Tag Archives: fly fishing in Idaho

RISING IN THE DARK

We were only two full days into our 10 day trip, but I felt as though we’d been in camp for weeks. It could be the comfort and confidence of being with friends. Committed friends. Kindred spirits. It could be the familiarity of the river, the muscled spirits that patrol its currents and the rough-hewn stone, sage and willow landscape that cradles them — a memory I carried in my soul, powerful as the birth of a child, since exactly one year ago.

Night was close. The translucent shadow of dusk having already soaked its way up the near canyon wall. A fat, full blue moon was due to rise, but looked as though it would be buried in the first cloud cover of the trip. The fleeting scent of rain tangled with the musty sweetness of sage on the heavy warm breeze. We grabbed our gear and crossed the river for a dusty cattle road on the opposite hillside, leaving the rest of camp to unwind and put their feet up at long day’s-end. Camera, lenses and tripod carried efficiently in his pack, Grant had a spot in mind where the road rose to meet the far ridge and, hopefully, the moon as the clouds cleared. Rods in hand, Rebecca and I eyed the increasing frequency of dimples, swirls and drifting concentric circles on the glass skin below.

As sprawling as the canyon was, the world had shrunk to the immediate universe of our purposeful footfalls and wader-swish. Our talk was soft, muffled by the bigness of the falling night. Here and there the darker shapes of grazing cattle, moving away with nervous, curious awareness of our presence. The night before we had heard coyotes. The shrill and insistent cacophony of barks and yelps sounding closer than they should be. We walked on.

A few hundred yards on Grant found his vantage point and settled into his ritual: backpack down, kneel and breathe and survey, internal inventory of necessary gear translated into deft movement of hands pulling the camera from his pack and intuitively swapping lenses, sit or lie prone, pause to breathe and survey again, viewfinder to eye, aperture, shutter speed, composition, breathe, begin.

By the time Rebecca and I were fifteen paces away he was as much a part of the dark wash of brush as the brush itself. We picked our way down the embankment and across an open area to the riverbank, hoppers still clicking from our path. We waded slowly together out into the glass, catching evidence of rising fish in the splish and frail reflection of what little moonlight the clouds afforded. Riffles a hushed murmur fifty yards downstream.

Wading in a river, casting dry flies to rising fish in the dark is at once a fantastic and terrifying act of faith. As many mornings as I’ve walked blind and by sheer memory into the 5 a.m. woods to find my treestand during archery season, I’ve still never completely lost the cold chill that breathes at my neck and makes me imagine things. Crazy things. Here, I have no memory of this stretch to assuage my lack of sight and as we wade further out and apart the chill is happy to settle back into my mind.

But the chill was short-lived as I settled into my own ritual: stand still and breathe, survey the ringing dark for the slightest sight or sound, unhook the fly from the third snake guide and hold it gently in my loosely closed left fist, strip 30 or so feet of line from my reel and pinch it between my right-hand trigger finger and the cork grip, pull the fly and leader till I hear the slick shoosh of the fly line sliding through the rod tip, lower and turn my head to listen forward, close my eyes, breathe, begin.

Rebecca and I fished our way upstream. We talked, but not much. Our presence there, the faith and confirmation that our casts were finding their mark, Grant coaxing the moon from the road above, stories being passed at camp — and further away, our children, lovers, hard-earned responsibilities and plans for the future — were enough that we both knew what was in each other’s mind anyhow. We closed our eyes and listened and cast in the direction that intuition whispered – there, go there. We let go of the weight of what we didn’t have and embraced the expanse of what we did.

Before we were done our hands held the slight glint of a few heavy fish. The beautiful, cool gravity of life.

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Filed under On the water, The road

ON ONE PARTICULARLY GOOD MORNING OUT WEST

I caught some particularly good fish.

Big thanks to Michael Bantam for the top secret flies and then making his net available.

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Filed under On the water, The road

FILM PROJECT: A DELIBERATE LIFE

We’re going back to Idaho.

By “we” I mean Grant Taylor and me, plus a few others. To say that last year’s trip was a profound experience for us would be a bit of an understatement. The 10 days we spent fly fishing across the southern half of the state (you can read all about them starting here) marked a significant shift in each of our lives, having both just started out on new career paths.

Idaho, and the people that shared their time, stories and home waters with us, helped us see that our lives and this world are larger and more far-reaching than the routines we had become too comfortable with. In the end, we found that we all share essentially the same story – of taking risk and following our passions. Living life deliberately.

So, with special thanks to our gracious hosts – Rebecca Garlock (Outdooress and Outdoor Blogger Network), Colby Hackbarth (Kast Extreme Fishing Gear) and Ross Slayton – we’re going back the first week in September and we’re shooting a film to capture those stories. And fish, of course.

Special thanks also to Matt White and Dustin Lutt – our other two partners in shooting the film.

I’m proud to present the initial statement of intent for the project – A Deliberate Life:

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Filed under The road

GEAR REVIEW: COSTA TAG SUNGLASSES

I have a small melon. Very few hat styles fit, short haircuts make me look 12, and sunglasses give me agida…until recently. On another good mail-day prior to our trip to Idaho, I received a pair of Costa Tag sunglasses. Named after the tagging initiative that folks at the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust are building, the Tags are new style in an crazy-extensive line of high-quality, good looking eyewear. And they fit.

Costa Tag sunglasses

These particular sunglasses came with their new 580P (Polycarbonate) polarized lens in copper. They’re also available in glass. Coupled with a fused nylon and Hydrolite frame, they feel lightweight but well-built. According to the folks I talked to at Costa down at IFTD, the 580 lens (a level above their 400’s) completely eliminates reflected glare, blocks yellow light and boosts red, green and blue light, the C-WALL coating repels water, oil, dust and scratches, and the copper color best-serves sight fishing, driving and everyday use. Having a long-frustrating sensitivity to light (bright daylight and headlights at night), I hoped the additional optic assistance would make a difference.

For the 10 days we were out west, the Tags (which retail for $169) performed exactly as described. The five rivers we fished all brought different conditions to the game. Cloudy and fast; deep and gin clear; wide and choppy; high and white; smooth as glass.

Even with clear blue skies and the resulting glare on the water for 90% of the trip, I rarely (if ever) had to squint or strain to see where I was wading or casting to. The wider wrap-around style blocked peripheral glare as well. Without the eye fatigue, I was much more comfortable on the water. Plus, the flexible temple-tips kept me from getting those “pressure-spots” on the side of my head–even wearing one of those hats that actually fit.

Deep and fast ain't nothin'

This glare ain't nothin' either

They fit, even with a lid on backwards

I put the “driving” benefit of the sunglasses to work as well. We spent the better part of 24 hours over the course of our trip on the road to and from water. But it was one run that sealed the deal on the value of the Tags. I fell on the sword for the four hour drive east from Boise to Idaho Falls on Wednesday morning. Looking east into a bluebird central Idaho morning sky, there was nothing but front-and-center sun. And sun like that plays hell in a couple ways: the intense glare off the windshield (and every bug, wiper drag and water mark on the windshield), and the direct brightness that burns a circle on your iris and leads a trail wherever your eye moves.

It took 3 hours for it to actually dawn on me that I hadn’t had to fight the unruly windshield glare, burned irises or light sensitivity I always have. That’s not to say I didn’t use the visor or gangsta-lean to better use my rearview mirror’s shadow at times, but again, the eye fatigue I should’ve experienced from an entire Idaho plains landcape-full of morning sun simply wasn’t there.

The road back from Stanley and the Salmon

On a mission to Idaho Falls

See the fish. Be the fish.

Nowhere to hide

All-in-all, a great pair of sunglasses that I plan on getting a lot more use out of during our other-than-fair-weather east coast seasons.

PROS:
• They fit my small head
• 580 lens eliminates glare, blocks yellow light
• Lightweight but well-built feel
• Durable Polycarbonate lens
• Flexible, comfortable temple-points
• Great on the water and on the road
• $169 is worth it for little-to-no eye fatigue

CONS:
•  Let’s see after a few seasons of use

For more information on these and other Costa optics, visit www.costadelmar.com.

 

Reviews on this site are my unpaid and unbiased opinion of gear, music, guides, books and other outdoor-related items. In some instances I may be allowed to keep what is sent to me for review, but as of right now I’m not affiliated with any company, manufacturer, publisher, or producer in any other way. I suppose there’s still hope though.

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GEAR REVIEW: WILLIAM JOSEPH EXODUS II PACK

Unless I’m purposely packing light to fish out of my kayak, I always wear a backpack along with a chest pack when I’m wading or fishing out of a boat. Between a thermos of coffee, a couple water bottles, jerky, maybe a sandwich, camera, extra fly boxes and wet/cold weather gear, the chest pack alone doesn’t cut it and I’d rather hump a pack than leave it in the truck and waste time making trips back for short breaks. I do the same thing when I’m out deer or goose hunting. Being self-contained keeps you in the game…after all, that’s where the fur, feathers and fins are. The one down-side is that within a couple hours my lower back is killing me and it won’t loosen up regardless of taking breaks or stretching. I’ve found Bourbon to be the closest solution to-date, but it makes wading difficult pretty quickly.

A few days before we flew for Idaho, a package came in the mail from Paul Swint over at William Joseph. He and I had talked about the trip at the IFTD show in New Orleans a week or so earlier and he thought it worthwhile to send me one of their new packs to try out. What showed up at my door was the Exodus II pack/vest combo in sage (it’s available in blue as well). I’d been fishing a small chest pack of theirs for the last 10 years and had planned to pack my extra gear in my backpack the same way I always do. I was looking forward to changing up that routine and hopefully turning the corner on the sore back thing. Damn, I sound freaking old.

The detachable vest pockets were an immediate plus. Our flight west had two layovers, so I planned on using the back pack as a carry-on in order to keep my reels, flies, accessories, camera, some clothes and flight essentials (food/water) with me. I was able to organize all of my fly boxes and accessories in the vest, unbuckle the two components from the pack and fit them in the main compartment with everything else, essentially river-ready.

On the water, the Exodus (retail price of $169) fit me well with the wide, adjustable shoulder straps and chest buckle. I thought the size would make it heavier out of the package, but it was surprisingly light-weight. Plus, the vented back and shoulder straps allowed for plenty of air circulation, which kept me comfortable even with a few 8 – 10 hour days on the water and consistent temps in the 90’s. The contents I packed in the main compartment were not inordinately heavy, but I was able to fit a sweatshirt, shell and a pair of wading sandals along with the other items I mentioned, and the compression straps on the sides, bottom and back kept the pack low-profile and also kept the weight close to my center of gravity, which completely alleviated my back strain.

The material and stitching was durable enough not to snag, rip or pop when hiking a game trail through woods and thick brush, being dropped on the ground or gravel bar, or thrown in the back of a truck or boat at numerous points during the trip. Speaking of boats, during our two days on the South Fork, it was flawless and stowed easily out from under foot when not being pillaged for flies, tippet or jerky. Plus the rugged handle at the top was a solid, easy grab when reaching for the pack or tossing it back.

The one sticking point for me was the dangling straps at the bottom of back-pack. When wading in waist-deep water, where the line you strip bellies around behind you in the current, the line invariably gets snagged on one or more of the straps when paying out line to cast. I tried tying them up to shorten them, but still had some snags. Rolling/folding them up in rubber bands or elastic might’ve worked, I’ve seen that on other packs, but I didn’t test that hypothesis.

The vest components are very well designed with six generous pockets that hold a lot of gear: 4 fly boxes, 5 containers for my sex-dungeon collection, extra leaders, floatant, strike indicators, split-shot case, my pipe and tobacco and Kodak Play Sport video camera. The two components zip together to hold the pair securely front and center, and when unzipped, swing out of the way if you need less in front of you to, say, untangle major knots.

And they’ve paid attention to detail: the water-tight Zip-No magnetic pocket closure system makes it easy to get at fly boxes and other accessories without the one-handed zipper wrestling match; the two zippered cargo pockets it does have are armed with rubberized tabs for easy gripping; rounded, tube-covered pull tabs give you something substantial – but non line-snagging – to pull open the magnetic pockets; additional webbing straps are included for lashing your tippet dispenser or hemos; a retractable clipper clasp is built into one of the pockets; and the AirTrack suspension allows you the flexibility adjust the fit of the whole rig to wear over more layers or fewer.

Aside from the fish we caught, the pack made a huge difference in the overall trip experience – from flight to fishing. Off the water it was comfortable, spacious and convenient enough to travel with. On the water, I had everything I needed (and then some) and without the nagging lower back, I actually forgot that I had anything more than the chest pack on. I look forward to putting it through further abuse/use back up here in NY chasing salmon and steelhead and hopefully some pike and late season bass. Hell maybe the back pack will see hunting season as well.

PROS:
• More than enough pockets and room in the backpack and vest
• Water-tight Magnetic Zip-No pocket closure system
• Lightweight, well-balanced and compresses well
• Detachable vest components
• Fully adjustable for good fit in cold or warm weather
• The price is right for the over-all versatility and quality

CONS:
• Need to find a way to corral straps and avoid line snags

You can learn more about the Exodus II pack/vest combo and other William Joseph products at www.williamjoseph.net

 

Reviews on this site are my unpaid and unbiased opinion of gear, music, guides, books and other outdoor-related items. In some instances I may be allowed to keep what is sent to me for review, but as of right now I’m not affiliated with any company, manufacturer, publisher, or producer in any other way. I suppose there’s still hope though.

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Filed under Reviews