Fly fishing self publishing journey begins!

I’ve been wanting to put together a collection of fly fishing stories for as long as I have run this blog (coming up on three years now) and I’ve finally gotten around to doing something about it. A few of the stories I have planned are ones that I wrote about in the blog already, as well as a few totally fictional accounts based on one or several real events that I have experienced.

Head on over and check out If You Give a King a Cookie (and other short stories) in the Kindle Store and let me know what you think! I included my email in the back of the book, so feel free to contact me with feedback, good or bad. Again, this is just three short stories to start getting my name out there and get feedback from the people that love to read fishing and adventure literature.

51cxETuaIYL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_ Click here to go to the book

 

 

Great Gear Gifts for Outdoorsmen and Women

Thanksgiving has come and gone, along with the feeding frenzy of buying… unless you’re like me, and prefer to do your shopping after the crazy has died down some. I have been getting a lot of questions from friends and family about what shiny new gear gifts to get for the outdoorspeople in their life. To save us all some time, I went ahead and curated a list of some of my favorites – gear that I have personally used and can recommend. If you have any more suggestions – especially ladies gear – please comment below. Let the Gear Gift List 2015 begin!

To start us out, most of my questions from friends have been about rod and reel selections for the aspiring fly fisher. These rods find a good balance of quality and price for someone who wants to get into the sport.

 

51ky7fWzLiL._SL1000_TFO Bug Launcher – $159.95** Temple Fork Outfitters has gained a strong following within the fly fishing community (including myself), because they offer quality rods at an affordable price. The TFO Bug Launcher is intended for younger anglers, but I have heard positive things from many female flyfishers as well due to the light design and smaller diameter cork handle to fit a smaller hand. A great rod for small waters and delicate presentations, or your local farm pond. This kit comes ready to fish with reel, line, backing and leader.

 

51ceMOgF+CL._SL1000_Redington Path 5-weight Fly Rod Outfit – $152.99**

The Redington Path is a great entry level rod and reel for those looking for something to get started with. This combo comes with rod, reel, line and backing to get started. Just add a leader and some flies, and you’re ready to go.

 

 

 

Now, for keeping warm and dry. Waders, rain gear, layers and socks and sleeping bags.

 

288319_888_41LL Bean Fly Weight waders (men’s) – $99.00** One of the hardest decisions for me to make when I was headed up to Wyoming this summer was which waders to purchase. I needed to find some that hit the sweet spot between price, durability, and most especially, packability. I intended to stuff these waders in a backpack and take off into the mountains. It turns out that LL Bean makes great waders (I know, I was surprised too), that are backed by an excellent warranty. The Fly Weight stockingfoot model, paired with my now beloved Five Ten Water Tennies, was the perfect combo for my trip.

 

81cNap1yLpL._SL1500_Marmot rain gear (men’s) – $70.00**  Hardcore outdoorspeople know that a high quality piece of rain gear that stows neatly somewhere handy (in a pack or under the back seat of the adventure mobile) can literally save the day when the skies open up and the wind blows cold. However, it’s deceptively difficult to find good rain gear. The jacket above comes in a myriad of colors and sizes for men. Ladies, don’t despair – Marmot has heard your cries and also has some great rain gear options for you as well.

 

 

Screen_Shot_2015-11-15_at_11.22.57_AM_f5139c1c-4da8-47b8-8d04-de675e66e2a0_grandeSea Level Technical Shirts – $45.00** I knew that the temperature swings would be intense as I moved up and down the mountains and that I would need a variety of layer options that didn’t increase my overall pack weight by much. I needed shirts that could help keep me warm when I was cold, and cool when I was sweating. Enter the fully synthetic technical shirts from Sea Level. Designed for fishermen, these shirts wick moisture and insulate as a base layer while providing a great quickdry option when the sun is high and the hiking is tough. I’ve had mine for a couple years now and haven’t been able to break them – that tells you everything you need to know. Designed and printed in Texas, y’all.

 

81Tc3ONkVJL._SL1500_Darn Tough Bootsocks – $23.50** Austin, you might be saying, are you going crazy? $23 for a pair of socks?! Well, let me tell you, these merino-synthetic wool socks are Totally worth the money. Anyone who has hiked for more than a mile or two knows that blisters can flat ruin a trip, and these socks are fantastic at blister prevention. Plus, there’s those two little words – Lifetime Warranty. That’s right. If you manage to put a hole in them through normal wear, they’ll send you a new pair. The warranty got me to buy, but the socks themselves sealed the deal the moment they went on my feet. These are THE most comfortable pair of socks I own. Trust me, you’re going to want a pair or three. Made in the USA (Vermont), these make a great gift for the outdoorsman who has everything. You can’t have too much comfort, after all.

 

51NjEl8c7ELNorth Face Dolomite Double sleeping bag – $171.99** When you’re looking for a great sleeping bag to share with a partner, you need look no farther than the North Face Dolomite Double. It’s bulkier than most backpackers would like, but you can zip it apart and split the top and bottom halves between two packs. Overall, a great bag for couples who want to share everything about the outdoors experience… including body heat. A great gift to surprise that certain someone with, even if it’s just for snuggling on the back deck.

 

Footwear

508101_1Five Ten Water Tennies – varies, size 10 $98.06** – I found these shoes earlier this year prior to my Wyoming trip. They’re well-known in the whitewater kayaking and canyoneering community for the ‘stickiness’ of the Stealth rubber sole. This proprietary rubber gives the wearer grip on everything from dry granite to slick streambed rocks. Along with my Darn Tough socks, these boots are one of my favorite new gear discoveries. Give Five Ten a look, you won’t be disappointed. These make a great internet buy gift because the Five Ten return policy is rock solid. I forced them to pull double duty as hikers and as wading boots – they performed admirably.

 

Camp Kitchen

 

613fTQVzOEL._SL1500_JetBoil Carbon – $99.95** Jetboil is one of the best known camping stove companies out there for good reason. They make great gear that’s intelligently designed to help you get the most out of it. Fast boiling time, easy cleanup and a stack-inside-of-itself design – this is a product that speaks for itself. From coffee on the riverbank to that blessedly hot meal at the end of a long hike in, any Jetboil is a great gift idea.

 

 

 

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Mountain House Meals – varies, pictured is $6.00** per pouch – Mountain House is the most well-known name in pre-made, ready to go dehydrated meals. They are well-known for two reasons – they’re delicious, and they’re expensive. In recent years the cost has been trending downwards as technology improves, putting these convenient meals within reach of more hikers and outdoorspeople. Easy to make with boiling water from your Jetboil or other favorite cooking system.

 

 

81DgmTejOqL._SL1500_Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System – $39.75** The Sawyer Squeeze filter was my exclusive drinking system when I was out cruising through the highways and mountains of Wyoming this summer. I loved getting to drink out of all the rivers, lakes and streams that I was fishing and hiking along. Simple to use, super light, and the filter is good to a million gallons. Just add water.

 

 

 

Electronics

51e9LLvRxCL._SL1000_Anker Astro External Battery – $19.99** For those intrepid explorers who might want to have rechargeable devices around during a walkabout, I can highly recommend the Anker Astro which served me well on my hiking trips in the mountains to keep the power going for my iPhone 6. I kept my phone alive for over a week (on airplane mode) with this battery, recharging a total of 4 times with power to spare still on the Anker when we got back to the truck.

 

 

51dqPl+rfZL._SL1000_Anker Lightning Cable (3 ft) -$7.99** Those looking for a tough, reliable and Apple Certified lightning cable should think about picking up an Anker brand cable. I’ve carried one around with my in my backpack for a while now, and it’s still going strong. They come in a variety of colors and lengths – need a red ten footer? They got it. Gifts for all the Applers in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

** All prices are at time of publishing, and of course subject to change. Just wanted to give you an idea of the price range on the gear gifts I was talking about 🙂 Clicking the link will take you to Amazon, and should you choose to buy the item I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Just one small way I can try to make this crazy hobby pay for itself – I appreciate your support.

 

 

Walk in the Winds – the final day

So there I was, having just crossed a roaring freshet, having nearly run into a pine marten… wait. If I could sneak up on a pine marten, I bet that I could sneak up on a grizzly, despite the wind at my back. I traveled more loudly from then on, just in case.

 

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I rounded the lake, moving steadily downward towards the water while trying to make sure that my forward line of travel was clear. Easier than it sounds, but I managed. One thing that I did notice was just how dang agile elk are. Some of the sketchiest little cliffs and twisting trails that I had ever tried to traverse were covered in elk prints. I only attempted because I saw elk tracks going that direction and I would be darned if some 350 pound hooved animal with no thumbs was going to out scramble me. You people in the back snickering and muttering about mountain goats under your breath can shush. Let’s stay on topic here.

I was getting close to the water, and finally, I made it to the inflow. Glorious victory was mine. Streams full of Wind River Range golden trout, every one fighting to eat my dry fly as it… Well. Or not. Sure was a great dream though, while it lasted. I got to the inflow alright, and sat up on a high rock to watch for any cruising or feeding activity. Nada. Not a single flicker of movement. So I checked out the actual stream flowing into the lake. I discovered another recent camp site, and a fire ring with – you guessed it – a cherry jolly rancher wrapper in it. I had some very choice words for the Jolly Rancher Man, as I began to think of him.

So there I was, dear reader. I was back exactly where I’d wanted to be, where I’d planned to journey to for months. I had the gear, I had the food, I had the physical conditioning. But what I didn’t have, right there, right then, was the motivation. Finding that jolly rancher wrapper just broke the camel’s back, as it were. I couldn’t stay there even another hour, let alone overnight there again. I knew I had options, other lakes nearby that didn’t hold golden trout, but would at least provide a more remote setting and hopefully the solitude that I sought. The route to those lakes however, proved to be a little more daunting than I had surmised from the maps.

 

The way up.

The way up.

The above picture does the ascent no justice, of course. It looks waaaay closer than it actually is, and way less dangerous. Towering fields of talus and boulders, an entire mountainside of balanced injury waiting to happen. Because I would be moving up slope and not crossing any streams, I would be forced to carry water which would add considerably to my load, increasing the rate at which I fatigued and making each step more dangerous. I had plenty of food, which was good, but I lacked the one thing I needed to even be stupid enough to attempt the approach. Motivation.

At that moment, I realized that I didn’t want to be up there on that mountain. I just didn’t. I was glad I had come, glad I had conquered all the trials set before me, but the journey ahead was too much for me by myself. If I stepped wrong and broke a leg, chances were that I would die before anyone found me. I wanted to head back down, go find a river with fat rainbows and cunning browns, and zen out while watching my dry fly drift the current.

So I started back down, taking a different path, bushwacking almost the entire way back until I found a good trail again. I passed all kinds of cool stuff. A cave in the boulders (no bears or treasure, I checked), beautiful flowers, wonderful vistas and a surprise snake or two. I headed right back down the trail that I had come up, and I felt no regret.  Nearing the trailhead once more, I took a small shortcut that cut off about a quarter of the last mile of trail. I moved with easy speed, feeling good, humming to myself before I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.

There, beside the trail, was a jolly rancher wrapper.

 

Vertigo

Vertigo

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Thar’s a b’ar in thar

 

It's always easier to lose elevation than to gain it.

It’s always easier to lose elevation than to gain it.

 

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A very cool garter snake that I caught above 10,000 feet. Totally unexpected.

 

Just before the jolly rancher wrapper.

Just before the jolly rancher wrapper.

A Good Night’s Rest in the Woods – Nemo Cosmo Insulated Lite Sleeping Pad Review

TL/DR summary – Tough construction, a built in pillow, light and compact to pack – the Nemo Cosmo Insulated Lite sleeping pad is a winner in my book.

So, once your tent is set up, what is going to keep you insulated and warm during the temperature drop at nighttime in the mountains?

*cue the Jeopardy theme music*

A sleeping bag? Thick, warm clothing? Those are important, but it’s been my experience that keeping a nice chunk of insulation between you and the cold, hard ground is The best way to guarantee a warm night’s rest. Everything else is also important, but without a sleeping pad of some kind, you probably aren’t going to sleep soundly. Now, knowing this, you would think that I probably took a long time deciding on which sleeping pad I was going to go with. Dear reader, you are indeed correct.

Nemo Cosmo Sleeping pad

I pored over the online resources, searching through all the reviews, reading forums, and in the end, I went with my gut. I chose the Nemo pad because I wanted to have the comfort of an air mattress – some of you just snorted your drink at that statement – with the additional insulation that design can provide. Now, if you’ve spent the night on the pool floatie style air mattresses before, it most likely wasn’t that great. The long vertical construction of the baffles (the bladders that hold air) means that traditionally styled air mattresses tend to fold up around you as you lie on them. I never knew how much I loathed that until I bought the Nemo Cosmo Insulated Lite.

I got the 20R version, which means that it’s ‘regular’ length, plenty for my 5’10” height to stretch out on comfortably. The baffles on the Nemo models are horizontal, which means they offer increased support and stay flat on the ground rather than curling upwards. The insulation was a must, because I knew I would be sleeping at altitude in lake basin areas where cold air would pool during the night. I tend to sleep cold anyway, so getting a sleeping pad like this gave me peace of mind that I would have a solid foundation on my way to a great night’s sleep in the woods.

The mattress comes with a pack sack that collapses down to a size a little bigger than your two fists stacked on top of each other. The worst part about this mattress is having to blow it up at the end of the day, but it’s not that bad. When you float comfortably above all the twigs and rocks that you were too tired to sweep out from under your tent, you’ll realize it was totally worth huffing a puffing for a couple minutes. You can use the built in foot pump at the base of the mattress, but I never did.

Tough construction, a built in pillow, light and compact to pack – the Nemo Cosmo Lite sleeping pad is a winner in my book.

 

*making purchases on Amazon after clicking through the links above helps me keep this blog going. Thanks for your support! 

 

A Good Night’s Rest in the Woods – Kelty Tempest 2 Review

I’m going to start my gear review series with this post because I believe strongly in the power of getting a good night’s sleep when you’re out in the woods. For most of us, that’s not our normal habitat and we are operating at a level far above what we would normally push ourselves to do. This is great, but, there also needs to be sufficient time to rest or fatigue will overtake you both mentally and physically. Tired bodies get hurt easier, tired minds make more mistakes. For my Wyoming trip, I spent more of my budget on sleeping gear than any other subcategory. Let’s dive in, shall we? (TL:DR summary at bottom)

Kelty Tempest 2 – 

Tempest4

I chose my tent after many hours of researching the conditions that I would be faced with where I was headed. I looked up weather reports from years past, lurked on forums, and called the people I was planning on working with for their local knowledge. Only then did I begin searching for tents that would meet those needs. Because I was trying to work within a budget, I figured that I would look for an older model of tent that had great reviews from people who actually used it as I would be. This is harder than it sounds, and took me three or four days of on and off searching to come to a decision. I am extremely happy with the tent that I chose – the Kelty Tempest 2. It’s easy to put up and take down, stable, and handled everything I threw at it without so much as a scratch. It kept myself and my backpack dry, helped keep me warm when it was cold, and provided a much-needed haven from the mosquitoes. The tent stakes provided with the tent were perfectly serviceable. I would however suggest getting some spares just in case. I purchased these from Kelty, but anything similar should do nicely.

The vented design kept condensation on the interior on cold nights from being as much of a problem as it is with non-vented tents. The ‘bathtub’ style floor kept all water out even without the addition of a ground cloth or tarp underneath. It was really nice to be able to bring in all my stuff (except boots) out of the frost and rain. As for the boots, they slept out under the vestibule, which for those who don’t know is like a built-in awning created by your rain fly. This is a great feature because it allows you to keep your muddy boots from getting rained on, yet keep them outside the tent.

The model I got, the Tempest 2, is great as a one man tent, or two people willing to get cozy. It’s an older model, like I mentioned, so it might be harder to find that exact one. If you’re looking for something for two to three people, or yourself and your trusty adventure dog, then the Kelty Tempest 4  tent is probably more your speed.

I hope that this review helped you out with your tent choice – if nothing else, you know the struggle to find the perfect tent for that awesome trip is very real. If you have other tents to recommend or anything else you’d like to share, please, leave a comment below.

A Walk in the Winds, part 4

The next day dawned without any frost glazing my tent, which surprised me considering how high up I was. I climbed up on a rocky overlook searching for any signs of the fabled golden trout – not so much as a dimple. Ah well. Since the trout didn’t want to play, I put away my fly rod and broke camp, chowing on some trail mix for breakfast.

IMG_3317

I had slept well in my Kelty Dualist 22 sleeping bag, although as the temperatures dropped during the night I was glad that I had both a warm sleeping bag liner and a knit cap. I’ll take time and detail my whole gear list in a later article, to let you know what worked and what didn’t.

Backpack cinched in place, rod tube firmly strapped and game face grim, I headed up the talus slope on course to break over the top of the promontory and get a view of my destination from on high. I think it was here that I first heard the signature calls of the high altitude rodents known as pica. Their warning calls often preceded ahead of me, and then popped up again behind me as I wound my way through the treeless areas of my hike. It was the first time I had ever actually seen them in real life, which I considered quite the treat. I tried to take pictures, but not only are those critters wary and fast, they’re perfectly colored to blend in with their rocky surroundings. So, thanks to Google, I give you a pica. Cute, huh.

I bet that would make some lovely dubbing.

I bet that would make some lovely dubbing.

So anyway, there I was, scrambling up the slope, occasionally trying to fall, and generally loving life. Making it to the top of the outcrop, I was treated to a unobstructed view of my goal.

Thar she blows!

Thar she blows!

I sat for a while, ate some more trail mix, and considered life. I decided if I didn’t catch a trout that day, I would try to make it to another one of the nearby lakes and see if fortune favored me more there.

As I moved around the edge of the lake, I walked through an area that seemed to have remained aloof from the human disturbances down by the water’s edge. It was pine trees and trickling rivulets, thick moss and the smell of growing things. The sound of running water followed me everywhere, a soft counterpoint to the wind shushing through the pines. As I rounded a blind turn at the base of a huge boulder, it occurred to me that I probably wasn’t being loud enough. This was griz country after all. Ah, what the heck. I wanted to see if I could sneak up on some of the elk that left the tracks I was following, and besides, the wind was blowing from my back. Any bear worth his salt would smell me long before I got anywhere near them… right? Maybe.

As I moved through the trees, boggy patches of soil sprouted beautiful flowers of different shapes and sizes. This one was my favorite – the Colorado Columbine.

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I also stumbled across this – I was thrilled, in a totally unashamed, nerd-out kind of way. Because I had stumped across…

 

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A slime mold! They’re so cool. Seriously. Check them out – they’re essentially aliens. Wikipedia link for slime molds. I had never found one in the wild.

And since this is apparently ‘geek out about all the cool stuff I found’ time, I also happened to come around the corner and see this beautiful scene.

IMG_3336

So, the water coming down at this spot was roaring, and I was walking slowly towards the log but still a few yards off to the side. Poof! Out of nowhere, a Boone and Crocket sized pine marten springs up on the log and lopes across with that funny-looking run that all cousins of the weasel seem to have. I had never expected to get to see one in the wild – it was a great moment. He never saw me, or ever figured out that I was there.

I wanted to finish this series today, but 5:30 comes early. Tomorrow, I finish this.

A Walk in the Winds, part 3

As I pushed onward and upward, the obvious choice seemed to be to closely follow the creek as it wended down through a narrow slot that water had carved over the millennium.

Picking my way through even more deadfall, I finally gained my first glimpse of the lake. Victory!

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I eagerly began moving along the shoreline, looking for good places to scan the lake for trout activity. However, I was immediately confronted by a freshly vacated campsite. I checked the ash in the fire ring – still warm. Someone had just left the area, probably this morning. And there, sitting on top of the ashes at the edge of the ring, was a Jolly Rancher candy wrapper. I picked it up, feeling thoroughly annoyed.

Trying to keep my spirits up, I headed on around the lake, searching for my own spot to set up camp that would be far enough – 200 feet or more – from the water, as per the wilderness area guidelines. As I walked, I noticed first one additional campsite, then another, then another. They were in varying degrees of freshness. What was this, Yellowstone?!

I was practically stomping along by this point as I rounded the lake and came smack up against a large vertical thrust of rock. My fatigue was really starting to catch up with me, and I made the decision that I wasn’t going to climb the scree up and over the prominence. It would’ve been too easy to take a misstep and get hurt.

I found a flat area at the base of the scree in a clump of pines that – no surprise, at this point – had another old camp site in evidence. I set up my Kelty Tempest 2, a great little tent, and prepared my air mattress and sleeping bag. I gotta tell you, reader, that at this point I was in a serious funk. Melancholy was the mood as I halfheartedly fly fished for a bit (no trout anywhere to be seen or felt), and snapped a picture of the beautiful sunset over the lake.

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Tomorrow I would climb the scree slope, top the promontory, and go to the head of the lake where the creek fed in. There had to be fish there. In the meantime, I was exhausted, in a bad mood, and ready to give up on my day. I clicked on my headlamp for a bit of journaling, plugged my phone into my external battery, and I slept.

 

 

A Walk in the Winds, part deux

A glacier-fed drinking fountain.

A glacier-fed drinking fountain.

 

As I bushwacked my way up the creek drainage, it became apparent that I needed to take my time and be careful. If I fell off a blown down tree and got critically injured, I was on my own. Another thing was maintaining my hydration level. Fortunately, I was in the Wind River Mountains. As long as I stayed along the creek, drinking was no problem, but as I was forced to venture higher up on the mountain it wasn’t long until my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth. I came across the rill pictured above and drank over a liter of its clear, cold goodness. Thanks, Sawyer squeeze bottle.

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I continued upward over the increasingly rugged terrain. Breaking out of the deadfall, I scrambled upward through the scree field. For those not familiar with the term ‘scree’, it refers to the boulders and rocks that are shed from the mountain face over the eons. These rocks tumble down the mountainside, eventually coming to rest on other rocks that came before. Eventually, the entire lower slope can be covered with scree, forming a dangerous obstacle for hikers. Scree is known for being predictable only in its unpredictability. Even large rocks resting in scree can shift and tilt, sliding or even tumbling down the slope from under a hiker’s foot, or onto their head.

There was no way to judge exactly how the rocks are going to react, so when traveling across scree I was extremely cautious. The lichen on the rocks was beautiful, creating a living mural across the entire rockslide area.

 

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I admit I was annoyed when I came across signs of human passage; cairns. On the high rock in the middle of the above picture is the first one I found. I was annoyed because I didn’t want anyone else to be up where I was going. I had hoped that the gnarly approach through deadfall and across scree would keep most casual hikers at bay. Still, it was nice to know that the ‘trail’ I had chosen to follow was going somewhere useful.

At this point I had about three hours ’til nightfall. I needed to make it another mile or so up to the lake, and assess the terrain before I decided where to bed down for the night. I pushed onward, excited to be so close to my goal.

 

A Walk in the Winds

I shut my car door and swung my pack on. As I clicked the waist and chest straps closed, it hit me – I was going in, with no help, and there was a small chance I might not make it back out.

I had planned this trip for months: a solo jaunt back into the mountains chasing rumors of the fabled golden trout. Spending hours on my laptop, I had scoured relevant forums, researched the best gear, sniffed out online deals, and generally glutted myself on the euphoria of hardcore gear prep. I perused maps both old and new, digital and paper, hand-drawn and satellite imaged. I was as materially ready as I could be, and as knowledgeable about the area as other people’s experience could make me. A true adventure, a trip past where I had pushed myself before. I was stoked.

As I drove back into the national forest lands towards the trailhead, I was struck by the beauty of the surroundings. The light green of the rolling sagelands splashed against the dark green canopy of the pine forest. Streams and creeks dissected the verdant scene, powered by meltwater from unseen glaciers and mountain springs.

I arrived at the trailhead parking lot and glanced at license plates as I pulled in. Georgia, Arkansas, Alaska, Kansas, Minnesota, with plenty of Wyomingites too. As I made one last check of my pack, I hoped that most of the hikers had set off down a different trail than I planned on using. I locked the doors, stowed the keys, and swung my pack on. Time to go for a walk.

The trail crunched under my hiking boots as I moved away from the trailhead towards the mountains. I carried no water, just my Sawyer filter and squeeze bottles. I knew from the maps that streams were common and slaking my thirst would be easy without the 8 pounds to a gallon of water weight on my back. Mountains lifted away from me on either side, towering into the sky. The rugged granite faces were creased with fault lines, and shadowed crevices hosted hold-out patches of snow throughout the year.

I steadily worked my way upwards, headed back into a creek drainage littered with deadfall and other nasties that slowed my forward progress. Between crawling over trees and figuring out how to cross the swift, frigid streams, I was making a good 0.5 mph.

Working on my balance.

Working on my balance.

I can't see the deadfall for the trees.

I can’t see the deadfall for the trees. Not my most joyous moment.

Impressive, I know.

However, I figured that the harder the trail was, the higher probability that I would catch some big fish.

Well, that’s assuming nothing funny happened along the way, which, knowing me, would definitely happen.

 

I crossed the stream over those logs in the foreground. Then I had to cross back.

I crossed the stream over those logs in the foreground. Then I had to cross back. Good times.

It’s not even spring yet?

Sleet dribbles steadily from a glowering sky, the last vestiges of Winter returning to haunt us. To prove it, thick wet flakes fell earlier in the morn, managing to stick just enough. Parked cars now sported frozen, sloughing calluses of ice from windshields and hoods. My feet are cold, and the sleet’s windblown patter skitters across the roads, freezing and melting by turns.

But now the central heating kicks on. Ah, isn’t living in this time and place so grand sometimes?

No, today I am not crazy enough to go brave the cold and nasty to catch more pike. I have caught them, and walleye, though little else. I tried for smallmouth last week, but… I’m getting ahead of myself.

I have much to catch you up on, dear reader, so off we go.

My arrival in North Dakota you’ve already seen, culminating a grand journey through the plains which allowed me to see and enjoy country that I’d never been to, as well as savor the parts that I knew and loved.

But once I got here, then what happened? Well, of course I immediately tried to start finding places to fish. I was hungry to catch a northern pike. The only issue was that Nature hadn’t caught up with me yet. The ice was still on the lakes, and fish were, for the most part, inaccessible to fly fishermen.

I scouted out a couple local dam tailraces that were clear of ice, but the flows were extremely low and locals had fished those areas hard all winter. I had no recourse but to be patient while Spring got things kickstarted, opening the lakes up and getting the fish thinking amorously. The pike spawn soon after iceout, and then linger in the steadily warming shallow bays and wait for other fish to move shallow.

I knew that, and I went looking. I focused on shallow water, especially edges thick with cattails and brush. I got hung up enough that I started tying big flashy bendbacks to slither through the sticks.

Finally, after a couple of weeks of searching, I hook a stick that wasn’t a stick. Fish on!… off. Though I had lost the first one, I felt triumphant. The next sunny afternoon, I went back.

Working the edge of the marshy slough, I moved down the bank towards a fishy looking clump of timber. Probing casts hit every likely pike lair, but no strikes. Somewhat perplexed, I started to move on down the bank. Out in the open water past the trees, I got my first solid jolt – hooked up! A few moments later, I said hello to my first northern on fly. I was stoked.

First pike on fly!

First pike on fly!

 

Their tails are beautiful.

Their tails are beautiful.

Hard work, research, planning and execution… plus a good dollop of that secret sauce, luck. I’ll take it!