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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

 

 

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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.

 

 

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.
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