I have recently been elected to the board of the Boulder Flycasters, the Boulder division of Trout Unlimited. I will be contributing to their blog among other things. While it may result in less entries posted directly to Tangler.Blogspot, I will try to link anything I do over there here.
Here are two entries I have recently posted to their blog:
The departure was early. Ryan walked through the door at 1:30am, straight from work. I don't know about Nick, but I doubt that I slept for more than an hour, and a restless hour at that. We brew two pots of extra bold Sumatra coffee, load the gear, and hit the highway under a full moon.
The lake is calm. The skyline promises a lively sunrise. I often reflect during these moments while I'm stringing up my rod.
This is it. All the excitement, planning, time, and hope for something that ultimately has an undeniable factor of chance.
It's at this moment that the one thing out of my control is upon me.
Are we going to get into fish today?
After all, trophy fishing is like poker. You do everything in your power to put yourself in the best possible scenario. It's a game of operating within the highest percentages of potential success. However, no matter how perfect the setup, chance is an undeniable factor, and aces can be cracked.
First light, first cast, the flop quads the aces. It's gonna be one of those days.
The clouds hang over the mountains in that magical way so as to shield the sun and prolong the "first light" mode for well over an hour.
A spirited release:
The mesmerizing horizon conspires to draw one's gaze from concentrating on fishing. None of us mind the lovely distraction.
My bro hoisting his personal best brown.
When I shot this photo of Nick this was his natural expression. After a few shots I told him to close his mouth and took one of him smiling. I thought the smile one was better at first, but after further review I gotta say, the natural is classic.
Ryan getting face time with his personal best trout.
And to complete the trifecta, this hefty hen grants me a personal best brown as well.
I've heard the cliche stories of people saying "At first, I thought it was a snag." Well, I can honestly say that, at first, I thought it was a snag. When I set the hook, I even declared it. However, something in the very back of my brain told me to keep pressure on. And then I noticed that my snag was slowly moving. Not throbbing or thrashing, but just moving. It felt like a bulldog was causually walking along the bottom of the lake.
My brother took a cool, quick clip of her. Its short, but something about footage really conveys size and weight better than any photo can.
Around 11:00 we run into Mark. While fishing with Mark a guy walks up and starts talking to him. Then the guy turns to me and says, "Is that Tangler?"
Haha, it turns out its WyoFlyFish, a fellow angling blogger. I read his sweet blog all the time. Great to finally meet you in the flesh dude! Hopefully next time I'll be operating on normal human hours and we can wet some lines.
Ryan and Nick, I thank you for your superb photography. These guys know how to shoot. If it weren't for your sick photos I'd have very little to share on the blog. Thanks!
I just read my first copy of The Drake magazine - Spring/Summer '09. It contained a feature titled "Tribes" which outlined a handful of different sects within the fly fishing community. Among the featured tribes were Flats Guides, Tailwater Chasers, Striper Fisherman, Steelheaders, Fly Tyers, and Bass Fisherman. I really enjoyed the concept and would like to give it a try.
I give you the High Lake Cutthroat Tribe.
To hunt high lake cutthroats in the Rocky Mountains is a maddening endeavor.
The game is sick and twisted. If there truly are fish gods, then the High Lake Deity is the outcast who resides in a high up cave of self imprisonment enveloped by wispy clouds. The outer rock is beaten glossy smooth by the ages of relentless hail and streaked black with lightning soot. The other gods share worried whispers in varying flavors of disapproval of his cruel ways, but he pays them no heed. His tittering laugh sweeps down the mountain and sends reminding chills up their spines.
His will keeps the high lakes locked in ice for, give or take, 9 months of the year. The higher the altitude, the smaller the window of accessibility. When the ice finally melts, it's the cutthroats' cue to start spawning for a month.
Does the spawning make the fishing easier or harder, ye' high lake wanderer?
Ask this question of a veteran high lake angler and you can expect a response of a shot of bourbon dovetailed with a glare through eyes of chipped scree. There's miles in those eyes, miles.
The miles weed out a large share of curious anglers right off the bat. The interesting thing is that the true high lake angler actually takes pleasure out of the hike. The hike is the foreplay before the sex. Every step of distance, every foot of altitude might as well be a direct measurement of the lack of pressure on the fish that live beyond.
No information about the lake online? "Great."
Distant trail head and then no marked trail? "Excellent."
The last guy who tried it never returned... *ruffling of a topo map*
It's about experiencing seclusion in a vast expanse. It's about seeking multiple accomplishments. It's about venturing into the unknown compulsively and not necessarily being concerned about coming back.
Man, I'd never have thunk it that September would be a slow month for fishing for me. Aside from a successful high lake mission, it's been rough. Not to mention, my brother has been quite adventurous recently and has been using the camera for his own activities during days that I've been fishing. After all, it is his camera.
Here is the day saving cutty from an 8 mile bushwhack. Well, technically, screewhack:
Then I got slapped with a skunk during a tour of South Park. That one really stung. I went back last weekend thinking I knew where the fish were and, while beating the skunk, had a relatively slow day. The morning included breaking off the first fish o' the day due to ice in the guides; just an unbelievably amateur move. I then brought a cookie cutter bow to hand, and then proceeded to break off another fish due to somehow getting my line wrapped over the rod when I set the hook. That was all the action on the day. I was utterly disgusted with myself.
However, in my own defense, I was exploring a place and idea that just didn't pan out. I now know to not return to a certain place during this time of year, so I was able to take something good from it.
As a substitute for fish pics, here are some woolly buggers I recently tied up for some river brown action later this month. I had this CDC hackle sitting around and decided to put it to use. I think it looks pretty cool and should have nice action underwater.
Hooks are size 4 and 3x long. The front half of the buggers are lead wrapped and the heads are tungsten. They'll be deep divers for sure.
My friend Matt called me about a month ago and said he had 3 days off coming up and wanted to fish. I told him I would take him to a special place and show him a world that would be very unfamiliar yet fantastic.
I felt him lean forward in his seat through the phone.
"Under one condition though...", I lick my lips for the delivery, "You have to fly fish."
Lets stop for a moment and rewind. I need to tell you a little about Matt.
I met Matt the first day I arrived to Colorado almost exactly 2 years ago today. He was the roommate of my old-time friend, Ryan, from back in NOVA. Matt turned out to be an outdoors man, angler, and experienced snowboarder so we got along immediately. I even have a youtube video of the first trip those guys and my brother and IHit the Hills.
Anways, Matt has always been a spin fisherman. Being that I'm a fly fisherman, I could never offer him advice on how to fish those ridicules "lures" for trout... I mean, honestly ;)
Then I picked up on him fishing worms in some of the gold metal water I was taking him to, lol. We had a couple friendly discussions about regs, rules, and why they are in place. However, he stuck to his guns and pretty much proclaimed that he didn't give 2 chits about that stuff and he'd ''do what he want''.
At that point, I cut him off and said (to myself) that I would never take him with me to fish reg'ed water again (which is with a few exceptions all I fish), and that brings us back to the story at hand.
"OK, I'll flyfish." He says.
To my surprise, he was actually psyched to give it a go. I'd like to believe that he had grown moldy with poachers guilt and that the fish gods had rained some righteously evil karma down on his arse forcing him to repent his wicked ways and come to the light. But he probably just wanted to catch bigger fish and thought that I could guide him to such.
His roommate Ryan had to work that weekend, so he let Matt borrow all his gear. Rod/reel (nice setup), waders, boots, belly boat, fins, even his damned net. Ryan is very generous and Matt is very fortunate.
We drove out Friday after work and set up camp just as it was getting dark.
We grilled some sirloins and wrapped some potatoes, tomatoes and asparagus in foil for the fire and then partied a little. We took our time waking up, enjoying the mountains, and leisurely eating breakfast. I gave Matt a 15 min. casting lesson / crash course on fly fishing at camp and then we meandered over to the water around 11:00.
We push out in the belly boats, anchor up, and right away my brother hooks into a decent bow. He has his back to me when he lands it. He proclaims that it measured 19.5 inches with amazement (a personal best for him). I'm waiting with the camera and as he is turning around to face me with the fish flops out of his hands and back into the drink. Oh well, he'll catch bigger soon enough I tell him.
After that I hook into something that feels nice but isn't fighting aggressively like they usually do. It was throwing around more head-shakes than usual and was just staying deep. I horse her up and to my surprise and glee it's a brown.
Next, Matt exclaims that he's got one on, and sure enough he's bent.
I was so happy that he had hooked up. I shot a video of him landing his first fish on a fly rod, for his first time using a fly rod, during his first time on a belly boat, and a PB trout (soon to be broken 2 more times).
I distinctly remember him laughing and exclaiming, "I really like this way of fishing!"
His first: (check out the wave splashing over his back).
He caught 2 more after that each one a little bigger than the last.
At the end of the day we drove over to try some river fishing but the flow was weak and it was land o' the dink. Not complainin' about scenery though...
One more night of partying (this time with real reasons to celebrate), and 3 cornish game hens (Oyey inspired) in the fire with stuffing and potatos.
No more sleeping in though. We woke up early and scurried over to the water to fish from shore.
Nick hooked up first with a colorful bow:
The other guys didn't fare so well for the rest of the morning once the wind kicked up, but I was able to tap into a few more bows.
Matt was asking me about purchasing fly gear at the end of the trip.
I've been busy recently and this was my first real fishing trip in 3 weeks (Sorry, but Boulder Creek and unsuccessful carping just don't scratch that itch). The last time I went three... heck, two weeks without fishing was probably some time in January.
The air was crisp in the morning, and there was a tolerable but stern wind. It was very nice hiking weather. We navigated woods with a few glances of the map here and there.
After breaking above treeline we hurried through the final miles up to the objective. The stern wind had meanwhile turned into an abusive, drunk uncle who stubbed his toe - wind. The lake was angry that day my friends; like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli.
Chuck and I had to throw on the wind breaker jackets and the pants. My brother is yet to invest in wind breaker pants and therefore paid the price in experience. He was reduced to curling up under a bush and behind some boulders for a while.
He snapped a photo pretty cool photo during the savage wind assault. Note my fly line defying gravity.
The little bit of my hands that were actually exposed were just within that threshold of numbness so that I could feel all the pain. I would turn my back to the wind and put my hands in fleece lined pockets to try to warm them up while the sound of the wind racing over my hood whistled like a cracked car window on the freeway. The gusts were having gusts. A couple times I let obscenities flow freely into the blameless wind, and cursed the almighty fish gods themselves! HAHA! Giving into the madness actually made things feel a little better, and all of a sudden I recalled that I had just busted my ass up a mountain to catch cutts, by God, and there was business at hand.
Glimpses of cruising beef under the wind broken, Picasso'ed surface boosted moral even more.
The indicator dips behind a wave, the set is solid, and a wriggling reflection of light starts lifting and flipping into view.
For a spawned out fish, she didn't look half bad. It took a neon orange size 20 egg.
Jason and I had additional hookups with bad sets that came unbuttoned shortly following that fish, and then the wind died down and the fish mellowed out. We put in hours with nothing to show for it. We would mark fish cruising occasionally, but they were all still very much distracted with spawning behaviors.
Later in the day the wind calmed significantly back to the stern breeze giving the surface a more rhythmic break... and another cutt was fooled. This time on a size 18 olive scud.
Yet later in the day, the wind totally died, and we got the aquarium view into the lake.
My bro caught a fish during this calm period (at pone point I was sweating in shorts and a tee shirt) effectively sneaking past the slumbering skunk.
Jason, however, was not spared... this was the last known photo of him before the skunk was consummated, LOL!
...I'm getting scared of the karma that he's building up when fishing in my presence. One of these days he's gonna catch some trophy fish while I simultaneously step off a cliff.
I don't claim to be an expert on the topic and activity of fly fishing. I am simply an addict currently experiencing my 6th year throw of total mind consumption with fly fishing for trout. I also happen to live in one of the heartlands of the activities' destinations in the U.S. The teet is generous my friends.