z-Axis. I also have a 7136 Spey rod which needs no introduction as it is a ridiculously popular two-hander. I’m a terrible hack when it comes to Spey casting, but the Z-Axis 7136 makes me be all that I can possibly be, barring any talent and ability. According to the press release from Sage, The ONE will only be available in single-handed models: “The ONE rod will be available at Sage authorized retail locations in August / September 2011 with a selection of 22 single hand models. ONE rods range from 3-10-weights and will be priced from $715 to $740.” Makes one wonder what will become of the Z-Axis Spey rod models- will they remain as such?  Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps we should ask the Oracle, for she is a wise old sage. *NOTE: within minutes of this entry hitting the feeds, The Oracle chimed in with insight: The Z-Axis line of two-handed rods will indeed remain for the time being.

So, what of The ONE?  Well, it’s built using modern Konnetic technology: it’s light and strong. It’s said to be an extension of your casting arm, and deadly accurate. It’s ominously cool with it’s black blank. It has a name that is a bold declaration of it’s impending status. If you believe what Sage tells you, it will be the real deal. When first hearing of the name of this new rod, one cannot help but reflect upon the Matrix movies, in which the main character, Neo, was also known as The One. He was a pretty incredible dude with amazing abilities that made him the last hope for saving reality from virtual domination. If The ONE can give me even close to the powers of The One, then I’m definitely going to want to test this rod out some day.

Morpheus: I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.


The Firehole Rangers: Day Two

As was hinted at in last week’s Drivel®, day two on the Firehole River brought with it some change. The locals had been looking nervously over their shoulders and whispering under their breath about a weather system due to arrive overnight and bring with it 6-10 inches of snow. Our biggest concern was that the Park would be closed and we wouldn’t be able to fish. Fortunately there wasn’t even a trace of snow on the ground Sunday morning and we entered the gates without so much as a verbal warning about winter driving conditions. Well, come to think of it I guess there was a small sandwich board sign that cautioned drivers of potentially slippery roads, but there was no grand warning of any kind. Yes, snow was forecasted, and the sky had a grim demeanor about it, but how bad could it really be?  Afterall, it was late Spring. May 29th to be certain.

The streets of West Yellowstone: May 29, 2011

We’ve witnessed many a wintery squall while fishing the Firehole over the years but they’ve always blown in and blown out, never sticking around for more than an hour or so. The weather changes quickly in Yellowstone, and that’s something that never changes. But as we pulled into the parking lot at Fountain Flat, the snow began to fall. By the time we had geared up, my fingers were numb. They hadn’t been this cold since I’d gone steelhead fishing 8 months earlier during a snowstorm in Catatonia.

Goosemeister, Jimmy, Marck, Nash, UA


After a quick team photo in which The Goosemeister appears particularly uncomfortable, Jimmy appears particularly happy, Marck appears much shorter than he really is, Nash can be seen with his jacket tucked inside his waders, and I appear much taller than I really am thanks to my Lucky Fishing Hat, we hiked upstream in the blowing snow. There was nobody else fishing on this particular morning, and with the snow driving into our faces or piling up on our backside (depending upon which side of the river we were on), it was easy to understand why we were alone.

But once you got past the blowing snow and focused on the fishing, there was cause for celebration: the fishing was good. It always slows down a bit on the second day, but this year that didn’t seem to be the case. At one point while standing mid-river and catching my 7th trout in 9 casts, I literally laughed out loud. The fish seemed a little bigger on average, or maybe they just looked bigger through sunglass lenses obscured by droplets of melting snow.

We fished our way downstream, past the falls toward the bridge. The snow continued. It was more like winter than late Spring. The Bison seemed unimpressed with us for having braved the weather. What do they know? They’re just stupid animals.

After 4 hours of this, we did something we’d ever done before on previous years: we changed plans–called an audible. It was decided that we would take a mid-day break from the weather and go have lunch at the Old Faithful Lodge Inn (thanks to RJ Berens for catching my error). This radical suggestion was met with enthusiastic response from all members, so we hiked back to the rig, in the still-driving snow, stowed our wet gear in the back of the snow-covered suburban, and drove the short distance to the Lodge Inn. I’d never been there before and was impressed by the number of cars filling the parking lot and the shear size of the structure.

While we enjoyed the respite from the weather and feasted on a fine, warm lunch, it continued to snow outside. We were fairly comfortable with our bellies full of grub and our fingers finally thawed. Lesser men would have opted to skip the afternoon fishing session, but we are not lesser men. We were here to fish, and weather be damned, fishing was what we were going to to.

Parking at Biscuit Basin, we enthusiastically geared up once again. This time it seemed more painful than ever and before my boots were laced my fingers had once again lost all feeling. The good thing about the Firehole River is that if your fingers do get cold, it’s not hard to find a thermal with a nice temperature of, say 80 degrees, in which to warm up. Just be careful not to pick a thermal that’s considerably closer to the boiling point. I didn’t, but mind you that can be an easy miscalculation.

On average, fishing was slower this afternoon than it had been earlier that morning, but the Firehole continued to give up plenty of fish, including some nice risers during a brief hatch.

Anyone who spends any amount of time recreating outdoors knows the importance of being comfortable, and you’re all probably wondering about Nash, whose waders had taken on water the previous day. Did he get everything dried out properly? Was he suffering miserably on this second, cold and dreadfully wet day? Well, thanks to an extra pair of waders that Jimmy had brought along, Nash was dry and comfortable on day two. At least he was until late in the afternoon when he noticed that his legs felt damp. It was at this point he acknowledged that wearing one’s jacket on the outside of one’s waders is the preferred method of layering in precipitous weather. Lessons learned, we hiked back to the parking lot and bade farewell to the Firehole River for another year. It felt good to be inside the rig with the heater on. As we drove off, a miserable herd of Bison passed by in close proximity. How do ya like us now, huh? Stupid animals.

That evening from our lavish suite at the Ho Hum, a beacon of comfort and Southern goodness shined in the distance and beckoned us to feast in celebration.

As we did, we rejoiced in the splendor of the two days we’d spent on the Firehole River. We had caught many fish, as we always do. Sometimes the weather is as expected. Other times it is not. That was definitely the case this year.

To read about the next day of our trip, which was written about previously, go HERE.

Let’s remove the Cascade mountains

Photo by Scott Miller


Last summer I posted a blog entry in which Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler and I went east of the Cascade mountains for an anniversary float trip with Derek Young of Emerging Rivers Guide Services. We left gloomy gray skies behind and headed toward better weather, which I described as the typical “Summer Ream Job” that Western Washington commonly suffers. To quote myself:

As is evident in the photo, the west side of the state is often blanketed by a layer of “marine air” (AKA clouds) while everything east of the Cascades enjoys more typical summer fare (sun, warm temps). It’s pretty obvious that Washington is split down the middle (or rather down a division of approximately 1/3 going to the west and 2/3 to the east).  The west side is home to depressing weather and Democrats, while the east has much better weather and Republicans.  These are, of course, generalizations and I don’t want to get into a meteorological/political debate here. Let’s just say the state of Washington should be divided into two separate states, and I should move east.

Well, I’m here once again to talk about this weather phenomenon. It probably is of very little or no interest to any of you, but it’s therapeutic to write about it. Our western WA weather, which I have moaned about plenty often in recent months, has been worse than usual this Spring, thanks to La Niña (The Bitch). While technically summer doesn’t begin for two more days, we’re close enough that we should be able to expect a lot better than what we’ve been having.

We recently returned from a weekend trip to the Gorge at George for a Tim McGraw Concert. After the concert we stayed in Moses Lake at the home of Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler’s sister. We awakened to sunny skies on Sunday morning. The wind was blowing, as it so often does in central Washington (thanks to the crappy weather in Western Washington). But it was sunny.  It was pleasant. If you were able to keep your car on the road thanks to the strong winds, it was a nice day for a drive.

Allow me to take you along with the Family Unaccomplished on our westward journey into western Washington: land of the Summer Ream Job. Not to worry, while I was the photographer, I was not driving.

June 19th. We left Moses Lake at around noon. This is what it looked like (note the potential high for the day):

Traveling west on I-90. As we crossed the bridge over the Columbia River at Vantage, it looked very much like summer. There were even boats on the river:

Ascending the grade toward Ryegrass, the wind continued to blow, giving ample power to the scores of power-generating windmills that now visually pollute the landscape:

While still under blue skies and strong winds, a pitstop at the Indian John Hill rest stop between Ellensburg and Cle Elum revealed our fate – a thick layer of clouds lingering over the Cascades:

As we proceeded westward we grew nearer to the clouds:

With every click of the odometer, the mileage on “Bessy” (Mrs. UA’s aging Ford Explorer) increased, as did the clouds:

Before long, the blue sky was a thing of the past (the blue you see at the top of this frame is not the sky, but rather the anti-glare tinting along the top edge of the windshield).

As we began the gradual ascent of the east slope of the Cascades, it grew darker:

Skirting the shores of Lake Kacheelus, the headwaters of the mighty Yakima River, we knew there would be no chance of making it home without using the windshield wipers. We pitied the poor fool on a Harley in front of us:

Nearing the summit, the windshield wipers became necessary as a light drizzle began to fall. Again note the blue along the top of the photo, which is NOT blue sky:

We crested the summit, where the low-hanging marine air seemed to say, “Welcome to the Wet Side”. Through the rhythmic dance of the wipers, it looked more like November than June 19th:

Descending the west slope it appeared that we might have navigate by instrumentation:

Another hour later we had dropped into the lowlands and were home. The road was wet. Everything was very lush and green, the results of ample precipitation. I wish I could have said we were all glad to be home as we drove the last 100 yards of our journey:

June 19th. This is what it looked like when we pulled into our driveway. Note the potential high for the day. I am here to tell you that we did not reach it:

So there you have it– a firsthand photo journey of a trip to western Washington. I hope you’ve enjoyed the experience, if for no other reason than to understand my misery. I suppose there are two ways to alleviate the gloomy weather:

  1. Move east.
  2. Lead a campaign to knock a couple thousand feet off the Cascades so our marine weather can be allowed to more quickly dissipate as it is shared with the central and eastern parts of the state.

The second option would obviously not be without certain devastating consequences (some but not all of them good for fish). As for option #1, I don’t believe I’m going to talk Mrs. UA into moving anytime soon. I guess I’m left with nothing else to do but continue to complain.


Blah, blah, blah.

Here’s a Public Service Announcement you’ll Dislike

If you use Facebook, and I do (and I am not the least bit ashamed to admit it because sometimes it’s my only social life), then you know about the “like” button. The “like”button is for those who are too lazy busy to leave an actual comment about someone’s post, but they want to acknowledge that they read it.  It’s an abbreviated courtesy that says, “I find this partially worthy of my time.” And they may have even liked the content of the comment. But it gets confusing after that.

For example, if the content of the post was something like “Steelhead officially proclaimed to be extinct!”, a person might click “like” to acknowledge that they read the post, even though they clearly did not like the content of the message. Or sometimes a person will simply click “like” so that they’re notified of follow-up comments (voyeurism). But what is really needed in this instance is a “dislike” button, for obvious reasons.  Let’s say you saw an outlandish post by someone, and you disagreed with it, you would not very well click the “like” button, but instead reach for the “dislike” button. That is, unless you cared to take the time to post a comment in reply.

There has been, for as long as I can recall, a public Facebook outcry for a “dislike” button.  It’s not uncommon to see any number of people post a reply to a comment, “Where is the dislike button?!” or simply they type “dislike”.  Well, recently I  ventured out into the world wide web in search of information on the matter, and I came up with several pieces of information–one in particular that caught my eye: Firefox dislike button add-on.

For those who live in a closet, Firefox is a popular web browser. I use it instead of Safari (Apple’s proprietary browser that ships as part of the Apple OS). I can’t remember why, but some years ago I became dissatisfied with certain page displays on Safari, so I switched to Firefox. I’ve never had a regret. But I must say, I dislike Firefox’s “dislike” button add-on.

After installing the “dislike” button add-on recently, I thought I was on my way to good times and greater accuracy when acknowledging a comment without committing to the time and courtesy required to leave a comment. I was going to be a super cool “dislike” guy. Well, not quite so fast. First off, the “dislike” function is meaningless unless all your Facebook friends also use Firefox and have the “dislike” add-on engaged. Otherwise I am disliking only to myself, which seems oddly self-abusive. But I figured I could recruit at least a few people with whom I regularly banter back and forth, and we could have our own little dislike-fest.

I immediately began to regret my rash decision. Why?  Well, first off at the top of every page there appeared one version or another of a really annoying banner ad.  With sound.  The damn thing chimed and talked to me every time I changed pages.

And who is Johanna and why does she want to be friends with me? She’s seemingly young enough to be my daughter. And I’m married. But I digress.

On the right sidebar, the stuff that’s usually there (stuff that I don’t really care about but isn’t bothersome) is replaced by another giant banner ad. These are “dislike ads”. Apparently baggage that comes with installing the “dislike” add-on. Trust me– they are aptly named, and you will dislike them.

Annoying, isn’t it?  Makes you want to “dislike” it. Well, I disliked it to the point where I had to find out how to get rid of the damn things.  Disabling the “dislike” button add-on is what must be done in order to regain serenity. Thankfully it’s an easy task, and here is how you do it:

1. Go to the main Firefox menu at the top of your screen. I will look like this if you’re on an Apple:

(if you’re on a Windows PC I have no idea what it might look like and you’re probably stuck using Internet Exploder anyway)

2. Click on the “Tools” tab. You’ll get a drop down menu. Scroll down to “Add-ons”:

3. Select “Add-ons”. This little gem of a page will appear. Other add-ons you’ve added will also appear, but the one you are after is the “FDislike 1.3.2” (or some other  numerical version). To the right you will find a happy, magical “Disable” button. You want to click that. Hell, you may as well click “Remove”.

Good riddance, Firefox. I don’t know if it’s you or Facebook, or probably the two of you in cahoots with each other on this whole Dislike Ad crap, but it’s weaksauce. I dislike it.  There is still a need for a “dislike” button, but until it is a feature built into Facebook’s interface, I’m left with actually taking the time to leave a comment when I dislike something.

And I’m a very busy man. Clearly.


The Firehole Rangers: Day One

Some things seem to always change, while others remain the same. It’s that way with our annual trip to Yellowstone to fish the Firehole River: With almost clockwork predictability, we know that certain elements of the trip are going to be very familiar, like an old pair of underwear. At the same time, other parts of the trip will prove to be dynamic and full of surprises. It was that way this year. It was that way last year. And it was that way the previous year and every other year that I’ve made the journey: the same, but different.

Every year, the same core group (more or less) makes the pilgrimage on Memorial Day Weekend. Fishing season in the Park opens on that Saturday. This is a constant. It is always a long drive. Try as we might, we cannot change that. We always meet at Marck’s house at an indecent hour, drive 5 hours where we gas up and have breakfast in Coeur d’alene, Idaho before pushing eastward across the Panhandle and into Montana. Along the way we always note that the Clark Fork River is the color of a chocolate milkshake. With a monstrous snowpack this year, the Clark Fork (and every other river along the way) was running even higher than normal.

Every year we stay at the Ho Hum Motel, and every year the office where we check-in and check-out smells like cat urine. It seemed a bit worse this year. You see, the owner keeps cats. Cats that are free to come and go through an open window. With the long, cold winters in West Yellowstone, it’s obvious that the cats prefer to go. Inside.

Why go outside, when I can go inside?

To say that it’s a stench would be inaccurate. It’s more than just a smell–it’s an assault on the olfactory system. It stings the eyes and gets on the back of your tongue, causing an involuntary gag reflex, and quite possibly paralysis. Only Stan is capable of standing in the face of the sensory attack because he can’t breath through his nose anyway. But in all fairness, the rooms are all clean, cat-free, and cheap. Cheap is good.

What up, Stan – cat got your tongue?

Every year the weather is unpredictable. We know that going in. Fishing at an elevation of 7200 feet in the Rockies guarantees sun, rain, driving snow, sleet, hail…we expect it all. Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised. This year we expected the worst because the weather forecast was calling for 3 days of cold and snow.

The streets of West Yellowstone: May 28, 2011

On Saturday morning the streets of West Yellowstone bore a trace of slushy snow (“winter mix” as our local meterologists like to refer to it) that had fallen overnight. That didn’t surprise us. It was 31 degrees as we made our way to the Golden Arches for breakfast. No reputable restaurants were open at 6AM so we did what we had to do.

The weather looked daunting as we entered the Park and made our way to Midway Geyser Basin. We always fish this section the first day. Always. But as we geared up, the sun shone upon us and clouds parted. With blue skies immediately overhead and freshly fallen snow covering the ground, it was a good morning to be alive. A good day to be going fishing. The Firehole Rangers were ready to launch their assault on the gullible rainbows and browns that had not seen an artificial fly in at least 7 months. We were armed with the secret weapon fly that always gets it done. Always. There is no deviation. We were a tough band of angling warriors. We were soft-hackle tough.

The Firehole Rangers

Occasionally someone will show up with a new piece of gear, but one thing is for certain: Stan the Goosemeister will always have the same stuff as he had the previous year and every year before that dating back to the 1940s. He’s reliable. Jimmy is a man of many hats, literally, and has a different hat for every day. No two hats are the same, and that never changes. Not everything remains the same, however: Marck was sporting a new pair of Redington Sonic Pro Zip Front Waders, and Nash had a brand new pair of Redington boots and quickly discovered that snow sticks to felt. Especially new felt. I personally don’t mind the extra couple of inches that the snow adds to my height, but walking can be a little tricky as Nash soon found out.

There was a group of 4-5 other anglers who had walked in ahead of us, but as is the case with other fishermen every year, they always fish a section of the river that’s closest to the road. We like to hike in a ways and get away from the crowds. We always do, and without fail we have the entire river to ourselves for the better part of the day. Catching was a little slow to start, for me anyway, and it wasn’t until my 8th cast that I caught a fish. I wasn’t too bothered by that–I was distracted by the beauty of the morning. All around us were ominous clouds that threatened to descend upon us with a wrath. However, with the exception of a couple snow squalls that blew in and blew out relatively quickly, we enjoyed a strangely nice day on the water. We didn’t expect that, but it was a nice surprise for a change.

As I’ve suggested, fishing is always good on the Firehole. Some years the flows are lower than others (this was not one of those years), but the levels never seem to impact the quality quantity of the fishing catching. For some (Marck), the catching is better than for others (everyone else). That’s a foregone conclusion. But even the most unaccomplished of us caught 25-30 fish during the course of the day. There are no great surprises when it comes to the fish of the Firehole. Most of the fish are 10 inchers: a mixed bag of rainbows and browns. Catch rainbows in the riffles and browns in the frog water. Browns hit the fly and put their heads down. Rainbows hit the fly and come uncorked. That is an assumption you can put money on, except for the one brown I caught that went airborne.

A few fish are 12 inchers. During a hatch of PMDs and Blue Winged Olives that came off, as expected, during and after one of the snow squalls, a couple of 14 inch rainbows were had. No matter the size, these are all hard-fighting fish. With water temps averaging in the mid to upper 50’s (due to geothermal activity in and around the river) these are not catatonic troutcicles – they’re hard-fighting leapers, movers and head shakers. On a 4 weight rod a 10 inch Firehole fish feels much larger. A 12 inch Firehole fish is a lot of fun, and a 14 inch Firehole fish will have you wearing a shit-eating grin from ear to ear.

After the morning troutfest we converged upon a spot for lunch. It was here, as he emptied his fanny pack of water, that it became apparent one of the Firehole Rangers had taken a spill earlier in the day. I don’t want to publicly embarrass him or make light of the situation by calling him out, but with brand new felt there is no excuse for losing one’s footing.  And when one’s waders take on water and the remainder of the day is spent sloshing around cold and miserable, it’s no laughing matter.

After lunch we fished out the afternoon until we were tired of catching fish. With flies that were ravaged and tattered we made the long hike back to the rig and called it a day. Mother Nature had showed us a little bit of everything, but mostly she had taken pity on us. Overall the weather was way better than anticipated. That was nice for a change. The fishing was exceptional, as it always is. We had a great time–we always do.

But things were about to change.

Tree Dollar Bridge

This week’s Drivel® is intentionally out of sequence. By that I mean that what I’m writing about here, now, happened after what I will write about next week. It’s a trick I learned from George Lucas, who created the Star Wars series and released movies that were not in a chronological order. It worked for George, why not for the Unaccomplished Angler?


We departed West Yellowstone on Monday around 7 AM under cloudy, cold skies that were still spitting snow that had begun 24 hours earlier and hadn’t really let up much. Suffice it to say Sunday had been a bit miserable, and we hoped that down lower in the Madison Valley things would be warmer and drier. We didn’t hold out much hope for the latter, but it was certain to be warmer. After stopping in at Blue Ribbon Flies for our Montana fishing licenses and some intel, we bade fairwell to the Ho Hum and Yellowstone for another year. A few miles down the road we passed by a heard of Tatonkas and their calves, who had to be thinking that recent life in the womb was way better than this.

The westbound drive along Hebgen Lake was made all the more beautiful by the strange phenomenon of parting clouds that revealed blue sky. We rejoiced in the splendor and began to get our hopes up.

Further west, as we dropped into the Quake Lake basin, our hopes were dashed as it began to snow again.

The skies continued to darken as we passed by the Earthquake Slide area, which looked a lot different the previous year.

But as we descended further and the valley began to unfold before us, the skies cleared once again, and the rejoicing resumed.

We turned left and headed down the dirt road toward Three Dollar Bridge. As we rounded a bend what should we see but an empty parking lot!  Being that it was Memorial Day, we expected at least a few other rigs. We chalked up the solitude to the bad weather from the day before that was forecast to persist on this day. Insert continued rejoicement here.

The wind saw to it that there was bite in the air, but the weather was much better than anticipated as we geared up. It was dry. It’s always a nice thing when you can gear up without getting rained or snowed upon. After a team photo, we set off upstream to watch Marck catch fish.

UA, Marck, Nash, Jimmy and Stan the Goosemeister


And it didn’t take long before he’d hooked his first. Per standard operating procedure I set down my rod and sprinted to his aid to help him land a nice 17 inch rainbow and snap a photo. History has a way of repeating itself, but I vowed to stop there.

Hooray, Hooray- it's Marck's first fish of the day!


I quickly moved farther upstream away from him. Out of sight and out of earshot. I was not here to photograph Marck’s fish. I was here to catch my own. But not before I had the privilege of photographing Nash’s first Madison fish. Nice fish. Congrats! Damn you, Nash. I retreated further.

Nash pops his Madison River cherry. Note the jacket properly worn on outside of waders.


There can be no greater beauty than fishing within spitting distance of majestic mountains on a day when the sun is temporarily winning it’s battle against the clouds. I reminded myself that there is more to fishing than catching fish as I basked in the glory of Montana.

Very quickly, however, it became clear that things were not going my way as I had not had a bump all morning. The only time my indicator went down was when my fly snagged on something in some fairly deep, fairly fast water. There seemed no sane way to retrieve the snagged fly, so I gave a gentle tug. Then another not so gentle tug. Finally the leader snapped, leaving my indicator and both flies to rest in a watery grave. Great. Salt in the wound. I sat down to sulk splice my tippet and added a new Thingamabobber and two flies. I drifted my new setup through the same seam three times. There had to be a fish there. It looked too good. And then it happened- the indicator went down! I set the hook and was immediately met with total, unyielding resistance. It was either Roderick Hawg Brown, or…the same snag I’d just lost my tackle to 5 minutes earlier. It was no brown trout. The emotional wound was gaping at this point, and copious amounts of salt poured in. However, I refused to lose it all this time around so I set my rod down on the bank and gingerly waded a few feet toward the source of the snagged tackle. I was willing to risk a dunking as a matter of saving what little pride I had left, and as I firmly but gently pulled on the leader, something began to give under the force of the river’s current. Gradually the end of a heavy, water-logged stick began to show itself. I pulled ever so steadily until the stick emerged and I was able to grab it. To my delight I was able to retrieve two Thingamabobbers, two Pat’s Stones and two San Juan Worms.

It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless and I celebrated by heading downstream toward the parking lot for lunch. Along the way I ran into Jimmy, Nash, and Marck. They had all caught at least a couple fish already. A short distance down the trail we encountered Stan The Goosemeister, who wore the unmistakable look of Madison River frustroution. He vowed to remain where he was to finish working some nice water while the rest of us returned to the car for lunch, where we ate under sunny skies and moderate temps. It felt good to be dry and warm.  A few minutes later we were joined by Stan who wore a fish eating grin. His dedication had paid off as  he’d just landed a nice brown. That left only yours truly without the smell of trout on his hands.

After lunch Marck and I crossed the bridge and headed upstream. We leap-frogged each other along the way, which means that I fished below Marck, who would catch a fish. Then I would pass him en route to the next hole and not catch a fish. Then he would pass me and catch a fish. And repeat.

Oh, hey look- Marck has another fish on!


Meanwhile, Nash, Jimmy and Stan fished elsewhere and caught some fish.

One of Jimmy's fish.

Stan's 20 inch fish.


After 2.5 more hours of fishing, the unmistakable smell of skunk began to permeate my Gore-tex® outer barrier. The pressure was too much. I decided to withdraw from the one-sided competition and told Marck I was going to start fishing my way back downstream. His plan was to continue moving upstream, catching several more fish for another hour before heading to the rig. As I worked my way back through water that had just been covered effectively by Marck, I acknowledged that it was all in vain—it was astronomically unlikely that I’d catch a fish. The Madison had not been kind to me the previous two years, but I had at least managed one fish on each visit.  My chances of equaling that modest goal this year were slim. And then came the first of the two trees.

Exhibit A: The First Tree


If one had a dollar for every tree that lines the banks of the Madison River in this area, one would have about three dollars. In other words the banks of the Madison near Three Dollar Bridge are not heavily laden with trees. While there is considerable brushy cover for snagging flies on a bad back cast, the number of actual trees can be counted on one hand.  When I came to one of those trees I drifted my fly on the outside edge of a partially submerged log (Exhibit A). Instantly my indicator went down, and instantly I thought the worst. However, this time whatever had snagged my fly actually moved when I set the hook. The result was a 16 inch brown that took the worm. I relieved some pressure breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that I had upheld my fishing honor by equaling my previous catch rate. The Unaccomplished Angler was BACK, baby!

Exhibit B: The First Fish


There was a bit of a skip in my step as I moved downstream another 30 yards to the next tree.

Exhibit C: The Second Tree


Within 5 minutes, and in view of the tree than had just produced the respectable brown, I was granted a second opportunity to land a fish. With water temps hovering around 44 degrees, neither of these fish were what I would call game fighters. The fish on the Firehole (coming next week), though considerably smaller, put up a much better fight pound for pound. But a thick fish with a muscular tail in heavy water can put up considerable resistance when they don’t want to be caught, and my 6 wt was in no way too much rod for these fish in these waters. After playing the fish carefully, I succeeded in landing the 17 inch rainbow. And there followed considerable rejoicing, even though I was alone.

Exhibit D: The Second Fish

Forty minutes later I was back at the rig, removing boots and waders and trying not to be too impressed with my angling accomplishments. After all, 2 fish in 7 hours of fishing isn’t exactly impressive. My ego was also kept in check as we compared notes.  The tally for the day was:

  • Jimmy – 6 hooked, 5 landed: 2 rainbows and one brown in the 14-16” range, one brown in the 16-18” range and one brown approximately 20-13/16”.
  • Nash – 5 fish landed: 2 in the 16-18″ range, 1 fish 9-10″, another fish 12-13″ and one 19-20 inch hawg.
  • Stan the Goosemeister – 4 hooked, 2 landed: The biggest was 20″ and the second 16″ (which really means they were 16″ and 12″).
  • Marck alleges to have landed around 25 fish. I believe most were over 25 inches, and at least two were steelhead.

It rained on us a few times during the day, but nothing that had persisted. The wind had blown off and on, but was nothing to complain about. We reflected on the fact that it had been a good day as we stowed gear for the next leg of our journey which took us to Ennis. We were looking forward to a repeat burger performance at the Roadmaster Grill, however, the Roadmaster had been replaced by the Gravel Bar Grill. While the food was good, we were disappointed because we were jonesin’ for a Kong Burger and to find out how much more weight the owner of the Roadmaster had lost since last year. Guess we’ll never know.

After enjoying our meal we pushed on toward Missoula for lodging – nothing to get too excited about there. It was just a necessary part of the drive home.

On each of the previous two years I came away from Three Dollar Bridge with feelings of self pity for having caught only one fish all day, and deep resentment toward Marck for his uncanny ability to yard fish at nearly every spot.  This year my self pity was cut in half, which helped to ease the resentment I harbor toward Marck. And when you’re in Montana, just look around you. Life is good.

And life is too short to carry around ill will toward others, especially when the price of gas demands so much of our negative energy.


Potscrubber soles by Korkers

On a recent trip to Yellowstone, one of my fishing compadres (the Goosemeister, truth be told) picked up a copy of a free magazine in one of the fly shops. While we were back at the Ho Hum planning our assault on the Firehole the next day and discussing felt vs. rubber soled boots, The Gooseman buried his nose in the magazine. Before he could nod off into one of his sudden cat naps, he blurted out something about a new pair of boots that caught my attention: Korkers Svelte Sole.

He had me at Svelte.

According to an article in Fly Fish America Annual 2011 Gear Guide, Korkers and 3M have teamed up to offer a new boot sole material that is allegedly superior to felt in grip-ability but without the fear of harboring invasive organisms. The soles are part of Korker’s OmniTrax interchangeable sole system. The material in the sole is made by 3M, and the article says, among other things:

In fact, the stuff looks and feels just like the heavy-duty version of the 3M Scotch-Brite abrasive pads you can buy at Wal-Mart.

It’s good to see that someone is exploring superior alternatives to rubber soles, which seem to be very slippery–or at least more slippery than felt– without studs. Studs obviously present a problem when fishing out of a boat (particularly inflatables).

The one thing that made me curious about this news was that 3M, which is a huge conglomerate company, owns Scientific Anglers and Ross Reels.  Why didn’t they keep this new Svelte Sole in house and offer it on a pair of boots branded by Scientific Anglers or Ross?  It would have seemed a better business proposition to me, but then again I am a horrible business person, so what do I know?

I wonder if Korkers boots will be available at Wal-Mart anytime soon, and if so will they be in the sporting good section or the kitchenware isle?



The Photographer’s job is not to catch fish.

It’s a little unnerving to have a professional photographer constantly lurking about, snapping photos from all and strange angles. Knowing that one may be under the constant scrutiny of a camera’s lens makes stealing a quiet moment to pick one’s nose a delicate proposition (not that it happened–I’m just illustrating a point). But a photographer’s job is to tell the story that otherwise may not be told. It has been said that a picture paints a thousand words, and it’s true: photos tell a story in ways that words simply cannot, even if you’re a gifted writer, which I am not (and that is exactly why I always carry a camera). But I am not a real photographer–I simply carry a point-and-shoot to capture some images from the day which also help me recall moments worth writing about. And frankly, people like to look at pictures much more than they like reading words. Pictures are always more interesting, and I have no doubt you will look at the photos posted here. That being said I shall throw out some words for you to read if you wish.

It was a day that was all about photos. It was a day intended to be an opportunity for Jason “Orad” Small to photographically document a trip to be used as part of a presentation to be given by 2011 Orvis Endorsed Guide of the Year, Derek Young (Emerging Rivers Guide Services) the following day. Everyone’s role for the day was clearly defined except mine. I’m still not sure why I was brought along for the trip, except to take photos of the photographer taking photos and catching fish.

The water was hovering around the 45 degree mark as we mixed some tasty Bloody Marys on the tailgate. Pickled asparagus purchased that morning at Owen’s Meats in Cle Elum were nothing shy of awesome. If you’ve never been to Owen’s Meats, you really owe it to yourself to stop in for some of their products. Seriously. We did not have a particularly long float ahead of us so we were in no great hurry.

Photo by Jason Small Photography

Photo of the Photographer taking photos of bloody marys


We hit the water around noon and  started out the day nymphing the typical setup: a Pat’s Stones with a Copper John or Pheasant Tail dropper. Pink Thingamabobbers all around.  The hope was that around 1:17 in the afternoon, the March Browns would start coming off and we’d switch to dries.

As the Photographer, Orad wasted no time in getting the skunk off the boat by landing a nice, thick, post-spawn rainbow that looked as healthy as a fish can get. Likely an 18 inch fish, she was what they call a “Yakima Twenty” (always round up). This fish put a taco bend in the Orad rod as she ran upstream, downstream, under the boat and every which way but loose. A short while later Orad caught another rainbow in the 12 inch range. Apparently he forgot that he was fishing out of the back of the boat (second seat) and was supposed to be the designated photographer and not the the primary catcher of trouts.

Photo of the Photographer catching the first fish.

Photo of The Photographer and The Guide.

Photo of The Photographer's first, fine fish of the day.

Later, Derek landed one of the more spotted trouts I’ve ever seen on any water. Seriously, this thing looked like a Leopard variety rainbow from Alaska.

Photo by Jason Small Photography

Photo of the Photographer taking photos of The Guide's fish.


Photo of Mr. Spotty, The Guide's fish.

Shortly thereafter I set the hook on a fish that I’m pretty sure was a Yakima River steelhead, although Derek maintains it was a cutthroat, but I’ll never know. Let’s just say that Orad is better with a camera than he is with a net.

The Guide's Photo of the Photographer and his net.


That was the last fish touched on the day. Yet we did not see any fish rising, nor did I see any bugs popping. This provided ample opportunity for Orad to capture the other side of fly fishing: the side of fly fishing that doesn’t involve catching fish. You know- behind the scenes sort of drama that looks cooler than it really was because of good photography.

For example, this photo makes me look like I’m a decent caster…

Photo by Jason Small Photography


And this photo makes Derek’s hair look shorter than it really is…

Photo by Jason Small Photography


And this photo makes the act of pinching a barb look  interesting…

Photo by Jason Small Photography


And this photo has a certain action feel to it, when in reality there was nothing going on…

Photo by Jason Small Photography


And in this photo the Lucky Fishing Hat was not flattered by Orad’s wide angle lens, and I am left questioning whether to ever wear it again.

Photo by Jason Small Photography


At the end of great day on the water we paid a visit to The Brick in Roslyn for some excellent food. I can honestly say that the French Dip Sandwich was the best I’ve ever had, and would have been better only if I’d have been able to get a Budweiser to wash it down.

Photo of my food.


The next day I was late for Derek’s presentation at Orvis. Apparently it started at 1PM and not 1:30 as I was told. But all was not lost because while I was at the shop I picked up a few Pat’s Rubberlegs to replace the ones I’d sacrificed the day before. I’ll be needing them in a week, and if they don’t produce I’ll simply take them back to Orvis. Leland Miyawaki, the fly fishing manager, is very good at handling returns.

I hope you enjoyed the photos more than the words. I know I did. Enjoy more of Orad’s work at Jason Small Photography.