Monday, December 30, 2013

Wind Chill

A gust rips up the glacial valley, streaking the emerald green water, and somehow wedges itself between layers of Gore-Tex, PrimaLoft, and fleece.  The weather window that looked so promising hours prior is now closing fast -  dark clouds billow up from the lake and race ominously across the sky.  It's one in the afternoon, but the fading light and polarized sunglasses create the impression of dusk.  But there's still time - the lack of feeling in my feet temporarily abates as I trudge along the bank to the next likely run.

I'm standing in uncharted territory - miles upstream from an old bridge - rarely used, largely forgotten.  I've long passed the steelhead version of Hadrian's wall in second century Great Britain - entering a section of river that few venture to.  Tucked away in the rolling hills of northeast Ohio, hidden in a gorge within a valley, lies this de facto steelhead sanctuary.

Snow falls and numbs the noises of the river and woods, broken only by the sharp crack of my line ripping off the water. A swift set drives the hook home into something beneath the wintergreen stained water - I'm unclear, and uncaring if it's slate or steel.  For a fleeting moment nothing moves, but just as hope fades, the line throbs violently back and forth, as a lethargic steelhead gives its first headshake.  After a spirited - but brief - fight, the fish succumbs to the cold and slides gently across the surface of the river and into the net. Its crimson cheeks gasp for breath, and with each convulsion the fish's powerful body flashes chrome.

With one swift kick of its large tail, the fish shoots back into the depth of the run in the fading light. Evening is coming - and with it the decision for any fisherman at the conclusion of a good day, at a time of year when good days are tough to come by.  As winter's grip clenches tighter, the reality is that days like this one are even less likely in the coming months. Caught between fading daylight measured against green water and willing fish - the angler faces a gut-wrenching, but inevitable reality.

Daylight wanes, the snow falls harder, and winter wins.  It's time to go home. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Have Yourself A Carpy Little Christmas

And you guys thought I forgot about those photo contest prizes, psshhtt. As they say, timing is everything in this life, and who doesn't need a couple extra presents under the tree? Just in time for, uh,  steelhead season...

What are you fishing for? Drumroll please;

2nd Runner up, a sweet H2 trucker lid and carp sticker pack goes to E.L.S. for this shot of a guide in action...

1st Runner up and a sweet carp fly selection goes to Jordan C. for a bonefish I wish I'd caught...

And for staying central to the theme, The CARP motherload goes to Todd V

Fellas, if you're out there, shoot me your mailing address so I can get your CARP booty in the mail ASAP.

Dreading that leather-wrapped trash can your mother-in-law picked out for you? Don't forget to purchase your own DW stocking stuffers. Still have CARP lids AND "What are you fishing for?" Koozies available. $20 cash or check will land one of each at your front door! Contact me on Facebook, or shoot me an email if you're interested. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Greener Grass

It's a little chilly in the Midwest right now. At least, that's what I'm hearing from the folks back home. I decided to follow the ducks south - Way south, to a  place where the beer flows like wine, and beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. Down here, the forecast du jour is 80 and sunny, and the chromers prefer the slow strip over the steady swing. You can leave the waders, and the boots, and the hat/gloves/jacket/shirt/shoes/pack/pliers and nippers at home. Just don't forget the shades and the sunscreen. Or the cervezas.

But as the reality of a long, cold winter draws ominously near, my mind can't help but wander to the fleeting opportunities for winter fishing that will see me through to spring.  The best of those opportunities will no doubt require some travel, and given my current circumstance, this week seemed a fine time to do some preliminary research.

I got the opportunity for an early look at the newest release from The Stonefly Press, The 50 Best Tailwaters To Fly Fish, by Terry and Wendy Gunn. Like most anglers, I've thumbed through countless fly fishers guides and "Umpteen Best" books in my day - they're always useful additions to the home library and great trip planning resources but they can be a little dry, to say the least. I can never help but wonder how intimate one author's knowledge of 500 different rivers, creeks and lakes could be. Those that are done well, though, are not only informative but enjoyable reads as well. Greg Thomas' collections of this ilk were always some of my favorites; his prose is colorful and steeped with insight that any hardcore angler would seek, focusing primarily on two critical questions - "Is this place worth my time," and "how's the local nightlife?"

Thankfully, Terry and Wendy didn't just set out to boost their egos or pad their travel resumes with this one.  Instead, they sought out the people with the most intimate knowledge of and unique perspectives on these amazing fisheries and had them write the entries. Among these personalities are a number of my friends, mentors and acquaintances from the industry describing rivers that hold some of my most cherished fishing memories. In the end, it makes for a much more dynamic, personal and entertaining literary resource. Most of these folks owe their livelihoods to the rivers they write about, and their passionate perspectives serve more than to educate - they inspire anglers to experience these places for themselves with honest expectations, which is exactly what a good  "Guide to"should do.

The book is organized by region, rather than arbitrary rankings, which makes sense to me; if you're going to plan a trip to one of these rivers, you might as well cross more than one of them off the list. Anyone who's ever floated a tailwater before can appreciate the importance of knowing release schedules and how they effect different sections of river (particularly on the TVA tailwaters of the Southeast), and most of the authors do a fine job of advising the reader which flows to look for depending on their angling preferences and watercraft options. 

The foreword, penned by the ubiquitous Lefty Kreh, makes some foreboding predictions about the future of tailwaters in this country and the world over, encouraging us to embrace them for better or worse as "the salvation of fly fishing for trout." Frankly, I'm not sure I completely agree with that perspective, but there's no arguing that tailwaters provide exceptional fly fishing in some of the places you would least expect them. Detailed maps, notes, and pictures conspire to tempt the imagination. Even as I look out at the beach before me, the thought of dry-fly caught steelhead on the Deschutes, sippers on the Mo', or big run-up browns on the Madison has me thinking about greener grass on the other side of the fence and hashing out plans for summer 2014....

Get the skinny here or call your local fly shop to get your mitts on this one in time for the Christmas holiday.