Tag Archives: steelhead

DAY 360

It’s five days shy of the new year.

Holy. Crap.

Not sure if it goes without saying, but every time the calendar reaches the last page and more days are crossed off, it tends to become the season for self-reflection and assessing the events of the past year. I hate looking back – mainly because I’m a sentimental fool. It’s a slippery, emotional slope. But yet I do, year after year, because sentiment teaches me how to pay better attention while I’m making my way through today.

This past year, I’ve run the gamut from riding an ecstatic high to having my cup checked on more than one occasion. Between my freelance business, time with family, time in the woods and on the water, travel, making new friends and building stronger relationships with the friends I already have, it’s been a crazy 360 days – and I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not always as appreciative as I should be with the fantastic cards I’m being dealt. As a matter of fact, I know I down-right suck at it many days. I also know that it could all go away in the smallest of heartbeats.

And so, I stop and look back – allow myself some time to be sentimental and run through all of the joy, sorrow, peace, turmoil, hopelessness and fulfillment that come with it. I let myself ease on down that slippery slope.

But just like sliding down that riverbank to the spot on the river that painful-few brave souls try – cussing myself out because I’ve punctured my waders, dropped fly boxes and snagged my face and hands on thorns before stopping, looking back, smiling and turning to the river and it’s un-pestered denizens – so it is looking back at 2012. This year has been fantastic. And I’ve jumped through my own ass to get to this day. But it’s not about jumping through my own ass. Now it’s about finding my center again – and re-focusing on being the best dad, husband and friend I can be.

So, here’s to a little sentimentality in all of our lives. Have a safe and fantastic New Year.

And now, because I had a year in which I actually experienced what it’s like to be able to generate fish-porn, in addition to being on the water with the kids more than I’ve ever been, here’s a little retrospective from ought-twelve.

 

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16 Comments

Filed under Making a living, On the water, The road

FLIES FOR FINS

I’m a big proponent of supporting organizations that do the good work of helping protect, improve or re-establish our wild places and the wild things that call them home–whether wetlands, watersheds or woods. There are countless national, regional and local organizations with initiatives going on across the country (Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Shenadoah Riverkeeper, No Pebble Mine), as well as in places not far beyond our borders. April Vokey and her cohort up in British Columbia are re-launching one such organization.

Flies for Fins is a charitable organization whose primary mission is to promote and raise funding for specific projects dedicated to the conservation of various distressed B.C. fisheries. The group helps raise money through the donation and sale of flies and other fishing gear, as well as the purchase of items from their online store (which is still in-progress).

Their current project is the preservation and improvement of steelhead spawning grounds in the Thompson River and it’s numerous tributaries. The river is suffering extremely low numbers of returning chrome (from roughly 3,500 fish in 1985 to 2010 estimates that barely reach 500).

So, if you’ve got some flies already tied up, or think you might want to knock out a special batch for a good cause, get in touch with April and the team through their website: www.flies4fins.com or via email at info@flies4fins.com

Whether it’s their initiative, those I mentioned above, or any others fighting the good fight for our fish, game and open spaces, in the end, it doesn’t take much from us to make a big difference. Do what you can.

 

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Filed under On the water

HEALING THOSE WHO SERVED

The weekend of November 4th brought a pretty heavy frost to the Salmon River near Altmar, NY. It also brought over a dozen combat veterans from the Ft. Drum Chapter of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, and at least that many local fishermen to serve as guide/mentors.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a national organization that is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing, fly tying education and outings.

Friday evening was check-in at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Officer School barracks just outside of Pulaski. Bob Rock, a long-time supporter of Project Healing Waters and master fly tier/instructor, arrived early, took a seat at the head of the table in the lounge area, set up his vise and tying materials and started warming up on a wooly bugger pattern.

As soldiers and volunteers arrived, they took seats, one-by-one around the table– some behind donated vises, some behind their own– and began working on goo-bug, egg-sucking leech and woolly bugger patterns of their own for tomorrow’s excursion. Many of the men in this group carried the scars and continued pain of physical injuries from the war–gunshot and shrapnel wounds, broken bones, burns, traumatic brain injury (TBI). Some wrestling with PTSD as well. That said, you would be hard-pressed to tell that any of them had any issues at all. The art of camouflage conceals so much more than any of us understands. It’s a matter of self-preservation.

After a while, announcements and house-rules were covered, BBQ was served and everyone started to warm to each other and the prospect of hooking up with the largest (for some the first) fish they’d ever caught.

http://www.flickr.com/slideShow/index.gne?group_id=&user_id=68121956@N06&set_id=72157628128890020&tags=ProjectHealingWaters,SalmonRiver,Ft.DrumChapter
Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

The next morning came quickly and after an even quicker breakfast of coffee and donuts, the group caravanned to an undisclosed rally-point to gear up, pair up with a guide and get in the water. Thanks to the tremendous leadership of the Ft. Drum Chapter of Healing Waters and the good folks at the DEC, these men had an entire section of unpressured and absolutely prime water to themselves. A small gesture of thanks for their service and sacrifice, and a great opportunity to have success on a river that is notorious for tough fish and Black Friday-esque lines on the shore.

But that success is bigger that just catching fish. For some it’s the success of making it through 2 cold days of difficult wading and fishing in spite of the pain and limitations of physical injuries. For some it’s finding a peace and sense of calm that allows them to relax and laugh from the gut and feel like things are OK. Life is OK. Being home is OK. Even if that feeling is only for a short time. While it will definitely take a lot more than just fly fishing, in the end, the hope and mission of PHW is that if enough of these quality days are strung together, it will help these heroes make their way back from those dark haunts that frustrate and scare the shit out of them–to help them finally make their way home for good.

Now, I’ve heard stories and seen pictures of other Healing Waters events in other parts of the country. But I’d be willing to bet that there isn’t another chapter that has experienced the number, species diversity and size of the fish that were caught by these guys–every single one of them–over our two days on the Salmon.

The weekend was a profound and humbling experience for me. It was an honor to be able to spend the time I did with the guys, to hear their stories, shake their hands and stand in the river together just like a bunch of normal fishermen chasing bent rods, lake-run monsters and grip-and-grins.

That is, if there is such a thing as a normal fisherman.

Be sure to “Like” the Ft. Drum Chapter’s facebook page and visit the national Healing Waters site as well. And if you can get involved in a chapter near you, please do. Our soldiers need our support right here at home.

 Photo credits: Grant Taylor

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Filed under On the water, Time in service

LATE GOOSE, DAY 2

There’s a measure of insanity, I suppose, in the psychology of the late season goose hunter. The first couple days of ridiculous wind and nose-numbing temps are warmed with the honks, circling and set wings of naïve birds. By day 3, the masses have been shot at enough that they now fly twice as high and scrutinize each decoy spread as thoroughly as Gert Boyle does a Columbia jacket.

Hopeful

But the chance of knocking down a few more, even when the going gets down-right silly, is simply too much to resist. And so we press on into the corn and winter wheat.

Still hopeful

It’s a disease called just 5 more minutes. You may have heard of it. Every hunter and fisherman worth their salt wrestles with it. You are absolutely certain that the next bite, the big buck, or the willing flock of geese are moments away. Just 5 more minutes turns into a half-hour, a couple hours, an royally angry spouse…

As for my dad and I (Cam stating “I’d like to go, but I’m warm right now”), the birds didn’t start flying in any numbers till close to noon…a full 4 hours after we first placed our decoys. When they did, the neighboring field was where they looked, circled and left. Small consolation that the birds didn’t like the spread that the six hunters had over there either. Of course, having exhausted almost two hours of just 5 more minutes, as we were packing up, seven or eight groups passed low overhead and we watched a decent flock gave in to better judgment and careened into the corn stubble of that adjacent field. Bang, bang, bang…

They'll be here any minute

Well, Day 2 saw no birds in the truck and will probably be my last time out this year. Which is OK. Even the most die-hard outdoorsman needs a break.

Besides, I hear the Lake Ontario tribs are still open, and full of steelhead.

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, In the woods