Tropical Distractions

In less than a week I’m floating the Saluda River in Columbia, SC with a good buddy of mine to target some tailwater trout.

Supposedly these particular trout are big fans of streamers and big flashy nymphs, which I currently have very few to none of. So I’ve been trying to tie some up.

I have a problem though.

I’ll be leaving for the Keys in a little more than a month and have literally been dreaming about bonefish, tarpon and permit most nights for the last couple of weeks. So every time I sit in front of my vice (see I spelled “vise” wrong on purpose as a form of subtle word play or a “pun” if you will) to tie up some streamers or nymphs I end up tying Gotchas or Merkins or some other form of flats fly.

These most likely won’t work on the 12″ stocked rainbows I’ll be fishing for in less than a week…

Hmmm? I’m guessing this is what people refer to as a “first world problem”.

And That’s How a Fish Gets Caught on a Fly

I was washing dishes yesterday when I heard my wife shriek from the other room.

“What is it? What happened?”

“I tried to throw a costume into the boys’ room but I missed and hit the door. When it hit it what looked liked the biggest, nastiest bug ever came out of the costume and stuck to the door and started to crawl down it. But it ended up just being a feather.”

“Ha! That’s how a trout can be fooled by fly you know. You saw just a feather and thought it was a bug and you’re at least twice as smart as a fish. Hehe.”

“Yeah, um, anyway, so a fish sitting in a fast flowing stream will see something flow by that just has some characteristics of an actual bug, like what looks like legs or wings, and strike at it. That’s why some of my flies don’t look much like a bug at all yet still catch fish. Pretty cool ain’t it?”

“Keep your feathers at your desk.”

“Yeah ok, sorry.”

Flies and the Driftless

A week from today my family and I will be piling into our cramped vehicle and heading for the great state of Wisconsin to enjoy the festivities of the first and foremost feminist science fiction convention in the world”That’s the official reason we’re heading to WI.

As you probably guessed already, I have my own reasons for making this annual pilgrimage to the land of cheese, and the number one reason is trout. Butter burgers from Culver’s run a close second, but mainly it’s the trout.

Last year was the first time I fished Wisconsin’s driftless region. I did some research before hand, learned about the spring creeks, the hatches, found out what the hot flies were, tied some nice dries, some small nymphs and got there to find out that all the rivers were blown-out due to the two previous days of torrential downpour. I did catch fish, but they were few and far between and all on streamers, of which I only had five of…

This year I refuse to be ill-prepared.

Except, at this particular point in time, one week away from leaving for the driftless, I am woefully ill-prepared.

It’s my own fault. I’ve had time to tie for the WI trip, but I found myself obsessing over getting this bass fly right. In the time it takes to tie one of those I could tie four or more streamers. And I haven’t even started on the dries and nymphs I need to fill  in the blanks.

So, with a heart that would be much heaver if it was for any other reason, I am going on a brief hiatus so I can tie flies and go fishing.  I’ll probably still check out what everyone else is doing and I’m going to test out my new bass fly tomorrow so you’ll get to hear about that, but I’ll probably be pretty quiet until after May.

A Mystery River and an Imminent Hangover

A strange thing has happened. I, the Agitated Angler, get to go fishing. That’s right. In less than a week I will be participating in the physical act of fishing instead of just writing, talking, reading, thinking and dreaming about it. Yep, actual fishing. For trout. In a stream. Or  technically it may be a river. To tell the truth, I don’t know exactly where I’ll be fishing, but I do know it’s within walking distance of the cabin I’ll be staying at near Boone, North Carolina.

See, one of my best friends is getting married soon and wanted to go skiing/snowboarding for his last great adventure as a single man (I myself chose the more classic route for my bachelor party and just got knee-walking drunk while surrounded by strippers, but what can I say, I’m a traditionalist.). Not one to throw myself down mountains for fun, I opted out of the skiing but was totally willing to go along for the nearby trout streams and mandatory beer drinking. So my friend’s brother, who is in charge of this event, managed to find a cabin to be our home base throughout the festivities within walking distance “to the river”.

I have received no info on which river.

Whatever the river/stream, this time of year I’ll probably spend my time slowly dredging deep holes with the usual southern Appalachian winter time fly combo of a flashy, heavy weight attractor pattern followed by a small drab nymph. Not the most exciting fishing in the world but it beats sitting in the house wishing I was fishing. And who knows, “the river” may be one of the tailwater fisheries in the area and I might happen upon a decent BWO hatch.

One thing I do know is that I’m woefully ill prepared. I haven’t fished for trout since May of last year and never got around to replenishing my box of nymphs, or my leaders, tippets, etc.. The leaders and tippets are a simple fix that just requires me to get off my fat ass and go shopping. The flies on the other hand are another matter.

I’ve been tying saltwater and warmwater flies almost exclusively for the past two years, the smallest of which have been size eight. So when I sat down recently to tie up a few size fourteen copper johns, well, the results were less than spectacular. Honestly, it was frustrating as hell; lots of breaking thread, using too much material, bending hooks and basically tying like a Goddamned amateur and I’m no amateur when it comes to tying trout flies. I’m not trying to brag but I’ve got multiple boxes of really nice dry flies I’ve tied down to size 24. I know how to tie small flies and I used to tie them well, but I guess tying small flies is nothing like riding a bike…

I have until this coming Friday to work my way out of my little fly funk and get some tying done. I also need to find my waders, my wading boots and all my warm moisture wicking under waders clothing. I need to make sure I know where all my trout fishing paraphernalia is and that it’s packed in my bag. I need to check out my 4wt outfit and make sure everything is good working order. I need to get a North Carolina fishing license. And because this is first and foremost a bachelor party, I need to splurge on a bottle of good bourbon and a case of nice beer.

This all has to be done by Friday. And considering this has taken me two days to type, all one handed, while holding a baby, Friday may be coming faster than I like.



Teaching The Art of Fly Fishing ( and how I may ruin my friend forever)

I imagine that I’m the kind of fly fisherman that professionals in the industry dread the most. You know… the broke kind. I guess that’s not a completely fair statement, but I have never been able to afford the things the pros seem to suggest in all the fly fishing media I’m exposed to. I’ve never had a lesson of any kind and I’ve never been able to hire a guide. Growing-up, a fly rod was known as a “yuppie stick” and was used only rarely to cast poppers to bass and bream. Everything I know about fly fishing has been learned through reading, videos, and good old fashioned trial and error. So when an old friend of mine contacted me on facebook and asked if I would teach him to fly fish, I didn’t hesitate, “Hells yeah I’ll teach you.”

My friend is the one with facial hair and glasses.

I realized later what a huge responsibility I’m taking on. For someone who is basically self taught, I do well enough; I get my fly where I want it to be, I know how to mend a line to get a good drift, I catch fish on a pretty regular basis, and people who see me fish don’t walk away shaking their heads anymore. I’m personally happy with how well I do now and I learn more every time I go out.  Problem is, there are probably a lot of bad little casting habits I have that I’m not even aware of and there’re some that I know I have.  Now I’m going on to teach my buddy how to cast the long rod and he’ll learn my bad casting habits. How am I going to tell someone not break his wrist so much on a cast when I cast with my wrist all the time. Hell, my form may be awful, I don’t know, I’ve never been fly fishing with anybody who could critique my cast.

He and his wife want to have kids one day. What if he teaches his kids to cast like me, and his kids go on to teach their kids… I know my children are doomed, but doing that to someone else’s family…

Now the part that really worries me. I didn’t start fly fishing seriously until after the birth of my first child. If I had started fly fishing even a year before I did, my life would have been dramatically different. Before my wife and I got together, I was “unsettled” and more than a little nomadic in nature, aka. I was a dirty hippie. If I had been fly fishing during that time I’d probably be sleeping in a tent right now, on the side of a river trying to catch that last late autumn BWO hatch instead of, well… Maybe it’s best not to think about it.

He told me, before he and his wife start trying in earnest to have children, they have a kind of “bucket list” of things they want to do first. Now I’m in charge of adding fly fishing to the mix. I know this guy well and he has an addictive personality. I have yet to find anything quite as addictive as fly fishing and I’ve tried lots of things. So what if my little fly fishing padawan gets really into it. I could be destroying his entire genetic future by teaching him to fly fish. What if he adds going to the Keys to catch a tarpon to his list or Alaska for salmon. What’s going to happen when he discovers the concept of a slam. Or that first time he unravels the intricacies of a complicated hatch and has a big trout take his fly without any hesitation giving him that brief but wonderful illusion that he’s finally got this fly fishing thing down, just to find out latter that there are other puzzles to solve with each new fishing situation and the only way to find those situations is to just keep fishing and fishing. His bucket list will keep growing and the next thing he’ll know he’s spent his entire life chasing fish all over the world instead of having children. And I’ll be his fly fishing mentor so he’ll send me pictures of all his catches. He’ll be smiling, holding a big permit that he caught on his last trip to Ascension bay and it will come with a letter saying “it’s not big as one as that one I caught last year near Big Pine but it’s still a nice fish” and I’ll be stuck struggling to put my second son through college where he’ll get a degree in 17th century French Literature.

Fuck that! It’s not fair! Not fair of me to do something that might interfere with a friend’s future. Not fair of me to teach an innocent a bad casting stroke. And it wouldn’t be fair to his poor wife.

Of course I do need a fishing partner.