Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Mousing For Trout: An enlightening lie

Learning to mouse for trout has been quite the experience. Like fishing at any other time of day, there are so many factors that play into it. Lighting, weather, temperature, time of year, water levels, and location are just a few factors to reckon with. With so many factors dancing about each other, it makes for a slow learning process.  It's funny how our outlooks or previously held ideas morph and change with time and experience. Life is dynamic, with very few static elements. If we aren't learning, we are only getting dumber.  Needless to say, I still have a lot to learn about mousing for trout. The following is a concept that has slowly formed in my mind, and may not be entirely accurate, but it seems correct so far. It may be helpful, but maybe not.

Here it is. I'm going to say it. Mousing for trout is a sham. A farce. Utter foolery without Tom as the instigator. Mousing, as many of us have come to think of it, is not in fact truly "mousing" with many of the traditional mouse patterns we use.

Deception is the basis of fly fishing, but that deception can go two ways. Normally we try to fool the fish, but sometimes end up fooling ourselves in the process. This doesn't necessarily lessen our enjoyment of angling, but I think there is some benefit in realizing the distinction, which pertains to mousing for trout. It may even change the flies you choose to fish, or how you fish the ones you're already using.

In life we often superimpose our ideas and views onto other people, assuming they see things as we see them. We can't be blamed. All we have to go on is our own perception of reality. Our whole world is viewed through this personalized lens, even our fly fishing.

As it pertains to fishing, things that look a certain way to us in our out-of-the-water world, may look completely different to a fish in the water.  Full deer hair mouse patterns are notorious for this. They are tied to look just like a mouse that is sitting still, out of the water, eyes, whiskers, ears, and tail to match. An angler looks at one and thinks, "man that looks just like a mouse," failing to ask themselves what a mouse actually looks like in the water, and what parts of a floating fly can actually be seen by a fish. The funny thing is that people catch fish on these flies. Naturally, we assume a fish has taken the fly as a mouse because it looked like a mouse to us out of the water, before we even fished with it.

The Spectrum

In fly fishing we often fish with "attractor" flies. These are patterns that work because they have elements that resemble the real deals, or just generate curiosity from the fish. Some examples could include: Stimulator, Rainbow Warrior, Royal Wolf, Chubby Chernobyl, Chartreuse Glo Bug, Purple Haze, and Parachute Adams. The list could go on and on. Some of these patterns mimic profile, colors, movement, and water displacement, while others have no similarity at all, and yet they all still catch fish. Imagine a spectrum with one side labeled "natural" and the other "attractor." All flies that are used, or have ever been used, would fit somewhere on this spectrum. If we're being super literal, all flies would be classified as attractors, but what I am referring to moves beyond that assumption and allows flies to assume varying degrees. Where a fly falls on our imaginary spectrum depends on what aspects of a fly we choose to focus on.  Factors that would cause a fly to move up or down the scale could include color, movement, profile, or any other specific trait. For example, a Parachute Adams is a common mayfly imitation that most dry fly anglers are familiar with. It is remarkably effective, but I doubt it is because its body color matches many real mayflies. For body color I think the pattern would fall closer to the "attractor" side of things, but for the profile it presents I would say the pattern is closer to the "natural" end. Patterns like this are wonderful go-to's because they can mimic multiple insects. You just have to match the size.

I have come to realize that some of the staple flies used while mousing fit better on the "attractor" end of the spectrum. Full deer hair mouse flies, the Morrish Mouse, or any other fairly short mouse pattern are examples of this. The fact is that they work to catch fish, but I truly wonder what the fish thinks it is rising to take. I doubt many baby mice fall into rivers, and even if they did they would be small, skinny, and pink. I may be wrong but most mice are at least two to three inches long (roughly three quarters length) before they leave the nest and start exploring, which is generally when they are about three weeks old. This length is referring to a non-extended, walking, out-of-water mouse. A sitting mouse is even shorter. The distinction is significant because when a mouse falls or crawls into the water it instinctively begins "doggy paddling," which causes the body to extend, adding more length to the profile.

Mouse flies that mimmic a "sitting" mouse, not a "swimming" mouse.

Most of the original mouse patterns are shorter, stiff haired, and pellet or "A" shaped. As I've already mentioned, these patterns work to catch fish, but I have come to the opinion that most work because they tap into some "knee jerk" reactions deeply embedded in a fishes' primal nature. In the water a mouse is longer than shorter. I tend to think of deer hair patterns that move a decent amount of water as better resembling frogs than mice. Their silhouette certainly better matches a frog kicking around. With the smaller "mouse" patterns I sometimes wonder if the fish aren't thinking they are rising to a giant caddis or other insect struggling in the water or skimming on the surface. The movement alone may induce a bite because the motion is similar to how an injured baitfish would act on the surface, even if the profile is different. I'm not sure the fish even really cares what they represent. Just like most human beings would run to an injured and abandoned crying baby, a fish will at least investigate something struggling on the surface. For those who have "moused" with the traditional patterns before, you may have noticed that nighttime takes often occur shortly after the fly hits the water. For these attractor mouse patterns it is all about the water they move and the wake they make, and when something splashes in the water it instantly kicks the fish into "easy-big-meal mode." I think a bass/frog popper would get the same results in many cases. Heck, we catch fish skating streamers, leeches, and even rubber-legs, many of which work when waked upstream, against a swift current. Nothing in nature does that! The only thing I can think of that comes close is a caddis laying eggs.

The Lie

Much of what we call "mousing" is a farce then. Just because we call a fly something, and it catches fish, does not mean the reason it is catching fish is because it resembles the real deal. Our powerful human brains can fill in the gaps between suggestion. We dream, we philosophize, our brains make sense of flawed information, we assume, and we deduce, and what do fish do, they eat, runaway, and reproduce. Now, #fishlivesmatter too, so don't be offended, and that's why we #keepemwet, but the fact is that a fishes' reasoning is very basic and primitive.

In the end, most mouse flies fool fisherman and fish, but not in the same way. One thinks it's a mouse, while the other eats something that is moving.

Why It Matters

So, what is the take-home message here? Well, there are a few things we can gain from this observation. First of all, I think it opens up our thinking so that we can focus on one of the key elements of topwater-trouting; water movement. Second of all, if you want to catch a fish and say you caught it on a mouse, fish a pattern that at least resembles a mouse to the fish (old, long held ideas die hard). Either add some body length to those age old patterns so it more accurately fits a mouses' profile, or fish one of the newer articulated patterns that are cropping up more and more now that people are paying more attention to what a mouse actually looks like in the water. Thirdly, realize that confidence has more to do with fly fishing than the "right fly" in a lot of cases. And lastly, get creative. I really think we could have some fun developing crazy "attractor" patterns to fish at night, ones that focus more on increasing hookups, or adding crazy movement.

I'm not trying to rag on anyone who feels they have caught a fish with a "mouse." More than anything I am pointing out an area in fly fishing where we are progressing in terms of understanding and fly design. If you are doing something that is working for you, by all means keep doing it and keep enjoying it. In the end, all we fishermen are fooling ourselves, telling lies and making up stories, but isn't that part of the fun. Sometimes it causes me to wonder though, between the angler and the fish, who is fooling who.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Scarcity: [skair-si-tee] noun - the state of being scarce, or in short supply; shortage. 

For those who lived through the Great Depression times were tough. People had to use what little they had. Most lived by the saying "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

In our current day we have more access to abundance and richness than has ever been seen in history. We live better than most kings did. Our modern curse is not a lack, but a glut. So why do we still suffer from a mentality of scarcity? We worry if there will be enough room, food, leisure, money, toys, time, jobs, resources, friends, etc.... The list goes on and on. Some mild feeling of scarcity may be healthy, but taken to excess it is ugly and creates greed, jealousy, and even hatred. Scarcity itself is a result and companion of selfishness.

Lately I've been trying to understand why the things I view as positive and enjoyable draw so much negativity from some. I'm well aware that in life it is nearly impossible to please everyone. I just wish we could all get along.  In the fly fishing community we all have a common joy, so why does there have to be so much judgement and criticism. As I see it, we are all still learning and trying to become better anglers to better enjoy our sport. I know I for one would much rather fish next to someone trying to learn, improve, and be a better person in general, than an angler who is ignorant and selfish and trying to hog the water. I would much rather be someones friend than their object of criticism and scorn.

From what I can tell much of the negativity found in the fly fishing community springs from hidden feelings of scarcity and selfishness. I see it in myself and others. We worry there won't be enough space to comfortably fish, enough solitude, enough good fish to catch, or any fish to catch in general.  We worry about the impact many people will have on the fewer resources. And even if we realize there is enough to go around, we simply just don't want to share. We humans like to think we're original and that our "secret" spots are only ours. There is great satisfaction in finding or figuring out a place all on our own, so when we make a breakthrough the new-to-us knowledge is fiercely guarded from people we don't want to know. We resent others when we realize the secret is not exclusively ours. We tend to resent it even more when unintended people learn information that we did not give willingly.

The irony of this whole predicament is that we too were once ignorant to the places we like to fish, many of which were shown by a friend or acquaintance, or were discovered because someone else eluded to those places in picture or story.  One moment we are standing on the outside of information regarding a desirable fishing location, wanting to know.  The next moment we find out about the place and realize the potential for good fishing and immediately turn into the "this is mine and I don't want anybody else fishing it" angler.  We ignore the fact that we were once ignorant of the place and either had to discover or be shown it ourselves, and if there were someone like us already fishing that spot and they had it their way, we would not now know how cool that fishing location is.  Who is to say that we, ourselves, are not the "one too many" angler that we dread. And if we were in some miraculous way to realize we were the "one too many," would we be willing to stop fishing that place? The whole situation is quite silly really, and smacks of hypocrisy and yet we are all guilty of it to some degree because of those deep-seeded feelings of scarcity and selfishness.

I don't claim to have the answer to this dichotomy that so truly is a part of our human nature. But because I see it in myself, and I loathe the negativity it generates, I'm always looking for a way to balance.  Oftentimes the best way to deal with a negative situation is to examine the motivation behind the actions that brought the situation about. In this case, selfishness and scarcity would be the motivators. When I accept that, and try to replace it with the opposite motivation of generosity, I find that my actions change, but my resulting experience is no less. As best I can see it, the answer is to SHARE!  That age old lesson we learned in our days of yore. Now I don't mean listing GPS coordinates with specific tactics. I don't even mean that we have to tell people any details about where and how we are fishing, at least not on the open internet. What I do mean is good river etiquette.  I have found on many occasions that simply striking up a conversation with a stranger on the river results in a much more comfortable situation where you can at the very least fish around each other and not impose. It's a lot like driving in our cars. When you feel that spark of road rage for the person in front of you who is clearly driving stupidly, does it change your feelings if you were to realize that person was your grandma? Connection and communication (sharing in a sense) changes a lot.

I love fishing so much that when I don't make an effort to keep it in check my family suffers. Also, because I am so passionate about angling I find myself doing everything possible to surround myself with it; reading about it, talking about it, dreaming about it, writing about it, taking pictures of it, developing new-to-me ways of doing it, looking for new places to do it, and making new friends who also like to do it.

I get flack because I maintain a presence on social media. Some is from complete strangers, some from acquaintances, and a little even comes from good friends, because I choose to share pictures, stories, and other information online. The flack from strangers and acquaintances usually trickles through the grapevine till it reaches me. Rarely do these people seek an open discussion about the topic, which is unfortunate considering that some of my best of friends have differing opinions on the matter and we are still great friends. Instead many choose to let feelings of resentment and disapproval fester, chewing on the negative criticisms again and again among their "friends". Maybe it doesn't come across this way, but I do make an effort to not openly share most locations I fish on the internet. I try to respect these places by not inviting the masses with extremely telling pictures or stories. Those who know the places I fish, can tell simply from the fish themselves though, and I make no effort to deceive.

I'm well aware that the internet has turned us all into takers. It's the sad truth. So much information is free that we have come to expect everything to be free, without even thinking to thank those who provided it. We are all guilty of it. In this setting people worry, myself included, about the impact Instagram, Facebook, and other forums have had on fishing locations. Especially when those posting make an open invitation to fish a place that could struggle from excessive pressure. It comes back to the struggle of balance between sharing and respecting a location, with scarcity and selfishness hiding somewhere in the mix. The internet has certainly changed the face of the fly fishing world. Google Earth itself has made what was once a tedious exercise in exploration, as easy as click, click, zoom. We have powerful tools of exploration at our finger tips and sloughs of motivating media in pictures and videos of beautiful fish that push people toward waters that were hitherto only known to locals. I can't see this changing anytime soon.

As much as we want to blame social media for diluting our fishing experiences, I still think the biggest problem is from person to person interactions. Be it in the moment river etiquette or from information given to a fishing companion. Two of the times I was the most frustrated with a person, and how they treated a given area I fish, came because of a disrespect for the information that had been given. The frustration was not because the person I showed was fishing the places, but because that person used the good fishing location and techniques I showed them as a bartering chip. It was clearly a means for getting attention from other people. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" or "I'll show you this awesome place to fish so you will think I'm cool." Sadly, there will always be people who fail to respect our resources, but social media is less the cause than the outlet for such issues. There will always be bottom feeders in the fishing world, with or without social media.

A Midnight Mouse Trouncer
Fortunately, those who still want solitude or excellent fishing can still have it. Those two things will always be protected by a firm barrier of work and effort.  They say that 80% of fish are caught by 20% of anglers. That is partly because only 20% are willing to walk that extra mile, or stay that extra hour into the twilight, or go when the temperatures drop below freezing, or stick with a singular technique until they find success in it. You don't have to be a pro. Heck, you don't even have to be that good. You just have to be persistent in solving the puzzles fishing presents, and many aren't willing or want to do that. The 80% would rather spend time catching than fishing, which ironically keeps them in the 80% category.

In the end I think the networking power of social media is an overall positive thing.  Literal and proverbial dams come down when we work together. When we fight, how cool would it be if it were for our sport, not amongst our sport. Let us learn to rejoice in other people's catches and opportunities to fish. Tearing others down simply because we want more to ourselves or want to be first will only lead to a pretty miserable existence. Holding grudges and harboring those bad feelings is a lot like taking a drink of poison and hoping it will kill the other guy. I think we all would rather be someones friend instead of their enemy, and fishing is a pretty silly thing to make enemies over. So if you see me on the river, or around town, or just on social media, don't be a stranger, there's plenty of water and kindness to go around.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tips: Movement

Movement is a principle of life. Stagnation yields disease and decay. Movement means growth, organization, improvement, productivity, and cleansing. As it is in life, so also in fly fishing.

"How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty..."
D&C 121:33

Tips: Movement

A little movement can mean the difference between a good day on the water, and a great day. Sometimes the difference comes from what is moved, sometimes it is in how a thing is moved, and at other times it is in how long the movement lasts. Whether it's the fisherman or the fly, motion can be a game changer.

Streamers: When fishing a streamer it never hurts to consider what the fish might be taking it as.  Does it look like a baitfish? Perhaps a large leech? These questions are good to consider because they may change how you move the fly, if you are moving it at all.  Leeches wiggle, shrink, expand, and pulse through the water column.  As a fly, this would result in smaller movements, pauses between strips, where the fly covers less distance, but may still be repeatedly abrupt or jerky. A baitfish is more likely to dart or have a continuous swimming movement. One of the big differences is from the amount of water they cover. An injured baitfish may fall to the river bottom only to dart back up into the water column.  One of my favorite retrieves when fishing a baitfish streamer is a short fast strip, followed by a longer slower strip, and then a moments pause.  This approach has coaxed many otherwise unwilling fish to bite, making them think that their potential meal would be easy-pickings. Trying different stripping techniques is a quick and easy way to switch up our approach and worth trying before we switch to another fly or move to another run.

Nymphs: When fishing a nymph we often think that a smooth, unaffected drift is best. I think this idea results from an issue dealing with depth and bite detection. Whenever we mend our line in a way that our indicator moves, it lifts our flies out of the sweet spot, requiring more time on the drift for the flies to sink back into the zone.  Good mending usually helps us avoid pulling our flies too much out of the zone, but we often miss out on an aspect that could increase our catching; the movement. To add movement to an indicator/nymph rig the answer is found in adding more weight either to the fly or to the line.  This allows us to twitch the indicator intermittently, causing our flies to dance, all the while still allowing our flies to stay deep in the zone. Adding movement can be especially beneficial when fishing a hatch where bugs are emerging or fishing nymphs that resemble a leech, baitfish, or crayfish. If you aren't using an indicator, you may already know how deadly a slow stripped tandem nymph rig can be. Swinging soft hackles is another effective approach.  With a single handed rod and floating line, an upstream cast, with a generous amount of line/slack, allows the flies to sink down and run lower in the water column. Then when your line reaches the end of the drift and comes tight, the flies that sank on the drift, rise in a "hatching" motion. The takes are usually aggressive.

Dries: Nothing looks more delicious to a hungry surface-feeding trout than a struggling terrestrial. Now, this does not mean skating a mayfly, though that technique slays with caddis. In most cases though, the drag-free drift is the way to go with dries. But just because you are keeping it drag-free doesn't mean you can't make that chubby shimmy. Ants, hoppers, mayflies, spiders, wasps, beetles, bees, and many other topwater tasties struggle once they find themselves stuck in a watery mire. Little twitches can conjure up the unwilling trout, much like the right movement with a streamer will do. Indeed, two anglers can fish the same water with the same fly, but one can outcatch other other 3:1, and this is usually their secret to success.  Adding movement to dries seems to be easiest with larger, more bouyant patterns like hoppers, chubbies, salmonflies, and caddis, but does not need to be restricted to them.  The trick is to make the fly have movement, but not move the fly a great distance in the water. Much easier said than done, but a worthy technique to master.

Fly Construction: Not all materials are created equal. This is a hard concept for many to accept. I hear ice dub has even made an appeal to the supreme court because hare's ear dub is claiming that ice dub is not natural. Rabbit strips say it won't go anywhere, and most saddle hackles don't want to get involved. I say, why can't they all accept their differences and get along. Together they could make a pretty sweet fly. All kidding aside, knowing what a given material does in the water can be helpful.  Some materials have inherent movement and require less work on the anglers part to make the fly look alive. Other materials require the angler to compensate. Some are better for a swinging fly, while others do better stationary or stripped in. Rabbit hair flairs out and pulsates with minimal added movement. Buck tail is more ridged and maintains a fuller body. Marabou feathers slick down and keep a narrow profile when in the water. Ice dub, as a synthetic, loops and has a brushy velcro effect that can catch on a trouts teeth. These are good things to be aware of because you know what your fly can do and what you need to do to help it look alive. Mixing different kinds of materials to construct a fly can also add or take away movement. A good example of this is Kelly Galloup's Sex Dungeon. The large deer hair head pushes water and, much like air pressure and airplane wings, creates a negative pressure behind the head. This results in a stationary head and an erratic swimming tail. Even if you do not tie your own flies, it doesn't hurt to understand something about how they are made. If nothing else, play with them in the water close enough to you that you can see how they act and react to your movements with the rod.

Two Flies: One thing I often do, which has helped improve my catching considerably, is to fish two flies at the same time. This is one technique that a lot of anglers avoid because of the extra hassles involved.  The reason I mention this in an article aimed at movement is that whenever a second fly is added, the attached line and dragging fly affect the lead fly. This can hinder hookups and movement on the first fly but can also make it look much more desirable. I'll often tie on a white trailer because it gets the fishes attention.  I honestly think that they see the white more easily, and then register that it is chasing another thing. In the spur of the moment this creates a momentary thought of scarcity for any fish seeing the chase. "If that little fish is focused on what is chasing it, it won't see me coming to chomp it from the side!" is what a fish might say. On a side note, I have also noticed that fishing a heavy lead fly and a weightless trailing fly lets me fish deeper but helps me avoid getting snags because the trailing fly helps pull the lead fly up away from the bottom. 

The Angler: Sometimes we linger when we should move to fresh water, while at other times we walk right through what has the potential to be a productive lie. For this I have no great advice to give because it has mostly to do with preference and personal experience. I will say this though, when given the choice I usually choose to move.  If I move around and have not found success with what I expected to work, I then change up my tactics and cover the water again. Just don't give up too quick or you'll rob yourself of some good learning opportunities that will likely result in some stellar fishing.

With most things in life, moderation enriches. In your adventures with adding movement into your fishing, don't forget to pause every now and again.  Sometimes the fish want it slow or not moving at all. Sometimes we need to stop moving to appreciate what is right in front of us.  Sometimes we need to stop talking and start thinking. Sometimes we need to stop clogging our eardrums with noise and start listening to the beautiful and reverent sounds of creation.  Like any magnificent and moving arrangement of music, there's a tempo, there's notes, there's rests, and there's a rhythm. Good luck creating yours, and remember, sometimes a little movement makes all the difference.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gear Review: Hillsound Freesteps6 Crampons

Fast water and snot rocks, what a terrible mix. As the heat of summer spurs on the growth of biofilm, anglers can find themselves doing a bit more mid-river impromptu dancing.  Although the fly guy disco has turned into a sweeping sensation among the underground rave crowd, it is still somewhat of an inconvenience to fishermen who wish to do more fishing than swimming.  With the big push to produce more eco-friendly materials more and more people are using rubber soles on their wading boots. While this has been great for stopping invasive species, it causes the fisherman to sacrifice some stability. (I don't care what they say, in my opinion felt still holds the high ground where traction is concerned.)

To remedy this newly risen problem many companies have produced screws or bars that insert into the soles of wading boots.  While this fixes much of the problem it also creates a couple more.  When referring to the screws, they are not easy to insert or remove when the need arises. This can result in pretty scratched up boats.  Once the screws are sufficiently worn out they are especially difficult to remove.  This isn't an issue if you have enough money to buy multiple pairs of wading boots that can be used in different situations. My experiences with sole screws left me thinking that there had to be a better way. I have toyed around with the idea of getting some crampons for some time now, so when the opportunity to try some was presented I was pretty excited.

Gear Review: Hillsound Freesteps6 Crampons

I love when gear is simple and effective. The Hillsound Freesteps6 Crampons are just that. They are made of tough stainless steel spikes and chains that are held to the soles your boots by a resilient rubber collar. The simplicity is awesome. Just slide the front part of the crampon over the front of your boot and pull the back upward.  They are a pretty snug fit, and can need a little coercion to get on, but it's no deal breaker.  Initially I was a bit annoyed with the snugness, but quickly realized how important a good fit was. Throughout the year  I scrambled over boulders, rocks, hillsides, and dead fall, all of which was made easier with the Fressteps6 on. And they never slipped around on my feet, not even once. 

I still wear felt boots, but toward the end of summer even the felt is no match for the slime coating many riverbeds. These crampons have given me much more confidence, especially when navigating the faster sections of snotty bottomed rivers.  The Hillsound Freesteps6 Crampons are available at quite a few online stores, most of which sell them for around $40. The versatility they provide make the purchase very much worth it too.

An added (but not intended I'm sure) bonus to these crampons is they have protected my wader boots from wear and tear on the sides.  Everyone has "hotspots" on their wader boots that wear out faster than the rest of the boot.  For me this is usually on the sides, though this doesn't seem to be the most common spot for most guys I know.  I think I have a tendency to rub the sides on rocks more than other guys.  This must be an odd result of the the way I walk I suppose.  Either way, these crampons have added an unintended protection that has improved the longevity of my boots. (I usually get one season out of a pair and these are going strong.) This added bonus may not apply to everyone, but I thought it worth mentioning.

I'm just crampon this rainbow's style.

While there are mostly pros to these crampons, there are a couple cons that need mentioning, and these are not exclusive to crampons. One drawback about any kind of metal traction system is that they make far more noise when getting around the river.  They have a tendency to grind on stone. This can result in spooked fish.  When I want to put the sneak on and am worried about scaring fish, I just slip them off and hang them from my pack with a carabiner. That is one reason I love these crampons. 

One other drawback about metal traction systems in general is that the angler has to be careful about stepping on their fly line because the metal can severe or damage the line. Think it's painful losing a fly or leader, try losing half your fly line. Yikes.

I'm pretty stoked that these are so simple and so versatile and that I can use them this coming winter too.  Between wading rivers and traversing a frozen lake to ice fish, the Freesteps6 crampons are a good investment and tool to add to your angling arsenal.  Because they are so awesome Living Fly Legacy will be doing a giveaway for a free pair beginning next week. The details will be announced then.


The reviews at Living Fly Legacy are my honest opinion. Often when offered to give a review, if the assessment of the product is more negative than positive, it is not published and the review is kept private between the provider of the product and myself. Living Fly Legacy is not sponsored by or associated with any of the stated companies and is accepting no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review. My independent status may change in the future, but as of the date of this publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Another Yellowstone Adventure

Caution: There are a lot of pictures in this post, more so than writing. So, if you came for rapier wit and blossoming prose you may be disappointed...

Part of me misses those lazy days of summer, where my young mind strained to think of activities to fight the boredom. I remember telling my mother "I'm sooooo bored." She would quickly respond with a generous list of chores and productive activities.  I eventually learned not to ask. 

Now I find myself on the parenting end of that situation and I know firsthand the exasperation such a comment can induce in a busy adult. If there were one word to summer-ize this time of year, it would be "insanity." The beautiful weather and surrounding country demand to be enjoyed. It is easy to lose sleep.  Fish, hike, camp, cook, date, harvest, play, serve, exercise, spend time with family, travel, and swim are only a handful of the things we try to fit into our summers. There is simply not enough time to enjoy all that this time of year has to offer and as an adult all this leisure time has to be squeezed in between work and other responsibilities. When you have limited time it can be tough choosing among so many satisfying options.  If I had a choice I still would take the pronounced four seasons over a mild weather that lasts all year, despite the frantic planning the summer induces. The 2-3 months of summer now feel like a few weeks; much shorter than it used to feel. But I think the lessened time leads to a greater enjoyment and satisfaction. Having so many demands on my time makes me appreciate more, savor more, and even anticipate more the times I get to break away.


More than once I considered cancelling our plans to escape and hike into 7 Mile Hole for a day.  Things were feeling crazy and I could tell Bita was pretty stressed out. I'm not sure how it is for other parents but there always seems to be a certain degree of anxiety that accompanies the thought of leaving our kids for more than a few hours.  The plan was to head up to a campground outside the park, right after I got off of work. Not knowing when I would be off could have meant leaving town around 9pm, which seemed a bit late to be heading out on a camping trip.

Amazingly I made it home by 5pm, but with my uncanny ability to control time (read: my horrific inability to be on time for most things) we made it out the door and through the grocery store around 9pm. Honestly I didn't mind leaving so late in the day. I find driving at night relaxing, especially after a long day at work. We decided to camp a bit farther from the park than most people would, so we could avoid a full campground, and we pulled into the site around 11pm. We quickly set up in the dark and then enjoyed the stars for a bit before settling in for the night. I stayed up a bit longer than the others to snap some photos of the beautiful night sky.

The initial plan, at least what I had in my mind, was to get up very early, eat on the go, and be at the trailhead as the sun was coming up.  At least, that was what the angler in me wanted to do. Bita and I were the only two who were going to be fishing, and she is not nearly as driven by the idea of fishing as I am, so I decided to take it easy for the sake of my three companions. We awoke to the wonderful sounds of nature, and a soft glow produced by the rising sun and morning mist. After packing up the tents we cooked up a delicious premixed omelet and then hit the road. 

Mary just saying good morning

As I enjoyed the beautiful scenery the other three whipped up our lunches for the days hike, during which Nik and I had a pretty amusing argument as to whether it was Bobby Mcferrin or Bob Marley who sang "Don't Worry, Be Happy."  It turns out both Nik and I were right. For the record I was rooting for the former artist.

After fighting hordes of tourists and their leisurely traffic, we made it to the trailhead. We geared up quickly and began the 5-ish mile hike into this small corner of paradise.  The first 3.5 miles provide a mellow meander along the rim of the canyon.  It makes for some stunning scenery. The last 1.5 miles you drop roughly 1200' to the base of the canyon. That is the most intense part of the hike and a bit of a journey coming back out.

The trail ends by running perpendicular into the Yellowstone River, and presents the hiker with crystal clear water surrounded by colorful canyon walls. Once at the end we rested in the shade, cooled our feet off in the river, and munched on some food. As we sat there the beautiful water was just too tempting and I had to rig up.

We made it

Bita cooling her feet after the hike in

I fished the whole time we were down there and Bita joined me just about an hour into the fishing. She did great once she got the hang of casting the short distances.  Sometimes it's hard to cast shorter than it is to cast longer. Once she got the hang of things again she began picking up fish without any help from me.  I loved watching her enjoy the takes and fighting fish.  She's a trooper to not only put up with my fishing, but to try and find some joy in it herself when it wouldn't be her first choice of recreational options.

One of the doubles of the day

Fish-Flopping like a BOOOSSSSS

The fishing was not as good as it had been on the last trip. The water was a full foot lower than when I was there last, and even then I was told it was low. Despite the circumstances, the fishing was fantastic. We threw mostly chubbies to mimic both golden and regular stones. Watching fish come up from the depths through the clear/greenish water, to slowly sip a large foam dryfly is a hoot. I also threw a small sculpin pattern that picked up fish even faster, but eventually went back to the dry for the enjoyable takes.

Bita did a bit of bank dancing...

If you look closely you can see the rising fish, just below the fly.

The love of my life

After fishing for a few hours the clouds started rolling in and the sky began to dim.  We thought it wise to hit the trail. A little over halfway out we spotted a small blackbear on the path.  We had our bearspray safety's off and passed cautiously, making plenty of noise. It moved over to let us pass and then proceeded to slowly follow us about 15 yards away, with a curious air, stopping here and there to look for bugs in the decaying trees.  The dusky light made it difficult to get a clear picture. It was almost pitch black as we were nearing the last leg of the hike out.  We couldn't have timed it better.

We quickly threw our gear in the van and headed to a nearby lodge for some supper.  After enjoying some hearty burgers we hit the road, once again in the darkness of night, headed home to our showers and comfy beds.

As I crawled into bed about 2am, sore, stiff, and dead tired I thought to myself how great it had been to get out and I felt a bit bad for all the people who don't take the time or make the effort to see such beautiful places.  I thought about how grateful I was to have spent the time there with my wonderful wife, her sister and her sister's husband. As I began drifting into sleep I thought about what a whirlwind trip it had been and how I would do it again in a heartbeat. Now I just need to find some more time. As busy and hectic as things get, I just can't help it, I love this insanity we call summer.