"there's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot." -steven wright

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Beaver Lessons (Gene)

A few years ago I went fishing in a small stream near Keystone, Colorado. It was a bountiful little stream with a good population of fourteen to eighteen inch rainbows. I might add that they weren’t particularly smart rainbows because I caught a lot of them.

Besides the good fishing, the thing that made this stream interesting was the fact that there were beavers everywhere. During my week on the stream, I learned three lessons about sharing a river with beavers.

First, they can mess up a good fishing hole, usually at prime evening time. Several beavers lived under the cut bank of one of my favorite pools. It was not unusual to see two or three at a time swim into the pool from upstream, tail-splash when they saw me and then dive under the cut bank. The tail splash not only alarmed me but also frightened the trout, which would scurry away downstream and not return for a long time. Lesson one – beavers can be scary (especially the first time you see one).

Second, the dens the beavers build under a cut bank create conditions for sinkholes. I frequently fished from a bank above a large slow pool where I caught several good trout. After being hooked, these rainbows employed one of two escape strategies. They either ran hard downstream toward a beaver-felled tree that lay across the end of the pool or tried to dart under the cut bank, making it difficult for me to get the rod leverage needed to haul them out. One of the biggest trout I hooked was determined to get entangled in the tree at the end of the pool and break free. I knew this rainbow was strong enough to break my 6X tippet if I tried too hard to brake his run so I walked along the bank to get a better angle on him. My strategy seemed to be working against his strategy and, eyes focused on the trout, I took another step downstream. It was a big step. I mean a really big step. I fell into a sinkhole up to my chest. Miraculously, I landed on my feet and was uninjured. Even more miraculously, I held my rod high, brought the trout to the edge of the pool and, reaching out over the edge of the bank from my position in the sinkhole, brought him to net. All the while, I was hoping a beaver wouldn’t start gnawing on my leg. The scene was a little like Brad Pitt landing the huge trout in A River Runs through It. Well, not exactly. Lesson two - beaver holes can be dangerous.

Third, like many fishermen, I bite the ends off leaders when I tie on flies or tippets. It’s faster than using nippers to cut them off. On my trip to this stream, I learned a painful lesson - don’t do that! Some streams are infested with parasites that, if ingested, can play havoc with the digestive system. This disease, known medically as giardia, can last for several weeks and cause great misery unless properly treated. Lesson three – infected beavers can spread diseases.

Summary of lessons learned: beavers can be scary; beaver holes can be dangerous; and infected beavers can spread diseases.

Streams with significant beaver populations are likely to be infested with the giardia parasite. Beavers, which aren’t really particular about where they go to the bathroom, are frequently the cause of the infestation. Because of this, giardia is also known as beaver fever.

I learned that beaver fever not only affects the digestive system but can also affect one’s intelligence. On a recent fly fishing trip to the Verde River in Arizona I told this story to one of my best fly fishing buddies, who is now an elder in his church. Some of his stories lead me to believe that he might have been somewhat wild in his younger days. His immediate response when I mentioned beaver fever was, “May the good Lord forgive me for these memories, but I had a real bad case of beaver fever during my sophomore year in college.” So what’s the evidence that beaver fever affects intelligence? His GPA for his sophomore year was 1.297.

My friends and I are planning a fishing trip this spring to a small but productive stream in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona. Its name? Wet Beaver Creek.

As Beavis would say to Butthead (or was it vice versa) “Heh, heh. He said wet beaver.”

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Gift from My Son (Gene)

In his recent posting (see elk and rainbows below), my son David mentioned that I had caught my biggest rainbow ever on our April 9 trip to the White River, but he didn’t discuss the circumstances. I’d like to share the story about how it happened.

After a long day of fishing during which I had caught one fish, a twelve inch rainbow, David and I returned to the first run we had fished. He had caught several fish in this run earlier in the day, so I waded into the river first and took the prime position, at his insistence. On my first cast, my Orvis four piece rod broke at the second and third joint. I was way too tired to take the fifteen minute walk to the car to get a replacement, so I started to wade out to the bank and watch David fish for the remaining hour or so before dark. He stopped me, took my broken Orvis, and handed me his St. Croix. I insisted that he continue fishing and he insisted that I fish while he went to the car for the replacement. I must admit that I didn’t protest much.

About three minutes after he left, I hooked a 22 inch rainbow on an olive wooly bugger that David had tied. His act of generosity had turned my day of fishing from mediocre to excellent.

In Fly Fishing through the Midlife Crisis, Howell Raines described his son as someone he’d love fishing with even if he weren’t his son. That applies double to my son David. I hope you get to fish with David or someone like him some day.

I recommend Howell Raines’ book to you if you love fly fishing, even if you’re not facing your midlife crisis.

P.S. – On Monday, I took my broken Orvis into Bucking Rainbow, an excellent fly fishing store (and an Orvis dealer) in Steamboat Springs. I laid the rod on the counter. The owner of the store took a quick glance and said, “You’re getting a new rod.” He filled in an Orvis form, called Orvis for an approval number, packaged the broken rod, and sent it in later that day. Fortunately, I had registered for the 25 year guarantee when I bought the rod. I will receive a brand new, technologically advanced rod to replace my eight-year-old rod.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

we both dove (david)

this is a poem i wrote last summer after an outrageously brief and violent thunderstorm.

we both dove

the sky turns the color
of a bruise
as "new slang" by the shins plays
underneath the wind coming in
through a cracked window

cottonwood seeds tumult
on wind currents below these windows
and the trees are bowed
and tired

the rain starts across the valley
over emerald mountain
in three minutes it is here
falling straight down
the wind is a memory
and the cottonwood puffs
have been pummeled into the wet
shiny grass

the water drips
from the curved metal roof
onto the concrete below
and becomes
a splattered chorus
a litany of watery invocations

i am finning in the river
i am safe in my slime
the water is my air
and i am far below
the malevolence above

i am in the current
then out of the current
and each drop hitting the surface
above me
for a moment is a connection
to that other earth
the one i dream of before the cars
and the concrete

a ragtag group of blackbirds makes its way
above and across town
i see them

i see them

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

with a little help from my blogger friends (david)

after a very helpful email from seriously savvy mary ann, i was able to change the author of posts from my name to a more general "the trout collective." each poster should put their name in parentheses after the post title.

also with mary ann's help, i was also able to take out my profile. this blog is coming along.

thank you, mary ann!

elk and rainbows (david)

well, folks, i still haven't figured out how to get my profile off this blog, or how to get different logins to show up when different people post. i may create a new, general user profile and move spinnerfall to it. but in the meantime, let me tell you about the weekend.

my dad, geno, flew into denver on friday night and stayed in golden. we had decided to meet in silverthorne early saturday morning and fish the tailwater section of the blue river. for those of you unfamiliar with this river, it flows right through the heart of town, and one particular stretch goes under a pedestrian bridge in an outlet mall. so, while people make their way from the izod outlet over to the nike and polo outlets, they can stop and watch you fish for very, very big trout.

neither dad nor i did very well - dad caught a nice 12 incher and i foul-hooked a little 5 inch fingerling - but for several minutes i did have an audience on the bridge. i hooked a big rainbow right below everyone, fought it for several minutes, then lost it because i was trying to muscle it in. i swear, there was an audible groan from the bridge when i lost the fish. it was pretty funny.

sunday, we drove over to fish the white river. i'm not going to tell you where, because this has to be the best river in colorado - and you try and keep that kind of information a secret. anyway, my day started when i foul-hooked a big 19 or 20 inch rainbow - a real old guy, battle-scarred and not too enthusiastic about the fight. he came to the net pretty quickly, i popped the fly out of his bottom fin with no blood, and he was off and swimming.

it heated up from there - several whitefish in a spot where i caught them last time. my buddy bb is not a fan of these fish, but i love them: they fight like hell, and they're muscular and heavy.

after that we moved upstream to the spot where we had so much luck last fall. i took off my nymphs, put on a bugger (one that i tied), and floated it below a strike indicator. fishing buggers this way has never really worked for me all that well, but bb swears by it. well, on sunday it worked and then some. in about 5 casts i had a 17 or 18 inch beautiful fat rainbow on. he jumped once, which is such a thrill. i brought him in, released him, and 3 casts later i had on the biggest trout i've ever caught - a 22-24 inch rainbow. an absolutely gorgeous fish, and he jumped twice, very high. my heart was pounding, but i got him in on my own, and held him up for a picture (which we managed to screw up). just an incredible fish.

geno didn't have quite as prolific a day, but it was a good one anyway: he caught 2 fish, and one of them was also his biggest rainbow ever, also 22-24 inches. he was stoked, and got a picture of it in the net.

we both hooked other big trout, but lost them. but that's fishing, right?

on our way out, we saw a herd of fifty elk as the sun was dropping below the horizon. what an incredible river valley. once things slow down for pdiddy, i'm taking him over here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Lesson in Humility (Gene, David's Dad)

Hey!!! I discovered a new tippet to leader knot that holds. This might not seem very important or newsworthy, but it will save me a lot of money. This is starting to sound like a Geico commercial, isn’t it?

The surgeon’s knot is the most commonly used tippet to leader knot. It never worked for me. I’ve lost so many good fish because of broken surgeon’s knots that I refused to use tippets at all. This meant that every time my leader got too short because of tying on different flies over time, I disposed of the old leader and used a new one. New tippets cost a few cents each. New leaders cost $3.50 to $7.95, depending on the type. I sometimes used two or three leaders a day.

The knot I now use is the Orvis tippet knot. If tied properly, the tippet will break before the knot, which means the Orvis knot is a 100% plus knot. In other words, I won’t lose fish because the knot breaks.

After extensive testing of the Orvis knot, I rushed over to tell my neighbor Noel about it. We’ve been winter neighbors for several months (in Sun City Grand, a retirement community in Arizona) but just recently began to get acquainted after discovering we shared a passion for fly fishing. Noel was leaving the next day to do some saltwater fishing at Rocky Point in Mexico, so I wanted to share this important information with him. I told him about the clever testing methods I had devised for testing line and knot strength. I was feeling a little pride.

Noel then told me that several years ago he had built a tensile machine for testing lines and knots, and that he had published an article in one of the leading fly fishing journals on the subject. His tensile machine had meters to measure the breaking strength of lines and knots. My testing method consisted of tying a surgeon’s knot to one end of a piece of line and an Orvis knot to the other end. I then connected the ends to two large key rings and pulled until something broke. The surgeon’s knot always broke first.

I will be more humble when I talk about fly fishing with Noel in the future.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

April 1 - Lake Owen Creek, Laramie River, North Platte (paul)

First, a big thanks to Dave for putting this site together. I'm not Dave. I'm Paul. At some point we'll figure out how to attach my name to my posts, as opposed to attaching Dave's name to my posts. In the meantime, let's talk fishing.

After a campus gear swap yesterday, my friends Nate and Dan and I rolled out of Laramie at around noon. We'd hoped for Rob Roy Reservoir but only got as far as Albany, where two feet of slush encouraged us to turn around. Figuring we'd try our hands on the Laramie River, we found a little feeder creek on the way to Woods Landing which turned out to be Lake Owen Creek. Despite some pretty impressive pools, no luck.

I should mention at this point that Nate and Dan had their flyrods; my flyrod is still back in Illinois since I recieved it for Christmas and couldn't bring it on the plane. My dad's bringing it out in May, though. Long story short, I was spincasting with tiny little spinners - hoping against hope that the brookies would be attracted to bright, shiny objects.

After wading through snowbanks and getting raked by Russian Olive trees all along Lake Owen Creek, we popped over to a public access spot just south of Woods Landing on the Laramie River. A strong current five yards wide cut through ice shelves on both banks; there were no good pools and the only still water was too shallow. Falling through the ice would have meant a very cold and very unpleasant death. This didn't stop us from walking on the ice, however, and at one point I was casting from a partially submerged rock. I slipped, landed right square on my ass, and got very wet. Luckily I was wearing layers of synthetics, so I didn't get too cold.

We didn't get a single bite on the Laramie, so we headed off to the North Platte Wilderness near the Wyoming/Colorado border (in fact, the road actually took us into Colorado for a few miles before veering due north, eventually running through Saratoga).

On the access road from 230 to a place on the North Platte called "6 Mile Gap," we came across a Hummer stuck in the snow. Nebraska plates. Go figure.

Dan drives a beefy Chevy Silverado, lifted a few inches, but he didn't budge the damn Hummer with his tow rope. Luckily enough, the Hummer had a winch and an anchor - no trees in these parts, just sagebrush - and after monkeying around with the controls, the Hummer finally winched itself out.

And then we got stuck trying to get through another spot. This time the Hummer had to anchor its back end, attach its winch to Dan's truck, and pull Dan out backwards. It was glorious. The Hummer guys were friendly enough and we had a great time joking around about the situation. They even broke out a bottle of rum and passed it around.

This was on the road to 6 Mile Gap, where we ultimately did get in some more fishing - but no bites at all. It was perhaps one of the most beautiful places I've seen this year. We had to park on a ridge (too much snow to drive down), hike about a mile downhill, and there at the bottom was a gorgeous little canyon with the North Platte carving its way through more ice shelves. Geese honked and generally hung around; we cast and cast with absolutely no results.

We hiked out as darkness fell, just in time to get blasted by a snowshower. When we finally made it to the truck, we each looked like snowbeasts on our fronts but normal humans on our backs. After dinner at a great bar at Woods Landing, we made it back to Laramie at 9pm.

Bites: none
Fish caught: none
Hummers stuck: 1
Silverados stuck: 1
Number of times Paul fell into the water: 1
Number of times Paul and Nate fell through ice: 0
Number of times Dan fell through ice up to his butt: 1
Geese: 5
Deer: At least seven different herds.
Elk: none
Elk pooh: 1 pile
Bears: none