Thursday, September 29, 2016

Four Months with my Swift Epic 686, plus Backstory


Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for August, 2015.  There were two historically significant events at this temporal nexus:
  1. The Fading Angler spends a day with a guide in southern Minnesota's Driftless Area.  Guide Dan brings along a 4 weight TFO Finesse rod that seems to mesh better with my casting "skills" than the stiff 7-foot Sage Approach 3-weight I brought along.
  2. The Fading Angler gets a chance to test-cast the brand-spanking new Sage MOD at Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig, MT.  The MOD is Sage's "moderate action" rod, sitting somewhere between the actions of the fast ONE and "advanced slow-action" CIRCA models.  Very quickly, something amazing happens:  I am able to shoot line at the conclusion of forward casting strokes.  I'd never been able to do this before.
This was chronicled in more detail here on the blog last year: Fly Angler: Headhunter or Head Case?

Being a scientist (at least in my own head), I immediately implemented a new top-secret operation and intelligence protocol:
Fading Angler's Cientific Exploration Purporting to Learn Actual Nowlegde and Truth, better known by the codename FACEPLANT.
(You might want to grab a coffee, Diet Mountain Dew, pint of beer, or a double bourbon before continuing. Oh, and a grain of salt.  Bring the shaker...)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

If You've Never Heard of Bull Trout...

I'd never heard of Bull Trout until I moved to Montana in 1998.  Then as now, they are a Threatened (not quite qualifying for "Endangered") species that cannot be targeted by anglers, except for one river and lake in  NW Montana and only if you have the correct paperwork.  They are a char, more closely related to brook trout and dolly varden than cutthroats (who share their native waters) or rainbow trout.

They are aggressive predators.  I've seen one, on the Blackfoot River.  It was over 30" long and seriously considering snacking on a 14" cutthroat that I'd foul-hooked.  Fascinating beasties. John Arnold of Headhunters Fly Shop and Scumliner Media fame recently published this gem in cooperation with another photographer/producer, Pat Clayton of Fish Eye Guy Photography.

Notice the deep turquoise hue of the water in some of those shots?  I love that color!

Hats off to John and Pat. Very cool collaboration.

Friday, September 16, 2016

MN Mountain Man: A Trout Hunting Machine

It was a great stroke of luck that I found the Driftless Trout Anglers forums earlier this year.  One of the regulars there is a guy with ties to Montana: MN Mountain Man, aka Clayton.  He moved from the Kalispell/Whitefish area and now pounds the banks of the Driftless Area's cold water creeks.  He runs a couple of blogs/sites:
 After exchanging messages over the summer, we were finally able to sync schedules and meet up for some angling the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend.  We met early and I followed him to a stretch of water he'd gotten permission to access.

As we geared up, it was impossible not to notice that he's ready to fish at a moment's notice. No waders, no boots, no vest.  He swapped shoes, grabbed a rod, and maybe had a small sling pack for his tackle.  Lean, mean, optimized, and ready to go.  Then there's me... classic hare and tortoise.

He's also a very focused angler.  He moves efficiently upstream, methodically working the water.  He says that most days, he fishes deep.  I don't think he changed flies at all during our morning trek upstream.  And why should he when fish after fish take what he's selling?

This man is zeroed-in on catching fish, and knows how to bring in the big ones.  Take this one for example:
This was one of the fattest fish I've ever seen.  I could just barely get my hands all the way around the back and belly.  If you look at photos on his blog, this looks like a normal everyday ho-hum fish for him.  It's a good thing he lives close to a collection of great trout streams, because he's got a stressful job.  To blow off steam, he hits the water often, ties flies, and builds custom rods.

It was a great opportunity to fish with Clayton.  He didn't laugh at me when I made one of my signature Parkinson's Moves (falling down the bank) and wasn't in a hurry.  Like fishing with Eddie, I had the opportunity to learn some great stuff just watching him fish.  In fact, I used some of his techniques to extract a few browns from a tough spot the next day.  Thanks, Clayton!

Great morning with great weather.  Great angler and great company.  I hope we can do it again soon, and not just for the obvious reason:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bigfoot Found! Nessy Exists! Howard Smiles!

Next, I hope to flirt with the Tooth Fairy, ride a unicorn, and fish a 5-weight flyrod rolled from quantum-aligned pure unobtainium nanotube matrix (with stripping guides made from dilithium crystals.)

Beauty and The Beast
(click to enlarge, if you dare)

I think I like posing for photos with Howard.  I look AT LEAST twenty years younger than I normally do.

Just in case you missed the report on our Saturday fishing adventure in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, go back and read about it!

(oh, yeah... Howard also has his own version of the story.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Wind Knots and Fading Anglers

Howard found my blog earlier this year, and we started a conversation.  It wasn't long before one of the Little Voices® told me that I needed to go fishing with this guy.  So, we've been talking about it for quite some time.  Emails, phone calls, smoke signals, maybe even a little bit of telepathy.

So, there's talking, and then there's making &$@# happen.  If you're reading this, there's a decent chance that you also read Howard's blog.  And you might be aware that our friend Howard has had some challenges getting out to fish.  No doubt, this has been frustrating and painful for the man.

This is where my Messiah Complex kicks in, or some other form of narcissistic delusion.  Hertz certainly agrees.  When I arrived at the Denver airport Hertz location, they had truncated my first name on their pickup board from "Christopher" to "Christ."  And I must be intimidating, because it took extensive negotiations just to arrange a meet-up Thursday night.  (Real story, I had told him that I would track him down and bring the party to him even if he was impounded in the hospital for some reason.  He momentarily made me think that we'd be watching the Broncos defeat the Panthers in a hospital room, but he let me off the hook pretty easy.)

Our paths have been proximate before.  When I worked for the University of Colorado from 2008 to 2011, I had an apartment that was probably less than a mile from his house.  I suggested we meet up at the Old Chicago restaurant where I used to watch Monday Night Football, so of course he knew exactly where I meant.

Blah blah blah, I hear you say.  You went there to fish!  And fish we did!  We had talked earlier about perhaps trekking up to Rocky Mountain National Park, and when he'd shared photos of the Blue River in August, I fell instantly in love with that.  Then he mentioned Clear Creek.  Howard loves Clear Creek, where you can catch a trout and get hit by a car while standing in the river.  After scratching my proverbial head for a few seconds, I could see on his face and in his eyes the depth of his connection with that water.
Clear Creek and the highway
Saturday morning, we ran to Wal-Mart so I could grab a one-day non-resident fishing license, then headed south to Golden.  From there, it was uphill and west, following Clear Creek.  When we made that right-hand turn, I could see and feel a change in Howard.  Part of him lives there, and he's a more complete person when he gets to meet up with that part.

We bypassed his (formerly?) favorite spot because of ongoing construction and eventually found a spot that wasn't too difficult to climb down to.  We stopped and geared up.
Tangled up, right out of the tailgate
Howard made one thing clear: "I'm not here to catch fish, I'm here to test this new, slim profile fly line."  OOOOooooookaaaaaayyy.  Excuse accepted and filed.  :)  I rigged up Monday (see Glossary), put on my "guard socks" and boots, and went wading.  (The wading was almost a little too deep for male comfort, for a moment.)  Along the way, I kept an eye on my companion.
Uh-oh, a wind knot?
Howard at work, product testing...
After lunch, we back-tracked to his favorite spot.  I was impressed with the holes and runs on this wide stretch, even though he said the water is the lowest he's ever seen it.  It made for good wading and even some catching.  And I got to unleash Monday's full potential.
If this was hockey, I'd get called for high-sticking.  Nah, I'm actually
playing Luke Skywalker, holding my blue lightsabre over my head!

The weather couldn't have been better.  And I am now officially in love with Monday, my Epic 686 combined with a 406 Fly Lines DT.  I hit every spot on the river I wanted to hit, even with a breeze.  I think I'm finally ready to do a full review.  Soon.  If my neck quits hurting.

Today, a pair of Fading Anglers shared some time and some water.  And, just for a moment, the hourglass paused.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Fiberglass Fishing Cures Many Ills

Last Thursday 9/1, we fled life in central Minnesota to reestablish sanity near a trout stream in southeastern Minnesota.  We went back to the Minnesota Driftless.  After parking the Mobile Hotel® and completing a few chores, I grabbed the 'glass and headed for the creek.  I reached for Mellow Yellow (4 wt Redington Butter Stick) without even thinking and tied on my favorite low-light dry fly: a size 14 parachute Adams.  Ten minutes later I brought a 10"-11" brown trout into my net, right behind campsite #15.  I thanked the creek as the fish swam from my hand, and headed back to the Mobile Hotel® for s'mores and bourbon.  All of life's problems had faded, if only for an hour or two.

Friday saw 3 short outings within the vicinity of the campground.  Recent flooding has very much altered the character of the creek.  I couldn't even scare trout out of my most productive runs and holes from May and June.  They were devoid of macroscopic life.  After much experimentation with dry fly refusals at the Bottomless Pool, I got a few takers on a size 18 red lightning bug.  Wait, there was one impressive swipe at a hopper on a random toss to he head of the Pool, but only one.  Large fish don't get large by being stupid.

Saturday was a graphite day and will be discussed at another time.

Sunday morning, I headed out with two 'glass rods in hand (hands?): Mellow Yellow rigged for little dry flies, and Monday rigged with indicator, weights, and two nymphs.  With no surface action to be had, the 6 wt Epic saved the day, fooling several browns deep in the Bottomless Pool with lightning bugs and zebra midges.  Color mattered.

The fiberglass felt good.  Slow down, you're casting too fast.  You need to make the weekend last... After all, it's both physical therapy and psychotherapy.  I should totally bill myself $250 an hour.

Photo by Eddie Rivard

#glassisnotdead #feelingroovy