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 ūüôā

 

 

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 ūüôā Until then I won’t forget to live life large!!

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.