Thursday, January 8, 2015

Where We've Been - Part I

Part I: 

It's cold outside - the mercury says single digits. It's hard to believe that one year ago today I was standing on the bow of a flats skiff. Thanks to a cell phone camera any of us are able to look back and see exactly where we were, and when. But, not surprisingly, the photos seldom tell the whole story. Below are some of the pictures of my past year on the water - the exotic destinations, breathtaking views, and, of course, the big fish.  They're all great.  Missing, in large part anyway, are shots of the broken rods, the flies stuck in trees, road burn and sunburn, mosquito bites, bad casts, mid-river snags, and the fishless days. I had them all in 2014 - and I think that's why it was such a great year. 

January 5th - January 13th
South Andros, Bahamas

With a polar vortex looming, I boarded a plane for Nassau - heading south to the marls and bights of South Andros.  Hours later, toes in the sand, I watched the sun rise over the calmest flat I've ever seen. Sparkling white sand flats, hidden mangrove creeks, remote cays - every piece of water seemed to hold bonefish. After just one week and more Kaliks than I care to count, I wasn't ready to leave. 






February 15th - February 17th
The mountains of eastern Tennessee

Fresh on the heels of a winter storm that brought snow as south as Louisiana, it was time to go.  A case of post-Bahamas cabin fever and a warm spell in the forecast were all the inspiration we needed.
Truth be told, I'd never really considered the fact that the South had any trout fishing.  I'd heard the whispers - even from a few close friends - but still couldn't get over the mental hurdle that Nascar country, the BBQ belt, and SEC land, actually had water that held trout.  Bill Dance, rubber worms, john boats, and bucketmouth bass made a lot more sense.  Turns out the forecast was wrong - snow fell, but fish rose every day as one of the best BWO hatches I've ever seen came on like clockwork each afternoon. 






March 1st
Somewhere in Appalachia

I got the last minute phone call late the night before.

"Hey man - there's an extra spot in the boat. You in?" 

An invitation to a mid-winter unicorn hunt is never an easy sell, but as the guy that dishes out the most shit when someone chooses not to go on a fishing trip - I had no choice but to say yes. The 4am alarm came early, but a few hours later I had the best seat in the house to watch a monster musky ravage a fly that henceforth shall be known as the "Roto Ruter."





 



March 10th - March 18th
Isla Holbox, Mexico. 

Heading south to dodge the snow again, the annual Mexican tarpon tradition continued. The island and the fish have somehow withstood the test of the time - and upon arrival you're transplanted to another world far, far away from the one you left behind.

From my Dad's first tarpon on the fly, to stunning sunsets that would impress even Captain Jack Sparrow, or heading out with Sandflea to discover new hidden mangrove lakes with never-been-fished-to 'poon, the 2014 Holbox installment was one I won't soon forget.  






April 12th and 13th
The mountains of western Maryland

As trees started to bud, JD and I took notice. With a few "warmer" nights in the forecast we packed the truck and headed to the woods. The morning chill and bare hillsides suggested that we were early - that perhaps our enthusiasm had gotten the best of us. In a sport where timing is so crucial, it looked like ours was off just enough for it to matter.

But when the first fish slowly rose to a big foam dry fly, it was clear to both JD and I that spring had finally arrived, and the longest winter we could remember was finally over.   After months of dragging split shot and slinging heavy streamers, I was looking forward to being, as John Geirach would say, a seasonal purist. 






April 25th, 26th, and 27th 
Penn's Creek, Pennsylvania.

After a long hike in with all our gear, we stumbled upon camp buried under years of leaves.  Throughout my high school and college years a trip to Penn's had been an annual ordeal, but with jobs, families, and life growing bigger every year, our ragged band hadn't made a trip in half a decade. Nonetheless, JD and I found exactly what we'd hoped for - the creek still ran cold and clean, mayflies were hatching, and the trout were happy. We drank too much whiskey in camp, and although the next morning's after effects were worse than they were when I was younger, the takeaway from the weekend was simple: thankfully, some things never change.






June 29th and 30th
The mountains of western Maryland.

June came and it was time for the boys weekend. Along with the weather, the fishing was really coming along - but Jimmy had just become a father, JD was overseas, and Alex suffered a blowout on his way down in the Big O. Despite being shorthanded, Jeff, Stu, and I pressed on - with the whoop factor (enthusiasm for drinking) climbing as we raced towards the mountains. The rest is a little hazy - but I don't remember anyone saying they wanted to party small time. I can't wait for this weekend again this year -  and my fingers are crossed for the full squad.   







August 7th - 10th
West Branch of the Delaware - Hancock, New York.

August rolled around, and with the temperature seemingly reaching a local maxima, Ben and I decided to get out of town. I reached out to a few friends about the fishing on a few of our east coast favorites; amidst the "so-so's", and "it's alright" one text stood out: "Dude, get here." We hit the road the next morning.

With the late spring in the Catskills, every hatch was behind schedule.  Mid-August, a time when the river's surface should be barren, turned out to have some of the best Sulphur hatches of the year. Each night as the sun went down, every fish in the river was looking up. They were snotty and unforgiving, but we managed to get a few.






September
Wyoming.

I think the first call came in March; Clark left a voicemail. 

"Hey BAM - it's...Clark. Hope-yer-doin-well-buddy. So it looks like I've got a group of 16 guys coming in for a week in September, and I'm going to need some help..."

 I never thought it would happen - but six months later, on a Monday morning I was hurtling westbound in a Boeing 727 destined for the Rockies. The timing couldn't have been better - I'd left my job the Friday before, and with my start date for my next career move not until the end of the month, I had three weeks of freedom ahead. Nothing to do but guide my old stomping grounds, and of course, fish.

As I pulled out of the Billings airport and glanced at the weather I saw snow, wind, rain, and sun. It was fall in Wyoming - and the forecast couldn't have been more fitting. Homecoming was on...




























I read somewhere that fall isn't a season - it's just the time of year when seasons change. After spending three weeks with family, friends, gorgeous ranches, and trout - I had five-ish hours in the air and one couple hour layover to change myself. The reality was that I was heading back; it was alright, though. I'd hit Wyoming at it's peak - for the precious few weeks of fall. Thanks to air travel, a few thousand miles of distance, and a drop closer to sea level I was looking forward to a shot at hitting my favorite season again back home. 

Part II - coming soon. 
________________________________________________

Follow the dudes on Instagram - @bambam3229 @jlampros2

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