Thursday, February 16, 2017

Gearing up

There are probably exceptions out there, but it seems to me that pretty much every fly angler on the planet is a "gear head."  Do you know anyone who's been fishing with a fly rod for more than a year and owns only one fly rod?  We have innumerable fly boxes, clamps, sling packs, waist packs, rod racks, tying vices, reels, and assorted gadgets.  And there's always something new and shiny out there.

Photo from
One of my favorite acquisitions from last year is a couple of Tacky fly boxes.  My wife bought one in 2015.  When I sat down one evening last year to put some new flies into it for her, I fell in love with the magnetic closure and the size.  I now try to limit myself to carrying two of these at a time for any given wading session, rather than the rag-tag collection of water-tight latching boxes that were taking up too much space in my sling pack.

2016 was also the year of the wading staff for me.  Parkinson's Disease can make you stiff and slow.  If you can't move as fast as you used to, it's harder to keep your balance, even on normal flat surfaces.  I don't dare set foot into a stream without my staff on my belt.  And I've found that it doesn't cause any inconvenience at all!  It's tethered to my belt, so I can wade into position and just drop it at my side to start casting.  And I've found it essential for stepping down into or climbing out of the water.  Even if I'm wet wading, I buckle my Wingo belt (American made!) around my waist with the staff in its holster.  When I get to the water, it's deployed in 10 seconds.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Lot of Bull

Another flashback to the awesome year that was 2016...

Click to Enlarge
Photo Credit: Jeff Rivard

When I met up with Eddie Rivard and clan (father and brother) to fish a beautiful morning on the Tongue River in Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains, we encountered this big boy just before the turn-off to our fishing spot.

It's very common to see moose here.  Five years ago, I stumbled across a juvenile moose in a small clearing amongst the willows you see in the background.  "Hi there, nice moose.  Where's Mama?  I'm backing away slowly..."

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Video: Rise of the Pink Tornado

I've been holding on to some decent video footage of my daughter reeling in a good size raindbow trout on the Missouri River.  It suffered from annoying-to-terrible wind noise. So, this morning while I was waiting around in an airport lounge, I taught myself some new skills.  I cleaned up the audio and enhanced the overall experience just a bit.

It's not gonna win any awards, but I'll give it a "Not too shabby for my first effort" rating.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Cliffs of Insanity!

Otherwise known as "cabin fever."  It can drive a man to do strange and terrible things...

Even worse, it not just the Little Voices® talking to me these days.  Now I can hear my fly rods whispering to me from across the room as I fall asleep at night!

PS - Thanks for the shirt, Howard!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017: Uncharted

I'm standing on a narrow bridge, looking down at the South Fork of the Flathead River in western Montana.  Fifty or a hundred feet below me, the small river funnels to a gushing choke point and rushes into the dark shade of a narrow gorge.  The August sun flashes an occasional rainbow in the spray below, and I look out over the river tumbling at me from the south.  The bridge is here for backpackers and pack trains moving into and out of the true wilderness.  The trail disappears over a hill to the southeast, but I'm not interested in the trail.  A minor feeling of vertigo makes me clench the grip of my flyrod even tighter as I gaze down at a swirling pool that I'm absolutely sure holds a few native westslope cutthroat trout.

How am I gonna get down there?

Normally, I have some difficulty motivating myself to explore new angling water.  I know why I came here, to a place I've never seen.  I wanted solitude and a chance to catch native cutthroats in unspoiled waters.  With no idea of what awaited me, I drove three hours on some of the most intimidating dirt roads I've ever seen.  I parked the truck, geared up, and started hiking.  What had I gotten myself into?  The only other part of the plan was for Mrs. Fading Angler to call the sheriff's office if I wasn't back by midnight.  Everything else was that delusional force that drives anglers of all types: hope.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016: An Idiot Finds a Village

My year began cold, solo, and guilt-ridden.  A person really shouldn't feel guilty about what they've intended and planned for their blog, but a recovering perfectionist is subject to a different set of self-imposed standards.  I started a series in 2015 entitled, "Opportunity Knocks" and was having a hard time writing the conclusion.  There was an occasional acquaintance that dropped by to read some of my Entropy®, and Eddie Rivard had somehow managed to wander in and read a little.  But, given a general lack of audience, this was much more of a journal than blog at that point.

In March, I finished Part IV of the Opportunity Knocks series.  Miraculously, Howard Levett of Wind Knots and Tangled Lines stumbled across that piece and featured me on his blog a short time later.  I consider myself very luck to now have a core group of friends that drop by.  Thanks to you, my journal has been transformed into a conversation space.

I'm also very thankful to have had the opportunity to fish alongside many friends this year.  I am fortunate to be able to travel frequently, and even more fortunate to have made friends like this, some old friends and some brand new ones.

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My wife has known Joe Bloomquist since a Montana Elk Hunt in 2010.  In 2011, Joe started teaching the fine art of fly angling to Mrs. Fading Angler and The Offspring.  We've fished with Joe (or one of his best guides) almost every year since then.  During our many hours of floating the Missouri River in Montana without another soul around, I'd like to hope that we became friends.

Joe, for whatever it's worth, this photo and the memory of that 20 minute casting lesson are one of my favorite memories and moments of the year.  

Mrs. Fading Angler is my most reliable fishing buddy.  We had an EPIC two days of floating with Joe in April.

It's difficult to imagine two better days of fishing.

After corresponding with Eddie, a fellow Minnesota resident, I managed to bribe him with a couple of bratwurst into letting me follow him around for a few hours.  We fished some water that was new to both of us and became a favorite stretch for me this past year.

Coincidentally, Eddie and I had another favorite angling spot in common: the North Tongue River at the north end of the Big Horn mountains in Wyoming.  And in another barely-believable coincidence, we discovered we'd both be fishing there on the same weekend in August.

Unfortunately, I can't find the photo that his father took of us together.  I guess I'll have to request it. again.  Oh, well.  Let's just say that I was pretty darn happy to fish with Eddie not once, but twice.

Clayton and I emailed back and forth for a while before we were able to find an opportunity to share some water.  Hoping to do it again sometime in January or February.  Winter season opens in one week!

One of the best things that's happened to me this year is this guy: Howard Levett.  Not sure what else to say, other than I was proud to appoint him the as the Grand Marshal of the Royal (P.I.T.A) Order of Fading Anglers.  May you fish for many more years, Howard!  Thank you for bringing me into your village.  Looking forward to seeing you at the Flyfishing Show in Denver.

Ralph is another member of the Fading Angler Pro-Staff.  He's been a rock for me.  An amazing, inspiring man with immeasurable talent.  I'm honored to have him alongside me as  Parkinson's Disease pushes further into my brain and my life.  I hope to be able to return the favor in some way.

Thank you, Ralph.

And thank you to everyone who has stopped here, left a comment, and added something to my life.  I've been an introvert for much of my life, but always looking for somewhere to belong.  I've told several people over the past couple of years that fly angling has kept me sane and probably saved my life.  Those of you who have taken the time to join my journey here or go fishing with me...

You've adopted a happy idiot.

I hope you'll stick around for 2017.  Please.

God, I'm a lucky man...

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Another Angler's Thoughts and a Little Push

Thanks to some new connections on Twitter (@FadingAngler if you dare!), I was fortunate to wander across some recent writing from April Vokey.  April is one of those people who have found a way to successfully make their living in the outdoors.  She a guide, writer (I guess I mentioned that already), and the kind of adventurer I wish I could be.  She's also really into Swift fly rods, like my Epic 686.  Yeah, she's cool.  Much cooler than me.

Recent Swift promo on Twitter, featuring April.

Here's what caught my eye, my mind, and my heart when I saw this in her Twitter feed (reprinted with permission):

As an animal lover, this whole hunting thing has been very emotional. Never have I felt so attached to the food I eat, or to the food I see so often go to waste. I feel a responsibility to know where my food comes from, and to limit my grocery store shopping when there's been an animal killed for my wellbeing.
It's been hard. I've lost sleep. I've had to take some very deep looks into who I am as a person. Yet, I've still decided that this is for me, that I will still eat meat, and that I will always feel a connection to nature - the day that I can't accept this, I will stick to eating fish... but I just don't foresee that in the near future.
Vic and Kath from @oceanhunter_sportsfishing have taken me under their wings to open my eyes to this new world. Kath has fed me some of the most incredible meals made with wild game, and Vic has taught me how to gut and prepare an animal. I thought it would be one of the hardest things I've ever been a part of, but while he and I were doing the stuff so many of us try to pretend doesn't happen, I kept asking myself, "would you still eat a pork burrito"? Why, yes I would. And until I make the decision not to, I choose to come to grips with the reality of where my food comes from, as well as all the pain, heartache, and hard work that goes along with it.
I think I'll always cry after a kill and I'm ok with that. I'm ready for it. You'll never see me smiling and posing with an animal (this is likely the most graphic photo I will ever post), you'll never see me sponsored by a hunting company (this time I'm keeping this sport as mine... there will be no career involved here. It's so exhilarating to be just as excited over a sport as I was when I first got into fishing), and I will always respect that not everyone understands where I'm coming from (I'm sorry mom and dad) ... but, for now, I'm still craving pork burritos. Didn't see this one coming. Xo
I'm going to assume that this was the first time that April had ever taken the life of a land animal with intent.  Regardless, her feelings rippled across a normally calm spot in my mind like a pebble tossed in a pond, and resonated.  I immediately admired April for her honesty and for her courage.  She had the courage to challenge her own beliefs and test her ethics.  This is the best kind of intelligence.  Her reaction feels raw and very genuine.  I believe that these words and feelings come from the core of who she is.  And I'm grateful she had the courage and desire to write publicly about it, because it's time I faced a lingering internal dilemma of my own, one that The Little Voices® and I have not been able to resolve on my (our?) own: the ethics and morality of catch and release fishing.

I'm hoping April would be willing to participate in a discussion with me.  I'm also hoping that I can spend some time chatting with my friend and frequent fishing guide Joe Bloomquist. I need other people's perspectives, and I need to challenge my own philosophy a bit, because I despise hypocracy and won't tolerate it in myself, even if it means I never catch-and-release again.

It might take a while to arrange these conversations, but I'll report back when I can.