Friday, July 20, 2012

You suck Wiggo

First off, I apologize to everyone who comes here for fishing related things. This is a totally unrelated rant.

I am here to say thanks for nothing, Bradley Wiggins. You have made all the time I have spent watching the Tour this year a total waste of time. It has been extremely uneventful, uninteresting, and non-dramatic. 

For those of you who don't watch the tour you may not understand it, so let me break it down for you. It's a 3-week long bike race with one race every day (except 2 rest days). The other thing you should know is the tour is about 10 different competitions all in one race. There's a sprinters competition, a hill climbers competition, a newbies competition, a team competition, and an overall best time competition among others, but let's leave all that alone for now. In all there are twenty or so individual stages that are typically comprised of about half flat stages in which everyone rides in a group for like four hours where absolutely nothing happens until the end where the sprinters race the last 0.5% of the race. A couple stages are individual time trials where each rider has to ride the course by himself, and those are moderately interesting days. The rest of the stages are mountain stages where the riders have to climb up and down, up and down, for 130 miles. These are the interesting stages. The stages where people break off on their own and take tons of time relative to the other riders. Or the stages where the top contenders suck wind and blow their chances. Or maybe the stages where the top two guys go mano y mano up every climb, battling one another, throwing in attacks left and right and leaving everyone else in their obviously superior dust.

This year, however, has been a bit different. The first six or so stages were pretty uneventful flat stages that were as boring as they normally are. Then the race hit some hills and Bradley Wiggins from team Sky took the lead by a few seconds. Cool! Then there's an individual time trial where he builds on his lead. Not bad. And that's basically the end of the race.

All the rest of the hilly mountain stages have consisted of everyone riding in a big group, except for a few nobodies who are way behind in the aggregate time who go out to win that one day's stage for a bit of glory. The only thing that has happened in the overall classification were a couple of attacks by guys in the top 10 that were immediately and uneventfully beaten down by Wiggins and team. Boring. No one really even tried to go early and go hard to make some big and much needed time gains. The only interesting thing that has happened is last years winner shit the bed.

Then on one of the last stages where something could actually happen, Wiggins and teammate Froome (second overall) dropped everyone else in the race on a big climb, save for one guy who had gone out early in a breakaway full of nobodies. The leader was only a minute ahead with a few kilometers of climbing to go and Froome could have shot out on his own and eaten that guy for breakfast for a stage win while Wiggins rides in easy to remain top overall. What do team Sky do? Play it conservative and ride to the line together. Lame. Boring. I'm done with this tour. Pack it in, it's over, nothing else to see here. You suck Wiggo. Thanks for like two mildly interesting stages.

P. S.  One of my friends tells me that this year was cool because going in it was anyone's race. It could have been Nibali, or Evans, or Wiggins, or Van Den Broeck, or Schleck, or one of many other people. Except in hindsight it obviously wasn't. Wiggins takes over on stage 7 before any of the real racing even begins and holds it for the rest of the race. He doesn't bother to take much more time the rest of the race except for in the time trial. He didn't even let his second place teammate go get a dramatic stage win when he had the rest of the race in the bag. You're wrong, Brady, this year sucked.

P. P. S.  I lay equal blame on all the contenders who had no game this year, but that doesn't make for as interesting a rant.

P. P. P. S.  I need to go fishing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bighorn River Post #3

As promised, I'm coming at you like a ninja. A quick post here, a quick post there, and here's another one that hits you in the face when you didn't even see it coming! Sit back, relax, and enjoy. And remember, we're on day 5 now, with days 1-4 getting progressively better in terms of fishing.

We woke up this morning, as always with the sun. Or at least I did. Normally I keep the blinds closed in my room at home and things stay somewhat dark until well after sunup. Not so in a tent, and I wasn't able to sleep much past 6 on any day. The first morning of the trip I made the mistake of not having a watch in the tent, so when it was light out and someone else was moving around outside I got find out it was just after 5am. Oh well. But back to the point, we woke up to the tent being shellacked by the wind. You know, wap wap wap wap wap wap... If you do much camping, and you remember it had been cold earlier in the trip, you might not be surprised to find out that we were very slow in getting out of the tent. But eventually we did and I was quite happy that I chose not to sleep in this other tent that Brady had brought and we were using for storage. It wasn't doing so well. He immediately had me take a picture so that he should show it to his wife and convince her to let him buy a new one. How did it work Brady? Oh, and this also foreshadows some more mayhem to come in the following days.

In time the wind started to let up some, and we cooked up some coffee in the back of John's car. You can also see it was a bit cold, so the coffee tasted extra good even though it was cheap coffee. No one was really feeling it yet, so we all decided to go grab a nice slow breakfast in town. By the time we managed to get to town the wind was much much better and I was starting to feel a little better about the upcoming fishing to be had. My fears of fighting 20 mph winds all day (and my terror of having the newbies do that) hadn't been sitting well so this revelation helped. We all had an excellent breakfast at the cafe in town, and if you ever take a trip to the Bighorn and want to get breakfast, get the breakfast burrito. It is to die for! And I don't need to say it's way better than some stale donuts from a bag while sitting around a picnic table at camp.

After breakfast we finally headed to the river and had decided to go sans boat again. The plan was to make it down to split island again and have Brady put all his relatives on fish. Split island isn't that big so Chadly and I decided to fish the meat hole for a few hours before heading down there. It was a bit slow but we did catch a few. Here's Chad trying look cool with a fish and me actually being cool and getting a good shot of releasing one. And forget that I already told you the meat hole is really just a bunch of deep beds. This is the day I figured that out and is part of the reason why I stopped.

In a couple more hours Chad and I headed down to meet everyone else on split island and see how things were going. When we got there we were happy to hear that the newbie Bob had caught a few and had more than a few on. John had caught, and so had his dad Jack so the real goal of the day was managed pretty early in the day and the rest of the day was spent lazily fishing that area. We took turns fishing the deep eddy, or the flats above or below with great success. I got a bunch of decent video of people catching that I will eventually edit together into something coherent. But there's so much footage it's gonna take some time.

A little later in the afternoon was the best part of the trip so far. The skies clouded up and some baetis began to hatch. Down below the eddy the fish were rising, and they were rising harder than anything I'd experienced before, I think ever. The fish were climbing over one another to eat bugs on the surface. There were literally a hundred fish or more hitting the surface in a section that was about 20 feet across and maybe 40 or 50 feet long, just long enough for two people to fish simultaneously. As with any thick hatch the fish were a bit selective, but there were so many we got hits every few casts and caught quite a few. And as with most hatches it didn't last long enough, but was great while it did last. I should also remind you that the fish here are all in the 15-20" range. Catching countless 18" fish on dries with 6x and a 4wt is a ton of fun! When are we going back??

Not much longer thereafter and pretty early in the evening we all found ourselves congregated on the bank except maybe Tyler who we had to drag kicking and screaming out of the river. We called it a day pretty early and headed back to camp for beers, whiskey(s) and some good food. In all it was the best day of the trip so far, and surprisingly spent all day along one small section of water. I actually felt a little bad for confiscating that one section of water all day, but virtually everyone fishes this river from a boat and there are plenty of other good places to fish that are easy to get to with a boat so I didn't feel that bad.

That was how day 5 ended. Two more posts to come for days 6&7 and then the final day, which I warn you was fairly epic. Then again this day was pretty epic too.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bighorn River Post #2

Does anybody out there still remember that I not so recently went on a long fishing trip in Montana? Maybe, maybe not, but I did and life has finally returned to normal so I have some free time to recollect the time, the fish, and the enjoyment and try to make it an enjoyable read for you! So here we go...

Just to remind you the trip started out cold and rainy, and the river flow was way lower than we had ever fished it before. That resulted in lower catch rates than I had hoped for, but not that bad. The more experienced guys were catching 5-15 a day while the neophytes were struggling to only catch a few. And after these first two days half the group had to head back home so say so long to Big Tim, Eric, Dave, and Frank for the rest of these tales.

On day three, the four of us who were left decided to fish sans boat, but we wanted to get over to a hole on the far side of the river that we had had success on the day before. Considering the extremely low flow of the river we figured it was possible, but quickly realized it was going to be more difficult than expected. This picture might not do it justice...the water is moving pretty quick here.

And after wasting a couple hours we finally gave up, ate some lunch, and drove up to the damn to walk down from there. This turned out to be a good decision because on the walk down from the damn we found some fish sipping the surface and went to it. I have to admit, though, at this point I was getting a bit concerned about Tyler. He did some fly fishing as a kid but not much recently outside of one of our other recent trips, but he decided he liked it so bought some gear. Now we bring him up here and he finds out how much fun it can be to fish with dries. I became concerned because he had one rod, and had decided after having some success today that he would just leave it rigged up with a dry dropper. We had somehow managed to create a monster purist and I can foresee his life will be tough from now on.

Overall day three was pretty uneventful. Fish were caught although not tons, and we really only fished the afternoon. The good news was that we really began to feel like we understood how to fish the river this year. Almost all the action was on baetis emergers and some on midge nymphs, so pretty much everyone had on the same pair of flies (with the exception of Tyler who stubbornly stuck with dries) and had reasonable success.

We decided not to keep fish today, and that evening we cooked up some venison tenderloins that Brady's dad had given him, and it might have been one of the best meals I've ever had. I love wild and gamey steaks, and it really doesn't get any better than tenderloin.  If you've had it, you know what I mean.

The next morning we drove straight back up to the dam to head downstream again (after some coffee and donuts at camp of course). We geared up at the car and began walking downstream, all with very positive attitudes because today was the first day of nice, warm, sunny weather. We passed the "meat hole" (yes it is aptly named, although I discovered later in the trip that it's actually just a bunch of deeper beds) and in some flats just down from there there were some fish sipping on the surface.  I knew before we started it would be tough, and it was. The water here was moving very very slowly and was glassy smooth. Because of that the fish had a way of figuring us out and staying just out of our casting areas. It was a bit like herding cats. As I would take a couple steps upstream to cast to a fish, it would stop rising and another (or possibly the same one) would start rising again farther upstream and just out of range. Nonetheless a few were caught, but the catch rate was too slow so we didn't stay all that long and moved downstream.

Downstream is where things all came together completely for the first time of the trip. Sure, we had been catching the previous 3 three days but nothing like what we experienced up on split island.  This is a spot where we have always had some luck, but never so much that we went out of our way to fish it. Usually it's just a spot we stop and fish for an hour or two when floating the river. Our attitude toward split island changed massively this year.

When we got down there we saw a few fish were eating on the surface just above the confluence between the islands. Tyler immediately went to it of course. The other three of us went to fish at the confluence, which is essentially a deep pool that's only 25 feet across and about 30 feet long. But it holds at least 30 fish, most of them pretty big, and all of them visible. Brady, Chad and I took turns hauling fish out of that hole nonstop for the next couple hours, while Tyler did quite well on dries up above. And as you can see I had some trouble with my camera fogging up.

No one really kept track of their catches, I find it hard to do when things are going well. But toward the end of the day we started talking about how many we thought we had caught. Our estimate was something around 50 fish between the four of us, all in the 15-19 inch range, with quite a few more than that hooked and lost. And all of that was done in just the afternoon with at least one and usually two people sitting on the bank watching. A very good afternoon to say the least.

We also called it a day a little early; it's always easy to do that when you've been catching consistently all afternoon. We met up at the meat hole with John and family who were slated to show up that evening.  Brady helped them fish it while Tyler, Chad, and I sat on the bank basking in the glory of the best day of the trip so far. It's weird to me in retrospect that some of the most enjoyable moments of a fishing outing can be moments not spent fishing. But that's the way things go. We stuck around fishing the meat hole and sitting around until close to dusk, and John managed to catch one fish and lose a dozen or more. I suppose it was a good way for him to shake the rust off, and there was apparently a lot of rust to shake loose.

Day five might deserve a post to itself, so stay tuned.  The rest of the trip posts will get filled in this week now that life is back to normal for me.

Now it's time to go fishing.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lassez-faire lifestyles

I keep telling myself that I'm going to take a backpacking trip up to some mountain lakes, and I keep steering away from it. The hiking and backpacking would be fun, and I imagine the fishing would be ok. I would also have two annoying dogs to deal with. The problem is the Tour de France is going on and as a result I really want to get out on my bike and pretend that I am that good. Summer is also here which makes me want to go hit up some streams. What to do!

It's actually a fairly easy decision for me. I'm the sort of person who makes decisions based on what I want to do at the moment, not some grand plan that is carefully thought out for some grand goal. And I recall the first time I truly realized that about myself. It's fun to reminisce, so let's have a little story time... 

This goes back to just after I moved to Colorado. I was talking with some of my running friends back when I was marathon training. Matt and Riley were discussing the hard workouts they had scheduled for the next day. Riley turned to me and asked "what workout do you have planned?"

I of course hadn't thought that far forward, and if I had I hadn't made a decision. The workout wasn't until tomorrow. So I reply "a workout. Maybe 800's, maybe miles, maybe just a tempo run. Depends how I feel."

In return I get a weird look from both of them. To put things in perspective, they each had ex-professional runner coaches who drew up weekly schedule for them, with easy days, long runs, doubles, and workouts all specifically and methodically set.  So my not having a plan for tomorrow blew them away.  Riley came back with "jeez, you just go by a lassez-faire schedule, don't you?"

"I don't go by a schedule at all." I replied.

"Well, I'm doing 8 x mile repeats and Matt's doing a tempo run."

"Hmmm, mile repeats sounds like fun. I'll meet you at the track at 7."

And that was that. Decision made on the fly and it was inarguably the optimum workout for me. Optimum because I randomly chose it on the fly because it sounded like the most fun.

Just like getting out on my bike in the morning and catching a bunch of small brookies and bows in the afternoon instead of hiking and camping and maybe catching a few fish. It will be the optimal decision for me because it's what I want to do right now.  And I'm going to do it.  I say screw the greater grand plan and I choose to live in the moment.

p.s. I'm not totally sure I'm using the term lasses-faire correctly, but you know what I mean.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's fun every once in a while

In order to escape the heat wave Portland was experiencing this weekend, and honestly to scratch an itch that has been festering with all my recent travel I just had to get into the mountains. Where to go?? Well, in my recent research the weekend before I stumbled upon tales of a small mountain stream that sounded promising. It's above a damn and is a small tributary to the damned river. That means no salmon, no steelhead, or the likes that suppress resident trouts such that they seem to be ghosts; you know they have to be there, you see indirect evidence, but you never actually see (catch) them. And for this reason I got pretty excited about the potential to get back to basics and catch some silly stupid and small trouts.

Perhaps I should clarify. Yes, I've been fishing my whole life, and have been pretty avidly pursuing that dream for the past 10 years or so. Yes I've caught some large fish, and the total number of fish I've caught in my life must number somewhere in the few thousands. Yet for some reason I still sense tingling giddy sensations when I think about going out and catching a boatload of stupid 6-10 inch fish. It's not the sort of thing I would enjoy doing every day, but a few times a year I'm not sure anything else could beat it.

With that in mind I happily headed out to the Collawash river, a tributary to the Clackamas, a tributary to the Willamette (pronounced Will-AM-eht), a tributary to the great Columbia that flows into the greater Pacific. Sort of like the sea begat the Columbia begat the Willamette begat....and so on as the book of Genesis would tell you. Anyways, the Collawash was exactly what I was Jonesin' for. I started from the bridge at the end of the paved road because it had been a mile or so since I passed the last parked car and it looked like some fun pocket water. The first 50 yards of river took me nearly an hour to fish. Not because I was working it meticulously to find every last fish. Let's keep it real; that's not how I fish. It took me that long because I pulled at least 20 fish out of it. Some of those fish were literally pulled out with a gentle hookset with the 4wt. Those fish went flying back over my head, some of them flying off the hook at the end hopefully with their lips and jaws still in tact but who knows.

I have to admit it was fun. But I also have to admit there were only (oddly) three discrete sizes of fish. Three inches, six inches, and about 8-9 inches. Of the largest class (and I'm forced to use the word "largest" very liberally here) there were only two or three all day, and evidence of one is below. Of the other ridiculously small classes of fish, there were countless numbers. If I had to make a random guess I would say 50ish. After catching the first 20 or so I started trying to change things up to see if there were larger fish hiding somewhere. I threw nymphs for a while. I fished a couple versions of dry-dropper. I fished a double-dry and got a double bite on it, alas the bottom fish popped off instantly. Toward the end of the day I even loaded a ton of weight on and plunged the depths of a couple deeper holes in search of a great white whale, except not white and not a whale. No luck on a whale, but man was it a fun day anyway.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jumping puddles

Last weekend I thought it would be a good idea to go for a hike with the dogs.  Of course, this wasn't really about the hike or the dogs.  It was a thinly veiled excuse to go scouting a new place to fish.  Of course.  My research told me there are exactly 8 million lakes and rivers in Oregon to fish, but I slowly came to a consensus on a certain pair of lakes that were quite a long ways up a forest road and a couple miles into the woods.  Why these? Mainly because the fishing wasn't touted as being great (limited competition for my mediocre skills), and because it was far enough off the beaten path that I didn't expect many other people to be out there, and I could get some much needed solitude after two months of nearly nonstop travels, work, and socializing; all things I enjoy in moderation.

So I took the trip up to Pansy and Dickie lakes, and no I didn't choose them for the names.  Although the goofiness of those names may have made me slightly more likely to choose them.  What did I find?  Well, I have this huge Oregon fisheries book that pretty much covers any lake or river or pond, and it said that both lakes are very shallow but get stocked in odd years.  It's not an odd year, and very shallow was very accurate.  If you were to wade either lake you probably wouldn't get past knee deep, and if you did you certainly couldn't go past your belly button without sitting down, which you could probably get away with.  That's not so good for fish populations and I didn't see a single fish.

Of course it wasn't time wasted.  I now know not to go there again and I got in an enjoyable hike.

The following Monday I found a glimmer of humor when I went to the airport and got on a tiny turbo prop plane to go down to the bay area.  

Puddle jumping in both instances.