Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful

--Bushwacking in the Parker River Reservation--
When I started this blog, it was driven by a new found passion for fly fishing. There was no agenda then, and still now, other than to find a creative outlet to share and express my experiences with the sport.

Over time, I've discovered many others in this community (just look at the list of  "Stuff Followed" on the right) who also share the passion and love to write about their experiences as well.

I'm not as active as many in the fly fishing blogosphere and certainly cannot keep up with all the great content they publish, but still feel connected to a new community I was unaware of less than a year ago.

I've also found a fishing obsessed group on twitter that gets together every Tuesday at 7 PM MT (9 PM ET) under the hashtag of #Fishchat. #Fishchat is spirited group of dedicated anglers who post lots of great fish porn and offers sage advice.  I connected with @AncientAngler during a #Fishchat and learned he lived in my neck of the woods.

Charley (aka @AncientAngler) and I found a time to meet and fish together on a local trout stream just north of Boston last weekend. Neither of us had fished this area, but we were both up for an adventure on new water. Charley captured the adventure nicely on his blog titled Ancient Angler, so I won't repeat it here, but he is the first internet fishing friend that I've had the opportunity to fish with.

While we both agree this trip to the Parker was not an ideal fishing outing, we are glad to have met and are looking forward to future adventures together.

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I'm thankful for my family, our good health and new found fishing friends like Charley.

Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mile High Fly -- The Movie

 -- Director and Cinematographer --
When I was a kid going on vacation, my dad would take hundreds of pictures with his Nikon cameras on Kodak Ektachrome film and create engaging, music synchronized slide shows with multiple projectors. He would spend weeks putting these shows together and finally, on that special night, we would file down to the finished basement, take a seat at the bar, grab a Coke and some popcorn, dim the lights and the show would begin. For the next twenty minutes, we would relive every waking moment of our vacation through the eyes of my father and his Nikon cameras.

While the slideshow would sometimes drag on, I fondly look back at these special family moments of gathering as a simple way to be together, to enjoy each other and laugh about the memories captured on film from our recent vacation.

Four months have passed since our wonderful Colorado vacation in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. In true spirit of the classic vacation slide show, my son and his friend have put together a great video recapping all the highlights of our trip.

Grab a Coke and some popcorn, pull up a seat at the bar, dim the lights and enjoy....



Special thanks to Flies & Fins for the soundtrack.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Outdoor Blogger Network 1 Year Anniversary Celebration!

Never one to turn down the opportunity to win some swag promote a great community, the OBN is celebrating its one year anniversary with some great giveaways. Posted this week under Outdoor Blogger Network 1 Year Anniversary Celebration!, I want to congratulate Joe and Rebecca for one amazing year of growing a very engaged and passionate community.


I have yet to meet any of my fellow OBN bloggers in person, but through OBN and this community, I feel like many are long time friends.

Thanks, Joe (Flowing Waters), Rebecca (aka The Outdooress) and all of the support team (Owl Jones) for the great work you do to promote an outdoor life through this online community.




'via Blog this'

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Epic #Fail

I could not have imagined a more excruciating end to the to the Red Sox season this year. As fate was dealt by destiny's hand last Wednesday night, the only solace that I felt was, "Finally, this historic collapse of epic proportions of a MLB team was over".

For the next two days, it felt like I was recovering from a hard hit between the legs -- a semi-queazy stomach ache that is dull and hurts every time you move.
As I painfully watched Papelbon lose his first game this season, giving up two doubles with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, I knew that the equally epic comeback by the Rays would be complete. Johnson for the Rays had just tied the Yanks in the bottom of the ninth with a line shot over the right field wall -- in a ballsy move by Ray's Manager Maddon, Johnson was brought in to pinch hit having only a season .108 average and had not been at the plate in over a month. It was a true "Kurt Gibson" moment for baseball.

Three minutes after the rain delayed Sox and O's finished their game, Longoria for the Rays hit a line shot, walk-off homer, over the left field fence in the bottom of the twelfth to beat the Yanks and put the final nail in the Red Sox coffin for 2011.

The first thought that came into mind that dark evening was Red Sox Nation had just experienced the "Billy Buckner ball between his legs" drawn out over the entire month of September.

In the aftermath of this epic collapse, Terry Franconia resigned as Red Sox manager saying he was frustrated that he could not get the team to play as a team and that a different voice is needed in the clubhouse. There are reports that some players not scheduled to play during regular season games would be drinking beers in the clubhouse before the game and the general conditioning of the players was poor in some cases. The injuries that plagued the Red Sox this season are a testament to this observation.
Francona, bringing the Red Sox their first World Series Title in 86 years (2004) with the epic 8 game win streak (last 4 against the Yanks and final 4 against the Cardinals) and then staying undefeated in World Series play with another title in 2007, will go down as the best manager in Red Sox history.  He will be missed by most of Red Sox Nation.

The best quote I heard from a player on Wednesday night was Papelbon stating that "This game will not define my career".

Having a couple of days to let this sink in, I must admit that I take being a "fan" of the Red Sox a bit too seriously at times. It is only a game and, other than riding the ups and downs of the team, we have no effect at all on the success or failures of a team. Like most fans, there is an emotional investment that pays off with the camaraderie of other fans through both the highs and lows of a season.

-- Westford over 30 Men's Softball 2011 Champs - Foral Arts --
On a positive note for ball play this September, my men's over 30 slow pitch softball team won the league championship this year for the first time in league history. I've played on the team for 7 years and the first 4 years we were the worst team in the league. We turned it around and went to the finals against the same team for the last 3 years. This year we finally beat them in a back and forth battle -- taking the final game of a best of 5 series in a 22 to 16 high scoring shootout.
Go Pats!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Five things I learned on my first fly fishing trip to the Ocean

-- A Taste for the Salt --
The idea of chasing stripers off the shores of New England got under my skin last winter so I started tying Clouser Minnows and Lefty Deceivers in anticipation for this trip.

I even found a kind soul, Mainiac on the Maine Fly Fishing Forum, that takes salt water newbies out every year in the early summer and teaches them how to chase stripers.

Well, work got in the way and I never made the trip to Maine. With the last days of striper season in New England on our doorstep, we decided to go to the shore and try our luck.

We packed a picnic dinner with the plan of fishing the falling tide from 5 PM to sunset at the southern tip of Plum Island in the Sandy Point State Reservation.

It was fun and the whole family joined us, including non-anglers, but the four of us throwing our lines into the salt saw zero action (which met my expectations for the first outing). Here are the 5 things I learned while fishing the salt on the fly for the first time:

1) The Atlantic Ocean is really big and occasionally throws some really big waves at you, even if you are only ankle deep on the shoreline (I've heard that the Pacific Ocean is actually bigger and has bigger waves).

2) A 20 knot wind in your face makes it really tricky to throw a fly line. Double-hauling does help, but only if you execute it flawlessly and are facing in the right direction (see lesson 3).

3) Having a 2/0 Clouser Minnow hit you on the back of the head 3 times on your final cast physically hurts. Having it hit you in the head a 4th time mentally hurts when you finally realize that if you turn around and cast with your back to the wind the fly stays away from you during casting.

4) Just because you find big fish on the beach, doesn't mean they are going to swim up and take your little fly.
-- A "baby" Ocean Sunfish washed up on the beach --
5) The waves washing around you have a tendency of tangling your fly line around your ankles. Bringing a stripping basket next time would be a good idea.

Needless to say, I will do this again in a heartbeat.  We have some great ocean fishing spots in New England and it is an obsession of many fly anglers. There is always a first time, and in my case, not the last.

I still have a bunch of great stuff from our Colorado trip and will get this up soon. 

As always, thanks for listening.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Living the Dream in Colorado

-- Dream Lake, RMNP --

I was fortunate to extend a business trip to Denver in August of 2010 and got hooked up, through a friend, with a seasoned fly fisher who lived in Boulder, CO. He was gracious, like all fly fishers, to put me on his local secret stream on Friday evening and then take me to Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday to fish the Big Thompson. He left after lunch and sent me to Dream Lake to chase greenback cuts.

Fish were landed at all spots on that trip and the decision was made to bring the family to Colorado for our first family vacation outside of New England in 2011.
-- One of the millions of Elk in RMNP --

We started early in the day since the trip required a traverse of the park over Trail Ridge Road. What a beautiful road with a plethora of wildlife. Elk, moose, deer, marmots, pika , coyote and even big horn sheep where spotted during the trip across North America's highest continuous motorway, with more than eight miles lying above 11,000' and a maximum elevation of 12,183'. During this first week of July, there was still a good amount of snow as well.

-- Lots of snow on the trail --


We arrived at the Bear Lake trailhead around 9 AM and started the easy trek up to Dream Lake. We had plans to fish Dream Lake until lunch and then continue up to Lake Haiyaha after lunch, but the snow pack and weather changed these plans.



There were many others throwing their lines in the lake and the spot where I had luck last year was being fished by three others. A hike through the snow and steep banks to the back side of the lake brought some solitude to cast to cruising greenbacks with dries and nymphs. They occasionally looked at the flies, but none were taking.

-- My better half casting to cruising greenbacks --

I watched my wife across the lake land her second trout on the fly and first greenback with a Goddard caddis (her first trout on the fly was reported in the previous post and also caught with Goddard caddis - flies tied in prep for our trip).

-- Michael's first greenback --
I decided to hike back around the lake, have some lunch and try my luck on the other side. My son and his friend both got into their first greenbacks and I was the only one yet to land one that day.




-- Matt, my son, lands his first greenback --
-- Cruising greenback --

A spot was picked, the cruising fish saw the size 18 parachute adams and I had my first take but no hookup. As I waited patiently for the cruisers to return it started to rain. As the rain got harder, I climbed back up the steep rocky bank to seek shelter and tie on a different fly. Another fisherman, decided to take this spot as soon as it was vacated, so another location was found as the rain lightened.

-- Greenback cutthroat from Dream Lake --

After a couple of casts with the new fly, I finally brought a greenback to hand. I stayed in that area as a big thunderstorm started to roll in and landed a second. The lighting and thunder was fierce and we found some cover to wait out the storm.

-- Thunderstorm I --
-- Thunderstorm II which inspired us to pack-up and leave --
-- Happy Campers heading down the trail --

After dealing with two intense storms, we decided to pack it in and head back to the car. We all had success at Dream Lake, with the boys and my wife catching their first greenbacks. The trip back included a stop for pizza in Estes Park and then the trek back across the Continental Divide to Grand Lake.

Before I close this post, our prayers go out to a Fly Fishing in NH board member and dedicated conservationist and fly fisher -- Otter. He is struggling with cancer and put up a farewell post this week. I've never met Otter but have been frequently moved by his posts over the years and know he is a wise and very kind soul.

We also would like to wish fellow blogger, Brk Trt, of Small Stream Reflections a speedy recovery from his minor stroke. Get well soon, Alan.

And finally, please pray for the safety and quick recovery of those hit hard by Irene. Our friends to the north in Vermont, were particularly hard hit with flooding and washed out bridges.

Thanks for listening and hopefully I can pick up the pace with some more summer fishing stories.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A view from Gin Clear's better half...

-- A family adventure --
For years, we have vacationed in a quiet, Maine, mountain town. The agenda was always the same--a canoe trip on the Androscoggin, climbing a White Mountain 4,000 footer, fishing mountain lakes and streams and an evening of laser tag, provided the family with a sense of security and relaxation.  Our son, Matt, was about to enter his senior year of high school, and we wanted one spectacular family vacation, choosing Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  Colorado offered some of the country's finest fly-fishing opportunities.

-- Bait Chucker --
I grew up a bait chucker, fishing for perch in a 16 foot Lyman on Lake Erie.  For four years, I lived on a trout stream in Meshoppen, PA and would take my spinning rod to the water, catching trout and suckers. I put the rod away after an unexpected encounter with a copperhead.

On one of our early vacations in Maine, I decided to bring my spinning rod and show my rambunctious son the joy of fishing.  After the first bluegill, my son was hooked.  Fishing replaced dinosaurs as his universe.
-- One of his first fish --

When Matt was in grade school, we had a deal -- get the homework done and we'll go fishing after dinner.  The little pond down the street was full of bass and it became routine. Over the years, Matt has become an accomplished bass fisherman.  Sometimes, I would join him. Dog leash in one hand and fishing rod in the other.
-- Another 3 Bass Night --

-- First Brownie on the Fly --


















I don't know how Matt became aware of the sport of fly fishing, but one day he asked me to take him to Wal-Mart to buy a $60 fly fishing rod and reel combo.  He practiced casting in the front yard and soon started catching bass on the fly.  For Christmas, he was bound and determined to buy the same fly rod/reel combo for his dad and walked over fifty dogs to earn the money.  Soon, father and son were taking float trips and weekend excursions throughout New England, fishing for rainbow, brooks and browns.
-- Brookie in the White Mountains, NH --

When you enjoy something, you have to share it with the ones you love and that is how I learned to fly fish.  Matt was my instructor. He had such skill and made the sport look effortless and elegant.  Matt could easily have been the casting double for the movie, "A River Runs Through It." As a child, he didn't always have the patience to stay with me and correct my flaws, but would go off to fish on his own.  As soon as I got a wind knot or tangled in a tree, he was gone. I accompanied my guys on several trips and never landed a fish.  Matt was frustrated with me, but never stopped asking me to go.

By the time we traveled to Colorado, Matt was a young man. Late one afternoon, fishing Arapaho Creek, Matt set his rod down and came over to sit near me.  He had caught his fish for the day and wanted to give me a few words of encouragement.  As usual, I hadn't caught anything.  He suggested a Goddard caddis and roll casting into the side of a pool.
-- Look at the smile on Matt's Face --

"Fish on!," I screamed.  Matt ran for the net and waded into the water to make sure the fish didn't get away.  It was nice sized rainbow.  My first trout on a fly.  I don't know who had the bigger smile, me or Matt.






Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hookers, Sanders and Beer

-- Sanders is my neighbor? --
In the continuation of our Rocky Mountain travel log, we will take a little diversion from fishing and talk about other parts of our trip -- lodging, Grand Lake and beer.

Because of the 4th of July holiday, our stay in Grand Lake was split at two different places.  The first was a condo on the North Inlet Creek right in the town of Grand Lake.  The second was a cabin just off Rt. 34 about 10 min south of Grand Lake overlooking Shadow Mountain Lake. We will talk about the lead pic later in this post.

-- I-70 Heading west out of Denver --
We left Denver International with one stop for food and a visit at Charlie's Fly Box.  Knowing the rivers were high, we picked up some 3X leader and tippet and some cone head streamers to help us get stuff deep in the heavy flows.  It was a pleasure to meet and chat with Charlie Craven at his shop.  As he looked up some of the river flows for where we were heading, we were both rolling our eyes.

-- All the snow runoff is heading to the Pacific --
The weather was clear and traffic not that bad for the start of a long holiday weekend.  The drive over the Continental Divide at Berthoud Pass was breathtaking.  On our way home we went over this pass in dark and rain, which was a bit more nail bitting nerve racking.

The town of Grand Lake is small and seasonal, but it was packed in preparation for their famous 4th of July fireworks. The condo we stayed in for a couple of days was right on North Inlet Creek. This was an ideal location for fishing in the "backyard", except for that damn runoff thing...
Shot from the condo deck


And a bit further downstream

-- Steamers Galore! --
We also were greeted with the stench of dead fish that someone staying in the condo about a week ago did not fully grind down the disposal.  With my son suffering a touch of altitude sickness, the smell put him over the edge and had him part with his pizza lunch. What a great way to start our vacation.

After a couple of days at the condo, the fish smell was gone and so were we.  We moved to the next cabin and to my surprise, blog follower Sanders was my neighbor!  From the sign post on the cabin road it looked like he was bringing the Hookers as well -- PARTY!  I knew we were in the right place when the toilet seat told me to fish streamers.

And of course the beer.  I did not touch a Coors while in the Rocky Mountains, but the local brews from Boulder Beer Company, Grand Lake Brewing Company, Odell Brewing Company and Breckenridge Brewery were excellent.  
 -- Colorado's Finest Microbrews --

I'm a bit partial to hoppy beers and found the "Hoppy's One Ton Pale Ale" and "Stumpjumper IPA" from Grand Lake Brewing to be my favorites.  The "Wooly Booger Nut Brown" and "Avalanche Amber" ales were also delicious.  They all were good and I'm thankful that the micro brewing revolution of the last 20 years is going strong.

-- Happy Crew after great fishing week --

Food in the local restaurants was ok to good.  We ate out a couple of times and fortunately no one got sick (this has happened to us on previous vacations).

I'll keep putting more pics and stories from the trip.  Hope this non-fishing stuff doesn't bore you.

Thanks for following!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Come Hell or High Water...

-- Meadows of Onahu Creek in RMNP --
... we will catch fish! At least half of this is true. We planned this trip back in March before the Rockies received record spring snowfall. We landed at Denver International with spring runoff on the rivers at record highs, but we are making lemonade out of lemons.

Our first full day hike and fish was up to Onahu Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). With all the rivers and streams totally blown out at lower elevations, we took the advice of Steve Schweitzer (author of "A Fly Fishing Guide to RMNP") to hike as high as possible and fish the streams and lakes.

In addition to exploring RMNP, we planned to fish the Colorado, the Williams Fork, the Cache La Poudre, the Fraser and area tribs near Grand Lake so the high water kept our options limited actually allowed us to focus on a couple of fishing destinations from an overwhelming number of quality opportunities in the area.

-- Onahu Creek Trailhead --
The hike to the first meadows of Onahu Creek was about 3 miles  from 8,700 to 9,500 feet above sea level. While the creek was following fast, the water was gin clear and there were pockets & pools which held some brookies.

-- High, but fishable flows at 9,500 ft --






We have some beautiful mountain streams in New Hampshire and Maine, but nothing like vast open meadows close to two miles above sea level like what we discovered in RMNP.

We all started throwing Parachute Adams, BWOs and PMDs. We had some takes, but the fishing was slow.




-- Moose mom with calf --


As I was switching to an olive slumpbuster, picked up at Charlie's Fly Box on our drive from the airport to the mountains, a moose mom with calf startled me, but they keep feeding while mostly ignoring me.

It was really easy to swing the streamer in the fast flows, but finding just the right current and area which would hold fish was a challenge.

-- A patient, stealth approach to a small pool --








-- Fat, little brookie fooled by Parachute Adams --
My son's friend landed the first brookie of the day by patiently flipping a dry into a large still pool off the main flow of the stream. He worked the pool for about 30 minutes waiting between casts for the small brookies to start rising after each cast.



-- Tiny brookie landed with swung Olive Slumpbuster --
I was working the top of the meadow swinging the slumpbuster through varying flows and depths.  I landed a smaller brookie in a shallow slow flow and had a another take in a another riffle a few minutes later.






While not a stellar fishing day, we were blessed with the beauty of the Rockies and perfect weather.

This is the first post from our Colorado experience during the first week of July.  We had good days on the water with lots of adventure and stories to tell.

I'll do my best to capture these experiences, in no particular order, over the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wet Wadin'

-- Millers River upstream of Athol --
The summer solstice has passed and the local rivers are getting warm. A couple of days before the solstice, we traveled about an hour to the Millers River in central MA and shed the waders. The plan was to go in the afternoon and stay for the evening hatch. Our local Millers River expert, Ken Elmer, has told us that this is one of he best dry fly sections on the river but you need to hit it in the early morning and late evening. 




We arrived around 3 PM and started hiking upstream looking for some spots to wet the lines.  The boys hiked down to some still water to try their luck with dries and I started with a beadhead pheasant tail to explore the riffles and pocket water. 

-- Mountain Laurels in full bloom --
This section of the Millers is below the Bears Den and we fished the Bears Den a couple of times last year with mixed results.

-- The boys were getting bored not catching anything --
The boys hooked a couple of small bait fish on their dries and I was getting nada.  We continued to hike upstream and I continued to try nymphs and streamers.






The sage advice of Mr. Elmer was playing out "early morning and late evening". We were there from 3 to 6 with nothing to net. That's probably why we were the only guys fishing this stretch at this time.

We hiked back to the car, and went for some pizza in downtown Athol. Every small town in Massachusetts has a "Small Town Name" House of Pizza and its been my experience when looking for fine local dining that you can't go wrong at the local House of Pizza brand.

After dinner, instead of going back to the prime evening hatch water where we just were, we decided to go downstream about 7 miles to an area on the Millers that we have fished several times and know a bit better. 

The Wendall Depot parking area had four other cars in the lot when we arrived at 7 PM. The simplicity of not dealing with waders and boots makes moving from one place to the next much easier.

We first went across the railroad bridge and started to work water downstream.  We ran into three other anglers fishing a decent section of the river in the C&R area.  I switched to dries and put on an X-Caddis.  With one of my first casts, a fish ripped the fly off the leader. It looked like I tied a bad knot, but I try to be very careful about these details and was pleasantly surprised to have found some fish. 

-- First trout of 2011 - an 8" rainbow --
The boys got into some small fallfish and I landed a tiny smallmouth on an olive Klinkhammer. We decided to move upstream before we lost too much light.  The boys bushwacked up to a big pool while I decided to work the riffles at the tail. I lobbed the Klinkhammer in to some fast water and after 169 days netted the first trout in 2011.

-- Decent smallie on Klinkhammer --
I moved upstream slowly to some rising fish just above the riffles and got into a decent smallmouth. One of the better fish that's been on my line in awhile. 



I continued to work upstream to find the boys who had got into some fish but could not land them. There was some good sized fish rising in the big pool and we were all working it hard.







-- Smallie with a bit of fight --
Just as the light was failing and the fish where getting really active on the surface, a beaver decided to let us know that this was his fishing turf and started to slap and submarine the pool spooking anything within a 400 ft radius.

We packed it in and started to head home just after 9 PM.  There was very little light left, but you gotta love long summer days with great fishing into the early evening.