Stormin' the Canyon

The last time I hit the river, I got smacked around like a little school-girl, and was sent home with my tail tucked between my legs, where I nursed my wounds, lamented the loss of my Man Badge and plotted my revenge.

And while the skirt ensemble and pig-tails have been disturbingly comfortable, it was high-time to earn my machismo back via an old Marine Corps philosophy: hit hard, hit fast, and keep on hitting. Figuratively speaking, of course, since I would never hit a fish, especially one wearing glasses (you lucked out, Mr. Limpet).

So, after an overhaul of both my equipment and psyche, I blazed a path to Cheeseman Canyon, talons gripped with new gear, a fresh set of flies, and an industrial-sized drum of 'Ass Whoopin' Ointment' that I planned on opening once I got there and applying in liberal doses.

The only piece missing was Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" blaring on my stereo, echoing across the mist-shrouded valley as I wound my way to the Gill Trail parking lot, while Hydra rocket pods spew their deadly cargo, leaving a trail of destruction in my wake....

Actually, I was cranking the likes of CoC, Slayer, To-Mera, et al - not Wagner, but still a perfect fit for the Banzai-mood that I was in, and probably a bit startling to the refined tastes of the delicate 'Nobility' wallowing in their slumber at the Wig Wam club. RISE AND SHINE, LADIES!

As a side note, this is the very same club that hosted Cheney and his crew a few years back - and I got to watch the former VP fly fish from the other side of the fence one Monday morning. Actually, he didn't do much fishing that I saw - more like a lot of walking around and pointing, while his gaggle of similarly-dressed Secret Service men followed suit. Dude, it's not a Degas - it's a river. Throw your line in already.

Unlike Dick, I hit the river to fish, and I wasted no time in getting my line wet once I got stream-side. The flows were up (edging towards 600 cfs if I had to guess) which worked in my favor, being that the fish tend to move to the sides in higher flows. They were also actively feeding, and within the first ten minutes, I landed the first catch on my new gear (from Hook Fly Fishing) - a nice little brownie that took an olive Zebra.

Looking around, I saw a lot of fish, and the problem I was faced with was selecting the one that I wanted to go after - which is a great problem to have. I finally zeroed in on a decent-sized rainbow and, changing out to a Scud pattern, had him hooked within a short time.

Have I mentioned that I've caught more heavy-weights on a Scud than any other pattern? True to form, this one turned out to be the day's biggest haul - of netted fish, that is.

Immediately after this one, I bit into another sub - matter of fact, when I first tagged him, I thought I was caught on the rocks that were off to his right - my line didn't budge when I set my hook - it took several seconds until this tank decided to turn and head downstream, and in the process, cleanly snapping my line and taking my only Scud. Time to tie some more - unless Herman deGala hooks me up with some of his gonzo patterns first.

After that, I went back to the Zebra and basically cleaned house, except for a massive anomaly (referred to as 'Grandpa') that I hooked with a bead-head Pheasant Tail (Thanks for letting me fish to that trophy, Neil - there's no way my line was going to hold, but it sure was a rush hooking him) and a smaller brown that I landed with a Hare's Ear.

Overall, I set 13 fish - 2 snapped my line, 4 popped off my hook, and I wound up netting 7. Hitting numbers (and sizes) like that in the Canyon is a treat, and it's not something that happens often (at least for me), so this one will wind up in the books as one of the better days.

The evil simian is off my back, and I am at peace. For now.


New Gear - Locked & Loaded

Have you ever been sick, only to get better and realize how sick you really were? Using that analogy, I can say that this was the case with my old gear, which I have fished hard for the better part of 12+ years. And when I say hard, I mean it. I don't baby my stuff - I'll ride it like a rented mule, and then ride it some more for good measure.

I know, I know - most cool,  serious anglers have a stable of rods and reels that they use. Good for them - I celebrate the fact that I'm not like those other kids. My angling philosophy is unorthodox and my style is my own - plus, being a tail-water hound, I can usually get away with the one-size-fits-all mentality.

Tangents aside, it was time. Actually, it was time a few years ago, but the last several trips to the river had convinced me that I was due for something new. Recent experiences include:
  • My old reel fell apart while fishing. Comical, but not a good thing. Plus it took an eternity for me to get it all back together again, mainly because I'm an idiot.
  • Periodically, the top half of my rod would fly off while casting - again, funny as hell to see happen, but not very productive. The 'loose' tip also severely affected the rod's action, which subsequently hosed up my cast (as if it wasn't hosed enough on it's own merit), which in turn resulted in....
  • Casting fatigue, which was becoming more pronounced this past year, and....
  • Increased line breaks from hammering my cast because the rod action wasn't quite up to snuff.
  • Plus, the grip is more weathered, worn and cracked than Mickey Rourke's face in HD.
It's served me well over the years, and has seen action on untold rivers, across 7 western states and British Columbia. It almost got to go to Alaska one year, but due to work conflicts, we had to miss that. I've had amazing days on the water, and some not so amazing - yes sir, a ton of mileage and a lot of great memories. And unlike other past experiences, no baggage.

But, it was time for a new rod - one that would share the next decade with me on the water, in humiliating fashion. I knew what I wanted, I just needed to find one that I liked. So I compared and shopped and when I had it narrowed down, I settled on a nice TFO Finesse 5w. And what's a new rod without a new reel? Perhaps a Lamson Litespeed 2? Yeah, baby! That's what I'm talking about - 'smooth like buttah', to paraphrase an East Coast friend of mine.

Getting my gear home, I took it for some test runs in the front yard, and I'll admit, it took a lot of casting (with a much lighter touch) to get used to the new feel and action - but once I dialed that in, it was pure heaven. It's obvious now how hard I was working these past few years on my old stuff - the difference is like night and day.

So now I'm set - I've got a new supply of split-shot, re-stocked my leaders and tippet, and will be tying up a new supply of flies (since I lost so many last time). To say I'm anxious to get back on the water is an understatement - I'm seething with bad intentions, mostly to retrieve my Man Badge, but also, to break-in my new toys. 

"By the pricking of my thumbs..."


Owned 101

That's right - there is no video. No pictures. Because shame and humiliation are a state of being, and cannot be fully appreciated in a digital snapshot or sequence of frames. Let's rewind...

It had been a while since I was able to swing two trips to the river in one month, so I was fired up and ready to go. And this time, Eva was going as well. Or maybe not. A few days prior she started to feel under the weather and, well, you can guess the rest. By early Saturday morning she was in no shape to be hitting a river to fish and, wisely, opted to stay home. (insert Red Flag #1 here)

Weather-wise, this weekend was panning out to look vaguely familiar - a cold front, clouds, wind, rain, snow, deadly gamma-ray bursts, Dane Cook's 'comedy' special, etc. In other words, it was supposed to be yet another lousy Saturday. (insert Red Flag #2 here)

The night before, I got some of my gear packed and ready to go. I also attempted to put on a new leader and tippet. I say attempted, because I could not tie a knot to save my life - and, come to find out, this 'curse' would dog my every step the next day as well. (insert Red Flag #3 here)

On the drive up, I almost 86'd a wild turkey that was crossing the road. Anti-lock brakes are my new friend. (insert Red Flag #4 here)

Oblivious to all of the red flags, I managed to make it to the river, and here's my sad day, presented in a neat, concise, list:
  • Arriving at the river, I froze. It felt more like February, than a mild May morning. The November Witch is still out and about - will someone please kick that hag in the taint and send her on her way?
  • Right out of the gates, I spilled all of my split-shot into the weeds, so I spent the rest of the day trying to scavenge old lead from used lines in my pack and in the bushes along the side of the water. The only thing missing was me holding a brown paper bag with a bottle of MD-20/20 inside.
  • Water flows were down - as were the trout, and they were not taking this 'fishing thing' quite as serious as I was. Did they not get the memo?
  • Early on, I landed a nice rainbow on a Hare's Ear, which made a quick run, jumped twice, and popped off my hook - that's the closest I would get to a legit hook-up the rest of the day.
  • I managed to snag every bush, tree, weed, and small animal within a 3-mile radius. Twice.
  • It was slightly windy - but from my poor casting, you would have thought I was throwing my line into gale-force winds.
  • By the afternoon, it was alternating between sun and clouds, which resulted in baking one minute, and freezing the next. I felt like a junkie in full-on withdrawal mode.
  • I don't even remember how many flies I lost - but it was a lot. How freaking hard is it to tie a knot?!?!?!
  • I got sunburned. Real bad.
The highlight of the day came late in the afternoon (of a very frustrating day), when I spotted a massive shadow cruising up the seam in the middle of the river. Following this sub, I saw that it had parked in a nice drift right behind a rock, just begging to be hooked.

After about 10 minutes, and several fly changes, I felt the set, my line tightened, and this pig took off as my reel made that wonderful sound we all love to hear.

Almost immediately, though, my heart sank, as it became obvious that I had foul-hooked him - which was par for the course this day. And a fish this big, foul-hooked, is near impossible to net by yourself. Fortunately for me, a guy was walking up river and offered to net him - which I gladly accepted.

Ah, it was a nice fish, too - easily pushing the 20+ inch range, and healthy to boot, probably somewhere between the 3-4 pound mark. But it doesn't count, and now I am left with a bad taste in my mouth, a sunburn from hell, and a void in my psyche where my man-card has been violently ripped from my possession.

I need redemption. I need to know that my skills are in tact, and that I'm still smarter than a fish. But most of all, I want my man-card back.


Getting My Fix

After only getting one trip to the river during the month of April, I was long overdue to get my line wet and hook some fish. So, after cramming a weekend's worth of responsibilities into Saturday, I was free to head up to the river Sunday.

The weather forecast was calling for cooler temps, and rainy conditions - but this wasn't going to stop me - I needed a fix, and I needed it badly. It's the perfect way to unplug and steer clear of all of the spoon-fed ideals of the material world, and is just the thing to keep me from winding up naked, in a bell tower, with a high-powered rifle.

Loss of sanity aside, Sunday turned out to be quite the perfect day (for the most part), with mild temps, partly cloudy skies and plenty of fish in the river. What more could you ask for? Flows in Cheeseman Canyon were up quite a bit - the water was off-color, cold and deep, making sight-fishing a bit more challenging, especially when the clouds rolled in. Time to break out the long-cast.

Right out of the gates, I hooked a nice sized fish - which subsequently broke my line and stole my fly. I know better - I should change out my line before I start a new day of fishing, but I don't. I end up using the same line from the last outing, which more than likely has enough nicks and scratches to make a Sadist smile in approval.

So I rigged up again at the edge of the water, and went at it, hooking myself a nice rainbow that was brilliantly colored. The run that I pulled him out of had several fish stacked up in it, and I went back to that well one more time in the hopes of pulling another out - but it was slow going. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I managed to hook myself a nice brown. Yeah, that feels good.

Moving up a few paces, I began fishing another seam of deep, fast water - there were fish parked low and they were active, moving all over like a bunch of preschoolers on a sugar high. Running my line through this run, I managed to foul-hook one, which left a bad taste in my mouth. I hate doing that. Foul-hooking fish, that is....not preschoolers.

For the next few hours, the fishing was slow for me - I could not buy a hit. Fortunately, about this time, a guy came down river and we started talking about the canyon, fish, flies etc. and it helped pass the time. Pulling his line in the riffles on the other side of the river, he hooked into a nice fish which was easily 20+ inches. Even if I'm not catching anything, it's just as exciting to watch others hook some pigs, especially someone as nice as this guy was. Just wish I would have got his name and the URL of his blog.

After a bit, the fishing picked up again, and I wound up hooking five more before the day was out. One snapped my line, but the others weren't so lucky.

Out of the four that I netted, one rainbow in particular put up one helluva fight - taking out quite a bit of my line and refusing to give in. He was average, but he sure fought like he was a behemoth, pulling me first down the river, then back up, and finally settling low in a run on the opposite side of the river where I had to work to get him out. And by work, I mean I had to get out into the river and coax this guy out. In high, fast water, that's a chore. Plus, I had left my net on shore next to my gear - yeah, I'm a TOOL.

Around 2:30 in the afternoon, the weather started to turn for the worse and, having netted 6 fish (7 if you count the foul-hook), I decided to call it a day. A very good day and one that was well worth the wait.