outdoor blogger network
Front Matter/Back Story: Jason Zicha, master rod builder at Fall River Fly Rods, fashioned a custom bamboo rod especially for a promotional tour courtesy of the Outdoor Blogger Network. Accompanying the rod is a Madison II Reel by Montana Fly Company spooled with a Trout LT DT5F fly line by Rio. Fifteen blogger/anglers were chosen to spend a couple of weeks each with the outfit before passing it along to the next person. After a cross country trip that will have endured more than half a year, the outfit will conclude its journey by permanently going home with one lucky angler/blogger. I was one of the fortunate folks chosen to spend time with this outfit during its journey.
I knew it was coming as far back as last April. I knew it wouldn’t be getting to me until Fall, hopefully in time for some Autumn baetis action on the Yakima River. Fall River Fly Rods, aptly named it would seem. I envisioned myself presenting tiny mayfly patterns to wary fish. Delicate delivery would be the ticket, and armed with a custom bamboo fly rod I would be up to the task, or at least the rod would be.
As the months droned on I grew increasingly Worried (yes, with a capital W). Having a last name that begins with the letter “W” I’m no stranger to being at the end of the list: all during my school years I got one of the last picks of a desk in the classroom (which usually meant right by the teacher’s desk); when it came time for class registration I got the leftovers. Nor am I unaccustomed to being one of the last ones chosen during kickball team selection, but that had little to do with alphabetical order. This time, however, I cannot blame my forefathers because the schedule for this travelling rod was not based on last names. I thought per chance the schedule was based on the alphabetical listing of the host states because, after all, the first visit along its journey took the rod to Arizona. But then it skipped ahead to New Mexico so that blows my theory out of the water. All I know is that the package didn’t arrive at my home in Washington until November and unfortunately that was too late for me. Certainly there are still trout fishermen out plying the frigid waters this time of year, but with no available weekends until after Thanksgiving I simply ran out of time. The rod was on a schedule: it had places to go; people to see.
And so here this beautiful rod arrives after all these months of waiting and anticipating, and because of bad timing I don’t even get to fish it. I reckon this was my destiny—the ultimate angling unaccomplishment.
Knowing that I would not be able to give this rod its due, I gave it what I was able. I sat with it, fondling and admiring the rod. The experience began with the shipping tube, which resembled the barrel of a bazooka in both size and weight. This monstrous PVC fortress was created with protection in mind and for good reason: inside were valuable contents. More than just a shipping tube, the Bazooka itself tells the story of cross-country travel as it was slathered with stickers of all sorts, and enough Priority Mail tape to span from one coast to the next, from border to border. Following directions, I opened the end labeled, “Open This End.” It took me a while to cut through all the clear tape.
The first item to emerge was a small aluminum box containing a few flies that the blogger/anglers had donated. I contributed to the collection but won’t tell you what I offered up (it wouldn’t earn me any respect or gratitude). Next up was the neoprene pouch containing the Madison II reel from Montana Fly Company, emblazoned in their river rock pattern. Last to emerge was a hand-made oak case containing the rod (the case is a functional work of art in and of itself). Once I had extracted the goods, I got down to the business of looking at it. In a discussion over at the Facebook place, Poppy Cummins of the Red Shed Fly Shop was quoted as saying:
“Playing with cane is like looking over the back fence at the naked neighbor lady. Once you start you can’t stop.”
I will say that over the next week and a half I did an awful lot of looking, and it was hard to divert my gaze. Though I enjoyed the scenery, guilt gnawed at my gut, slowly eating away at me. The burning in my belly was a reminder that as beautiful as it is, this is a rod to be used; not just ogled over. I wished like hell I could have fished it. I read through the journal that accompanied the outfit along it’s journey: no one else prior to me had mentioned not fishing the rod.
I know next to nothing about bamboo rods. In my ignorance I always assumed all were delicate, flimsy noodles: either antique collector’s items or modern showpieces. But the rod’s designer states very clearly that this rod is not your grandfather’s bamboo rod, and I will echo that sentiment. I have an old bamboo rod that belonged to my grandfather and it would be accurate to describe it as a whispy piece of grass. I’ve never fished it; never wanted to after wiggling it—I mean, who has 5 minutes to wait between forward and back casts? I do remember a tip my grandfather gave me many years ago which I was prepared to employ with the Fall River rod until I read the directions from Jason Zicha that were included in the Bazooka: “Do not apply any oil or nose grease to the ferrule.” So much for my grandfather’s advice.
After a lengthy lawn casting session with the Fall River rod (during which I did not rise a single Lawn Trout), I can tell you that it is no limp-wristed wussy. It does have ample flex, but it is not a slow-action rod. I was able to quickly adapt to the rod’s action and get casts out to around 40 feet with ease. I was surprised, and then I read the description of the South Fork on the Fall River website:
“The South Fork model was designed with a new generation of anglers in mind. It’s moderate/fast action has a more familiar feel to today’s modern angler who has grown accustomed to the feel of graphite fly rods. 8’ in length, it’s powerful spine has the power needed to fish our large, open, windy Western Rivers. The smooth action has been refined to throw anything from a midge to streamers.”
With the delicate tip—not delicate so much in construction but rather in feel—I could unfold a cast and lay the tippet onto the grass with a certain finesse that is difficult with my graphite rods. In the time I spent on the lawn with the rod, I did notice that it’s heavier than my graphite sticks, but that’s to be expected. The action of the rod felt remarkably familiar and was not what I expected. I’ve become so accustomed to the uber-light, nimble ways of my fast-action arsenal of graphite rods that I’ve also become disconnected to the casting experience that only slowing down can bring back. Getting into the slower rhythm of this rod had a sort of soothing effect— even if I was standing in my front yard as school buses drove past and the neighbor’s dog barked from behind its fence. A bubbling mountain stream would have been a more suitable setting in which to cast this rod. A suburban lawn just seemed wrong—an injustice. Again, my destiny.
The nickel silver stripping guide is inlayed with a natural agate that is saw-cut, drilled, polished and then set into the frame. Fall River Fly Rods buys these pre-made, because as Jason Zicha says, “It is an art form of its own.” Everything about this rod is beautiful in it’s craftsmanship, but it’s no showboat. Again, the South Fork is built to fish.
I begrudgingly place the rod, reel and box of flies into the shipping tube and sealed it closed with a pound of strapping tape. I slapped on an Unaccomplished Angler sticker and drove to the post office. Next destination, Spokane WA. I hope Josh Mills has an opportunity to fish it. I know the weather in Spokane is colder than it is on my side of the state and trout fishing may be a bit out of season.
If the rod could speak, its parting words for me would surely have been, “Good riddance.”
I’m not even changing the headline because in this case redundancy is a good thing. In fact, all I am doing is copying and pasting what was posted over on The Outdooress blog today, which was first posted on the Outdoor Blogger Network.
The following is a guest post available to all outdoor bloggers who have an interest in the Pebble Mine/Bristol Bay issue.
Please feel free to re-post it on your blog.
(Passed along from the conservation section over on the OBN ~
Go check it out, copy it from here, copy it from there, but let’s spread the word)
Sportsmen fly to DC to tell president and congress to say no to Pebble Mine
Starting Monday, April 16, more than 30 sportsmen from around the country are traveling to the nation’s capitol to let their elected officials and the president know that protecting Bristol Bay is a top priority for hunters and anglers.
This is an important week to show the folks who have the power to protect Bristol Bay that sportsmen are in this fight. We’ve got folks from Alaska, Montana, Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Texas, Wisconsin, Washington, North Carolina, California, Missouri, New York, and Virginia representing this great country and the millions of people who want Bristol Bay to be protected and left just like it is today–pristine and productive.
A recent report by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation shows that there are 34 million hunters and anglers in the U.S., and we’re a powerful constituency. Every year, we pump $76 billion into the economy in pursuit of our passion, through our spending on gear, licenses, gas, lodging, meals and more. All of that spending and activity directly supports 1.6 million jobs in this country.
We are also an influential group because 80 percent of sportsmen are likely voters – much higher than the national average. And, we also contribute the most money of any group toward government wildlife conservation programs. So, hopefully if we care about an issue and show our support, the decision makers will listen to what we have to say.
In just a few weeks, the EPA will be releasing a draft of its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. This huge scientific assessment will likely guide future decisions about large-scale mining and other industrial development in the Bristol Bay region. If they find that disposal of waste from the mine would adversely harm the surrounding clean waters or natural resources, the EPA can deny or place restrictions on a required dredge and fill permit. If warranted, we hope the Obama Administration would take that step to protect Bristol Bay.
You can support the fight for one of planet Earth’s finest and most productive fishing and hunting destinations by taking action today. Fill out this simple form that will send a letter to the President and your members of Congress asking them to protect Bristol Bay. Let’s carry our sportsmen into D.C. with a lot of momentum.
Go ahead: Copy and paste. Fill out the form on the Trout Unlimited website and submit it. Keep the ball rolling. Stop the Pebble Mine.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know that the Unaccomplished Angler doesn’t very often (if ever) take things too seriously. Whether that’s a shortcoming or not, serious just ain’t my style; not what the Unaccomplished Angler is about. But this is some serious business that deserves some serious attention.
This entry was spawned by a writing prompt at the Outdoor Blogger Network. Trout Unlimited and the Bristol Bay Road Show, are encouraging bloggers to address the following questions: How do you feel about a foreign company potentially threatening one of our country’s greatest natural resources? Although you may never visit Bristol Bay, do you believe getting involved can make a positive impact? Other thoughts?
When a country is invaded by an enemy, that country must be able to defend itself against the marauding forces. If it cannot adequately repel the enemy, the consequences will be devastating. No war in history ever resulted favorably for those on the receiving end of the assault (just ask most of Europe after WWII). Even though the enemy was ultimately defeated, collateral damage and casualties were severe. Much was lost that could never be replaced.
Bristol Bay is under similar attack from foreign invaders. A Canadian oil mining company, if it gets its way, will create what would be the largest open pit gold mine in North America: smack dab in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. If built, the mine would produce up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste that would have to be treated for hundreds of years.
If you’re like me, you’ve never been to Bristol Bay, or even Alaska. Tucked away in a remote part of the Last Frontier, Bristol Bay is out of sight, out of mind, right? One has to assume that’s exactly how the enemy wants/expects us to feel. Look at the map – Bristol Bay is a long way from anywhere. How can environmental destruction and devastation to the last great salmon runs in North America possibly affect us? And what about the loss of 12,000 jobs and $500 million in economic benefits that are under threat from the proposed Pebble Mine? That can’t possibly effect my quality of life, right? Out of sight, out of mind. That’s what they want.
Although armed with impressive spawning canines, the salmon of Bristol Bay cannot defend themselves against this threat. Nor can the voters of Alaska – the people whose cultures and livelihoods depend on the salmon. We must come to their collective aid, as a band of brothers, and take a stand.
Salmon – Bristol Bay – Alaska – the United States of America – is under attack. We are at war. How we respond will determine our future for generations to come. I’d like visit the region one day. I’d like my descendents to be able to do the same. Will we sit idly and allow the enemy to run roughshod over what is ours, or will we resist? It’s in our nature as Americans to oppose tyranny.
Please join Trout Unlimited and Save Bristol Bay in this battle against an enemy that would invade our soil. Let us bring the fight to our enemy. Visit www.savebristolbay.org and see how you can help.
Disclaimer: Neither the UA, the USA, AK, or Bristol Bay are at war with Canada. Please be sure to read the comments from our Canadian brothers in the comments section of this blog entry. Some valid points are raised.
Do you ever have those days when you go fishing and it seems as though nothing you do makes any difference in the outcome—that no amount of effort put forth is going to change the fact that on this particular day you are simply not going to catch a fish? Days like this can make you feel so ineffective that you may as well be nothing more than a cardboard standup: a single dimensional likeness of yourself that lacks any ability to do more than just be present. I recently had such a trip that made me feel like this. Truth be told I felt like dead weight being carted around all day.
It all started on a recent journey to chase some steelhead on the South Fork of the Clearwater River in Idaho. You may recall that a couple of months earlier I fished the main stem of the Clearwater with a group of old college buddies. On that day, we used spinning gear and either synthetic or real eggs or some combination of the two. That felt fairly dynamic to me as I branched out beyond the fly fishing barriers I had erected over time. But this most recent trip was a fly fishing trip, and on this trip I felt like anything but a dynamic angler.
How I got there is a curious and somewhat hazy recollection. Normally I would drive south and east across the state of Washington, entering into Idaho just before the town of Lewiston, then proceeding up the Clearwater from there. However, such was not quite the case this time. I really have no vivid memory of the drive itself, other than being crammed face down onto the dashboard of a pickup truck under the cloak of darkness in the wee hours of the morning, emerging only when we had arrived at our destination.
When it was light enough to make out the faces of my compadres, I didn’t recognize a single one of them. They consisted of a couple ladies and one guy, none of whom I’d met before in person though I had shared some correspondence via the internet with the two female anglers: Rebecca, of the Outdooress blog and Co-Dictator of the Outdoor Blogger Network; and Emily, of the River Damsel blog. I didn’t then and still don’t know who the dude was. All I know is that he had a video camera in front of his face for a good part of the day and I was never able to get a good enough look at him to even tell you what he looked like. It didn’t really matter who my fishing companions were. I was “Just Happy to be Here,” or so I was told.
We fished the South Fork of the Clearwater near Grangeville for a few hours, but it was running a bit high which made fly presentation somewhat challenging. I felt particularly inept on this day. Rebecca, who is known for her affinity for all things whitefish, did not disappoint in that regard. I must have said something to piss her off because she literally grabbed that little Rocky Mountain Bonefish and rubbed it in my face. There wasn’t anything I could do about it – I felt rather helpless, and for the remainder of the day I smelled like whitefish (which may smell worse than a skunk). After this demoralizing escapade we cut our losses and sought out some skinnier water on the Little Salmon. This diminutive river was more my size, and although I still couldn’t muster a cast to save my life, before too long Rebecca hooked up with a respectable steelhead. When she set the hook it was as if I became a second class citizen. I was literally cast aside and knocked to the ground where I lay amongst the cold, wet rocks on the river bank. From there I managed to witness her land what turned out to be a decent fish. A little dark, and it wasn’t as big as the steelhead I like to catch, but at least it was a steelhead. Not bad for a girl, I suppose.
At the end of the day I felt bent, bruised, tattered and a little soggy. I hadn’t managed to catch a fish, and quite frankly I felt like I’d done little more than be dragged around by my fishing companions like some sort of inanimate object. But I was “Just Happy to be Here” so I didn’t worry too much about my feelings of inadequacy or lack of dynamic presence. Back at the truck I was once again tossed onto the dash like a piece of cardboard for the ride home (at least the defroster dried me out and warmed me up). I must have nodded off because the drive home was a blur, and when I awoke the next morning it was as if I’d spent a fitful night dreaming strange dreams. I felt not unlike Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (or at least a cardboard version of her): I’d been on a very strange journey, or in this case, a very strange fishing trip.
I’ve been fortunate over the past year to have “met” (in an internet sort of way) many great folks. One who stands out is Rebecca Garlock, the Outdooress herself. She’s a blog/web techno guru-ess and without her generous help and support, the Unaccomplished Angler may have crashed and burned by now. Rebecca has worked under the hood, tightening nuts and bolts to keep the UA limping down the road instead of becoming an abandoned, rusted-out relic of yesteryear. A while back Rebecca told me of an idea that she and her friend Joe Wolf (author of the Flowing Waters blog) had discussed while fishing together this past summer. I half listened to Rebecca’s techno rambling but what I did manage to digest sounded interesting: something about a site for bloggers in the outdoor world, maybe some gear reviews, blah-blah-blah. I had no reason to doubt her good intentions, and it’s not that I wasn’t interested; but I hear a lot of people talk about a lot of great ideas and nearly all the time the talk is just that: talk. Jump ahead a couple of months and I found myself agreeing to design a logo for the brainchildren behind the Outdoor Blogger Network (OBN).
The OBN was launched officially on Monday, October 18th, and by day’s end there was a buzz that could be felt throughout the outdoor blogging world. By the second day there were already 79 blogs registered, filling categories that include Fishing (general), Fly Fishing, Bass, Salt Water, Kayak Fishing; Hunting (general), Archery, Big Game, Waterfowl and Upland Birds; Outdoor (general), Outdoor Humor, Outdoor Destinations; Hiking/Climbing/Backpacking, Camping, Bushcraft; Outdoor Photography; Boating/Watercraft; Conservation/Ecology; Outdoor Podcast/Videolog Blogs; Outdoor Business/News; and Outdoor Author Blogs.
I’d say that’s a pretty darn impressive assembly of members, what with being open for business for less than 48 hours!
So for those of you who blog on topics that fit within the wide range of outdoor interests listed above, get thee over to the Outdoor Blogger Network and submit your musings for inclusion in the site directory. It is my understanding that the nature of one’s blog must be the out-of-doors, but that one may still blog from the comfort of the indoors. At any rate the OBN looks to be a great resource for lending credibility to those of us who keep outdoor blogs, with plenty of opportunities to expand our horizons. If you’re not prone to blogging yourself, but you enjoy reading blogs, then check out the OBN’s offerings: it’s shaping up to be the ultimate blog roll.
Thanks to Rebecca and Joe for your vision and gumption to turn talk into walk.