Monday, April 17, 2017

My Best Guide Trip Yet

M's first trip - 2013 (4 mos. old)

     A few months after my son, "M," was born, I was ready to get on the water. 2013 was a brutal winter and I had a pretty serious case of cabin fever. Even if it hadn't snowed so much, I just needed to get out of the house. Seeing how a newborn would be confined to his carrier, I figured a quick fishing trip might be possible. I timed it for the Quill Gordon hatch on a local river. 

     Things didn't go according to plan. As a baby, M demanded to be held and walked around almost all the time. It was exhausting. I thought he might be distracted enough by the sights and sounds of nature for me to catch a fish or two. I had only made a few casts before M cried. He didn't want to be in the carrier. He wanted to be held, just like at home. So much for my brilliant plan. 

    After the first trip, I decided to wait a bit before trying again. A few months later, a stroller trip to Connecticut's Salmon River ended pretty much the same way. After that, I decided to pull the plug on fishing with M in year one. In his second year, we made a couple successful trips to the Naugatuck, largely due to the novelty of a toddler carrier backpack. By the time M was old enough to run around, he had gotten sort of wild, that way little boys often do. He was too wild to bring fishing. It just wasn't enough action for him and it would have been dangerous to leave him on the bank. I fished on my own for the next two years. 

The apprentice

     This winter, four year old M developed an interest in fly tying. I showed him some basics and he soon asked, "Where are all of my tools?" I laughed, but he didn't let me off the hook. I had to get him his own set of tools. I had enough of the basics at home, but we made a special trip to UpCountry Sportfishing to fill his box with tools and some bargain bin materials. It was still too cold to fish, but the seed had been planted...

     ...Fast forward to last Friday. The weather had been warm enough to make a local Quill Gordon hatch a possibility. I had a much needed day off and had planned on fishing alone that day. However, my plans change suddenly,  as they often do. I called an audible and brought M back to the original river. We returned to the pool he last visited when he was four months old. I told M that I would do the casting and he would fight the fish, just like we had practiced in the basement two weeks prior (on the rod and reel he claimed were his). 

Fish on!

     As expected, there was a Quill Gordon hatch, albeit a light one. We hooked up on a cripple pattern, but lost the brown trout early in the fight. The other trout didn't have much interest in a dry fly, but they nipped at a sz. 14 Hare's Ear wet fly. It seemed too small, so I switched to a larger wet fly, a sz. 10 Leading Coachman. 

     Bingo! It wasn't long before we hooked up in the tail of the pool. I handed the rod to M. He reeled the wrong way at first, but got it right after I offered some expert advice. It wasn't long before I netted M's first trout, a nice little brookie. Unfortunately, the fish slipped out of my hand when I tried to take its picture. Shortly after the excitement of landing his first trout, M dropped my 20-compartment dry fly box into the river. I fished it out of the current with the tip of my rod. 

M's second trout

     After laying the fly box out to dry, we went back to it. It wasn't long before we hooked up again. After another urgent lesson in which direction to reel, M brought his second trout close, this time a little rainbow. After landing the first fish, M really wanted to net a fish himself. That wasn't going to happen, so I handed him the net with the rainbow in it. The fish kicked, startled M, and he dropped the net into the river. I jumped in after the net and the water went over my hip boots. Like my fly box, my right leg was totally soaked. It was a small price to pay for the memories. 

     We had to leave shortly thereafter, so we packed up and headed out. I took off my soaked socks and put on a pair of flip flops. After putting M in his car seat, I congratulated him on a job well done, catching two of the three species of local trout. He whined loudly,  "But I wanted to catch a brown trout, too!" 

The lucky fly, set aside for safe keeping

Monday, April 10, 2017

Deploying the Troops

Headed to the Queen of Rivers, Norway's Alta

     This coming August marks my tenth wedding anniversary. It has been a great ten years. I couldn't ask for a better wife. Due the milestone, I think I'll be on the outside looking in this salmon season.

     My favorite kind of fly tying is tying for a trip. If it's not for my own trip, second best is someone else's trip. After taking a fishing/tying break in January and February, I have been busy tying for anglers taking some interesting trips in 2018. Among the more interesting orders was a dozen Governors, headed for the big, powerful, early June salmon of Middle Camp's pools on the Cascapedia. Another few dozen are headed for the Rivers Tay, Spey, Nairn, and Ness in Scotland. I've  never fished in the UK, but would love to someday. 

Governors for outsized Cascapedia salmon

     The order that got me the most pumped was a dozen tubes, headed to Norway. There are many great Norwegian rivers, but none as revered as the River Alta, home of the world's largest strain of Atlantic salmon. While tying the other orders, I watched some Dave Chapelle specials and listened to a podcast about crime and corruption in Providence, RI (some familiar characters!). While tying Alta flies, I watched Alta videos. Sometimes I stopped tying to give the videos my full attention. I realized that it's a place I need to see at least once in my life.

    Fueled by over an hour of huge salmon videos, I marched into the room my wife was in and declared, "I'm going to start entering the Alta lottery. If I actually win water, I'll figure out what to do later. But I'm telling you right now, one day I'm going to say that I'm going to Norway. It might be next year. It might be fifteen years from now. But it will happen eventually. I have to fish this place before I die."

     She was sort of caught off guard by how abruptly I delivered my "serious" message, but she got it. I think she'd actually like to come along for that trip, which is great. I tried to pitch a tenth anniversary trip to Iceland, but she saw right through it. She knows next to nothing about fly fishing, but I think she understands how this river is different from all the rest. 

Willie Gunns, headed home to Scotland

     I'll probably be living vicariously through some of you guys this season, but that's okay. I still have to tie a bunch of Miramichi flies. It has been a few years since I was last there. Maybe I'll tie a few extra Undertakers and Butterflies for myself. Maybe I can sneak away for a quick trip if the opportunity presents itself...

Cockburn Shrimp for high water on the Miramichi

Monday, April 3, 2017

Boston Event: Sippin' Suds for Atlantic Salmon

click to enlarge

      A couple weeks ago, New England on the Fly's Ben Carmichael sent me a heads up about an upcoming event. I checked my calendar to make sure I don't have a gig on the evening of April 26. I do not, so I immediately purchased a ticket online.

     Some friends and I have causally talked about having a meet up of local Atlantic salmon anglers. Evidentially, we are not good enough organizers to make such a thing happen. Thank goodness guys like Ben Carmichael are! Ben mentioned that it will be a way to get hopeful and inexperienced Atlantic salmon anglers in the same room with experienced salmon anglers. 

     Recently, while I was talking with a friend of mine who is a very experienced fly fisherman, but new to Atlantic salmon fishing, we talked about conversations that happen between Atlantic salmon anglers. I mentioned how I noticed how Atlantic salmon fishers have their own unique "dialect" within the larger language of fly fishing. When salmon anglers get talking amongst a larger group of fly anglers, it doesn't take long before the Atlantic salmon guys and gals begin speaking in what sounds like a sort of "code" to everyone else. It can be hard to follow for those who have yet to participate in this branch of the sport. 

     The way I see it, Sippin' Suds for Atlantic Salmon is an event that was created to break down such walls. I have plenty of salmon fishing friends my age and younger, but most don't live in the U.S. Most of my American salmon fishing friends are older than I am. A lot of American anglers consider the Atlantic out-of-reach, either financially, in terms of proximity, or otherwise. Nothing could be further from the truth. An event such as this allows connections to be made and information to be passed along to the next generation of Atlantic salmon anglers. Let's face it, the Atlantic salmon needs as many advocates it can get. 

     If you are free, I encourage you to attend this event. I am very much looking forward to it. If you happen to go, I look forward to meeting you and talking salmon.