Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Thursday, March 07, 2013


Traveling is a huge part of our sport.  Exotic destinations call from the pages of fishing magazines and most anglers long to go to places like New Zealand, Chile, or maybe even just Yellowstone.  That's a good one huh?  Just Yellowstone....that place never ceases to amaze me.  And of course there's always the good ol' reliable home waters.  That one place that you could probably fish in your sleep and still catch something.  For me, even though I now live in Colorado, that place is Tennessee and specifically the Great Smoky Mountains.

As home waters go, it is easy to undervalue the Smokies.  Blessed with lots of fish including some nice big ones, the Smokies are fishable year round.  With ice locking down the local creeks for the most part, it is easy to yearn for the days of fishing whenever I wanted to back home.  Now I'm heading back to visit friends and family for spring break.  The Smokies are a must so I'm taking the fishing gear as well.  My tying sessions are complete, or at least I'm out of time to continue, and now I'm anxiously waiting for the day of work to be over so I can get on that plane and head home.

Yep, Tennessee is still home and probably always will be.  I just hope I can remember that once I'm catching monster browns and rainbows out here this next summer.  Each new place has a way of selling itself and inviting you to settle down and stay awhile.  Right now though, I just want to go visit home.  I'm hoping that while I'm traveling, I'll have time to share the journey.  Early spring pictures from the Smokies and maybe some fish stories plus some time on local ponds should all add up to make some good entertainment.  Stay tuned for more and come along on the trip with me as I am traveling.

Monster Equals New Record

An Alabama fisherman was out fishing and found a lot more than expected.  While we always like to catch big fish, this angler found one for the record books, easily breaking a long-standing state record and also the world record for land-locked stripers if the IGFA confirms it.  For more on this including a picture of the beast of a fish, check out the story here.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Tie On

My tying activity has taken a decided turn in the busy direction.  Last week I finished an order of Ultra Wire soft hackles for my blogging friend Bill over at the Fishing Through Life blog.  By the end of the week I was starting to really crank out Parachute Adams for my upcoming trip to Tennessee.  Yesterday I reached my goal and feel like I have enough now in sizes #12-#18.  Of course, as a fisherman, I never feel truly ready so I may tie a few more for good measure.

Other flies that came out of the vise yesterday were my bead head Ice Dub caddis pupa, my variation on an RS2 that is killer in the Smokies in early spring, and some bead head Pheasant Tail nymphs.  I even managed tie tie a couple little #24 Krystal Flash Midges that were the secret to my recent Pueblo tailwater success.  There were probably some other patterns that I'm forgetting but progress is being made!!!  Tonight, with any luck, I will tie up some more nymphs and perhaps a few streamers.  The weather is looking marginal at best for my trip so I'll have to have heavy nymph and streamer patterns around in case the water levels are up too high.  Slowly the box is filling up, and of course I already have more flies than I know what to do with.  One way or another I'll get by and hopefully have a few flies left over to use on the trout out here in Colorado.  Still, until I leave for Tennessee, I will tie on in all my spare time!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

"The Way of the River" -- A Book Review

After reading his previous book, "The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World," I was interested in the next book from author Randy Kadish.  The new book sounded like something I would like to have written.  "The Way of the River" is a title that immediately leaves the would-be reader wondering what exactly that "way" is although the subtitle, "My Journey of Fishing, Forgiveness, and Spiritual Recovery," definitely helps clarify things.  When Mr. Kadish contacted me about reviewing his newest book, I accepted quickly.

While not a complete autobiography, Mr. Kadish invites the reader into some of the more difficult portions of his life.  Diving quickly into the book, I discovered a past of pain and regret as the author visits his mother who is dying of cancer on a nearly daily basis.  These last years of his mother's life bring the opportunity to reconnect on a level that was not possible earlier in his life.  A difficult childhood had left its own scars and pain behind.

And so, he turns to the river in hopes of finding healing and peace.  "Am I hoping to borrow, in some way, strength from the river?" he asks early in the book (p. 11).  This line caught my eye, because when times have been difficult in my life and I had to face painful circumstances, I would often find myself drawn inexplicably towards the streams of the Smokies.  Okay, I can relate to where this guy is coming from, I thought as I began to dig deeper into the book.

One day, while visiting his mother, the author stumbles upon a jewel of wisdom that he passes on to his readers.  She tells him that "You can't let the past write the future," which is something that caused me to pause and evaluate aspects of my own life (p. 10).  Was I really where I wanted to be, and was I headed in the right direction?

The problem of pain that Randy Kadish faces in his life and has now shared with the world is one that anyone who lives on planet earth must eventually face.  Some face deeper hurts than others, but everyone suffers.  As I read the story of one person's journey to recovery, I found myself thinking time and again of "The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis as well as "The Great Controversy," by E.G. White.  Both books provide detailed rationale for the pain experienced in our world, and I found myself wondering what it must be like to confront such a painful past in one's own life.  Mr. Kadish is asking those big questions early in the book.

In explaining about his first time at a Twelve Step meeting, the author says that the "first thing about the Steps I didn't like was the idea of believing in God.  If there was a God, I couldn't understand why He had abandoned me in a violent, dysfunctional home, and why He had abandoned mankind to a succession of bloody wars" (p. 13).

In finding an escape in fly fishing, Randy Kadish was only doing what so many other fly anglers around the world have done.  Whether it is simply getting out of the house and away from a nagging wife, or trying to ease the pain and resentment of the loss of someone you love, many people find fly fishing to be an escape.

Over time, Mr. Kadish begins to find enjoyment in more than just the act of fishing and begins to look forward to the interactions he has with other people while out on the stream or fishing off a pier in the Hudson River.  Again I found myself relating as I remembered the pleasant memories of fishing the Tennessee River below Chickamauga dam.  Eventually, I started to recognize the same anglers each trip.  We would chat and compare notes, never mind that I was a fly angler and most of the others were bait or spin fishermen.  When out on the water these differences can easily be forgotten when everyone is courteous and truly interested in their fellow man.  Mr. Kadish has similar experiences, fishing with people from all walks of life who often have interesting questions about his fishing equipment, but in general accept him as one of their own because he is, after all, a fisherman.

The pain in his life does not prevent him from accepting the small moments of enjoyment that routinely come with any fishing trip.  Some stories are humorous, some contemplative and philosophical while others are sad, but all add up to make the book what it is, an enjoyable read that constantly has the reader wondering where the next step in the journey to recovery will lead the author.

One moment in particular resonated with me as an angler.  The author just finished landing a 12" rainbow trout and begins to wonder how the fish viewed him.  He saw fear in the trout's eyes and wished he could explain that it was a no-kill zone.  This leads him to asking questions about himself.  "Was I as he saw me: a mountain-size monster? (p. 26).  I must admit to wondering these things and not always about fish.  Have you ever found yourself stepping on a bug such as an ant?  Sometimes at such moments I pause and wonder, what if some monster that was larger than me proportionally to the way I am larger than an ant decided to step on me?  What would it be like?  Unable to imagine something that large, I eventually give up trying to figure it out.  But still, what do all those fish think when my grinning face comes close?  I figure they are grinning for me but that may just be my imagination...

Overall I definitely enjoyed reading this book.  In fact, my girlfriend can attest that I hardly put it down once I started reading.  The only problem is a good one to have: at the end of the book I felt like there should have been more to read.  And of course there was.  Mr. Kadish is still alive and hopefully still enjoying fishing.  Perhaps one day he will travel west and I might have the privilege of fishing with him here in Colorado or running into him on a stream back home in the Smokies.  The only problem with meeting author's is that you're never sure if you will end up in their next book, but I guess that wouldn't be a bad thing.

Randy Kadish never did find complete peace, but then, who does.  However, he did work hard towards overcoming the pain in his life and at the end of the book, the tone has changed decidedly.  "Yes, there are eternal, predictable laws of the infinite universe and a renewing force that is so much greater than myself it will never betray me, and it will always dwarf all my resentments and disappointments.  Because this force is so beautiful, is it possible that, as Newton said, only a God could have created it?"(p. 146).  In coming to terms with a Power much greater than himself, Mr. Kadish finally accepts that there is something much larger at work in the world and realizes that he himself can become part of something much greater.

I'm hoping that there is another volume in his story for Mr. Kadish to write, moments of peace, happiness and satisfaction that are as deep and powerful as his previous pain was.  I'm sure that fishing will continue to play a big and important role in the journey of life for Randy Kadish, and I look forward to hearing more of his story in the future.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Update on Tennessee Tailwater Closings

My buddy David Perry over at Southeastern Fly just posted an update on the Tennessee tailwater situation.  Apparently Senator Lamar Alexander has introduced legislation to block those closings.  Head over to Southeastern Fly and watch the video for more on this!

Patiently Waiting

Every year for the past 3 years or so, east Tennessee has had a cold first week of March.  I was always glad to be heading out-of-state to places like the Everglades and the Grand Canyon for spring break.  Also, each year had a warm second week of March.  Since spring break out here in Colorado fell on the second full week of March, I was hoping to hit the weather right in Tennessee.  So far it looks like everything is working out!

With snow and cold temperatures in Tennessee right now, I'm glad that I'm not walking the banks of Little River looking for a hatch that may never start.  The long range forecast calls for moderating temperatures.  That means that while the bugs haven't exploded yet, they might be trickling off in fishable numbers upon my arrival.

I've been patiently waiting for spring break but my patience is quickly wearing thin now.  With only a week to go, I'm now tying flies during every available moment.  Last night it was #18 Parachute Adams to match the Blue Quills.  Today it will be more of the same as well as larger #12 and #14 flies for the Quill Gordons.  I've stocked up on my Copper and Partridge Soft Hackle as well to match the caddis that will also be around.  I tied plenty of Tellicos and other stonefly patterns weeks ago and am fairly confident with my supply there.  Still, there is rarely a fishing trip that I feel completely prepared for.  If all else fails I'll be stopping by to see my friends at Little River Outfitters and picking up a few extra flies if I run low.

Lately I've been paying special attention to Ian and Charity Rutter's fishing report as well as Josh Pheiffer's.  Both are excellent area guides that frequent both the mountain streams as well as the tailwaters.  The most recent reports indicate that bugs are hatching sporadically but in general the big hatches have yet to happen.  I guess I don't have a lot of options and will have to try and stay patient for another week.  Going home will be a nice treat for spring break!!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mammal Eating Trout

Have you ever dreamed of hitting the mouse hatch in New Zealand? Or perhaps skating lemming patterns across the water in Labrador?  Well, some new research has shown that you don't need to travel quite so far.  Apparently the trout in Idaho's Silver Creek are carnivorous, or at least become so when the vole population explodes during the high end of the population cycle.  I don't know about everyone else, but fishing mouse patterns in the dark to monster trout sure sounds like a lot of fun...

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I'm not sure whether to feel flattered or not, but when a photographer recently wanted to take my picture fishing, I figured it couldn't hurt and if photographing me broke his camera, well that would be his fault.  I've experienced photographers before, such as over on the Taylor, and figured it wouldn't be all bad.  It all began a week and a half ago on Friday afternoon when I headed over to fish Boulder Creek for an hour or so.

Upon arriving at the parking area, I got out of my car and started rigging up to fish.  A photographer from the Daily Camera approached me and made the rather astute observation that I was about to do something "outside."  Since his assignment was to take a picture of someone doing something "outside," would I be so kind as to allow him to take my picture?  After getting my name, he left me to do my thing while following at a respectful distance.

Soon I was fishing away, nearly oblivious other than when I heard the camera clicking away.  Soon I found myself on an ice shelf under a bridge where a nice brown came out to swirl on my streamer.  Hoping to lure it back out again, I continued fishing and soon found myself photographed right into the newspaper.  That's right, on Saturday morning there I was, front and center on the "Local" section, fishing away on the ice shelf.

I soon told the photographer I was heading downstream "a ways," and he graciously allowed that he had got all the pictures he needed and said his thanks and good bye.  I enjoyed the next hour and ended up with four fish so it was not a bad trip!

Monday, February 18, 2013

How It's Done

For the past several weeks, plans were in place to go fishing this weekend.  I had been trying to fish with Juan Ramirez from over at the Hopper Juan for a few months now, but getting our schedules to align was proving difficult.  This weekend would be different....until I got sick.  Not wanting to put the trip off, I was really hoping that I would get well.  Just in time, my fever broke on Thursday, and I was feeling significantly better by Saturday.

Sunday morning I was up bright and early to spend a few hours on the Arkansas River in Pueblo chasing those big rainbows.  Smooth sailing down the Interstate with only light traffic had me on time to meet Juan in Colorado Springs where he guides out of.  After a quick transfer of my stuff to his car, we were continuing south.

In the two trips I have made to the Arkansas thus far, I only fished in the vicinity of the Nature Center.  Juan wanted to show me some new water so we headed just upstream to the Valco Parking lot.  After paying for our parking, we started to rig up.  Only minutes later, a ranger showed up checking cars.  I was amazed at how aggressively they patrol this lot.  My recommendation is to NOT try and skip paying as you will get caught and it was worth the money to fish that stream.

Heading down to the stream, we worked our way up the river until we passed most of the other anglers and found some open water for ourselves.  We both rigged up and were soon plying the cold waters in search of trout.  Some days start off quickly while others take a while to get on the board so to speak.  The only trout we noticed was one swirling on something downstream but nothing was eating our flies.

Photo by Juan Ramirez

Moving on up the river, we came to a perfect spot.  Two pools close together that would allow both of us some space to operate.  That's when Juan started to put on a clinic and show everyone nearby how it's done.  After catching a couple of nice rainbows, he insisted that I try his hole.  First I asked what the fish were eating.  After downsizing my fly significantly, I stepped up.  First cast, BAM!!! Chuckling a bit at how easy it was, I moved back down to my original pool.  I wanted to find out if it was the spot or the fly.  Two drifts later I hooked up and that's when I was convinced that fishing with a guide is not a bad idea.  I can be lazy and let them figure out what the fish are eating!

We both wore out our respective holes.  I found two nice fish including a colored up male that was around 18 inches as well as a super fat silver rainbow that was a bit shorter.  Eventually, we had either stuck or spooked most of the fish close by and got the itch to explore some more.

Photo by Juan Ramirez

 Photo by Juan Ramirez

Photo by Juan Ramirez

Moving up the river, we came upon another nice pool.  All of the work done to improve the stream habitat is paying off in a big way.  The fish have tons of good holding water and are utilizing it to really grow big!  In the new pool, I started working some submerged boulders while Juan hit the top.  Soon he was hooked up again.  The fish were really colored nicely and a few redds on the river explained the bright colors.

Juan found a nice fish up above me about the same time I snagged my rig on one of the underwater rocks and broke off.  I sat down to tie on some new flies, but also worked the camera whenever Juan would hook a good fish.

What happened next was awesome.  A kid fishing across the river had just broke off a big fish a bit earlier.  Juan cast a tiny #26 emerger into the head of the pool when a big rainbow came up and sipped it off the top (there's a whole story there as well but I'll leave that one for Juan to tell, but trust me...its a good one).  He was now attached to a rather hefty trout that took him up and down the pool, always in close pursuit.  Eventually, the fish tired and he was able to get the net under it.  As he was removing his fly, he discovered another stuck in the fish.  It was the fly the kid had just lost which was confirmed when the kid came around to our side of the river on the way downstream to see.  I got out my camera and had a great time shooting pictures of this amazing fish.  Soon it slipped back into the current, ready for another lucky angler to find some day.

That fish was the high point of the trip, and soon we were getting tired as well as hungry.  We decided to call it a day after walking back to the car and finding people in basically every hole.  It had been a great trip, and I look forward to getting out on the water with Juan again sometime!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Scientific Breakthrough for Better Fishing

In an article over at Time online, I discovered the technology of the future for fishermen and a creative outlet for the energies of big pharmaceutical companies who spend too much time finding more ways to drug the general human population of our earth.  In the study reported in the article, researchers from Umea University in Sweden tested perch to see if the anti-anxiety drug oxazepam would affect them at all.

In a stunning turn of events, the perch NOT exposed to the drug behaved just as normal perch should in various controlled survival related activities.  However, the fish who were slightly exposed showed a higher propensity to feed more and faster.  Imagine fishing where the fish are always hungry!!!  Instead of paying thousands of dollars for that trip of a lifetime to untouched waters where the fish jump on your line, just find a way to get some of this drug to your favorite fishing hole and doctor up the fish!

Even more shocking, the fish with a high exposure to the drug were almost totally fearless.  Imagine finding that big brown you've been waiting to catch feeding on a hatch.  Wading carefully into position, you give two perfect false casts and then slam the line into the water over the fish's head.  Instead of bolting, the fish waits patiently for your fly to drift overhead before rising violently to inhale the offering.

The possibilities are endless for fishermen.  Of course, I'm sure this could be used by poachers as well for devious purposes.  Entire rivers devoid of catchable fish are a distinct possibility here people!!!  Will the good guys corner the market first?  Only time will tell.  As always, I'll stay on top of this potential double-edged sword and continue to work diligently to make this a more fishermen-friendly world.