Half full or half empty?

This past week I took a trip to the Lost Coast to fish some of my favorite coastal water. There’s something magical about those rivers. Their color-modulating blue-green waters, old growth trees covered in moss, perfect swing runs and spell binding ocean sunsets make me long for endless days of winter. Not to mention, a dime bright winter steelhead caught mere miles from the sea is a reward all in itself.

 

One of infinite perfect coastal sunsets

One of infinite perfect coastal sunsets

 

 

Sadly, this trip was cut very short. As I lay dreaming of mist lingering above beryl waters and fish yet to be caught, my rig was being burglarized. Discovering that every bit of steelhead gear I owned,  hip pack, dry bag, waders and all, had been plundered away in the night was heart rending. It was less about the possessions, than the sentimental value many of them held for me. Items handed down from my dad over the years, my first spey rod that Bill Lowe taught me how to cast with, all the hand-tied flies I’d spent hours carefully crafting; the sense of violation was staggering. Not to mention, as a guide, some were also tools of my livelihood.

 

I’ve rarely used Facebook as a platform to vent, but seeing red, I took to social media and proclaimed my fury. It had been enough for me to simply rant to the great unknown of the interweb that I was furious. Frankly, I was taken aback by the number of comments my post generated. So many friends and acquaintances in the fly fishing community reached out to me, offering to help in any way they could. Mike, the proprietor of the Eureka Fly Shop, upon hearing what happened, even helped me get a few of my items back when a nefarious character came into the shop trying to peddle a couple of my stolen reels.

 

What I had witnessed was a community of fly fishers rallying to a comrade in distress. On one hand, the violation of having my property stolen shook my faith in the good nature of people. However, the kind gestures of so many in our small, but tight knit community restored it.  I still choose to see the glass half full and keep on smiling. I would like to thank everyone who has ever lent a hand to a fellow fisher in need. Your goodwill and generous spirit help make the sport of fly fishing truly remarkable and cathartic.

 

When life gives you lemons, drink a beer ;) Thanks again for reading and being awesome!

When life gives you lemons, drink a beer 😉 Thanks again for reading and being extraordinary!

Paying it forward

A few days before I headed into Ennis, MT for the Fly Fishing Festival, my fishing buddie Annie stopped by Beartooth Fly Fishing just outside of town. She came back to the ranch later that evening with rave reviews of the shop, their personel, and one of the guys’ phone numbers for me to call when I got into town. She’d mentioned I would be passing through and one of the associates she had talked to, Dan Greene, offered to take me fishing on the Madison while I was in town.

After shooting him a brief text explaining who I was, Dan and I meet for a beer to chat and arrange fishing plans. We schedule to meet early the next morning at the shop to float a section of the Madison.

A lovely sunrise greets me on my drive to the shop

A lovely sunrise greets me on my drive to the shop

My alarm beeps at me and after a few sleepy yawns in the pre-sunrise dawn, I pop out of the tent and put on the coffee. After all, there are fish to catch, so I’m not inclined to linger over lost sleep. Twenty minutes later, I am on the road to the shop. I head inside and am greeting by fly fishing mecca (custom rods, flies galore, gear…) and a dozen or so smiling faces; its hardly seven and these people are all fully awake. One of these days I will learn the art of being a morning person. Until then, I will just have to rely on copious amounts of coffee; the fish aren’t going to wait for me to sleep in.

It’s a misty morning, and there is not a fish rising or a bug hatching. I gear up with a few nymphs and load into the boat. I hook into a few fish almost immediately, but they don’t find their way into the net. It’s already turning out to be a great day. While we drift down river, Dan tells me about his passion for fly tying and shares his adventures of extreme skiing in Big Sky and all the bones he’s broken; a tail bone here, a disc there…. nothing too serious. Lol. It amazes me that he is still fully hooked and amped on the coming winter season. An adrenaline-junkie fly fisher, who would’ve thought?

A healthy brown :)

A healthy brown 🙂

 

 

We put in the anchor at a bridge to wade, and both Dan and I land some nice fish. We hop back into the boat and push off again. Another rainbow downstream, we decide to stop for lunch. Dan made some pretty awesome turkey sandwiches and we sit on the bank and watch other drift boats float by as we eat.

Such a pig, look at that belly!

Never met a fish that had rolls before. What a pig!

While we sit there, I thank Dan for taking his day off and going fishing with me. His reasons are simple and the philosophy behind it makes me smile. A) He’s been fishing new places before and people have offered him advice, fishing tips, and taken him under their wing; he thought it would  be nice to pass along the favor. B) he laughs that another day spent on the water is a good day. You can be sure that this has inspired me to pay it forward next time I happen upon a fisher in uncharted waters.

Not expecting to be floated down the river all day like the queen of the nile, I offer to row the boat after lunch. I’ve never tried it before, mainly because I haven’t fished many rivers where I was on a boat. A few zig-zags down the river and some unavoided rocks, and I finally start to get the hang of it. Rowing a drift boat is seriously fun. A bit of a work out, but made enjoyable by the breath-taking vistas and near proximity to fishing.

What a view!

 

Nice work Dan!

Nice work Dan!

 

It is near dark when we pull into the boach launch, and I smile at a great day spent fishing from dawn til dusk.

Thanks Dan for being such a positive, stoked guy and taking this gal fishin’. You have a friend and fishing buddy whenever you make it out to the West Coast 🙂 Until then I won’t forget to live life large!!

The Mccloud River

Days 3-5

After a day of working on Monday, the car gets packed up and pops and I head on out to our next location, the lower Mccoud river. The drive is stunning; thickly forested mountains and  Mt. Shasta surging majestically upwards into a blue bird sky. The road around Mccloud Lake impresses, the water a bright emerald green. While a bit of a rough ride (I hear this road is notorious for doling out flats), the way down the canyon to AH-DI-NA campground is scenic and full of wildlife. In fact, as we’re driving into this deep ravine, Dad mentions this is Bigfoot country. After a sideways glance, I realize he’s serious. Oh man.

Lake Mccloud

Lake Mccloud

Its early evening when we arrive at our query. My Dad, ever the friendly guy, goes up and chats to our   neighbors, the only other people staying at the campground. Yet another funny coincidence; he had just talked to the guy earlier in the morning at the Ted Fay Fly Shop in Dunsmuir. It turns out Mike has been fishing this river for years, and is taking his son Ben on his first fly fishing trip. Gotta love that, taking a kid fishing! I also spot some wet suits in the back ground by their tent, it turns out these guys surf too. Bonus points! We wish them good evening and tight lines, then head out to the river.

Tight lines!

Tight lines!

The wading is tough and slippery (dad and I will both end up going for a “swim”), but there is a ton of pocket water and plenty of fish to make it worth it. While waiting for the dries to start popping, we high stick some nymphs. BAM!! I hook the first fish of the evening in some fast water. I look at the bend in my favorite rod, a Red Truck Diesel #5, and I know this fish has some heft to it. I wrangle in a gorgeous 18″ wild rainbow. I am entranced; this river is not only gorgeous but also full of strong, spirited fish.

Fish on!

Fish on! This beauty was camera shy and bolted  as soon I removed the #10 PT flashback from his snout.

The late evenings turn out to be the most product time to fish; that PMD emerger I learned to tie at the Upper Sac turns out to be quite the hot fly. Fish are slurping this fly like a little kid pops skittles! The only downside to this river is that at times it can be difficult to cast. I caught a few trees, in and out of the stream.

Whoops. Glad Dad got a picture of this instead of all the fish I was catching.

Whoops. Thanks for getting a picture of this Dad.

Until next time...

Until next time…

As we pack up the last day, I’m sad to be leaving, but I know I’ll be back. I’m glad we stopped at a few rivers in Northern California before we headed up to Oregon. I can’t wait to head back and fish these rivers for years to come.

We made it!

We made it!

We take pit stop in Klamath Falls for a couple of days, I take care of work (sigh) and Dad gets to hang out with an old college buddy and play some golf at the Running Y. Coming up next? Perhaps the Williamson River for the hex hatch, or up to the Cascade Lakes Basin to use the float tubes that have been blocking the rear view in my car. Or the upper Deschutes, the Crooked River, the Metolius River…. They’re all on the list, and I can’t wait to fish them all.

Sunset over Klamath Lake

Sunset over Klamath Lake

A long-anticipated journey

Summer is in full swing, and after much long deliberation, I’ve decided to fish my way from California to Montana. I’ll be gone fishin’ for the rest of the summer and perhaps well into the fall. I set out with no particular time frame or route in mind. Like Bilbo Baggins, I intend to go wherever the adventure takes me.

Irresponsible? Perhaps a little bit. But hey, you only live once. What about my job you ask? I’ll still be able to telecommute part-time for my current job so I won’t be completely off the grid while I’m on my adventures (not to mention I’ll be able to afford fishing gear, gas and food….in that order). Many of my friends have no idea why I would want to go galavanting across the country by myself; fishing away the summer. But then again, many of my friends don’t fly fish; those that do just wish that they could come with me.

A scenic drive

A scenic drive

Days 1-3; July 13, 2013:

My Dad is traveling with me for the Oregon leg of my trip; double the gear but also double the fun. Most of the morning is spent getting last minute items and cramming my beloved Subaru full of fishing rods, fly-tying materials, enough flies to open a fly shop, float tubes and camping gear. Who needs to see out the back window anyways?

Windmills line the mountain outside of Burney

Windmills line the mountain outside of Burney

About 5 hours into the drive, I realize I didn’t bring a net. “Hey Dad, did you bring your net?” Uh oh. Dad realizes he didn’t bring his net, not a huge deal….except for the fact that his net is attached to the back of his vest (loaded with all of his favorite flies, and other beloved fishing gear). He’ll have to make due with his hip pack for a few days until it can be FedEx’d up to meet us. The next day on the river, I notice him reaching out of habit for tools normally found on his vest; but alas he grips at empty space. Poor guy!

Fish these size were so fun to catch on a #2-3 graphite rod my Dad built. I want one!!!

Fish these size were lively to catch on a #2-3 graphite rod my Dad built. Slow action and fun to cast. I want one!!!

We make camp at Castle Crag, our site is right on the Upper Sacramento River. Ironically, our neighbors are the Peninsula Fly Fishing Club. It’s always easy to identify fellow fly anglers, the gear tends to give us away. Fishing stories are exchanged and it turns out the president of the club has just moved to Truckee. What a small world it is!

While Dad continues to chat away with these folks I decide to hit the river.  It’s dusk, the perfect time for fishing. The fish are hungry and I’m catching 10″-16″ wild and planted ‘bows every few casts. The next day more fish are caught, I learn how to tie  PMD emerger and pops teaches me how to skate a caddis. A sublime start to what promises to be a spectacular journey.

On the road again. Mt. Shasta in the background.

On the road again. Mt. Shasta in the background.

Just Keep Fishing

A week after the ISE conference I attended, I have to say, I’m still thinking about all of the amazing people I met. The expo itself was also fantastic. The many different booths provided excellent opportunities to inquire about new products, compare and contrast various brands, and even demo some of the rods. I myself tested a Tenkara rod for the first time. If you haven’t done so before, I highly recommend trying one. It is a completely different way to fly fish.

One of the favorite people I met at the expo was  a woman named Dorothy Zinky. She was tying a spectacular mayfly impression in the show’s tying booth. At 83, she was tying on a size 16 hook with apparent ease.  I was immediately drawn-in and well on my way to developing a bit of hero worship for this brilliant lady. I spent over an hour at her station; she was full of jokes, laughter, a bit of  mischief and possessed a unique perspective as a woman fly fisher who had been participating in the sport for over 45 years. She regaled me with witty tales from her years on the water.  As fly fishing tends to be a male dominated sport, it was refreshing to hear stories from a woman who’d been fishing for so many years.

A story about hooking herself in the face, and then having to coach one of the less squeamish men to remove it for her, was ironic and comical. She is a skilled story teller; the way her eyes light up with good-natured mischief during her narration makes it a memorable experience.  My personal favorite was a story I could relate to: when she was fishing with a group of men from atop milk crates (to maximize casting distance), she toppled off her box and into the river, with copious amounts of water pouring into her waders. Her take on it: since she did such a good job of getting completely drenched, her shirt was all the same water-logged color, and because no one had seen her fall in, she just kept on fishing with water up to her knees inside her waders.  Being accident prone, especially when you add water, moss and challenging terrain; I have had my fair share of slips and falls. I have DEFINETLY been there before: yard-saling in front of a bunch of guys who are good enough friends to laugh freely at your expense (I’ve never been lucky enough to avoid notice when I fall). I guess the most important thing is to be able to laugh it off and just keep fishing, because after all that’s what your’e out there to do.

ISE Bound!

The “fish more, work less” motto I decided to adopt this year is already being put to diligent use. Since the start of the new year, I have been fishing twice and already logged a few entries on my steelhead report card. And the fishing forecast is only looking to heat up as the month continues. The International Sportsmen’s Exposition is coming to Sacramento this Thursday and will be in full swing until Sunday (January 10th-13th). I will be attending the event for the first time in many years. I look forward to rubbing elbows with many industry experts and checking out a ton of new equipment; my excitement level is merely that of a kid in candy store.

In its 36 years, this exposition has been stomping grounds for outdoor aficionados from all walks of the outdoor industry. Fly fishing, boating, hunting, archery, adventure travel, camping; you name it. It is a wonderful opportunity to become acquainted with new outdoor activities or become more proficient at an already learned skill. Along with over 300 premier outfitters, the exposition also includes booths from national and local conservation organizations, state and federal government agencies, and nonprofit groups. Information mecca; along with many live demonstrations, competitions, interactive booths, and kid-friendly areas make it a great way to spend a day or weekend.

Hours of operation: Thursday and Friday: 11am-8pm, Saturday 10am-7pm, and Sunday 10am-5pm.

Tickets: General Admission $15.00  Kids 16 and under FREE

For additional information about the ISE, please visit their website.

Re acquainting myself with fly tying

With a fresh start just around the corner, many of us are making pacts and resolutions for the new year. Besides the “fish more and work less” mantra I’m adopting this year (sorry boss!), I have also decided to add a new skill to my fishing repertoire. Fly tying, the final frontier of becoming a truly dedicated and self-sufficient fly fisher.

During the holidays when I was visiting home, I picked up a few basics from an expert fly-tier; Bruce Ajari, otherwise know to me as “Dad.” He taught me how to tie a wooly bugger and a basic streamer. Just a few days later and I’ve already got a serious case of “fly tying” on the brain.

I have begun to see my fly box in a completely different light. In my mind I deconstruct flies and strive to understand how they are made; each wrap of the bobbin and placement of hackle a puzzle to be solved and later replicated by my own hands.

I wait with anxious anticipation to catch a fish on a self-tied fly. Regardless of size, that fish will be a milestone, (at least in my eyes), a symbol of accomplishment, if you will. It will mean that I have successfully confounded a fish with even greater skill; from a blank hook into a successful imitation of a natural creature, along with the always imperative, accurate presentation of the fly. I’m looking forward to sharing its catch and release with everyone.

Happy New Year!!!

Regal