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Michael Gracie

Completed Autumn Reading List (inclusive of fun and games)

Too much time spent in the officeon the driving range … brushing up on classical Tibetan results in a shorter list than previous.

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social PolicyThomas Sowell (link)

Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New JerseyBob Hoffman (link)

Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the WorldAdam LeBor (link)

Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of AntihumanismRobert Zubrin (link)

Mastering Golf’s Mental Game: Your Ultimate Guide to Better On-Course Performance and Lower ScoresDr. Michael T. Lardon (link)

CryptonomiconNeal Stephenson (link)

Select opinion: Tower of Basel is a well-researched, thorough historical account of 20th century war financing; and Cryptonomicon is very long, but I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.

MG signing off ( རྗེས་མ་མཇལ་ཡོང་། )

There Will Be Birds

There Will Be Birds

Never ending fields

When this kid is around, it’s a given…

Happy Bird Chaser

“Slacking” is not part of this dog’s vocabulary

MG signing off (as tired and content as the dog, just eating sharpie instead of kibble)

A fishing story for boys and girls

Here is a boy brown trout. During autumn, boy brown trout show their flashy colors to attract the ladies. Not their Platinum American Express Card or German sports car…just colors. And the brighter the better, because boy brown trout have lots of competition for their girlfriends. I know it’s hard to fathom, but if a boy brown trout gets a fly stuck in his mouth, he goes from being randy to being really pissed off. Even the teen-aged boy brown trout are easily distracted by this.

This boy brown trout got very angry today. As did all his buddies.

Then there’s the girl brown trout. No two are exactly alike, but she is generally charming and pretty and has a lot of charming and pretty friends. Except she’s not always nice when she’s looking for a boyfriend. In the autumn she puts on a show of her own, chasing away the ugly boys while waiting for her prince. Which invariably arrives. Interestingly, she also gets a little irritated when a fly happens upon her lip. Kind of like a bad hair day, only fun.

We aggravated this girl brown trout and all of her lovely friends today. Every last one of them.

MG signing off (so the fish can go back to being happy boys and girls)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Of course, with every fly-fishing story comes the bloopers reel, compliments of Nate O’ Taylor. Or maybe the outtakes are the reality, and the story above is just a fairy tale.

Pre-ignition evaluation

gracie vally nomad net

Pondering what is, was, could have been, and may yet be.    Photo: Kevin Best

You stand high on a ridge overlooking the stretch of water you just spent a precious day of your life on.

“We really scored on that bend.”

“Damn, that was a very long walk.”

“What was with all the rainbows?”

“Next time around let’s make sure we make it all the way to the fence.”

“Now’s just about the time we should go back down with streamers.”

“We should have brought a few beers.”

“In a couple of weeks the browns are gonna overrun this place.”

“I would pay for this kind of weather year ’round.”

“You’ve still got a sub sitting in the truck, don’t you?”

MG signing off (to make a snack list for the next nine-to-fiver)

Be the bug

“Ahh…safety from those vicious flows and stupid browns. But damn…this dude is fuuuuugly! Jeez..you’d think he’d wear a hat with that shiny dented dome he’s sporting. Heh…dumb ass fly fisher.”

salmonfly

“Looks mean too, like one of those warmwater freaks. I’ll bet he’s got an eight weight stashed on the boat someplace. What a moron! Better ditch before this cat throws me overboard. Note to self: damn that would suck.”

salmonfly

MG signing off (feeling autumn, but missing summer)

How to catch plenty of fish and still get schooled

Fat in the fallI have this recurring nightmare. I’m sitting in the office when I get a call from a college administrator:

“Mr. Gracie, it seems one of your high school teachers never input your final grades for their class – noted was something about attendance. Technically you didn’t graduate, therefore you couldn’t actually be admitted to our fine school. Your entire university transcript has therefore been stricken from our records. Once you have completed the prerequisites, you can reapply as an incoming freshman. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.”

School AdministratorAttendance has not been my strong suit at the beginning of this school year. Reports have been flying in about big browns running mad, while I hunkered down at geek central. Ears sore and excuses running low, I declared Monday senior skip day (no “MG, you’re an old bitch” comments please). Tim Marek dragged Jim Kanda and I down to a little tailwater of northern proximity he’d fished with great success just a few weeks prior. Mr. Kanda and I would be the newbies, with Tim playing Dean of Admissions guide.

The parking lot was still filling up when we arrived, the by-product of a 9.8% unemployment rate we guessed. But the section we aimed to fish contained only scattered enrollees, and as we marched upstream just around mid-day they were dropping classes pretty quickly. Spread out, we began picking select subject matter to pieces. And each time we’d rejoin, someone would take a seat, copy the test, and score themselves another A+. Conditions alternated between sunny/breezy to cloudy/howling. Wind speed kept bugs away from the topwater podium, but it didn’t really matter – articulated black streamers, Jujubees, Rainbow Warriors, Hotwire Princes, and Copper Johns lectured away.

Hold this for a second pleaseWhen we gathered together last, I’d been standing in front of this big rock, staring down into a five foot deep hole just behind it chock full of fish. Meticulously knocking them off one after the other. Mr. Marek was first to show up, and I apprised him of the situation. He thought it would be a good time to swap rigs (his Scott S4 for my Scott G2), and asked me to sharpen my pencils (i.e. put something good on). Stepping into the stacks, he was on three fish in three successive casts. Jim arrived, grabbing a spot twenty feet above us (after noting that his fish count was already hovering in the twenty range), and I took my first swing with the S4 about the same distance above that. Second cast through the pocket water, I’d hooked another piglet in tanning bed brown that ran me downstream just far enough to force Jim to duck as I moved line and fish over/around him. Had we fished side-by-side all day this would have been a common occurrence, but I apologized nonetheless.

The browns, they opened wideWhen the smallest fish you bag for the day is thirteen inches, it’s expected you strut the halls like you’re top of the class. Just make sure that when Jim Kanda asks if you want to take turns fishing the spot he’s hunkered down in that you accept without a second thought. After just such an invite, I declared I was going to start heading back towards the truck instead. Failed exam, meet Michael. And visa versa. Still within an eye and earshot, I heard yelps coming from above. Thirty seconds later Mr. Kanda was scrambling down the bank like he had hot coals in his waders. I dropped my gear, and met him and what is commonly referred to as the fish of the day with net in hand. The pig he held before me left a lesson etched in my mind for eternity: whenever this guy is around, linger behind him and ask a lot of questions. What flies are you using? How much weight do you have on? Want one of those tasty snacks I’ve got in my pack? While I casually step into that hole you’re fishing? With that rig you’re using?

Valedictorian

Bad dreams will continue, even though great memories of this day surely prevail. I’ve got to stop skipping class.

MG signing off (to quit working so much, and fish more)

Missing fly fishing

Fresh cuttbowAutumn is here. With a vengeance.

I started the ’09 fishing season with what I felt was a bang, stepping onto the water for the first time in early January. And barely looked back. Spring and summer delivered some extraordinary fun, and some better than average fish too. But time out has become a precious commodity heading into what is usually my favorite time of the year. It’ll soon be too cold for quickie bass and carp outings (if it isn’t already), leaving mountain waters beckoning without an answer to their call.

The dog has been off his schedule for months. He used to stick it out for twelve hours at a stretch without a walk – now he can barely last three. He’s aging at a rapid pace nowadays, but he’s been in the family way too long for his caretaker to do anything besides just deal with it. So today’s outing was canceled. There’s also a project nearing completion, and it’s those last 30 to 60 days before you go live that are always the worst. Mid-week invites have already been permanently declined, and between pet care and pre-launch hell the weekends are disappearing with similar proficiency. The holidays are just around the corner, and I know that late winter/early spring is one-third blown with the entire month of February already wiped off the calendar over work commitments.

Not long ago a colleague said “as soon as winter hits I’m going to teach you how to tie flies.” While I’ve already dirtied my hands at the vise more than I care to, the idea seems more enticing with each passing day. I’m running the longest stretch without wetting a line this year, two weeks, and an overbooked schedule for the next 7 days means it’s a guaranteed three. If I’m not going to be fishing maybe I should throw inventory management to the wind with my already jam-packed fly boxes. You can never have enough flies, can you?

End of summer

MG signing off (while bouncing off the walls, but all things considered not expecting any sympathy)

Autumn’s closing in…

We had a lot of rain in Colorado over the last few days, and with that rain came some cooler weather. Autumn’s closing in, meaning there will soon be big brown trout lurking around for some action (and I don’t mean fly action).

BREAK

Before I lay into a trout discussion, there is something I just have to get off my chest – it’s regarding a fly fishing blogosphere (yes, there is one of those) related incident…

Last week The Trout Underground tacitly (and slyly and covertly) proclaimed nymphing the “Official Fly Fishing Technique of the Devil”. As one who considers nymphing more the “Official Fly Fishing Technique of My Pocketbook Snagged On A Rock In The Technical Section Over Yonder That I Just Pulled This Twenty-Three Inch Rainbow Out Of”, I took great offense – I then proceeded to mock Editor-In-Chief Chandler’s streamer selection with choice references to Boy George. Mr. Chandler in turn responded, however with ordinate class – he noted simply that the streamer worked, and then (probably suspecting I had a penchant for dredging) moved to suggest some midge patterns I might find effective.

Ok, so I was trying to pick a little fight. And I got bloodied by substance and style. My official statement herewith…”Please accept my humblest apologies”. My unofficial statement is had that streamer been dressed more like an encyclopedia salesman than a stage dancer in a Christina Aguilera show, there might not have been so much “swearing off big fish”. Since the quotable response differs from the now-blacklined, I’m going to pay some penance as well.

I take the midge recommendation to heart, and will pick up a few for the winter months. Meanwhile, I’m going to fish streamers exclusivelyuntil my arm wears out from throwing eight-inch pieces of rabbit with Type VI lines … at least until everyone at my parties catches exceed mine by a factor of 1.0000000000001 (at which time I’ll started dropping lime green and orange fuzzy eggs like they).

If I happen to catch numerous angry (and benevolent forces willing, oversized) brown trout, that will be my cross to bear. And to keep things forthright, I am going to bare my soul too. Since the early days, I’ve been a braggart about minimalism, carrying just a single fly box for a day’s pursuits. A few years in Colorado changed all that – I was soon carrying two boxes, and had another in the glove compartment. Fast forward a few seasons…I now have more boxes than I’m willing to transport across town, two of which are for streamers alone. And I vow to lug these cradles of deceit wherever I go:

streamers

Effectively organized too – they are named “Piglets” and “Pigs” respectively – I don’t think I need to explain why.

I will post a report in the square after each and every outing. If the townfolk find reason to cast me out, so be it (and I’ll take my tar and feathering like a man, so long as those feathers are Grade 3).

I consider this matter ‘pending outcome’, late-October time frame. Now…back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Fall fly fishing full of wonder

Particularly if you are hanging with a motley crew like us!

October 6th, 2007 is a day that will go down in the annals of fly fishing (in the world according to my cohorts and I) as a day full of wonder. We wondered why Bill wanted to stop at this godforsaken crowded place and try salmon fishing with lead cores and barrel eyed streamers. We wondered if good photography and stupendous fishing action could go hand in hand. We wondered why people get so worked up about fly fishing. And we wondered why fishing couldn’t be this easy all the time.

Why Salmon?

It didn’t take long to answer that question. Bill walked downstream with a 6-weight and enough lead to sink a medium-sized cruiseliner. Meanwhile, Todd and I decided to avoid the crowds and wandered up. As we rounded this bend we saw nothing but super fine trout water – off came the lead cores and on came the beadheads. It didn’t take long to figure out what the trout were into…eggs! I started with the usual, a #16 Prince, and followed it up with a green egg pattern. As expected, my first two casts produced hookups that I subsequently lost – that happens to me every time, despite warnings from my colleagues to pay attention from the get go. The action persisted from then on – I split my catches between the Prince and the egg, and things slowed a bit about ninety minutes in. But Todd came to the rescue, after discovering the fish had simply decided to go pink versus green – thank goodness I carry plenty of pink eggs. We still wonder whether the fish actually key on a particular color as a natural inclination, or whether the changing light spectrum as the sun moves higher has something to do with it. Nevertheless, we were quick to realize that despite the crowds most of the folks were both giving us our space and spending most of their time gawking at us instead of fishing (always nice). We’ll never wonder why Bill bagged the salmon chase and joined us.

Why is Michael such a crummy photographer? Don’t worry – he has plenty of excuses.

bill-in-constant-formIt was hard to get a good close-up of Bill in action. Everytime I looked over at him with camera in hand he was casual as could be. Every time I glanced over when my camera was in pocket he was hooked up and I was too! Combine those facts with a new camera and a photo dummy such as myself and you see the result. Something tells me nobody minded.

I didn’t get much chance to test the new camera’s underwater features as I wasn’t carrying a net. It’s a bit difficult to hold a rod, snap an underwater photo of the fish on your line, and then get the camera back into your pocket so you can grab said fish and release (particularly when you are pretty convinced the next cast will likely produce another catch). Call it no net, not enough hands, simple procrastination, or all of the above. I did, however, get a little better with the electronics as the day progressed, but it took a lunch invitation to get me there.

Bill brought food. Who’s taking a break?

The lack of photog flurry had a lot to do with the fact that every time I put my fly in the water some trout would grab it and go running for the closest rock/merry-go-round. You simply didn’t want to leave your flies in the river unless you were concentrating specifically on them. If you strolled over to another hole and your rig was dragging behind you, a fish was likely to follow it with eating on their mind. At one point, my colleagues declared the morning over – it was time for lunch.

lunch-time-or-landing-timeBill wandered my way and sat on a rock directly across from the hole I was working. He made a quick flip out with the intention of straightening out his line and leader on the way back in. Unfortunately for Bill and his meticulous gear care habit the trout had other ideas, and he was quickly back on his feet trying to get another pesky rainbow off his line. Here’s Todd having to deal with the same issue – reaching down for yet another fish when all the poor guy wanted to do was pack up and go munch a ham and cheese sandwich and some chocolate chip cookies. I was smart enough to take my rig completely off (after wondering whether a fish would have it in them to actually try jumping out of the water after dangling flies) and had the camera ready.

Results are facts. What you make of the rest of your day is up to you.

Feet were wet at about 9am. By noon we had roughly 50 fish between us, ranging in size from 10 to 16 inches. The trout were primarily rainbows, and a few scattered (and quite beautiful) cutbows. We ate lunch as planned and then ventured north for an afternoon on the Colorado. The production up there paled in comparison to the Blue morning. We also had a run in with some guy who thought he owned the place, screaming something about etiquette and “the 100 yard rule.” We wondered who the heck can maintain 300 feet of distance from fellow fishermen on a public stretch of river roughly a third-mile long, particularly when there are a dozen vehicles in the trail head lot. Personally, I think he and his cohort were “overly geared” and weren’t catching anything. We, on the other hand, were still dancing from the morning, and the fact that I hooked a decent fish roughly ten seconds after we arrived which subsequently ran me downstream to within an eye-shot of him didn’t exactly add to the camaraderie. Nevertheless, we wound up wondering why people get so stressed out about fishing, particularly fly fishing, and concluded that those who do probably need to find another sport.

My new Garmin Vista HCx was cranking away all day, tracking our progress across Colorado from Denver and then up through the Blue River Valley. The day covered 232.1 miles, including a little foot traffic, on a minimum altitude of 5,226.5 feet and maxing at 11,088 feet. We made a few stops and marked some waypoints. I’ll give those to you for ONE MEEELLLIIIOOON DOLLARS. I wonder if anyone will take me up on that offer, particularly considering I’ll just tell you where we were at if you ask.

And here is one of the fish of the day – a 20 inch female rainbow who from her appearance was definitely having some tough goings heading upstream – we named her the “bone of contention,” and hoped she remained happy:

reeder-creek

We wondered how many of her future offspring we might have the opportunity to catch in our lives.

Editors note: the word “wonder” was [over] used precisely 12 13 times during the construction of this post, much to the readers’ wonder. Oops, that makes 14 – add the tag, and its 15 (but still less than the number of fish we each caught over the course of the day).