Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Friday Afternoon 'Bow
Every Christmas, we head up to our place on the west slope of the Tetons to rendezvous with family members from all over the country.   It's a  great opportunity to catch up with kinfolk and enjoy some good food.  My favorite winter activity, however, is heading out into the backcountry for some exercise with the goose.

The goose and I would like to thank you for keeping up with our adventures this year.

A Very Merry Christmas to You and Yours 

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012: The Fish Gallery

I will remember 2012 as an exceptional year for fly fishing in some great places - Idaho, Montana, Yellowstone National Park and Turks & Caicos.

This is a video slideshow highlighting some of the fish that made the year special.

Thanks - Brent

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Babes in Toyland

We've been given a nice reprieve from the cold this week here in east Idaho.  In fact, the temperatures made the concept of work utterly inconceivable on Tuesday.  Thus, I got out with Shane while the phone rang repeatedly all day - out of earshot on the center console of the truck.

We got into some solid 'bows all day and had a darn good time on the river.  Nymphing works a whole lot better for me when I can take the gloves off and actually feel what is going on with the fly line.

Having an opportunity to fish in relative warmth two weeks before Christmas was an absolute gift and we took full advantage - hitting every stretch of river we could squeeze in before dark.

One of the main ingredients in the recipe for success on this river is the desire to explore new places.  After all, you are probably not the only guy who has fished your favorite honey hole repeatedly for the past few years.  Complacency is not your friend - getting out and exploring new water pays dividends.

Here's some simple math:

1)  20% of the river will hold 95% of the fish.

2)  80% of success involves finding that holding water.

I was never good at math, but I find this concept holds true on most rivers and creeks.  Come to think of it, it holds true on most lakes as well.

I spent most of my time chasing carp last year, but 2012 was the year I fell back in love with trout.  While I still love carp, the complexity of rivers and the multiple dimensions of flows, depth, hatch cycles and seasonal movement are more alluring than ever.

These feisty 'bows, more than anything else, are responsible for rekindling that flame.

As the day wound down, the wind picked up dramatically - with gusts in the 30 mph range.  It was pretty clear to me our short window of nice weather had to come to an end.

Shane was off in the distance, ever the explorer.  As I turned around to check his location, I saw him approaching - bent rod in hand.  I couldn't make out what he was saying, but I could sense the urgency in his voice. 

When I approached him with the net, two words came to mind.

"Holy crap."

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Sub-freezing temperatures are a game-changer.

Fleece, gore-tex and water repellent nylon can not change the fact that humans were not designed for wading cold rivers in winter.  One misstep with numb feet could result in a very deep, cold plunge. 

Maybe your last deep, cold plunge.

Nonetheless, "not fishing" is simply not an option.  The innate urge to stalk wild things in nature carries on despite the cold.

With each drop in water temperature, the fish slow down accordingly.  Your sense of touch needs to be 'spot on,' as aggressive takes are a thing of the past. This is doubly challenging given the cold and wind.

Sometimes, however, it all comes together and you can feel exactly what is going on at the end of your tippet. 

Such was the case with this nice brown trout.  His eat felt like a dental exam. I could feel the fly moving into his mouth in slow motion. 

It was perfect.

Although I landed a few more good fish, my mind kept playing that first brown trout's take over and over  again all afternoon. 

Moments like this make winter fly fishing well worth all of the challenges.

Although our local forecast calls for single-digit temperatures this evening, I am undaunted. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

We Will, In Fact, Be Greeted As Liberators

Is there a stranger paradox than the concept of the "real world?"

Think about it.  The real world is defined by human social constructs.  Deadlines, dogma, jobs, wars, politics - these are all just fabrications.

It's been four years since my wife and I left the hustle and bustle of the big city to downshift in east Idaho.  I guess that makes this season four of my own version of the real world.

I like this version a heck of a lot.  
In the new version, the pace is set by the flow of the river. 

It's a place where nothing is taken for granted.  Every riffle, feeder creek, slough and plunge pool is an opportunity for exploration.

It's a place where you can learn a great deal by simply listening. These woods and waters offer timeless sermons.

My son will soon learn to love these rivers as well.  The lessons he learns here will provide solace and perspective when the 'real world' comes calling for him later in life.

For now, however, our little world in east Idaho is pretty exceptional.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Solitude is Enough

I woke up at 3:45 a.m. to the sound of whimpering. A western low pressure system brought us some very intense wind and torrential rains and Lucy, our German shorthaired pointer, did not like it one bit.

Our local trout, however, are loving the stormy weather. 

While a lot of people head over to the Salmon River in central Idaho this time of year in search of steelhead, I've been staying close to home to target some nice, healthy inland 'bows.

It's hard to justify the long drive over to the Salmon right now, with the high cost of gas and the lackluster fish counts this year.

Around here, there is a direct correlation between temperature and fishing pressure.  

As the temperatures drop, so do the numbers of fishermen on the river. 

This trend will continue and I expect the fishing to get better as the pressure abates. 

Catching large fish on small flies and light tippet is always rewarding.  Streamers are great fun, but they are big and bulky - and photographing a fish with a face full of marabou detracts from the whole aesthetic.

I was not expecting to find carp actively feeding in 34 degree weather, but it was a nice surprise when my black wooly bugger was inhaled by this guy.

The South Fork
Later in the week, I got out on the South Fork with Shane.  The fishing was a bit disappointing, but exploring remote feeder channels with good company made for a nice day overall.  Here are a few snapshots from our South Fork outing.

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DIY Dirtbag Fly Box:  A Three-Step Tutorial
If you are a cheap dirtbag like me, you may appreciate Oscar Meyer's new semi-waterproof lunch meat containers.

Step One

Step Two

Step Three

"To give thanks in solitude is enough. 
Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go."
Victor Hugo

Have a great holiday. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thank God for Tailwaters

Well, it's official.  Winter has arrived and our delightful Indian summer is now but a memory. 

I don't mind.  The rivers will be more peaceful now, as only a handful of us diehards will be on the water braving the cold for the next three months.  

"Bring it on," I say.

I welcome the solitude.

The dog and I renew our bond each winter.  She loves the snow, along with the critters that hide beneath it.  There are cross-country ski trips to be had up Darby Canyon and South Leigh Creek.

For now, however, the barley farm behind our house is her kingdom.  She rules the roost and the local skunks, pheasants, ducks and field mice heed her call.

I managed to sneak away just before old man winter arrived for an outing with Shane on a gorgeous fall day.  Although the bright sun and cloudless bluebird skies kept the bugs down and killed the streamer bite, the nymphing was quite good.

Shane Thomas Photo
Is there anything in the world a flashback pheasant tail nymph can't accomplish?

As I sit here typing, I can hear snow flakes landing on our metal roof.  Winter is just beginning, but I am already thinking about a spring trip to the tropics.  Campeche for baby tarpon?  Punta Allen or Andros for bones?

Or maybe, given my budget (or lack thereof), I should just head over to Miami to visit the folks and hit the Biscayne flats.
My Attempt at a Split Screen Rainbow Release

Apparently a lot of people are thinking about spring trips to the tropics, as I've noticed a large spike in blog visits from folks searching the web for "DIY bonefishing Turks and Caicos."

It's that time of year.

No more warm, bluebird days with rolled up sleeves. Not around here at least.  Not for about six months.

I absolutely love our local rivers in the winter.  It's hard to imagine a more serene, peaceful and engaging setting than the Henry's Fork or the South Fork on a stormy winter's day.  

Imagine listening to snow flakes land while noses gently peek above the surface during a midge hatch. Imagine dark skies, tranquil water and slow-moving dorsal fins.

Some of the best dry fly fishing of the year will occur between now and Christmas, yet very few people will experience it.  

It has been a wonderful fall with some incredible fishing, but I am ready for winter and the change of pace. 

Thank God for tailwaters.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Bay of Pigs Invasion

On 1 November 2012, the joint chiefs of staff executed a covert operation at a top secret rendezvous point.

Code Name: the "Bay of Pigs Invasion"

The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a successful action by a force of fly fishing commandos to invade CLASSIFIED, in an attempt to land fat bows, cuttbows and browns using stealth, weapons-grade fly munitions and hand-to-fin combat techniques.
Private First Class Shane Thomas and the Spoils of Victory
On 28 October 2012, President Obama was briefed, together with all the major departments, on the latest plan that involved the deployment of three (3) men to be landed in a shore-borne invasion at CLASSIFIED, about 270 km (170 mi) south-east of CLASSIFIED.

LOGISTICS:  CLASSIFIED had good port facilities, it was closer to many existing counter-revolutionary activities, it had an easily defensible beachhead, and it offered an escape route into the CLASSIFIED Mountains.

Torpedo vs. #16 PT Nymph
When that scheme was subsequently rejected by the State Department, however, the CIA went on to propose an alternative plan.

THE FINAL PLAN:  On 30 October 2012, President Obama then approved the Bay of Pigs plan (also known as Operation Hare's Ear), because it had an airfield that would not need to be extended to handle bomber operations, it was farther away from large groups of civilians than the prior plan, and it was less "noisy" militarily.

Consistent with former vice president Dick Cheney's policies on torture, the use of SEX DUNGEONS was authorized by the white house.

PFC Thomas - Doing His Part for the Nation

Combat Wounded Veteran
The president authorized the active departments to continue, and to report progress.

PFC Thomas in Action
From 07:30 to 19:30 hours, multiple fly sorties were thrown from shore and mid-river positions.

Commander Cutler, Providing Support to Our Ally

The invasion ended at approximately 19:45 hours.

The operation was deemed a complete success, with over 70 combatants brought to hand.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Out There

 Have you seen Idylwilde Flies' new slogan "Fish More, Pose Less?"   

They nailed it.

Don't talk about it; do it.


It was a very good week here in east Idaho.  The Henry's Fork produced some great fishing.

There's nothing better than a dark, stormy sky blanketing the river in the fall. 

The browns are getting ready to spawn, so it is high time to shift gears.

Thus, I hit the river in search of bows and located three or four solid fish from the get-go.

Nothing to write home about, but some good, solid fish.  

Then a school bus slammed my sex dungeon.

A few minutes later, this fat hen came to hand.

Thank You, Piglet

 You know what's cool?  Some of the year's best fishing is yet to come.

You know what is not cool?  Hooking another pig and losing it because the sink tip on my SA Streamer Express line broke in two.  The tippet held, my knots held, but the line busted at a crack in the head.

I lunged into the river to try and grab the line as the hog swam away but, alas, that fish was fast on its way to another zip code.