I love holidays. The time off work is a major factor here but when looking at it, the true meaning behind the holiday is often one worth taking note of—I mean that is why the day is designated a holiday, something important must of happened right? Lets search our annual calendar for a recent example.
Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday trailing only the mischievous Halloween. It is hard to top an excuse for being glutinous at the result of a genocide but hey, I’m an American so I will not deny a reason to celebrate. What I try and take away from this long weekend are the values I am told originally ignited the holiday—giving thanks.
At times, we forget to look upon certain aspects of our life as luxuries and unfortunately we take things for granted. Myself included, I am not nearly as appreciative of the life I live as I should be. After another incredible weekend on the water, I would like to take a moment to reflect on some of the overlooked things that I am appreciative of.
I am thankful for having friends to create traditions with. My life is constantly evolving but having some of my best friends who also are infatuated with this incredible sport helps keep me on the water and planning these adventurous trips. The snowball effect quickly rolls. One develops relationships and learns from others as they continue to immense themselves into this lifestyle. So much of fly fishing is learned during time off the water. Beginning to tie flies, studying maps, and creating relationships with other fishermen all play an important role in maturing as an angler. One cannot help but express gratitude for the relationships developed through this sport and the knowledge taken away from them.
Next on my laundry list, I am thankful I was born a fisherman. I’ve always been wary of the expression, “you aren’t born a politic, you become one.” Well politics suck. Not trying to be a communist or anything but nurture does have some influence over nature. I am convinced I was born a fisherman and I can never express how thankful I am for this. There is never a doubt in my mind when it comes to priorities and I for one stand behind my decisions.
On a more relevant note, I am thankful for a recent Thanksgiving trip and the elusive double grand slam that it brought. This is not a turkey mixed with a ham and covered with teriyaki flavored fortune cookies. This is catching a brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and cutbow as well as sticking them on dry flies, nymphs, and streamers. That, my appreciative friends, is worthy of a moment of silence.
Although I may not think this when driving north on highway 25, people are genuinely good. Putting situational complexities asides, we should all be able to reflect on different experiences and know it is appropriate to give thanks when gratitude is due.
The Cowboy state and neighbor to my north was rather foreign to me until last year. I had countless Gold Medal streams within a couple hours drive of Denver, why would I leave those to explore someplace new? Using the never blind
hindsight, I now have realized that an annual fishing license in Wyoming could be priced at 1.5 kidneys and I would still pay it. Simply put, the rivers are big, the trout are big, and you can use big flies. I hate to break it to you Texas but everything is actually bigger in Wyoming.
I’ll never forget my first trip up there. It served as me getting out of my fly fishing comfort zone, which, by definition is extremely uncomfortable. Fishing from a boat in a river that never flows less than 500 cfs has a very different approach than sight fishing a thin tailwater. Rowing is the obvious variable here and the first challenge one must overcome. The actual act of rowing is not that difficult. Trying to set up a fisherman while on the “sticks” is a whole new ball game and surprisingly rewarding as you work with a buddy to catch the elusive alligator. As my friends and I continue to learn the waters of our country's least populous state, I cannot help but smile as each trip seems to get better and better. DTF—capable of invading and occupying Wyoming. Come to think of it, I have no idea why Wyomians hate “Greenies”.
Enjoy the photos below, the goods ones were snapped by my buddy Nate Paradiso.
By now you should be familiar with the routine. I complain about being too busy to fish, you scan over the opening paragraph, and then skip down to the pictures. I fear change so let’s just stick to that. I’ve always been a believer in the concept of a picture being worth a thousand words. If that is the case, then a picture of a cute puppy is worth at least a book and a half. And that’s a real thick book with lots of big words. So grab your reading glasses, a cup of warm tea, and get ready for a future classic.
I hope you saved up because it is going to get expensive. These fish live in far away places…
My friend Greg Hocevar, who also is from the metropolis known as Novelty Ohio, recently took a fishing trip to the Smoky Mountains. Greg was nice enough to document his trip below and share with all of us the beauty offered in America's most visited national park. Take it away Greg!
"There is a special place in my heart when it comes to small mountain streams…I caught my first trout on a fly rod on Piney Creek in Colorado years ago, and I have been infatuated with that type of water ever since. Small streams choked with brush and cover give way to willing little fish with amazing colors if the cast is right. Then there is the solitude…Those who are willing to work for it will be able to find it even if it means you’re chasing something that might not pan out to what you had hoped for. So when it came time for a friend and I to choose our next annual National Park trip, Great Smoky Mountains National Park seemed to be the obvious choice. I wasn't going after the wild rainbows and browns in the park, but instead the native brookies that have resided there for centuries. Don't get me wrong, sometimes we can't be picky with the types of fish we are after, especially after traveling some distance to get there, but for this trip everything worked out as planned.
Our first day found us setting up camp in Elkmont Campground, right on the banks of the Little River which is full of wild rainbows and browns. Eager to get in the water, we set up as quickly as we could and set off with only a few hours of daylight left. First stop…Clingman's Dome. We knew it was going to be raining the next day and we at least wanted to get a good view of what was behind the naming of the park. I know, tourist stuff before fishing?! "When in Rome" I guess! After a couple photos, we were in the car on the way back down the mountain with an hour of light left to fish. We stopped at a trib of the Middle Prong of the Little River and within the first couple casts I brought to hand what I had traveled for. With the light fading, and only a few hundred yards of stream fished, it was time to head back to camp to recount the day and plan for the next.
Saturday morning we woke up to a light drizzle, which was enough for us to hurry through breakfast and get to the river before it got any worse…Well, a mile and a half up the Little River Trail, the deluge started. The river was holding and we fished for nearly 2 hours, albeit half-heartedly. Got into a few wild rainbows but nothing to write home about as I was stubbornly trying to catch fish on dries, and nothing more. At around 11, we called it a day and were completely soaked, rain gear and all. With the rest of the day ahead, tourist stuff again…Cade’s Cove & Sugarlands Visitor Center. By the time it stopped raining at 5pm, the rivers were all blown out, leaving us wondering if we were even going to be able to fish on Sunday.
As Sunday rolled around, clear skies and mild temps met us as we rolled out of our tents. Another hurried breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee and we were on the road again to a small creek northeastern side of the park. Well, we were in luck and everything cooperated, except for the rocks being as slippery as snot on a hardwood floor…took a swim in the little creek 3 times and ended up with a welt on my shin the size of a grapefruit. It’s as if God said “Hey guys, you’re gonna catch fish since you made it this far, but I’m gonna not let you off that easily.” We definitely had to work for it this time hiking 3 miles and 1200 feet up, all in anticipation of the possibility of it being fantastic fishing. Well, long story short, it was!
Monday came and we had half a day to try our luck in the morning, back up the Little River Trail. Better results than Saturday and in a much shorter period of time!
As we left, I couldn’t help but think that we only hit a small fraction of the over 800 miles of fishable waters in the park; I’ll be back."
The following are photos that I didn’t get around to posting this summer. The first set are from a weekend trip into the James Peak Wilderness with Cooper and my buddy Nate Paradiso. Check out Nate’s photography site, Paradisopics
to see some of his work. I promise you wont be disappointed. Next, there are a mixture of photos from 2 of our favorite spots, Basalt and Deckers.
The last few shots are from this fall’s Casting for Recovery retreat. Always a favorite of mine, this year was no different as Micki and I had an awesome time together. She was a natural and consistently hooking up all day. I cannot say enough good things about this meaningful event. For more information check out the CFR site
This past year there has been something missing from my life. Not a savings account, a girlfriend, health insurance or a 401K, but a dog.* I have always wanted a little partner in crime but out of fairness to the dog, promised I would wait until I moved into a house with a yard and the time was right
. 2 months after the move, the time had come. I found a litter of rescue pup’s and one of them was mine! Only problem is, what do you do when you have a trip to the Reef planned the same week you get the puppy? Obviously you bring the pup with you. An important side note—I am determined this dog is going to be a boss. It’s a sink or swim world these days and that is how my new best friend Rio was going to have to learn to live.
To the Reef we went! Driving north along the flooded Front Range was a horrifying sight. Pictures do not express the magnitude of the damage. I could only describe the Big Thompson River as I would imagine the Mississippi Delta looked flowing into the Gulf. For more information on how you can help please check out the following LINK
The 4 ½ hour drive took almost 7 but we arrived safely with a sense of anticipation that I was not used to feeling the night before fishing. I am not going to lie, I may have been slightly doubting myself as I slowly grew wary about bringing Rio on the boat with us. The next day however, my worries were put to rest. Rio was an angel and passed her DTF try out with flying colors. Below are the pictures documenting our incredible weekend with the new Queen of the River.
* I am sill 1 of 5.
Rett Syndrome is a nervous system disorder that leads to developmental issues in young girls. The disorder normally becomes apparent at 6 months affecting verbal and motor skills along with a deceleration of growth. Girls with Rett Syndrome often need help with daily activities and are forced to live with a high likelihood of seizures. Unlike many diseases, doctors have discovered the exact gene responsible for Rett Syndrome meaning a cure is on the horizon.
5 years ago Bill Farnum and Jim Copeland created Casting 4 a Cure, an event inspired by two passions—fly fishing and the drive for a cure. It originally was a weekend fishing trip for friends who would give donations in return for the perfectly planned weekend adventure. As word about the event spread, it quickly grew as more wanted to get involved. The non-profit is now an organization that has raised over $300,000 for Rett Syndrome research. An event that has earned support from the following sponsors:Fishpond
, Costa del Mar
, World Cast Anglers
, Howler Brothers
, Big Agnes
, Pabst Blue Ribbon
, Dry Fly Distillery
, and Patagonia
. The video below provides more information on the Casting 4 A Cure event. To get involved or learn more about this disorder, check out the Casting 4 a Cure website
Fishpond was one of the first to sponsor the incredible event and this year, we were fortunate enough to shut down the office and make the trek to Victor Idaho for the festivities. Not only did we help raise enough money to fund the first ever clinical trial on Rett Syndrome, we were able to fish along the way. Rivaling the fishing experience was the bonding and camaraderie established with the many other attendees of this unique gathering. The fly shop World Cast Anglers
provided 32 guides and drift boats. Will Kurtz and I were lucky to be paired with his childhood friend and World Cast guide Brian Johnson. Brian quickly had us fishing these big rivers and showed us an awesome time. Below are some pictures from water, including a series showing the descent down the infamous Teton Slide
, a 1,000 ft drop with a raft and a rope.
Caught up in the catching, recently I have been feeling that some people are forgetting the simple fact that fishing is about having fun. Hate is a word I never thought I would associate with fly fishing. Remember those younger days when you couldn’t fall asleep the night before fishing? Then imagine trying to explain to that 12 year old version of you that some people take the time out of their presumed busy lives to try and insult or put you down, over fish.
Things obviously get competitive on the river—not with your friends but with other people. Doing the fast walk to the river to beat that ass hole who showed up in the parking lot at the same time you did. But that is something you grow to expect. Winner’s adjust, right? And the statement with even more validity here—hater’s gonna hate.
I understand that the internet has lead to a lot of negative outcomes in the fishing world, but does that mean that anything posted on the intrawebs is bad and will yield the same result? I’m not trying to beat a dead horse here but remember, fishing is about having fun. Let’s not forget that.
That is one of my favorite parts about taking my friends fishing for their first time, they simply enjoy it. Ignoring, the people who forget that, we can still live with eyes open and spirits high, knowing that life will pass us by if we don’t.
Diversity, it’s the spice of life. That is what my buddy Lee Molvie, a Colorado Trout fisherman, was thinking when he booked his weekend trip to the Keys. Below he provides casting insight his guide shared as well as an awesome documentation of his first Red Fish experience.
...Somewhere in the Florida Bay, North of Islamorada, FL
“Step up on the platform and pull out some line. When you’re ready, start casting.”
With the sun directly overhead, we had been on the water for less than an hour. After surveying an empty flat known to hold tarpon earlier in the season, my guide cut the motor along the lush shoreline of a Florida Bay mangrove island. The water was clear-green over the white sand; the dark shadows beneath the overhanging branches created a stark contrast and played with my imagination. What sort of fish lie waiting in the cover to ambush a well-placed fly?
Capt. Pier Milito climbed onto the poling platform of his Hells Bay skiff and began to push us silently forward. We had our eyes trained to the darker water on the edge of the island where the mangrove roots twisted and disappeared.
“Two fish moving this way. Nice Redfish. See them? 70 feet away, 11 O’clock.” whispered Capt. Milito. “Start casting.”
I shot out the fly and first bit of line with a quick roll and began hauling line out. One cast, thirty feet. Two casts, forty feet. Three casts, fifty feet. With a final haul, I shot the line and let my rod tip dip towards the target.
My fly landed a good five feet behind the cruising fish. The miss felt like a dull blade twisting in my empty stomach. I should have eaten lunch.
“It’s OK, the fish aren’t spooked. Quick, pick up and try again,” said Milito.
With a strong haul I picked the line out of the water and began false-casting, angling my fly towards and ahead of the moving fish. As I let go of my final cast, the line sailed out directly at the pair and landed right over their backs. The calm tropical water exploded with a swirl, splash and a cloud of sand. The fish were gone.
Three Casting Game-Changers
Over the course of the next few hours, Capt. Milito put me in position for quality shots at nearly two-dozen fish. I ate lunch, drank a beer and managed to shake off the initial adrenaline rush that hits a Colorado trout fisherman when he steps onto a Florida Keys casting platform. Graced with a wind-less day, I had no more excuses. When I still blew shots at Redfish that seemed too-good-to-be-true, I began to question what I was doing out there in my Denver neighborhood park waving around a fly rod every day for a week before my trip. Sensing my frustration and identifying the problems, Capt. Milito offered three pieces of sage casting advice that turned my day around.
1) Limit yourself to two false-casts. Build confidence in shooting line.
Every beginner saltwater angler thinks they need to cast four or five times to drop the fly right on the fish’s nose. In the Florida Keys the fish are spooky. Instead of gauging the distance of your cast by false-casting over your target’s head, it pays to have confidence in shooting the line on the second or third cast once the shooting head is outside of your guides. You will spook less fish and get the fly in the water quicker.
2) Start your haul with your left hand as close to the reel as possible.
Early in my day fishing with Capt. Milito, he pointed out that the haul on my forward cast was a little weak. While my right hand started the forward movement back around my shoulder, my left hand doing the hauling started in front of my chest. By moving my left hand back with the right hand and starting the haul closer to the reel, my haul was effectively twice as strong. Line speed counts.
3) It’s not throwing a baseball. Punch it forward.
Several times while casting at a fish 60 or 70 feet away, I would have two false-casts right on the money and then miss my final cast wide left. Usually this came from trying to add a little extra “umph” and shoot line. Capt. Milito pointed out that on my last cast I was dropping my casting hand across my chest like I was throwing a baseball. Instead, he asked me to focus on keeping my right hand on a flat plane of motion and punching my fist straight forward from my shoulder. Immediately my loops tightened and my accuracy improved.