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!

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Never a dull moment…

Just as I suspected I might, all these days on the road have made me to lose track of time. I’m not quite sure what day it is, or how many days consecutively I have spent fishing. And I couldn’t be happier.

Days 12-16 Metolious River, OR

This river has been one of the places I have been anxious and ridiculously excited to fish. It is the first river I have fished that has bull trout. We set up camp next to the river; its about mid-day, and as soon as the tent is pitched and site is deemed livable, I grab my rod and rush to the river. For being a spring creek, this river sure does have some power and it’s icy cold. After my time at this river, I will later decide to describe the Metolious as an ice queen with a heart of gold. We have a complicated relationship.

The view from the head of the Metolious River

The head of the Metolious River

As I walk the path of the river in search of a nice deep pool to throw my streamer (courtesy of Fly Fisher’s Place fly shop in Sisters, OR); I am lost in the gorgeous surroundings. Trees and meadows with a hint of snow capped mountains in the background, deep pools surrounded by jutting canyons. Gorgeous. This first day, I am fishing just downstream from Camp Sherman in the riffles, pools and undercuts.  And both Dad and I get skunked. Not what I had in mind.

Wet wading past the gorge, despite the icy cold water.

Wet wading past the gorge, despite the icy cold water.

The next morning, after dreams of catching and fighting a glorious bull trout, we decide to head downriver to 99 bridge. This place looks exactly like where I would catch a nice fiesty bully; a deep, swirling, aquamarine pool. I start hucking a giant double bunny streamer with a ton of split shot to get it down (I will later find that the right tools for the right job would have indeed come in handy), and to my excitement a fish comes and looks at my fly. But I set too soon and miss the fish. The anticipation of catching a bull is giving me twitchy hands.

I continue to huck away with my trusty #5 Red Truck Diesel, giving it a work out with the weighty load at the end, until I hook into something meaty. Myself. Yep, damn. I look at my right arm and see the hook is deeply embedded. I try multiple times to yank it out, to no avail. I did debarb this sucker, but it’s looking like I did a pretty crappy job. This thing is in there good.

Caught one!

Caught one!

I walk up to the car where my dad is switching to a sinking line (smart!), and ask him try the mono trick. It usually never fails. Usually. Down pressure on the bottom of the hook with a hard yank up with the line tends to do the trick when this sort of thing happens. But it doesn’t work this time; and Dad insists on heading to the doctor. It really doesn’t even hurt and I kinda want to just keep fishing, but Dad wins and I drive us to the doctor.

Check out the new piercing.

Check out the new piercing. So trendy!

The doctor tries the same trick a few times with floss and some hemostats, and still it doesn’t come out. Eventually after many attempts at wrenching it out (thank god the area was numbed) he just pushes it through and cuts off the tip… There is a bit a lag time while he sends the nurse to the store for wire cutters, since the hook is too big for normal tools. Had I known we were going to do it that way, I would have just grabbed a bottle of Jameson, taken a big pull and done it myself (not exactly Dad approved). I might have also saved a ginormous bruise.

Is it over? Can I go fishing now?!

Is it over? Can I go fishing now?!

Just a scratch. Back to the river!

Just a scratch. Back to the river!

The next day, we head back to the river and dad catches a few red band rainbows, and I catch none. Now I am pissed. There is no way I am walking away from this river having myself being the only thing I catch. That afternoon, we take a brief intermission from the Metolious and head to the Santiam River. Off the beaten path, this stream has some great fishing. Both dad and I catch red bands into the double digits. Just what I needed to bolster my mood; but I’m not done with the Metolious yet, not by a long shot.

We were hauling 'em in all afternoon on the Santiam!

We were hauling ’em in all afternoon on the Santiam!

After breaking camp the next morning, we head back to the Metolious, at my insistence. I will catch a fish here. The Metolious fishing gods finally smile upon me. After a few casts, I hook up on what looks to be a brown, but upon landing it, turns out to be a white fish. I then go on to land a beautiful red band, and hook into two more. Ahh, finally. Not the bull trout I was lusting after, but there’s always next time.

White fish!

White fish!

Finally!!

Finally!!

Fly fishing: the next generation

Getting out on the river lately has been difficult due to work related inconveniences, i.e. too much of it. So I have had a LOT of time at my desk to reflect upon recent fishing experiences. I keep coming back to the Fishmas Eve fundraiser. During the event, TRTU president Stefan McLeod announced that the organization had reached the $10K fundraising milestone, which is no small feat considering the state of the economy over the last 8 years. Currently, TRTU is is planning on allocating these funds, along with other sources of funding for a $500K restoration project on the Little Truckee River.

A worthy cause, as the current topography of this river offers a very limited amount of areas for fish to rest; creating a high pressure fishing environment and stressed out, spooky fish. As of late, I have heard too many stories about fish being landed with broken mandibles and fungus from being over handled on this stretch of river. The restoration project will allow for greater stretches of the river to be hospitable for fish, creating a better habitat and less pressured fishing areas.

The Truckee chapter of Trout Unlimited is a group of industry experts that decided it was finally time to establish a “REAL” conservation group based out of Truckee, CA. Their inspiring initiative to pass on the watershed to the next generation in BETTER condition than it came to this one, pretty much sums up the bright future that TRTU is creating.

Fun fact: the board members’ of TRTU average an age of 29! It’s not everyday that you find a group of young individuals who are willing to go the extra mile to make a huge difference for the local watershed.  Time is a major factor in making it all work, and at such a young age, time is in high demand. Along with working on their careers or starting their own businesses AND having a life: Stefan McLeod, David Lass, Morgan Hargrave, Matt Hargrave, Jordan Romney, Matthew Heron, Brian Slusser, Morgan Thalken (VP), George Walker, Dan LeCount, Jason Renfro and John Jewett have diligently donated their time, expertise and hard work to making it happen.

It’s far from easy; being a new chapter, there are no prior board members or Presidents to ask questions and show them the ropes. “…at times, it feels like wandering around a dark room searching for the light switch…. BUT, we always seem to find that light switch and get the job done.”  That is an understatement, these guys are killing it! Bravo!

People tend to have the impression that fly fishing is a pursuit for old men; these “young guns” illustrate an entirely different picture. All hale the next generation of fly fishers who are passionate, outdoor-loving conservationists’ with a vision for the future.

When Stefan took the time out of his busy schedule to answer the questions I had about TRTU (thanks again!!!) , he mentioned the following on what everyone can do to help out. I implore you to heed his advice.

“Volunteering is crucial…. We urge people to visit our FB page and our website at www.tahoetroutbum.org to keep up on the events we have planned and scheduled for the year. As far as helping goes, just being a steward of the river is a must. Practice proper etiquette, leave no trace, pack out what you pack in, practice catch and release, and as always…. Take a kid fishing!”

The next TRTU event is June 28, 2013, I encourage everyone to attend. Come meet the people who are volunteering their time to make the Truckee watershed a better place to fish and enjoy for generations to come. You’re in for a great time and sure to learn something new. Oh and did I mention they will be raffling off a lifetime CA fishing license at the BBQ?! Awesome.

CALifetimeLicense

Click here to buy a raffle ticket now!

Going Loopy

Whew! Steelhead season has come to a close on the San Lorenzo River. I sit here shaking my head and wonder how it all went by so quickly. Only 266 days until the start of next season. Trips to rivers further north are still an option, but the lack of rain has me turning my eye toward trout, mountain streams, and dry flies.

Actually, I find myself itching to cast something lighter than the streamers, attractor patterns, and eggs I’ve been throwing for the past few months. Being a small river with no room to back cast, roll casting has been the seasonal special on the San Lorenzo. It has been too long since I last threw a nice loop. And really, it has been TOO long. I recently demoed a rod at a show; holy moly, was it ugly. It seems that roll casting and hucking weighty flies all season has left me with a few bad habits. I’m pretty sure I saw my dad visibly cringe while he wondered what happen to the lovely loops he taught me to cast. Tangling the line at a casting pond in front of a bunch of people……NICE. My face was probably as red as my shirt! I’d like to say that it was equipment failure, but it was a Red Truck rod; basically perfection in the form of a fly rod. Yup, this one was 100% operator error.

While my pride took a bit of a hit from this incident, it reminded me to be mindful of my form. Its one thing to know better, and it’s another to actually do better. I’ve started frequenting the local park with my dog and rod in tow. He enjoys chasing the feather at the end of my line while I enjoy practicing my casting. Since I don’t have a river close by I can fish after work in the evenings (yet…more on this soon), this is as close as I can get to a post-work fish. It is a great way to unwind and I find it rather cathartic. As long as you don’t mind a few sidelong glances from other park goers (if I had a dollar for every time people jestingly asked what I was fishing for…), this is an excellent way to put some polish on your casting. You can even bring hula hoops for some target practice.

“Mind Fishing”

Over the past few weeks, I have found myself swamped at work; I’ve had to get my fishing fix by tying flies late into the evening and going through the memory reel of some of my favorite fishing trips. My most recent trip to the Trinity River is one I have been revisiting, A LOT.

It’s quite a process; initially I gaze off into the distance, my eyes begin to glaze over, and then I am transported.

It’s late fall and there is a chill in the air, the forecast for the weekend in the Trinity Alps is scattered showers with a chance of snow. With a paycheck burning a hole in my pocket and two other fishing comrades also chomping at the bit to fish away the weekend, it is decided: we will brave the cold, camp out on the river and hunt steelies. It’s already evening, but we decide to drive through the night and set up camp late, this way we can start fishing at first light. Tents, sleeping bags and other camping necessities are packed into my well-used and well-loved Subaru, (the official mode of transportation for most of my fishing adventures). A quick stop for groceries, and we begin the 4 hour drive north on interstate 5. The long drive gives us plenty of time to debate indicator or no indicator, forecast who will catch the trophy chromer, and of course talk a lot of BS and heckle each other.

2am: finally we have arrived. An almost full moon reflects off the river and casts an eerie light upon the landscape. A camp fire is built to keep away the cold while we make camp. More importantly, the rods are brought out and set up, to lie in wait for a quick start in the morning. With the sound of the river gurgling and the bright night sky, everyone is too excited to sleep. Jack Daniels decides to makes an appearance along with fish stories and friendly banter. Eventually, the laughter dies down and a quiet contemplation of the fishing to come sets in.

photo (9)

Sharing a fire with friends

photo (12)

Marlee is exhausted after setting up camp!

Dawn breaks and my eyes pop open: after a rushed cup of coffee and breakfast, the fishing begins. The four of us (Joshua, Dustin, myself, and my dog Marlee) venture up the river. The view alone is worth the drive. The fall colors are vibrant and the sun has popped out from behind the dense morning fog. The sound of the running river with the occasional spawning salmon jumping is music to my ears. As I cast away the day, I catch one steelhead, but lose him before he is landed. Despite not landing a fish, the day is far from a failure. I silently thank the river for a perfect day of fishing.

Fall colors. Stunning!

Fall colors. Stunning!

Breath taking views!

Breath taking views

Dustin catches the fish of the day, a gorgeous steelie. Joshua hooks into a huge spawning salmon. Around the campfire, we all bear satisfied grins while reliving the days’ fishing adventures. Even Marlee grunts with contentment as he enjoys the warmth of the fire.

Dustin caught the first steelhead of the day. Gorgeous!

Dustin caught the first steelhead of the day. Gorgeous!

We KINDA enjoy fishing.

We KINDA enjoy fishing.

The next day is more of the same, a perfect day of fishing. As the sun begins to set behind the tree-covered mountains, the time has come to say good bye to the Trinity river. I make a promise to myself that I will come back here again; as if I could possibly keep myself away.

Meanwhile in the real world…… “Leslie? Earth to Leslie….?!” Oh right. I am jolted back to reality from “mind fishing.” Sigh. The post-it notes on my desk are calling my name. I’m beyond tempted to leave a note and play hookie the rest of the day.

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.