Water Writes​, Journaling A Moment

As many the followers of Glenn On The Fly can attest, I really enjoy sharing stories about fishing incidences and practice. I very rarely write about just a good day on the river, John Gierach-esque style. I write mainly about process and etiquette of fly fishing, almost to a fault. But that’s going to change as of today.

As a Profession Guide, I am on the river every day from early morning to when the sun starts to set, and yes I know, I am very lucky, I know it.

I also realize that my every day is someone else’s  “once in a lifetime”… I try to never forget that notion. For years, I have as a habit, try to look at the river and my surroundings with “fresh eyes” every time I drive up the river or drop into the water with my new C.O.D. (clients of the day). It is very easy, almost too easy, to take everyday occurrences for granted, it’s the ‘been there done that’ approach which is never a good thing.

This is why I advocated taking the time to write in a journal anytime you hit the water. Even a better plan is anytime when the mood strikes you. Nothing is better than reaching for your own written word to bring the texture and more life to a fond memory or for the dramatic of you, a not so fond memory.

Photos are fine and good but can be the Cliff-note, short cut take on what you actually were doing or experiencing. Sure, we all know it is said that a picture is worth a 1000 words but that is if you want someones else’s words or someone else’s take on your day. What gets missed is all the details, the little stuff that makes it that much more special.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about:

Photo By Jeff Holt
Photo By Jeff Holt

This photo is a nice pic. A nice shot with a dark moody feel and a touch of some action. All is good.

But what the photo doesn’t show is how beautiful the day was, a legendary Colorado bluebird sky. The wind was doing the craziest things that mid-afternoon. Its gusts were blowing swiftly upstream, then sideways, then back again which made casting the size 24 Blue Wing Olive pattern with a 24 black biot emerger as a dropper just 16 inches from the microscopic curved shank of the lead fly.

We had to have our line set-up this way because it was the rising fish that Mister Haute Couture lifestyle photographer Jeff Holt and I were trying to entice. We were taking turns casting at 3 or 4 amazing brown trout sipping just under the surface film of the still water at the tail end of an eddy in the “Eagle Pool” section of the Frying Pan River.

Jeff was new to fly fishing but had the perfect temperament to get very good, very quickly…it was a treat for me to teach someone so eager to learn the nuances of presenting a small hand-tied fly to a feeding Brown trout and get the poetry of the motions.

I decided to take a few casts toward this selective, picky trout with a long reach cast, then high sticking with a slight rod lift with just a touch drag to emulate a delicious insect freshly leaving the water. That moment, BAM! my object of desire struck my small fly with a vengeance. This was the first time Jeff had seen a fish take a dry. At that moment I set the hook quickly to tag this trout just in the right spot of his mouth. He takes the classic short run upstream and then downstream, he did exactly what he was supposed to do. I brought his head up, skated him to the net as quickly as I could. I took just a second to remove the hook while our catch lied calmly half in my net, mostly submerged in the cool water of the Frying Pan. Both Jeff and I admired the spots and colors, its full majesty then within a minute was set free to live another day.

I realized I caught two things at that moment, a gorgeous fish and witness the enthusiasm of a soon to be a fishing good friend.

Now, isn’t that better than just showing a shallow photograph that only tells 1/100 of a second of the story? I can’t emphasize the power of a good story perfectly seasoned with a great image.

All I can say in my cheesy Matthew McConaughey way;

Write On, Right On, Write On!

Tight Lines

Glenn

 

The Shop is Gonna Hate Me for This

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No matter what Sport you decide to take up, it all requires stuff, stuff you need, stuff you want and stuff that just gets in the way. This article is about the extras, the add-ons, the things you buy because you think you need it but find it a year later in the gap between your car seats. It’s OK that you do that, I do that. Sometimes it’s cool just to have those things, This blog is only meant to bring it to ones attention, not divert your American right to buy anything you please. So read on…

  1. Newer is not always better. That widget may be the newest tech in the coolest colors but that does not make you any better of an angler, it makes you a chaser. Get good enough to need the latest.
  2. Don’t fall in love with shiny things. This is a hard one for anyone, pretty things are just that, pretty. I have dirty waders, a vest, spooged with floatant and whatever else. Hey, I still catch fish. Also, $150 anodized clipper to cut 5x tippit seems more of an ego boost than a necessity, for that price it better cook me dinner.
  3. If it’s sitting at the Point Of Sale, it’s a want, not a need. Yes, things at the counter are things you might need but you should already have. Remember they call it a POS for a reason.
  4. Don’t try to keep up with the fishing Jones’s. We all have that rich friend or obsessed friends who gets everything and goes everywhere. That’s cool as long as you can pay that credit card bill at the end of the month. If not, do what you can do, don’t go to the poor house because you want to live someone else’s life.
  5. Rooftop Rod Holders. Again, these things serve a purpose, for some. But most people, it’s a way to brag, showboat, set your “rig” apart, whatever.  It’s nice to have as a Guide but as your average Joe driving around the city with it and you only fish twice a year…you’re selling an image instead of filling a need. AND why would you want to invite a possible thief? Dude, if I was a dishonest chap, I would look at that Rod carrier as a reason to look in that ride because, man, this cats got some good stuff I might want.
  6. A leader straightener or any other weird things to clip onto yourself. Tippit, clippers, hemostats and maybe a knot tool, That’s it!
  7. Any Gimmick. If it claims to be Hi-Vis, “Fool any Fish”, Celebrity endorsed gadget, avoid it like the plague. If you do buy it, I have some top secret fish attracting stank to sell you as well as an affordable property on the Frying Pan.
  8. Any Fly that your brothers best friend’s uncle says is guaranteed! This is the best way to burn through your fly budget a buck or two at a time. Listen to the shop guys, local fishing report or what you hear Guides talking about at the bar that afternoon.
  9. Guide Beers. Truth is that guides like their beer and they like their shots, and some don’t, but most do. You may think it’s a way to get free advice and/or make a new friend to shoot the shit with… that can happen. But don’t count on it. Guides are good people but also keep things close to the vest. Not that they don’t want you to have success but we want to be an “active” part of your success, aka make a days wage and hopefully a good tip. To make this point more relatable, would you go up to the Golf Pro at your country club and ask him to give you free tips on your golf swing? Just say’n.
  10. Don’t be egotistical. Everyone is out there for the same reason, you weren’t born a Fly Fishing prodigy when you came screaming out of your mother so lighten up and be humble.

I am sure that you might call BS on some of these items on my list and others you might agree with, that is what makes this such a great sport, we all are in our own world and make our own decisions. Decisions like putting on a BWO emerger instead of an Adams Parachute like your buddy did with no success.

So if you want a machined aluminum tie-dyed autographed leader straightener with a web-enabled automatic blood knot tying feature, have at it, more power to you. I’ll stick to my years of diligently practicing my knot tying for the sheer joy of mastering a beautiful skill.

Instagram: The Good and The Mostly Bad, My Take on Fish Pics

Documenting and bragging has been big part of fishing since the beginning of time. I can imagine the earliest of the human race catching a fish, holding up proudly, then scurrying away to hide and eat the bounty. I also can search a historical photo archive and find a deguerreotype somewhere of a guy holding, hanging from a stringer or fighting a fish, just like this one:

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It’s always a grainy, black and white image of a big fish or a ton of fish. It’s almost predictable but somethings never change.

The question is, Why do we do this? Why is it necessary to document your outing? Are you a notorious liar, and nobody will believe you otherwise? Or is it you believe you will never catch a fish again and you need the proof to show all your friends?

I don’t really have an answer and I am not an expert of human nature, what I do know is ego plays a big part in this. Why else would it be necessary to take a photo of yourself holding a fish that you just caught?

Trust me, I am no saint. I am a fly fishing guide.

I take pics with fish, I take photos of my clients with their fish as well as the surroundings were enjoying.  I do this for a couple of reasons.

Sometimes the fish is amazing and I want to show it off…so there is my ego shot.

I have many photos of my clients with fish for the main reason of fueling their excitement, as well as hopefully securing my spot as their guide for future trips when they are back in my waters. It’s simple, if I’m out of sight I’m out of mind.

This brings me to the ‘Instagramation’ of fishing and how it has cheapened the status of the sport I love. Instagram excels at bring forward the worst in people.

Social Media is now the new synthetic fabric of todays society.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, whatever social dot-com comes down the pike, has created false realities and false envy for their users and followers. What Instagrammers promote is the image of “amazing” in a second reality that is far from real. How many times have you seen the perfect pose, in the perfect place, in the perfect car drinking the perfect expensive drink with the tag line; “#livingTheDream” or “#mylife”? And you know they drive a 10 year old car and their selfies without a filter they would never look like that.

Every time I check out Insta’, it’s almost ridiculous. I will even admit that seeing scantily clad beautiful women has become completely benign and old hat…EVERYONE does it. “Likes” are that important to the poster that having dignity and mystery is no longer a value, it’s an engagement killer.

So that brings me to fishing pictures on instagram. I will once again state that I use and post on the platform and I am not condemning it. What I want to stress is to get your priorities straight on the reasons your posting the images you taking.  And to take those photos with respect the to sport and the wildlife you have captured.

Having the opportunity to spend time in the outdoors, communing with nature is one thing, taking that experience, sexing it up, exploiting it or damaging it is a completely other story.

The examples I can give of this are many, the extreme ranging from a girl who poses topless with all saltwater fish she caught to the asshole that posted himself using a baby shark as a bong. If you find this funny, you might want to reevaluate you sense of humor.

Next up the list is the posters that believe that they are “influencers”.  For those of you that don’t know what a instagram influencer is, It is a person that gets free stuff from companies because they have a substantial amount of followers. I get that, more eyes, more sales. Conversely,  I have seen many photos posted of people with a fish, with their hat down so the Logo of upfront, with a beer can propped up with the label proudly presented in the frame with a million hashtags, thinking that they will get noticed and become sponsored.

Two things; One, having 210 followers does not make you an influencer and secondly, you’re really not all that interesting. On a side note, if you’re a cute girl, that’s a perk for gaining more followers but, I can assure you that those followers are not all that interested in that fish you caught. What exactly are they trolling for? Just remember that.

One of the things that social media does do well is highlight failure. Get online and search #fishing #flyfishing #bigfish, check out how many anglers are mishandling the fish. They have them by the gills or hanging from their jaws. They have them flopping around on the shore or out of the water too long.

My personal favorite is the people who forgot they were trespassing and fishing private water. Even worse than that is the people who willingly break the rule JUST for the photo-op, Talk about losing sight.

I know it sounds like I’m a grumpy old dude and I just don’t get it but let me move to the great part of instagram fishing pics…..I got nothing”n

I love seeing beautiful places, gorgeous fish, amazing flies, exotic destinations, you know, it’s the reason why we do this.

I would like #flyfishing or #fishing to be more like the Travel Channel or The Drake Magazine less like a venue for shameless self-promotion

My advise, keep the camera in the car, or if you cant resist, take fast and thoughtful photos. Always respect the fish, the enviorment, and if you’re a catch and release angler, “keep’um wet” let them go quickly.

One thing I know for certain is a well told fish story is way better than a photo any day of the week.

Tight Lines (from the socially unsocial guide)

Glenn

 

 

 

 

 

A Nibble of My “For Kids of All Ages” Fly Fish’n Book!

This is a big thing for me to announce today but I feel it’s about time that I do! I have been working on a children’s fly fishing book called  Fly Fish’n Fly Fish’n! I have been working on it for quite a while.

I personally dislike most of the books about teaching fly fishing to kids for one main reason: they’re really not fun to read, they’re dry and geared for a very small window of ages. I wanted to write a book that would be fun for kids as well as adults. I believed I nailed it.

It was important to me to create something that was a bit more broad, smart and beautiful to look at. That means no cheesy illustrations, just great photos, line drawings, a fun to read layout with real examples of real places, real gear and a contemporary feel.

It is written in a verse style and fragmented by design.

So let me know your thoughts, I’m excited about it! Here is a sample page…

Guide Glenn Smith

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Be Safe Out There! 20 things to Expect and Un-expect while Fly Fishing.

MbJUSTf7RXCFN3KI7onWBwJust reading the title of this article, I know what you’re thinking, nothing will happen to me, It’s Fly fishing! That may be true for most of us to a point, but trust me when i say, some of the wildest things happen in the most unusual situations.

As a Fly Fishing Guide for over 2 decades, I have seen my share of the unexpected.

I thought it would be helpful to share with y’all what you can, or should do if something were to happen to you on your adventure or at least give you some food for thought before you head out into the wild unknown.

Also, as a disclaimer, I am not a medical professional, nor am I an expert in outdoor survival and I claim not to be… But what I can do is give you my “in the field and on the water” experiences that I have learned from and share that with you, So he we go!

  1. Before you even decide to drive to the river or your favorite run, make sure you have gas in the car, water to drink and let someone know where you’re going. You don’t need to be exact, but at least which river. This is not only for your safety but in case you need to be found for some other reasons.
  2. Be prepared for anything. In Colorado, my home sweet home, you never can underestimate the weather, it can change on a dime, from beautiful bluebird skies in the morning to thunder and lightning or even snow in the afternoon. Take warm clothes and good rain-gear. these things takes up little room and pays for itself the first downpour when the fish start rising.
  3. Make sure you do some research on the water you’re heading to: Such as, Is it a tailwater of freestone river? What’s the water temp? Is the bottom slick or mossy, rocky or silty? What’s the flow? Should I take a staff or have cleats? Do I need waders or can I wet wade? Is it buggy? (not our kind of bugs but the annoying kind)
  4. Bring a snack always! Trust me, you’re not going home sooner that you think especially if the hatch goin off.
  5. Have all your paperwork in order. License is up to date, both of them, fishing and drivers.
  6. Check that you have ALL your gear; waders, boots, vest, bags, nets, boxes, all the things you need or don’t, Just bring it. I have been with clients that refuse to get dressed up at the shop only to find out 10 miles up the river they are missing a boot that fell out in the hotel room when they were bragging about their new “killer pattern”to show their fishing buddies after a couple of beers. It happens. Also alway bring and use your net, period.
  7. When you are heading to your secret spot, don’t become road blind and just focus on the river and ignore others on the road, you would be surprised how may bicyclist, walkers or animals nearly get hit by fishermen NOT paying attention to the road.
  8. When you find your water, don’t get upset if someone else is in it. Don’t get territorial, don’t get all angry. If you are a well seasoned angler, find another spot, truthfully, there are fish everywhere if you know where to look.
  9. When wading through the water, be always cautious and walk flat-footed if possible. The riverbed is inconsistent at best, it can catch your toes of your boots and trip you up, rocks move and slide and are generally unstable. Another thing is branches drift and hit you in the shins, dangerous. You never know, so be respectful of the unknown.
  10. Never put yourself or others in danger because you want to get to “that killer hole over there” that happens to be across fast or uncertain currents. Trust me, IT IS NOT WORTH IT! I know a guy that took a terrifying A River Runs Through It sweep down the river, out of control, near fatal risk just because of a sipping trout out of his reach that wasn’t “all that”.
  11. In that same vein, if you do fall in the river, stay calm and in control, try to work towards the bank at all cost. You may get really wet, lose your stuff, break your rod…so what! Stay alive!
  12. Always keep a pretty good medical/first-aide kit with you. Again, more likely than not, nothing will happen but you do never know. I had a trip with a father and his 11-year-old daughter, it was going really well. We walked to the river through some brush and trees, we waded in the river and dropped a line, perfect, for a while. 20 minutes into our first stop, the young girls hands started to swell up and turn beet red, she was freaking out. I asked the dad if she had any allergies, he didn’t think so but, she obviously did. Luckily we had some Benadryl that the father administered, thank god and the trooper of a girl calmed down, all went beck to normal. It would have been a whole different story otherwise.
  13. This is going to sound harsh, make sure you only bite off what you can chew. What I mean by that is don’t try do more than you are capable or willing to do. If you are out of shape and a scenic overlook is your idea of a good hike, don’t go into the back country that can cause you injury of a heart-attack! Don’t try to be a hero unless you are prepared to do so. It is “just fishing” but it is also “just hiking” says the guy who climbs a 14er for fun.
  14. Put anything valuable in a safe place. Despite all of your high-tech gear is waterproof it is not impervious. Remember, there is one big hole in your waders, it’s at the top, think about it.
  15. Wear sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and always keep your shirt on. Save that for your Bass or cat fishing trip.
  16. If you hook yourself, what should you do. If its barbless, as it should be, pull it out, dress it and get back fishing. If it is in a vital are aka your eye, seek immediate attention and continuously ask yourself why wasn’t I wearing my sunglasses. If you are hooked with a barbed hook, there are tricks to getting it out. Go on YouTube check it out but I recommend getting your butt to a clinic have it removed then drink a beer.
  17. Lightning and adverse weather. Get over it, get out of the water with your 9 foot lightning rod, sit in the car, wait it out or head out. Your vacation is not ruined, drive around look for those spots that were packed with anglers and are now empty because there fair weather warriors are all gone, the river is yours!
  18. Your friend gets hurt: Help them, if they’re fine, suggest they take a break, give them a Snickers bar resume fishing. If they are really hurt, don’t be a dick, get them help and help them create a really good story.
  19. You get into a tiff with another fisherman: So imagine you’re working a run from the bottom and someone steps in right above you and screws up your entire plan and the run, what are you going to do? This happens a lot, knowingly and by accident. Yes it is rude, are you going to get in a fight over it? Have some choice words then flip then off? Just walk away and mutter under you breath? Well that’s up to you I guess but nothing changes the mood of fishing more than anger. So let it go, most the time, people who do that either don’t realize you’re there of they are newbies and need to be educated about river etiquette, so educate them. Other times they’re just A-holes and will never learn. (fact is, those people usually are fishing hacks, so move to the next hole, within the sight, catch fish while they’re not, all is good in the hood.)
  20. The fish aren’t eating and you’re frustrated: Get over it, enjoy being outside then try again another time. I have said to my clients for many, many years, “Remember that there are two living things on each end of the line, only one of them is in control”

 

I know that this blog post may only have scratched the surface of the countless variables that doing an activity like fly fishing that takes place uncontrolled environs, but alway be careful, diligent and aware. It’s very similar to taking a vacation to New York City

Tight Lines as we say,

Guide Glenn Smith

glennonthefly.com

What a crazy summer!

Now that September has come and fall is very much in the air, it is time to catch a breath and reflect on what a crazy summer it has been.

First and foremost, the fishing has been great all summer long. Don’t believe what social media tells you… If you keep up with what’s happening in our little hamlet, the Roaring Fork Valley and the quaint town of Basalt, you may be aware of all the excitment that has happened here; we had the Lake Christine Fire that happened on the 4th of July and thereafter burned for over a month. I provided a link to the stats as well click here and it will direct you to the photosIMG_1308

 

We also had a terrible winter last year which in turn made our water levels in the Roaring Fork critically low which forced the DOW to regulate the times in which we could fish due to the water temperature. At 66 degrees and above, the stress on the trout can kill them (and we don’t want that) so all the valleys guides did their best to “keep’m wet”, honor the request of the experts and take great care. Bravo to all who did their part.

But we persevered!

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From my POV, I had a great summer and a very interesting one to say the least. Due to the challenges the fish was great but different. What I found day in and day out was that it felt that all the hatches were somewhat off. It seemed to be a month ahead of schedule as well as thin. We didn’t get that chocking caddis hatch, nor the full on “steak and potato” Green Drake hatch in August like normal. But you know what? It still all worked out. The PMD’s were strong, the BWO’s were off the hook, Hoppers are falling in the river  like candy and a prince nymph is always money…

Another super cool thing that happened is that I was featured in The Aspen Sojourner Magazine with a sweet photo spread about fly fishing. I will post more about the article but want to share some of the photos they used. Online

 

Now the part some of you have been waiting for, the 2018 season of badass photos of fish and awesome clients, so here we go!

 

And last but not least, as not only a Fly Fishing Guide at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt I am also a producing artist, which makes this next photo even more amazing. I had the opportunity to fish with some of the top Artist, Curators and critics! Here is me with Heidi Zuckerman, Director of the Aspen Art Museum,  Hans Ulrich Obrist and wonderful fly fisherman and world renowned conceptual artist Joseph Grigely

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Now that it has become a bit more quiet, I am planning on making Guide Tip videos about shortcuts, affective techniques, fly selections, drift tips and much more.

 

So that all I got to say about that!

 

Tight-lines

Glenn

 

 

Why Counting Fish Is A Bad Thing

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“The first rule of flight club is you don’t talk about fight club”. This is one of the many famous quotes from the Brad Pitt movie, Fight Club.  There is a wisdom in this quote. Some things are best kept to one’s self and those that know the secret. I believe this deep into my fabric of my soul.

I spend a lot of time writing about the “experience” for fly fishing, what it means in the big picture? and how it can change you when you are living in “the moment”, as you follow the perfect drift to a splashy strike of a big brown. What I don’t like to do is gloat about it.

Recently we had our annual guide meeting at Taylor Creek, the fly shop I guide for. When I say guide meeting, I really mean,  a bunch of pretty unkept guys and gals with mad fishing skills, drinking cheap beer, giving each other a full rationing of shit and listening to what is expected from us as guides and ambassadors of the shop. I have been to countless gatherings like this. This is also the time when the veteran guides, more or less, stake claim to our seniority and rank in the shop. Yes, it is a pissing match between people who fish for a living. I smile and get a kick out of every one of the “meetings”.  It is just plain fun.

But a topic was brought up by the guides this year that I wasn’t expecting to discuss. It was the matter of not publicly “advertising” the amount of fish you and your clients caught on any given day. To not walk into the shop and blurt out “We got 10 to the net” or “Man, we killed it today!” This, I thought, was progress and something I take very seriously. Let me explain why…

As guides, it is our job to help you catch fish. I have always joked with my clients by saying “You can’t catch fish on your own, you don’t need me standing next to you, talking and not catching fish…” There is more to that quote but I will share this some other time. The point is simple: We will catch fish. But what exactly does that mean? Will we catch a 100 fish? Will we catch 3 fish? I believe that numbers are all relative to your clients expectations or the “total experience”.

We, as guides, should do exactly that, guide. Sure it is important to catch fish, that is what we do but it is not our job to assume that the only thing our client wants is to catch countless fish.

Case in point: I have had days on the river when the fishing was off the hook, and I have had days that it was difficult to even buy a strike. We have those swings out there, so if I am on my own, I continue to walk, wade and cast as the day passes by. If it’s slow, I find another spot. If the fishing is on fire, I stay. It’s that basic. But when out there with a paying client, guides think that their purpose has changed. They feel compelled to prove that they are fly fishing gods of the universe and all swimming creature are at their complete beck and call. We all know that this is not true and the that the only thing that has changed from your normal day out fishing is that a few extra people are tagging along. The difference is you are being paid for your knowledge, not by your fish count. With that said, why the pressure on numbers? Are you out there to stroke your own ego by vicariously upping  the number of fish your client is catching? Does it challenge your manhood? Are you less of a guide than you thought? Do you think that you will impress the shop and other guides by how many fish you brought to the net? Not at all, not even close. Your client only knows the experience you are giving them and their own past history fishing; and the shop only cares if your client was satisfied by their day out on the river with you.

The definition of satisfaction is:

sat·is·fac·tion noun \ˌsa-təs-ˈfak-shən\
: a happy or pleased feeling because of something that you did or something that happened to you

: the act of providing what is needed or desired : the act of satisfying a need or desire

: a result that deals with a problem or complaint in an acceptable way”

If your client wants to learn how to become better at casting, and you teach that, they will be satisfied.

If learning about the habitat, history of the area, insects, how it relates to our sport and the environment, they got what they wanted, they are satisfied.

If you get a client that only wants to catch big fish and a ton of them, do that. But be prepared to address this expectaions if the fishing happens to be slower than usual. What else will satisfy this client?

So to wrap this up, when you walk into the shop or at the bar next door, your fish count does not matter. Anyone who has been fly fishing for most of their lives and guide for a living, truth is, we don’t care. Every fly fishermen should remember one thing, an average or below average day to one person could be an amazing day to another, quote me on that. Let your clients do the bragging because they paid for the right to do so Our reward, as professional fly fishing guides, is knowing a job well done, securing a future repeat client and hopefully a decent tip to put towards our cheap beer that we love so much.

Keep that tip up,

Glenn

 

 

The Zen of Paying It Forward

In fishing, I believe that you don’t teach, you transfer your skills and love of the art of fly fishing.

I can teach technique and methods, I can drill over and over casting methods and discipline. What I can’t teach is the awareness of being on the river and watching the Barn Swallows swoop down to dine on the fresh hatch of Green Drakes popping out of the current. I can’t force someone to learn to be patient enough to wait to cast at a rising fish and just observe the way the fish is sipping.

What I can do is transfer my passion for the minutest details, the magnitude of nature, the gift of where fly fishing takes us, not only geographically but mentally and spiritually. I’m not saying that being on the river will change your life and you will find religion, what I am saying is it can’t hurt.

It is important when you introduce someone to the sport of fly fishing, be sure to mention that catching is only a part of the equation not the total sum of the problem.

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Photo credit Taylor Creek Fly Shop

Quiet Chaos, Part 1

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“Man, it’s really sticky!” That was the first thing out of my mouth when I landed in Belize as I stepped off the plane (and I use the term “plane” lightly). Belize is one of those places where you take a commercial jet to the mainland then “climb into” a small, commuter plane either ran by the government or by a disgruntled expatriate collecting a pension in order to get to your final destination. I traveled to Ambergris Caye with a short list of things to accomplish: One, to sight fish Bonefish in the turtle grass; two, to make close friends with a hammock; three, to get a guided flats boat and hunt Tarpon and Permit; four,  to try as many local beers available, and number five, to repeat the first four tasks everyday for a week.

rAmbergris Caye

This story came back to mind recently because I was reflecting on why “we”, as fly fishermen, go to great lengths to seek out the most exotic places, only to catch fish that we don’t keep, eat or mount on our walls. It is kind of odd, really.  So I started to think of my first of many Fly Fishing trips I have taken, and a trip to Belize, 20 years ago, helped me solidify the reason for this passion/obsession. Sure, the reasons are numerous: the beach, the perfect weather, the bikinis, the topaz blue waters, the tropical fruit and the delicious drinks that can be made from them… Come on, there is no down side to an exotic place. But I was not there for a tan, I was there to hunt big, powerful fish with a fly rod.

So, back to the story of Belize:

In less than 20 minutes from the airport, sitting in a topless 1976 jeep with original tires, I arrived at the hotel. It was surrounded by a 10-foot stone wall that separated “their country” from “our perfect country”, at least on the inside. On the inside of the wall, ice and buffets; on the outside, Watermelon flavored Fanta and families without shoes. After I checked in with the front desk staff, sporting my tropical shirts, broken english and big smiles, they assigned me a room, complete with palm trees, flowers and a hammock within staggering distance from the bar. My list was getting checked off much quicker than I had imagined, perfect.

Once I got settled in (aka beer in hand), I started to make inquires with the concierge/jeep driver about where I can wade for Bonefish and who was the best LOCAL Tarpon guide to hire for a day. The information came quick. The answer to the first question was, “over there”, as he pointed out of the lobby towards the flats right off the hotel’s beach, which was convenient; and the second answer was just a walkie-talkie chat away.

He buzzes whomever was on the receiving end of his CB,  a distorted voice responded, “ahhhchhhhhaeee  haappppchheeeeee ah ttooo, and OUT” I have no idea what he said, it could have been the local language, slang or a bad connection. My guy, I call him that because somewhere within our 20 minutes together driving, I came to trust him, whatever his name was, and how can you not trust a 270-pound guy who appears to be related to everyone on the caye? He told me that the static voice guy said, “be ready tomorrow and on the dock at 6:30 am“. OK then, I thought to myself; no guide name, no boat name, no nothing. I wasn’t sure if I was going fly fishing or being set up to lose my money, rod and anything else I may have had of value. But it was only 12:15 pm, and I was eager to get my line wet. This is my first time fly fishing the salt. I am a trout guide; a born and raised Colorado native. This was all new, this salt water thing, I was excited. For this occasion, I tapped into to my “pro-deal gear” and geared up with a brand new Sage 9 weight rod, an Able reel, new line, a mortgage-amount of saltwater flies and 2 months worth of casting experience at a local park. All I needed to believe is that I got this saltwater thing under control.

I put on my flats booties, my fishing shorts, a small waist pack, grabbed a cold beer from the beach bar and headed to the flats. (By the way, this beats putting on waders, boots, gravel guards, vest and driving to a river for two hours.) I recalled my research and discussions with my friends that have guided saltwater about what to look for when spotting Bonefish. Impatiently, I casted at anything and everything that moved or caused a shadow, just to cast and to see if, in fact,  I could really cast the distance necessary to fish for any saltwater species.

I’m fighting the wind, I’m getting tangled in my line, the rocks are sharp…I am just floundering out there.  I didn’t event think that there would be coral and rocks out there, I was hoping for white soft sand. Then something happened, at about 40 feet and the wind at my back, I see a tailing Bonefish, just like they said. Its tail just out of the water, a bit of cloudy water around him from nuzzling in the sand and grass. This was it! My first Bonefish and my chance to acquire that “in-the-know” nod.

So I pulled myself together, calmed myself down and tried to remember everything I read, videos I watched and advice I was told over and over by experienced guides. Rule number one, “don’t line or spook the fish”. I am getting ready to cast my line, away from the tailing fish, trying to gage my distance, which was just past the fish, just a leaders length. I feel good about it so I load up my rod and shoot the fly line and fly to the exact spot I was aiming for. I land it and, more importantly, the tail is STILL there. I didn’t spook him. I put the tip down and start to strip, fast then slow, I didn’t really know. I stripped it past him and nothing, I mean nothing, not a turn, not a move, nothing. But what that meant was I still have a shot at this fish. Back to casting, one big pull back, sent line out forward, sent more line out in the backcast then shot the fly right over the fish. I started stripping and then something happened that I didn’t expect, he ate my fly.

Everyone tells you how to spot, cast and fight a Bonefish, but no one really tells you what to expect when a fish like this takes your fly. Imagine this, you cast at a Mini Cooper and you hook the bumper, then, exactly at that moment, the Mini steps on the gas going directly away from you. That’s the feeling, more or less. The fact is, I was not prepared. Once I set the hook, he took off. I had my drag of my reel set way too strong, which resulted in me diving in after my rod after it had been ripped out of my hands by that little freight train of pissed off. Luckily, I got a hand on my rod before it escaped completely and quickly loosened my drag and away we went. The fight begins.

As he swam away, I had the rod bent so much that I was waiting to hear that “gunfire” snap that you only hear when a rod breaks under pressure. Thank god that didn’t happen, but I was waiting. Reeling the best I can, letting it run when it wanted, reeling again, I was making progress. All I could compare it to is a foul-hooked Whitefish; strong, unmanageable, and angry.  As I slowly got my first ‘Bone near me, I realize that I don’t have a net… rookie mistake, so I slowly work my way to the beach and bring that #6 bundle of muscle to the shore, reach down, release the hook from its mouth and watched him swim away never looking back at me. I was pleased.

I didn’t take any pictures, have no prize to show for my heroic efforts, just the cold beer I drank while watching the turtle grass, closely,  for some kind of movement.

Be sure to hit me up this Saturday. I will tell you about the Tarpon experience I had the next day.