Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Rule of Three

To the best of our knowledge, this world functions on a basis of laws. Or, at least that is how we have come to classify the naturally occurring events. These laws fascinate me. The law of conservation of mass, the laws of motion, and the law of conservation of energy are a handful that readily come to mind. Their implications produce a fun little game I like to play with myself. I am always, often unconsciously, looking for things that act the way they do as a direct result of one of these laws.

For example, think about the law of the conservation of energy and an angler's cast. Ultimately what places the fly on the very end of the line at that far distance is a direct result of the energy from the sun. I'll bet you have never thought of your casts as a result of solar energy. The sun heats the earth, and transfers energy into plants. The plants convert that energy into a form that can be consumed by the plant. The plant is eaten by animals, carrying that same energy into the animal, and we get the energy by either eating the plant or another animal that ate the plant. That energy is then used by our bodies, allowing our hearts to beat, blood to flow, and muscles to move. Our magnificent creation of a body then takes that same energy, which originally came from the sun, and thrusts a flexible, whip-like rod backward and forward in the air, allowing the energy to transfer from our arm to our wrist, then down to the tip of the rod, and into the line, which pulls the fly along, eventually placing it delicately (or not so for streamer chuckers) on the water. Multiple laws could be referred to in the whole process, and I find the connections fascinating. Ain't no harm in nerding out.

Seeking Summer Solitude

Laws are much easier to observe in the physical world. The thing is, there are laws that concern people, but with the malleable nature of humanity, the laws are much harder to see and prove. So much so that the sciences that surround these studies are often referred to as soft or pseudo-sciences.

In a nutshell, it's hard to know our influence on other people, or theirs on us. These kinds of things require long-term studies, which are impractical, unwieldy, and often lack enough control to be consistently accurate. But, we can make some assumptions, form some opinions, and identify some overall trends, which can be just as interesting to explore. Sometimes it is enough to be able to see or sense a thing, but not be able to explain it.

The Rule of Three

A good friend of mine introduced me to this idea, and through my little personal game of looking for validation of laws, I have come to believe it as an accurate assessment. I guess I would even go so far as to call it the law of three. It is that, for every person you show a fishing location to, they will show it to at least three others. They may not spread it at first, but by and by it will be spread. I have to interject here, that this rule applies to those who are actively pursuing angling, not really those who go once or twice a year. The implication is that exponential growth will eventually follow. The real question is, is this a bad thing? I found myself asking this question as I stood in the river, fishing for trout in a run alongside 10 other anglers, who had all walked up while I was already fishing the run. I marveled for a moment, that I was in Idaho, trout fishing, not steelhead fishing, and in moments it had become a "combat fishing" scenario. I casted for a bit longer, and then called it a day.

There is no doubt about it. Social media has changed the game. Many people's definition of exploring new water is scouring the internet for new pictures and information of areas that are already known to other anglers. Pictures motivate and give little clues. It is much less of an independent boots-on-the-ground endeavor. It makes me somewhat sad to see, but just because it is not my approach does not mean it is wrong, or that I have not or will not benefit from the process. I have found my fair share of help from google earth, and I have some pretty sharp friends who do quite well at the game. The internet tools we have are powerful, and not altogether bad. What does bother me is the bartering I occasionally see happening. The "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" approach. I consider myself a pretty nice guy, who is pretty slow to anger, but this approach gets under my skin pretty quick, especially when it involves waters that I care about, and frequent. I struggle to find balance with these issues. I can't even say that the "bartering" is a wrong way to go about it. I just don't personally like it because of my own scarcity mentality. Who gets to be in the "circle of trust" and who should be left out? How many people fishing an area is too much? If I had my druthers, I would never see another angler fishing the water I have chosen to fish in any given outing. I like my solitude. Its one reason I have become a much more nocturnal angler. But, even that is losing its solitude. In many ways I blame myself.

Social media has created a new baseline. It is taking a lot of the "blood, sweat, and tears" out of the exploration, and making it more of a "pay to play" endeavor. My hands are not clean in the process, as I have learned, and it has led me to seriously reconsider my involvement on social media as of late. I still hold to the idea, as I have mentioned in previous posts, that many of the problems with social media are a symptom of individuals' lack of respect. It's the same argument that surrounds gun control issues. People kill people, regardless of the guns, but a gun can certainly make the process easier. People ruin the solitude and quality of a location, but social media certainly makes it easier. There will always be those who use social media because they love to fish, and would go on happily fishing even without cameras and Instagram posts. But, I wonder who wouldn't be seen on the river if there were no cameras. Think about that one for a moment, it goes more than one way.

Social media speeds the process presented by the rule of three, but the rule really comes into play with in-person interactions. When a person is personally escorted to a location, shown specifically where to fish, is given effective tools to do so, and is then shown how to, they have now been given a gift. It is a gift born of someone else's exploration and effort. The thing is, everybody has friends, or at least acquaintances with similar interests, and we cannot, or will not, always be fishing with the same people. So don't be surprised when you run into other people fishing your regular haunts, and find that you have a common friend, because, well, the rule of three. It's just as much of a law as any other.

This brings up questions: Do we not share? Is social media more of a problem than a benefit? If someone chooses to share a location with someone, how do they do it responsibly and respectfully? Is it all just a river etiquette thing? Will the rise in pressure eventually die away? Is less more, or is more less? What do you get out of fly fishing versus what someone else might get out of it? Is one wrong while the other is right? In the end, if the rule holds true, I just might see you on the river. Who knows, maybe I already have.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gear Review: Umpqua Tongass 1800 Waterproof Backpack

Getting lost in the elements is what fishing is all about. There's something so soothing about standing in the middle of a river, rain pouring down, rod in hand, soaked on the outside, but warm and dry on the inside. In those instances I feel like less of a spectator in the symphony of creation, and more like I am a part of it. This is reality entertainment as it should be; how it was meant to be.

What many of my friends and family struggle to understand is how being amidst the elements when they are at their worst is any fun. The secret is that it can be done, while still being comfortable, safe, and able to protect your equipment. It just takes the right gear.

Gear Review: Umpqua Tongass 1800 Waterproof Backpack

Not only do I have a great passion for being outdoors among my finely scaled friends, I also love capturing the beauty and adventure on camera. For the longest time I used a basic, waterproof, point-and-shoot Pentax Optio camera. I would occasionally take out my DSLR, but it made me pretty nervous having it on the water. Eventually, I upgraded to a nicer Nikon DSLR and became even more worried that it would go into the drink if I took it on wading adventures. I still took it out, even having a couple gut-puckering close calls, but never without a nagging fear at the back of my mind. Then the Umpqua Tongass 1800 waterproof backpack came into my life and that all changed.

Umpqua is a rock solid company that was established in 1972. Their initial mission was to create high-quality flies, and make them available to a wide audience. They were largely responsible for the fly production and sales model that many reputable companies follow today. Quality was and is their call, and in an effort to remain true to that creed they have kept their focus, keeping to the flies of fly fishing, and those products that are directly related. That means leaders, fly tying materials, hooks, bags to hold all those awesome flies, and some other pertinent accessories. What they do, they do well.

Not sure who was wetter.

Over the past eight months I have had the opportunity to put the Tongass 1800 through the paces. It is a relatively simple backpack, but it is tough, and has given me a peace of mind I didn't realize I was missing until I had it.

The Good

It is simple. The pack is composed of two dry bags, both with roll-tops that seal air/water tight. There is one small packet/pocket that can be removed from the inside of the larger bag, but beyond that there is nothing to organize the contents beyond what is placed in the bag to do so. Some people view this as a drawback, and I have to admit that I wondered if it would be for myself in the beginning. However, the more I used the bag, the more I realized it didn't bother me. In fact, I found myself trying to simplify more, and take less.

The size of the bag doesn't require me to take less; quite the opposite is true, but simplifying just makes it easier to find things and saves my back weight-wise. I am able to place a coat, boat box, some food, a large Ziploc with miscellaneous accessories, and my DSLR in the larger dry bag with ease. I often place all my smaller fly boxes in the smaller dry bag.

When I bring more than I probably should have, which is most outings (I hate being unprepared to a fault) the pack has a comfortably padded waist belt to help even the weight.

One nice feature about the pack is that it floats. This is a great feature for two reasons. First, if it falls out of the boat, it can be retrieved without scuba-gear and a miracle. The second reason, and one I found out unintentionally, is that is can serve as a life preserver. I found this out because one trip I had the belt on and tried to wade into some water that was up to the top of my waders. The water was slow and I wasn't swept away, but quickly felt the flotation from the pack. After that I made sure to un-clip the waist belt when wading deep water. This flotation feature could very well save a person's life if necessary.

There are plenty of tabs to clip carabiners or zingers to. Also, the same clips that hold the dry bags closed can serve as places to secure extra rod cases or even an extra jacket in a pinch. There are also drink/rod case holders on both sides of the pack. For those who find themselves wading flats, away from trees and other potential rod breaking items, they can utilize the reel pockets in the waist belt. These pockets are meant to help an angler carry multiple rods at once, though to be honest I never used them because I was too worried about my rods getting beat up.

Among the advantages the Tongass 1800 has, I have to say my favorite is the fact that it is truly waterproof. There are no "water-proofed" zippers to stress over. I love that I can place my DSLR in it and wade wherever I want, whenever I want, regardless of the elements. I cannot state how much I value this single certainty.

I often find myself fishing solo, which makes it trickier to photograph a nice fish. This pack has made the process much easier, because it quickly turns into a flat surface/tripod to place the camera on, and I can set it right in the water at the rivers edge. This allows me to keep the fish in deep enough water to keep it comfortably safe until it is time to lift for the actual snap.

The Bad

I love this pack, but with most things in life, if given the opportunity we would likely want to tweak some small things, and this wouldn't be an honest review if I didn't mention some things I would change, given the opportunity. The following are a few things to take into consideration when deciding if this pack is for you, though I do not consider them deal-breakers for myself.

The pack's simplicity is one thing that may deter an angler. It only has two main compartments, which requires the user to do some self organization. Ditty/stuff sacks would be a great addition for someone considering this style of backpack.

The roll-top system takes getting used to for those who are used to traditional zippers, and can be a bit tricky to access when on the water. For me, this usually means I plan ahead and throw the main flies into one smaller box I can carry in my waders or wading jacket.

The elastic water bottle sleeves on the sides are small. They will not fit a traditional Nalgene bottle, but require a smaller profiled water bottle. I love my Nalgenes, so I had to find another type that would fit.

The clips that are used to close the dry bags are easy to get mixed up when closing the bags if one is not already closed. This is easily fixed by putting some matching paint on the clips that go together.

I would prefer, for my personal situation, to have zipper pouches on the waist belt, rather than the reel-holding system, but this is a minor issue.

The pack is sitting in the water, with the camera on it taking this picture.

Another backpack tripod shot from back in October.

Despite the things I would change if I were designing the bag personally, the pros definitely outweigh the cons, and the learning curve and extra planning/organizing is worth the peace of mind I get with this pack. I would highly recommend the investment for those looking to protect their belongings while bushwhacking and wading. No more putting cameras in giant Ziploc's, and opening fly boxes to drain and dry after wading in deep water. As we enter the winter months here in Idaho, snow will also become a large factor, and I look forward to having a high-quality waterproof pack from a solid company that stands behind their products. These guys know what it's like to get in there with the elements.

The Umpqua Tongass 1800 Waterproof Backpack is $229 at most retailers. Umpqua has other waterproof options for those needing more or less space than this pack offers as well.


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.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

An Anglers Evolution

"Information is not knowledge. 
The only source of knowledge is experience."   
-Author Unknown (though commonly attributed to Albert Einstein)

The internet never forgets. We cannot put something on the web without creating some kind of digital footprint. Even deleted material may not really be gone. Blogs are not immune to the idea. This means that a simple internet search can drum up a very old post. With a blog like this, one of the biggest problems is that an old post shows very little about the progression of the angler. To be quite honest, I get bored doing things the same way for very long. I can't even tie more than two of the same exact fly in one sitting. With the impulse for growth and creativity I really have to fight the temptation to edit older posts to reflect my current views. I rarely do it, and I think it is important to avoid doing so. There are a few reasons I leave the old posts alone. Ultimately, this is a personal blog, a journal of sorts, and each post tells me far more about myself than most people care to give any thought to. Reading back through past posts, some make me smile, some make me reconsider a technique, some cause me to think of something new, and some cause me to cringe a bit in embarrassment. It's a labor of love... for the sport, for creativity, and for connection. And, it is always evolving, just like my views, my techniques, and my priorities.

No angler is immune to the evolution, as long as they keep with the sport. We all meander through different stages (some interesting ideas on the stages of angling here, here, and here too) and grow through the process. Personally, I feel my techniques are often changing (some more drastic than others), my theories on trout behavior are not bound, and my goals are anything but static. What worries me, is that those who stop by this little corner of the web may not take the time to understand what they are seeing, but rather take a single page for the whole of who it represents. Just because I once fished a certain way does not mean I still do. Maybe the idea shouldn't matter, but for some reason, I feel it does. Don't we all want to be able to change? To have the freedom to do so? Sometimes it is hard, because the internet (and sometimes people) never forget. (This is not directed at a person, just a general sentiment and idea.) If there's a deeper meaning to this, that is up to the reader, but one thing I do know, I am not the same angler I was last year. And I sure hope I'm not the same in another year. I hope to be better. A better person. A better caster. A better father. A better husband. And a better friend. An anglers evolution matters, and there's a whole lot more to an angler than fish. I'm grateful for new friends, and old. I'm grateful for the good times, and those that are yet to come. I'm grateful I can look back on bad experiences and say that most have been turned into positive relationships and situations.

Will I still be mousing at night in a couple years? Who knows. Will I be fishing more or less? Who knows. One thing is for certain though, I will still be fishing, things will be different, and that's okay.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tips: Feed The Mend

Water is filled with power. Immense potential just waiting to get the kinetic party started. To be frank, it scares me. It always has, despite my love of being around it, and has created a healthy respect. Sometimes the power is hard to see, especially on calm waters. But, try forcing that water through unyielding canyon walls or down into cascading craggy pockets. The frothing foam begins to resemble the seething slobber of an angry pitbull.

Physics makes a better friend than enemy. We fishermen deal with physics on a regular basis, even if we aren't aware of it. Forces and energy are always at work, heeded or not. Setting the hook too abruptly can rip the hook from a fish's mouth. Not setting hard enough won't transfer enough force to drive the hook into place. Pulling too hard can break tippets, bend hooks, and even snap rods. Wading upriver against the force of the water is a chore, if not impossible in some situations. Learning to befriend and work with the physics at work is a great way to become a better angler. Understanding the mechanics of casting, setting the hook, and using the rod to fight the fish will result in saved gear and more fish landed.

So much of fly fishing is conceptualization. Often artists picture an image in their mind before even taking a single brush stroke. On top of that, learning to use their brushes allows them to better bring their mental creations into existence.

Casting, mending, setting the hook, and fighting fish are only few aspects of our art, but visualizing the underlying mechanics and then learning to work with them adds to the result and beauty of the whole experience.

It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. If that is the case, there are a lot of insane fishermen out there. The problem is, we learn by trial and error. Unfortunately, it is easy to develop a "working" technique that does enough to catch some fish, which causes us to become complacent and unwilling to stretch. It always comes back to the 80/20 (80% of the fish are caught by 20% of the anglers).  The real satisfaction comes when we work for it, and that means practice and trying to understand the underlying theory. This doesn't mean we have to go fishing all the time. It just means that we explore and improve in the time we have. Who knows, you might find yourself catching more and better fish because of it.


Feed the Mend
Casting is hungry work. What better way to satiate that hunger than to feed the mend. Mending is part of the casting process, often done just after the initial cast, but other times done simultaneously. The idea is to keep the fly in the optimal zone as long as possible once the cast places it there. Mending prolongs the presentation. It takes practice and can be quite frustrating at times. Different lines and rods mend differently. Wind or fast moving water can add to the struggle.

There may be a more technical or regularly used term for this tip, but since I learned the principle through experience I will refer to it as "feeding the mend." This applies to the mend that is done post initial cast.

Picture yourself having just made a diagonal cast upstream to begin the drift. A second after the current grabs the line and begins hustling it down river is when most guys throw in a first mend. Once the line is straight in front of the angler or just a bit downriver from him is when the second mend is often placed. In both instances, a common problem we run into is that by mending the fly/indicator/line is pulled from it's prime landing spot. So how to fix this? Feed the mend.

It's a simple trick really, and maybe most people do it already, but I was slow to catch on. The idea is that as the line is pulled up and rolled over for the mend, you let some additional line out. It has to happen as the mend is occurring though, mid-mend if you will.  This will allow the mend to occur by taking line from you, rather than pulling the fly-tipped end back and out of the zone.  I usually let my line go as I mend so it can take as much as it needs.  The extra line you let out can quickly be recovered as the drift continues, allowing you to retain your hook-setablity.  Applying this simple little tip will let your nymph or dry or even swung streamer to stay in place far longer, which will result in more hookups. It takes practice, but is well worth the effort. Give it a try.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It's easy to forget what it was like

The more time we spend dabbling in any given interest the more our interests shift. It's easy to forget our humble beginnings as our focus moves toward specializations. All sportsmen move through stages, though there are different interpretations on what these stages actually involve.  One thing most commentators agree on is that the first stages surround a simple idea of success. For an angler this means catching a fish, any size or species. The what and how don't matter all that much, as long as something is being caught. When young, I think most of our childhood is spent in the simple catching stages. Kids could care less about what is caught, just that there is catching going on. In fact I have come to believe that kids prefer catching multiple manageable-sized fish over many big ones. Too big of a fish and it turns into work.

"Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. 
But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young...." 
Albus Dumbledore (OP37)

"The world will never starve from want of wonders, but only want of wonder." 
-G.K. Chesterton

As my children grow I find myself being reminded of the simple reality that joy is a result of gratitude, accompanied by a strong sense of discovery and creation. It really does not require much for a child to be happy. Love, attention, and something wholesome to do go a long way in a child's world. A handful of trout only help.


Will and I spent the day putting riverrock under foot, chatting about the things we saw in between fishing holes. He went on and on about some obsidian scattered on the riverbank, asking all sorts of questions I had no answer to. He was assured when I convinced him that we could look up the answers at a later time.

His sense of wonder and faith in the things around him and his own abilities often causes me to question what exactly smothers those qualities out of adults. He kept asking to cast in places I was fairly certain there would be no fish, or were too difficult for him to manage a snag-free drift.  Maybe we just get used to people telling us "no, it won't work there," "there's no fish in that spot," or "you'll only get snagged if you cast there."

As the day wore on we moved around and continued to cover the water. Will had made a bunch of casts in one often productive run, missing one good take, and not hooking anything. He took a short break to warm up his hands and rest. I took the opportunity to cast some, hooking a couple fish. I think seeing a couple fish caught increased Will's desire to fish enough to overcome his desire for warm hands. After a couple minutes he picked up his rod and wandered back to the waters edge.  I prepared to stop fishing and begin helping him once more but he simply said "Dad, I'm just gonna cast over here." Inside I thought, "he probably won't catch anything right there, but it probably won't hurt anything." Not even a minute later he began shouting, and I turned around to see a very bent rod and Will in the thick of battle. It was a brute trout that showed no mercy for his youthful adversary. I quickly hurried over to help, preparing the net, feeling like Christmas had just come. The fish peeled line off the reel. After a great tussle, Will finally managed to pull the trout shallow enough for me to scoop it into the net.

Will was nothing but smiles, and I'm sure my face was a mirror image. His faith paid off, despite my experience-induced doubt. This is becoming a recurring theme on our outings. The effect of his raw faith and persistent effort produces fish where they, as viewed by an experienced mind, should not be.

Some people choose not to have children. I don't blame them. They are work. They eliminate options. They are not always fun. They break things. They cost money. They cause worry and anxiety. BUT. They give you someone to serve. They make you love. They help you have faith. They bring you true and lasting joy. They become your lasting friends. And, they help you remember the hope and wonder you once had in the world, and they help you have it again.