Month: May 2017

The High Cost of Low Livin’


I wasn’t going to write anything about this, but then decided I had to, thanks to a really nice piece written by Mike Sepelak over at Mike’s Gone Fishin’: Sometimes I Feel

Duane Allman in 1971, and barely a year later, bassist Barry Oakley.

Two huge, crushing blows to a band that was just finding their sound. But the Allman Brothers Band found a way out and played on through the years, anchored the entire time by Gregg Allman’s iconic voice and Hammond B3. There were some highs and probably as many—if not more—lows during the years that followed the tragedies of 1971 and ’72, but they did produce some good albums after that—most notably perhaps, Brothers and Sisters.

Due to heavy drug and alcohol abuse, they also produced some albums that weren’t up to par, and in 1976 the band split up. They got back together briefly after that, but disbanded again in 1982. In 1989 the Allman Brothers regrouped, and despite more turbulent times that included original member Dickey Betts leaving the band, they soldiered on. It was during the 90’s that Gregg Allman finally got sober and clean, and it showed in the quality of the music, which only got better up until their final show in 2014.

I was too young to appreciate their music early on, but as I became a teenager in the late 70’s, with summers spent working in the woods with a bunch of older, stoner-hippies (terms of endearment), I was indoctrinated into the sound of the Allman Brothers Band. I would have to say that since then, if there was one band whose vinyl, cassettes, and CD’s I listened to most, it was the brothers from Jacksonville, Florida. Despite that referring to their music as “Southern Rock” is not really an accurate description, the Allman Brothers Band is often labeled as such. It’s best to save that label for Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, Molly Hatchett, 38 Special, and others—all bands that I also really like. Southern blues-rock is a better way to think of the Allman Brothers’ music—it’s on a different level from other bands that are all lumped into the Southern Rock category. Everything about the Allman Brothers’ sound is what I love most in music: heavy emphasis on guitars that scream, but not gratuitously so. Songs with less singing and more emphasis on the instrumental. Songs that build and go on for extended periods, allowing for plenty of time to get lost in air guitar solos.

I imagine that most people casually know who the Allman Brothers Band are thanks to Dickey Betts’ Ramblin’ Man, which became a chart hit and put them in the forefront of the mainstream audience. The problem with that is, Ramblin’ Man is perhaps the least Allman Brothers sounding song of all. It’s a fine song, but if that’s what you think of when you hear the band’s name, you’re missing out. Many would say that their earliest stuff was their best, and it’s hard to argue with that because their first few albums featured the original lineup. The band’s first live album, At Fillmore East, is absolutely iconic. The Brothers have always been at their finest when live, and this album is a must-have in order to fully appreciate that.

What many folks don’t realize is that the Allman Brothers Band put out a tremendous album in 2003—an album that, when I first heard it, really rekindled a flame for me. Hittin’ the Note is a must-have because it shows that the band was once again at their very best, after decades of turmoil and personal and professional lows. While certainly not the original lineup, one can imagine that the original Brothers would have been proud of where this latest album had taken the group. I was fortunate to see them in concert in 2009 with my old stoner-hippy boss. It was the only time I got to see the Brothers. How I wish I’d been able to make a trip to New York City to see them during one of their many sold-out runs at the Beacon Theater…

Fittingly, it was my old stoner-hippy boss who sent me a text last Saturday that said, “Damn. Brother Gregg Allman died.” That hit hard.

Drummer Butch Trucks in January, and now just 4 months later, Gregg Allman. 2017 has been a rough year.

He lived hard and that took a toll. But Gregg had gotten it together and was living right, continuing to make great music, both with his own band as well as with the Allman Brothers right up until their farewell concert in 2014. One can’t help but listen to The High Cost of Low Living and think that it was more than just words.

“It’s a high cost of low livin’
Ain’t it high time? You turn yourself around
Yeah, the high cost of low livin’
It’s bound to put you six feet in the ground.”

Rest in Peace, Brother Gregg. Thanks for the music.


The annual pilgrimage approacheth

I’ve written about the Firehole Rangers’ annual pilgrimage to our namesake river so many times that there’s really little left to say, especially given the nature of the trip. It’s a trip of traditions with very few changes year to year—just the way we like it. That having been said, there are a few known changes this year.

Here is what we know will be different about the trip:

  1. For the first time in 5 years, Morris’ Soccer Mom Van will not make the trip this year because it was finally put out to pasture. No longer will the Rangers be traveling in comfortable shame.
  2. We’re fishing the Missouri on Day 1, on our way to West Yellowstone.
  3. On Day 4 we’re fishing some as-of-yet-to-be-determined river around Twin Bridges.
  4. We are not stopping to fish Shit Rock Creek on our way home. Thank gawd.

Here’s what we know will be the same about the trip:

  1. We’re staying at the Ho Hum. We anticipate the presence of cats.
  2. We will encounter hoards of tourists in Yellowstone. We still don’t consider ourselves tourists because we’re there to fish.
  3. We’re fishing the Firehole on Day 2. Water looks to be a bit high this year which may or may not affect the catch rate.
  4. We’re fishing the Madison on Day 3. It will be higher this year than in the past 2-3 years. I’ve done better than usual the last 2-3 years.
  5. The trip will be be over before we know what happened. By the time we return home we’ll already have begun looking forward to next year.

A few unknown things to ponder as we prepare for our departure:

  1. Jimmy is a man of many hats. How many will he bring this year and how many will he purchase on the trip? Bonus question: what will his new shoes look like?
  2. How many fish will Marck catch on the Firehole? More than 40 but less than 273?
  3. How many fish will Goose catch on the Madison? More or less than one but fewer than two?
  4. Will the UA catch more, or fewer, fish than Goose on the Madison?
  5. After Nash’s post-trip surgery last year to sew his bleeding nose closed, will he be able to smell the cats of the Ho Hum? The only way to find out is to assign him the task of checking us in this year.
  6. This marks Morris’ 5th year as a Rookie Ranger. Will he finally finish an entire meal and be granted veteran, Big Boy Ranger status?
  7. How many tourists will be observed doing stupid things with regard to wildlife?
  8. Will it rain, snow and shine on us within the same day while in the Park?

If you care to take a stab at answering those 8 questions, there may or may not (probably the latter) be a prize for the commenter with the most correct answers. But you have to leave a comment on the blog—NOT in an email—prior to our return from the pilgrimage. If you subscribe via email to the UA, simply click on the headline (which is a link to the website). Read it there—on the website. Click to leave a comment. It’s that easy.

And so we ride…



A 5 Year fish, so soon?

The Yakima is a finicky river that rarely gives up it’s bounty of fish over 12 inches, at least in my experiences (and those of many I know). Based on that, every 5-10 years or so I will hook into, and  sometimes land, a much nicer fish than the typical 10 inch rainbow. It happens so seldom that, when it does, I simply refer to the fish  as either a “5 Year Yakima Fish” or, if the fish is in the 20″ range, it’ll be referred to as a “10 Year Yakima Fish”, also  known as a not uncommon occurrence  on normal trout streams. Wait—that may be an unfair assessment—because not all rivers give up 16-20″ fish on a regular basis. However, most normal trout streams fish well—you know, if it looks like a trout should be right there, chances are a trout will be right there. Not so much on the Yakima. But I digress, back to the 5 Year Fish.

The last time I caught a 5 Year Fish was in September 2015. If so inclined, you can read about it HERE. The 2015 5 Year Fish wasn’t particularly yuge, but it was the biggest I’d caught in, well, 5 years on the Yakima River. I’d hooked a larger fish (a 10 Year Yakima fish) a year prior, but hadn’t sealed the deal thanks to an inferior net man (who shall remain un-named Marck). Suffice it to say, when I set out on a recent day to fish the Yakima for the first time this year, my expectations were appropriately low. They always are.

The day looked to be a rather nice one for fishing, if not necessarily for catching. In a year when the sun has seldom made its appearance, just the idea of warmth and blue skies was all I needed. If a fish or two were caught, so be it. I would be fishing with Bob, with whom I had fished the last time I had fished, which was October 2016, HERE. Bob seems to be a bit of a good luck charm, which is good enough to offset for his rather uninteresting story telling and otherwise unsavory demeanor. The only downside to the day was that we’d be fishing a rising river. But what are you gonna do when you have the day set aside and Mrs. UA mandated that I either finally get the boat out of the garage and use it, or lose it.

We chose to fish a stretch of the Yakima near Cle Elum, and we knew that we had to avoid the Teanaway River, a tributary of the Yakima that is know to spew its chocolate contents, affecting everything downstream for miles. Therefore we dropped the boat in at one of the worst launch sites on the Yakima River (South Cle Elum) and scheduled our termination point at my least favorite take-out on the Yakima River (East Cle Elum, or simply “State”). However, in between these two points lies some nice water. It’s one of my favorite stretches, actually.


This photo is for Mrs. UA, proof that the boat was actually used.

Bob was quick to land a 10 inch rainbow shortly after launching. Fish size mattered less than just getting the skunk off the boat early so that we could enjoy whatever might come our way after that. Not much did come our way after that, at least not for a few hours. The river was running at a decent clip, and while visibility wasn’t terrible, the water was pretty dirty from either runoff or a controlled release of water from an upstream dam. And the water was still quite cold, which is good and bad. Good for the health of the fish, but not necessarily conducive to abundant insect hatches. And when the water is still really cold, fish tend to be less willing to move to an artificial offering. But the sun shone and the w#nd wasn’t worth complaining about, so we had that going for us. March browns were fluttering about off and on, and despite that no fish were seen rising to them, it seemed reasonable to match the hatch with a nymph setup: A Hare’s Ear with a Pheasant Tail dropper. Bob was on the oars as I watched my pink bobber drift through a seam that looked like it should—and would— hold a fish, if only the Yakima were a normal trout stream. Surprisingly the bobber dipped. With nothing else to do, I set the hook and became instantly connected to a fish that revealed itself to be of better than average size. I criticized the fish for being less than particularly feisty, but it did a fine job of using the heavy current to its advantage and refused to give up easily. I would later apologize to the fish for the harsh criticism after noticing that it had a rather gaping wound in its belly, due to some sort of predator or another. Bob managed the net and we admired what would be an 18″ Westslope cutthroat (a Yakima 20″).  The chance to catch cutthroats is the beauty of fishing the upper Yakima, and this was a beauty of a cutthroat—my biggest to date. Lovely.


A 5 Year Yakima Fish, ahead of its time.

The problem with this fish is that I wasn’t yet due to catch it: It should have been another 2-1/2 years before a fish this size makes a poor decision and accepts the offering of the UA.  So basically, I’m screwed for the next 7-1/2 years.