Tag Archives: Bonefish on the Brain

FOR THOSE FOLLOWING ALONG AT HOME

Two years have now officially passed since my first blog post.

It’s been a great ride so far, and I consider myself fortunate to have the modest audience I do. I’m also fortunate to have met–in real life–a couple dozen people I’ve connected with through the blog and social media circles, including other writers, photographers, industry players and good folks who just love to fish and hunt.

I don’t have any sort of giveaway to commemorate the occasion. What I do have is a list of other outdoor writers that I read and admire greatly. While this doesn’t cover every blog or writer I read, these are the ones I drop in on most frequently.

40 Rivers to Freedom – Alex Cerveniak just recently moved back to his native Michigan from central NY and has taken his writing with him. I’ve enjoyed his stream and field reports, opinion pieces and photography for a while now, but he’s found a really strong stride since returning home.

Fishing Jones – There are people who say they travel everywhere with a fly rod, and then there’s Pete McDonald who catches bass out of an airport pond before he heads for security check-in. He’s got a knack for packing a lot into a short post and also just published a beautiful book of essays and photography with Tosh Brown.

Mouthful of Feathers – I can’t help but wish I lived out west with a bird dog and a few bird-hunting comrades when I read the shorts that these six guys write. The stories are unflinching and well crafted. The imagery is as big as the country they turn their dogs loose on.

Fat Guy Fly Fishing – The trio of Alex Landeen, Aaron Dennett and Kyle Deneen dish up healthy portions of snarky opinion, fat bass pics and epic reports from events like Carp Slam and Wrinkleneck 22. You’re just going to have to see for yourself.

LO FI FLY – Probably my favorite recent find. The Unicorn Wrangler fishes with good buds in Canadian big fish locales and posts solid pics, video and write-ups. Plus he dredges up some ill (yea, I said ill) old-skool (and new-skool) lo-fi photos and videos that have nothing to do with fishing or the outdoors, and has singlehandedly made cussing a formal element of creative writing. Dig it.

Mysteries Internal – Erin Block is translating solitude and a life lived simply into a beautiful, ongoing conversation between herself and the world around her. Her stories and anecdotes about fishing and life move with an ease and poesy that remind me of why I was so drawn to writing in the first place: it forces you to slow down and pay attention.

Arizona Wanderings – Ben Smith spends a lot of time outdoors, and not just in Arizona. He fly fishes small Arizona and Adirondack mountain streams and big Alaskan and PacNW rivers. He hunts javelina and mule deer with a recurve. He hunts birds. He ties a mean hopper pattern. And he puts up great reports from his wandering.

fishbeer – Reading Matt Dunn’s blog is like skiing a new mountain in the dark. One moment you’ll be bombing along, adrenaline wide open and hollering, and the next you’ll be flat on your back spitting out bark and your fronts. His mind works in ways I wish mine would, and his writing is in lock-step.

Hunt Ducks, Hook Fish – Pete Thrubis is another dude that spends a lot of time outdoors, and has been known to park his truck with duck/bass boat in-tow in the parking lot at work. His no-frills, Michigan blue-collar voice tells a great story regardless of season, quarry or success. And his appreciation for that time outdoors always carries some good perspective.

The Fiberglass Manifesto – I know this one might go without saying, but I’m saying it. While TFM is a site that explores the Glass Lifestyle, Cameron has established a mainstream daily resource for new gear reviews, industry news, and promoting the sport of fly fishing as a whole. While I may not tune-in to every custom rod build report, I do look forward to fishing some glass in the near future.

Bonefish on the Brain – I’m not sure how he does it, but Bjorn Stromsness drops a post every day about his beloved bonefish or places to fish for his beloved bonefish or small island shacks he dreams of inhabiting so he could chase his beloved bonefish full-time. I’m just about convinced that I need to find some salt soon.

The Outdooress – Rebecca Garlock has been a tad busy, what with starting the Outdoor Blogger Network, running around the Oregon countryside for salmon and chasing browns on River X with yours truly. Thankfully, I have her word that she’s about to play some serious catch-up on her stable of stories. I’m looking forward to some more humor and big fish pics.

 

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Filed under In the woods, On the water

MY OWN MYTHOLOGY

Wednesday afternoon Josh and I decided to drive to Sisters and scout the Metolius. Our original plan was to fish the Crooked, but reports of a malfunctioning dam at the Prineville Reservoir and flows over 1,700 cfs (normal, fishable levels are around 250) had us looking for another candidate.

After a windy, cold morning on the Deschutes below camp, I had completely mastered the art of the wind knot. My colorful, self-directed commentary probably ensuring that the stream-side bushes would elect to keep their heads down and bloom a few weeks late. Josh, on the other hand, in his quiet patience, had managed three or four fish.

It’s OK if you get skunked, dude, he offered. Just means I’m catching up to you. Yea, off to the Metolius we go.

Route 20 to Sisters

Route 20 North was our guide to Sisters. Mountains framing our horizon in any direction – Black Butte, Mt. Jefferson, the Cascades, the Three Sisters (after which the town was named). Between us and them, miles of ranches and grassland, wheel-lined irrigation pipes and a clearing sky. Sisters is a cool little town with a frontier-style feel…from its storefronts and hand painted signs to its sleepy side-streets and diagonal parking. I felt like I should pull up a chair out front of the bakery and spend the afternoon saying hey to folks walking by. Sisters is also home to The Fly Fisher’s Place – a small-town fly shop with some big freakin’ chops.

The Fly Fisher's Place

The menu

A pretty retriever met us at the door and Josh stayed outside to play fetch for a few minutes. I continued in, stepped up and put my hands on the counter. It was at this point that I realized the relative magnitude of the water we wanted to fish, my embarrassing lack of preparation for/knowledge of the river, and a shadow of intimidation about its mythology. Bear in mind, I’m not one to back down from a challenge, or to be intimidated. But this was a legitimately unnerving moment.

Now, out of fairness to myself, this mythology was formed from conversations with two other fishermen: one of the guys working at the fly shop in Bend, and Bjorn Stromsness, an avid and accomplished salt fly fisherman from California who fishes the river every year. I’d heard from both that the Metolius is arguably the toughest and most technical river in Oregon to fish. Big and fast and beautiful, but downright ridiculous at times. Bjorn told me that in 1,000 yards of river you might find 3 or 4 places that might hold fish. Also that an old timer had told him that if you can catch fish on the Metolius, you’re a true fisherman…or something to that effect. Mythology.

Needless to say, standing face-to-face with the guy behind the counter, who turned out to be the owner – Jeff Perin, I was hoping…no…praying please God don’t let him see through my ‘fearless fly fisherman’ cover. Our conversation went something like this:

Hey. How’s it going?

Not bad. Going to do some fishing this afternoon?

Hoping to. But let me ask you…we’ve got this afternoon and tomorrow to get out on the Metolius. I’m out here from New York and we’re just off a couple days on the Deschutes. Am I going to get crushed out there? Should we just go explore more of the Deschutes?

What the hell was that and where the hell did it come from?! So much for my cover. But I think Jeff got the drift. He answered with a question:

Have you guys been catching fish?

Yea.

Good, at least you won’t go back to New York skunked.

That’s all it took. I was ready to write some of my own mythology. Jeff put us on some good flies, and pointed out on a map two accessible and worthwhile stretches for us to get at it.

We kept North on Route 20 to the base of Black Butte and picked up Route 14 toward Camp Sherman and the Head of the Metolius. It was already 4:00 by that time, so we decided to save the stop at the river’s headwaters for the next day and get to Wizard Falls Hatchery and wet a line.

At the bridge to the hatchery, my heart stopped. At various points on this trip I stared in awe at a landscape that almost brought me to tears with its power and rugged beauty. But nothing prepared me for this first-sight. The water was topaz, roiling, shoving, churning its way through this glacial and earthquake formed canyon. Ponderosa Pine and Cedar rising from either side.

And so it begins...

We parked and I walked back down to the bridge to take a closer look. Bjorn had said that there’s just so much water, most of the river doesn’t hold fish.

Some of the fishiest-looking places are simply empty, he said. Look to eddies and pools. Places they can get out of the current.

Looking at the phenomenal chaos rushing below, I could see the sense of his advice. We half-jogged back to the truck to get in our waders and tie on the newest residents of our fly boxes.

My "Holy crap!" moment

I found an entry point that let me wade out about ten yards into the river behind a downed pine. For years, the current swirled behind the tree building up a hard packed sand bar around existing boulders. I had good footing and enough room to work an initial backhand cast to get the flies out into the current. My point fly was a #6 three-bead yellow stone. My dropper was a #14 bead-head Batman nymph. Jeff said to fish the stone on a 9′ 4X leader and the Batman 24″ behind on 5X. I paid out enough line to drop my first cast up and into the main current. I could see the shadows of a few big boulders in the eddy below me. Probably 10 – 12′ deep and moving. I smiled, shook my head and roll-cast the flies back up into the current, letting them drift down into the eddy below me a second time. The line stopped and I set the hook in a monster boulder. It wasn’t letting loose, so I broke it off. Fortunately it was only the dropper. I tied on a new one and let loose another roll cast.

This one drifted a little further out. As it started its swing, the line stopped again. At the same moment I thought freaking rocks, the line jumped. I lifted the rod into a good hook set, hollering for Josh who was one pool upstream. The river was too loud. By the time I got the fish to the net I was half crying, half laughing hysterically, shouting Metolius rainbow! I caught a f@*#ing rainbow on the Metolius! At least I had the presence of mind when all was said and done to get some pictures.

It's a deep net...

The fish heard 'round the world

We got some crazy-good pulled pork sandwiches from Slicks Que Co. for dinner back at the yurt. Campfire, plenty of Pendleton & coke and lot’s of laughs reminiscing about our time stationed in Germany. Tomorrow was going to be a very good day.

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Filed under On the water