Author: Kirk Werner (Page 1 of 44)

I am an unaccomplished angler and author/illustrator of a series of children's fly fishing books featuring Olive, the woolly bugger.

What’s this—a new post? Not really, but sort of

It’s been a while since any content has been published here, but today that changes thanks to Michael Agneta over at Troutrageous. If you were around 10-15 years ago when fly fishing blogs were plentiful and popular(?) you probably remember Troutrageous. It’s also likely that, if you’re old enough to remember this bygone era, you’re too old to remember much of anything.

Mike recently conceived of a project that is sure to spark some memories. He is taking on the task of tracking down old bloggers (some of whom still have their websites online) and playing a bit of catch-up to see where folks are today, what they’ve been up to in the past decade or so, and whether they still fish.

Mike found me propped up in a chair on the patio at the retirement home; hooked up to an oxygen tank and wrapped in a blanket to stave off the chill of a late May Day; a plaid Stormy Chromer (flaps down to cover my ears) warmed my balding dome. My gaze was focused on something in the distance, though through foggy, cataract-shrouded lenses I’m not sure what it was: probably just a common sparrow. Around my neck hung an old pair of Sears and Roebuck binoculars and a dog-eared copy of a guide book to North American birds rested on my lap. In one hand was clutched an old, worn copy of Fly Rod & Reel magazine (another bygone publication of yore). Mike introduced himself, gently shook my skeleton-like, liver-spotted hand and asked if I wouldn’t mind taking a few minutes to field some questions. I told him lunch was being served soon and that I didn’t want to miss the day’s split pea soup and grilled cheese. But I agreed to give him a few minutes.

The result of our brief time together is the following “interview”. Thanks to Mike for taking the time to dredge up old memories of a time when fly fishing bloggers were Kings and Queens just about anybody could be a fly fishing blogger if you paid for hosting fees.

As Mike departed for the airport where his private Troutrageous jet awaited to whisk him off to the next stop on his reunion tour, I raised the binoculars to my blurry eyes and took one last glance at the movement in the distance. To my delight there it was—what I’d been hoping to see for quite some time—a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. A single tear dripped from my eye. Must have been due to pollens.

Just…one…more…pack for my JanSport collection

It’s coming up on 3 years since I posted a blog entry titled, Following the cold trail of the JanSport D series packs. It was a niche-subject musing that I hoped a couple of people might find interesting, if not even somewhat helpful. Since then I’ve been pleasantly surprised as the feedback from readers has far eclipsed my expectations. I still get the occasional visitor leaving a comment, although lately the spam bots seem to have found me, which is annoying as hell.

My personal collection of D series packs has held firm at five for several years: I have three JanSport D3’s and two D5’s. Of the D3 packs, I have one each in blue, tan, and burnt orange. I have a blue and a tan D5, and never intended to expand my collection beyond that. But OCD is a strange thing, and after all 5 packs were hung on the display wall in my garage it became clear that I needed one more pack. I needed a burnt orange D5.

I haven’t actively sought out such a pack, but I have, on occasion, searched the various online marketplaces hoping to find a good candidate. Months would pass between searches and those quests have always come up empty, until just recently when I stumbled upon an eBay auction for a burnt orange JanSport D5. As is the case with nearly all sellers, the beholder of this pack had no idea what model it was. It was just another vintage JanSport external frame backpack but I knew exactly what I was looking at.

The condition sounded favorable and the price would be right if nobody else bid on the pack. The only downside to this particular pack was that it featured the second generation (straight) hip bars instead of the original “D” shaped bars on packs from the early to mid-late 1970’s. All of my other packs have the first generation hip bars and, while I would have preferred those, I decided that it would actually be pretty cool to have one example of the second generation design. So I placed a bid and, surprisingly (or not), nobody else did. A week later the pack showed up and I was not the least bit disappointed.

She’s a beaut, Clark!

It appears to have had very little wear from actual use. The zippers all work smoothly and the ample leather patches are all in good condition. The exterior of the pack bag is quite clean overall with just a couple spots of dirt/staining. The waterproof coating on the inside of the bag is not peeling or tacky.

Shoulder straps and hip belt are all sound and supple and the frame has minimal scratches or scuffs. Like my other JanSport D series packs, this one is a fine specimen that has survived the past few decades nearly unscathed.

Second gen hip bars. Better or not, these shaved a few ounces off the previous design

I put the manufacture date at 1979 or perhaps 1980 (based on the hip bars). But that concludes the history lesson here—I delved deep into approximate production dating and history in my post from December 2020.

My current quiver of JanSport D5 packs
And the entire stableof JanSport D5’s and D3’s

I’m just happy to now have 3 of each model, in the same colors. It creates order and strikes a nice balance on the display wall. And my wife is relieved.

She was just Happy to be here.

Many dogs are bred for a purpose, whether it’s to perform a job such as herding or guard duty or to sniff out and retrieve game. And even if dogs don’t actually perform the tasks they were originally bred to do, many have the instinct for it. Our labs, Kate and Eddie, were that way: they absolutely loved to retrieve, whether it was ducks in the marsh or sticks in the woods or tennis balls in the back yard. They were wonderful pets, but just under their surface lie the need to fetch things—to perform a specific task—and they weren’t fully content unless they had performed this job each day. Happy, wasn’t that way. She didn’t swim, fetch or do much of anything productive, really. Sure, she liked to chase squirrels and cats (though on at least one occasion the cat chased her). But she didn’t wake up each day with a job that she was bred to do.

Shortly after we adopted her (a little over 8 years ago) I wrote about her backstory HERE. At the time she was still new to us, and we to her. Given all that she had been through it took a few weeks before she truly came out of her shell, and when she did there was no looking back. She started each day with a frantic tail-wagging session, greeting us as if she hadn’t seen us in days, despite having slept in the same room with us all night long. She would race down the stairs to the laundry room where she took her meals. After breakfast she would do her business outside in the yard and after that she was content to take a morning nap until something exciting happened. Some days, depending on the weather, nothing happened. But often that excitement consisted of a walk around the neighborhood, or to accompany me out to the mountain bike trails where we hiked in and did trail work. On days that she was really living the dream she’d ride in my truck and go to the local hardware store in Duvall where, within a short time, the folks came to know Happy by name. And she knew exactly what fun awaited when I asked, “Wanna go to the Treat Store?” (where treats were always dispensed at the checkout counter). Happy also loved walking up and down the isles of the store. As I looked for things I needed, she looked for and cleaned up pieces of dropped popcorn (they used to have a popcorn machine doling out free bags of salty goodness, prior to Covid). Suffice it to say, it was her favorite place to go.

Happy loved trips the hardware store

She was a Boxer-Lab mix, at least according to her adoption listing. When we picked her up from the rescue I didn’t see any Labrador Retriever. Maybe a little Boxer, at least due to general body shape and muscularity. I was pretty sure I knew what I saw, but I wanted confirmation so I submitted a DNA test early on. The Wisdom Panel results confirmed my hunch: she was a pit bull, through and through. Her genetic makeup consisted of American Staffordshire Terrier + Mixed Breed on one parent’s side, and on her other side was Staffordshire Bull Terrier + Mixed Breed. The “Mixed Breed” portions were so diluted by more than 3 generations that they could not, with any type of certainty, indicate what those breeds might be. She was officially declared to be an “American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier Mix”. We knew that the “Boxer-Lab mix” was used in her adoption listing to avoid the negative (and all-too-often incorrect) connotation associated with pit bull breeds. Mrs. UA admits that she never would have agreed to adopting a pit bull, but the little Boxer-Lab was deemed a safe chance. And so we now had ourselves a pit bull.

Having spent her first year and a half in the desert near Bakersfield, hot and dry was also in her DNA, and sunny days were her favorite. I don’t think she ever really accepted that life in the Pacific Northwest was anything but hot and dry, except for a few short weeks each summer. Her decorative fur offered zero insulating qualities and it wasn’t long before she had her own rain coat and sweater, thanks to the insistence of Mrs. UA.

She didn’t like the rain, a sentiment I agree with
She liked being warm, which I understand

She always loved the sun, the hotter the better. When it wasn’t warm enough to be outside, she sought the sun as it shone in the windows of her house. She knew exactly where the sun would be at certain times of the day, and it was only at those times that she wasn’t right by my side. We lovingly called her a “cat-dog” for her fondness of basking in the sun.

Sun seeker

When she was outside Happy preferred to lay on the concrete or hot gravel as opposed to the cool, soft grass. She craved the heat absorbed by the hard surfaces, but I think she also just embraced discomfort as a natural part of her life since she had suffered quite a lot in her first year and a half.

Hard times

But she wasn’t all about hard surface suffering, mind you. She really embraced the couch potato life and in fact had her own couch in the man cave (she wasn’t allowed on furniture elsewhere). It doesn’t take much of a stretch to realize which room was her favorite. She was a world-class cuddler. And she snored.

Couch life

While she was a low energy dog, Happy also loved to go on hikes with her Mama (Mrs UA) and me, and on our monthly hikes with our gang of friends. She joined us on countless trails in all types of weather. Drenching rain wasn’t her favorite (nor mine), but as long as she was with us she was happy. Her lean, muscular body was very efficient when it came to hiking and she could, when she was in her prime, cover the miles with little effort, and little water. We always joked that she was a camel because of her ability to go without much water, despite our efforts to get her to drink. Her kidneys never failed her, however, and if she was thirsty she would take a sip. But she never hovered over her water dish until it was gone, like our previous dogs.

The Happy hiker

What Happy loved most was her people, and her bond with our family was strong. When we adopted her both of our adult children were living at home, though temporarily, and because of that Happy grew very attached to them. After her kids both moved out on their own, she greeted them with boundless love each time she saw them. She loved nothing more than when her people were all together.

Happy loved her people

She knew no strangers and happily greeted everyone she met. And while she would sometimes tolerate another well-behaved dog, Happy preferred to be the only dog in the world. We would learn that the various scars she carried were also emotional; her lifelong aversion to dogs was a result of fear. While we wished that she could enjoy the company of canines, that was never really meant to be. She didn’t seek trouble with other dogs inasmuch as she just wanted to be without their presence. So we just kept her out of situations where she might fail. She could more or less peacefully share her space with certain dogs with whom she was familiar—mainly my daughter’s chocolate lab, Murphy—but she was never fully relaxed around other dogs. Poor Murphy constantly tried to gain the approval of his “Auntie Bitchface” but never fully succeeded. It wasn’t his fault.

Murphy attempts to entice Happy to play, like a real dog

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Happy revealed itself when our grandson, Squirrelly Coop, was born in October 2021. We were told that in her previous life she had lived with small children, but during her time with us Happy was never really around kids of any age. About a week after he was born, Coop came to our house to visit for the first time. Happy was immediately queued in to him and she would position herself as near to him as she could. It was really quite something to behold. On one visit in particular, Coop went down for a nap. A short while later I noticed that Happy was nowhere to be found, which was odd because she was always wherever her people were. I went upstairs to Coop’s room and found Happy sitting next to his crib. She appeared to be on guard duty, watching over her newborn as he slept. Happy’s attachment to Coop would continue as he grew into a toddler. She wanted to be near him at all times and would slip in a kiss if she could get away with it. She also quickly learned that sitting by his high chair resulted in a smattering of food offerings from above. While we were careful with her whenever Coop was around, Happy was always very gentle. It was as if she didn’t trust her people to take proper care of the boy, so she stepped in to do so. She excelled in her new role as a “nanny dog”.

Happy loved Coop from day one

We never knew Happy as a puppy because she was almost two when she came to us. Fortunately her original rescuer sent me photos. She was as adorable as any puppy could have been, with eyes that were kind and gentle from the very beginning. Those eyes always gave off a hint of sorrow, as though she was a bit sad. She would be forever submissive, and over time she knew how to melt your heart using those eyes. It was never any fun to correct or discipline her, and frankly there was seldom any need for that. Yes, she could have a stubborn streak, but she was obedient and forever aimed to please. If she was spoken to in a stern manner Happy would just crumble apologetically. It was as though she was constantly showing us immense gratitude for giving her such a good life after such a rough start.

Happy as young pup, after being rescued for the first time in her short life

We didn’t know exactly how old she was but based on what we were told she was likely born in May of 2013. And so May 16 became Happy’s birthday. There was never a reason to doubt the timeline of her life before she came to us but Happy always seemed older than her years. That may haven been due to her calm, gentle nature and low energy level. I think she was simply an old soul.

Happy always had a bit of white on her muzzle, but she began adding to that in 2019. Her ever-whitening eyebrows simply gave her a regal elegance with each passing year. It’s hard to say when she began slowing down because she was never an energetic dog to begin with. However in 2021 she ruptured the ACL in her right leg, and while TPLO surgery to repair that was successful, it took some of the skip out of her step. X-rays taken at the time also revealed that Happy had badly arthritic hips and she was prescribed anti-inflammatory meds for the remainder of her life. She never complained, and though she was enthusiastic to go for walks she was no longer up for long walks. Hiking was out of the question. Her days from that point forward would mostly consist of sun-seeking, exploring the perimeters of our property in search of long, sweet grass to eat, and basically being with me at all times. She loved the life of a free-range dog and would hang out in the driveway as I worked in the yard. She never wandered, because that would mean I was out of sight. She eagerly greeted the parcel delivery drivers because they brought her treats. Her favorite time of the day was when she heard the garage door open around 5:45pm on week nights. I would announce, “Mama’s home!” and Happy would sprint down the hall and greet Mrs. UA as she returned from work. Happy was more than content with her life. She was happy.

During late Winter 2023 I took Happy to the vet to have a lump examined on her right thigh. Lab results were not good: Soft tissue sarcoma. Cancer. We wouldn’t know the severity of it until surgery could be performed to remove the tumor and have it sent to a lab to be graded. We knew that surgery would not likely be able to remove all of the tumor, and it would grow back. But we wanted to find out how much time we had with her so surgery was scheduled for April 7, Good Friday. And so we waited. A couple of weeks prior to her surgery date, Happy hopped out of the back seat of my truck—as she had done hundreds of times before—and immediately began favoring her left rear leg. This was not the leg that had suffered the previous ACL rupture, nor the one with the tumor. It was her “good” leg this time. I thought she might have sprained her ankle of perhaps bruised a nail bed, so we waited a few days, anticipating improvement. It never got better. In fact it grew worse to the point where she could bear no weight on it. At times I had to help her get up from her bed and had to carry her up stairs (we live in a house of stairs). She wasn’t excited for “chow time” as she always had been. Clearly she was in pain, so back to the vet we went. This time we learned that she had ruptured her other ACL. She was administered pain meds to help keep her comfortable. The medication made her drowsy and she spent most of her days sleeping. When the meds wore off you could see it in her eyes.

Surgery to repair her ACL was not an option this time–not after what she went through the first time. And with her inability to bear any weight on that leg, we couldn’t fathom the idea of having surgery on the other leg to remove the tumor. We decided that were no good options. On March 27, 2023, on a rare day that the sun made an appearance, we said goodbye to our sweet girl.

Looking back, I now realize that Happy did have a job: her job was to make us happy. It was a responsibility that she took very seriously, and did very well, every day of her life.

R.I.P. Happy girl.

Needle(s) found in the haystack

Several months ago I posted a blog titled, Help Me Find This Rod. Given how infrequently I’ve posted on my blog in recent years and how few actually read the Weekly Drivel, doing so was akin to being down by a goal and launching a full court Hail Mary shot at the final bell of US Masters championship round. But it was a last ditch effort and I had nothing to lose. I was fully prepared for disappointment and 5 months passed with no leads (not surprising). During that time I also posted my quest on Fiberglass Fly Rodders, hoping that at least one of the members there might have some valuable insight. Crickets.

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The last Reel Good beer

Today marks the official first day of Summer and it was a year ago (nearly to the date) that Marck introduced me to a new beer, Reel Good Summer Ale, produced by 10 Barrel Brewing of Bend, Oregon. Its target consumer is/was clearly the fly angling crowd and the appropriately-branded brew undoubtedly picked up many a new customer thanks to the joint labeling that features the Simms logo and mention of supporting Trout Unlimited on the packaging. Certainly the eye candy aspects of the beer caught my attention, but looks can be deceiving. However, after one taste, I was hooked (sorry, pun intended). Suffice it to say Reel Good became my preferred beer during the summer of 2021, unseating a long-standing, time-tested, mass-produced, once-local favorite.

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Ode to the Cat Lady of the Ho Hum

For many years the Firehole Rangers have been making the annual pilgrimage to our namesake river in Yellowstone National Park. Depending on the individual Ranger the exact number of years varies considerably but the current core lineup has been consistently deployed since 2010. Our ringleader, Marck, began fishing the Firehole shortly after the park was established in 1872 (or it may have been a few years after that, say ~1994). His wingman, Goose, began joining Marck shortly thereafter. Nash began making sporadic appearances a couple of years prior to 2006, the year that I was drafted into the Ranger Contingent. Jimmy was added to the roster in 2010 and Morris was a Rookie Ranger in 2012. This assembly of six has been almost 100% consistent ever since.

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Decorative fish, or a flop?

Mrs. UA and I recently moved, and in our new home the office of the Unaccomplished Angler is on the first floor, immediately off the entry, on display for all who enter via the front door. Because of this prominent location, I’ve been instructed to keep my workplace clutter to a minimum and refrain from working in my skivvies. The adjustment has been challenging but I’m slowly learning to keep clutter to a minimum.

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Help me find this rod

(EDIT: since I published this entry I stumbled upon an online auction site (not EBay) that had a very similar rod listed. Instead of a pack rod it was a two piece rod (model 8220), but everything else about it rang very familiar, down to the color of the blank and wraps as well as the style of grip. Unfortunately this auction had ended recently (the rod sold for a paltry $50!). Photos from that auction are posted at the end of this entry for reference.)

Been a while it has since last I scribed an entry. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so it goes. Or, maybe not. For anyone who still reads this blog, I’d like to request your help in locating a specific fly rod, my first fly rod. It was gifted to me in about 1974 or 1975 by the friend of my dad, who was a gonzo fly fisherman. His wife worked at Eddie Bauer back when Eddie Bauer actually produced outdoor gear such as camping and backpacking equipment as well as fly fishing gear. The rods that he gifted my brother and I were Eddie Bauer branded, though obviously made by another rod manufacturer. Maybe Orvis?

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Following the cold trail of the JanSport D-series packs.

My somewhat odd fascination with the JanSport D3 backpack was explained in an earlier post: Ode to the JanSport D3 backpack. What follows here is a very general roadmap of the D3’s history, and that of its sibling packs, the D2 and D5. I have tried to piece together an approximate timeline to satisfy my own curiosity and this information will be of absolutely zero interest to those who continue to follow this blog, hoping to read about fly fishing. I’m merely putting this information out there for the rare person who, like me, may find it somewhat interesting or even useful.

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Catching up, and a few fish

As 2020 enters its final month (good riddance, you piece of dog turd year), I give pause to think back on the strangeness of the past several months, hoping to remember some good things that occurred since the COVIDS swept the globe. I didn’t have to think too hard to realize that despite the weirdness of it all, I can’t complain about the fishing during 2020. I no longer fish with great frequency, but I do rather enjoy a high quality of time when on the water when I do fish. And this is despite that most of the guys I fish with are unsavory lowbrow types who lack social refinement and would say the same about me.

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