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Michael Gracie

A blatant lack of productivity marks the change of seasons

Signs said the water had dropped significantly in the last twenty-four hours. The flats were clear and had changed their shape since the last visit. No surprise: it has been a summer spent considering Cyprinidae an afterthought. The prime entry points are dotted with footprints. In two stops over three miles and hours we count a half-dozen fellow anglers, remarking to ourselves on the silliness of those wearing waders. The carps waver from nowhere to be found to skittish as urban squirrels in a neighborhood full of outdoor house cats. We conclude that marching forth is futile – the river is off-color downstream, and has taken a hammering throughout our present coordinates.

Carp do not like crowds, and their knowledge of your presence almost always coincides with the beer o’clock chime. Let those cutting their teeth suffer the impecuniosity of hookups.

Chatter turns to fitting alternatives…

THE RATIONAL: Do you think it’s worth hitting The Mile in late September?

YOURS TRULY: Too early. But definitely a go the month after.

THE RATIONAL: We could fly into Missoula, but you have to promise you won’t blog about where I take you.

YOURS TRULY: I don’t have a problem with that, although it may be too late for a definite plan – I’m tight on time through the holidays. But I do think dropping the boat into Location X and seeing how it fishes back towards shore is a good idea. No use giving up completely until we’ve exhausted all changes in tactics.

THE RATIONAL: Next weekend. I just need to pick up new oars. I also think we need to hit Location Y and Z every chance we get. You know if we make the haul enough times, we’ll eventually wind up in the same situation as 2011.

YOURS TRULY: Very good idea. What’s the line on the Alabama/VT game?

THE RATIONAL: Some goof actually called for an upset.

YOURS TRULY: I think that fact constitutes the new Plan B.

And so it went. Jalapeno poppers, ribs, wings, refreshments, and ESPN GamePlan.

Jalepeno PoppersSmoked Ribs
Chicken WingsGeorgia v. Clemson

The Georgia Bulldogs lost their opener, and the Florida Gators won theirs. The following morning was consumed with cool grey skies. The summer heat may still rear its unpleasant head, but autumn is close at hand. Nothing was accomplished, besides recharging the batteries in front of a widescreen.

All seems right with the world.

MG signing off (at least for the time being)

The Salmonid Resolution

Around this time the interwebspheres explode with outlines of the trials and tribulations of the year past, and determinations for the upcoming trip around the sun. Some of the declarations are very popular, such as quitting smoking, losing some weight, or making more money. Others are complex, like developing a long term solution to the world’s burgeoning energy needs, or securing personal property rights for transgender hamsters.

I will not bore you with my summary of 2012, as I believe such diatribes are usually constructed to weave in some semblance of regret. Of which I have none. Not even an iota. Zippo, nadda. But I do have one resolution, and it’s neither widely distributed nor outlandishly difficult to accomplish.The Salmon Atlas

Catch more salmonids. Outside of my home state.

I even found a website to assist me in this straightforward endeavor, The Salmon Atlas

A fine piece of work indeed, and a now treasured find. Reason being, I’ve collected more two-handed fly fishing rigs in the last quarter than I care to admit (and still have my eyes on more), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed I can conjure some valid reasons to make use of them.

MG signing off (wishing all a happy new year, including the salmonids)

Fooled by trout

Just submitted to Fly Fisherman Magazine for the next issue's cover

Actually, made a fool of by trout.

The lovely picture to the immediate right is an absolutely perfect reproduction of my finest catch this weekend, while fishing a famed Colorado tailwater. In fact, said picture also depicts all the other trout I caught during this fly-fishing excursion. And, as if you already thought I might be pulling your leg this very moment, I am here to say this image, in all its technicolor glory, additionally represents the sum total of the trout caught by the two people I brought to this magnificent stretch of water, ostensibly as their guide.

Alrighty then.

MG signing off (to realign the stars Matrix using this picture)

Two out of three ain’t bad, no matter what kind of water you’re on

fishing stories

My smallest fish was this big!
Now get me another beer.

There’s this steaming pile extremely informative column running over at Deneki.com right now – it’s a three part series on how a trip to the bonefish flats can actually improve your (likely more frequent) trout fishing experiences. Part 1: Situational Awareness, and Part 2: Reading Water, are already up.

Yeh, you might think such a comparison, between stalking the flats for the voracious, invisible speedsters and hooking everyone’s favorite salmonid, is borderline reaching. I wrote the posts, which means your probably right. But read them anyway – you might learn something (even if it’s just how to scribe a thousand words that sound like you know what you’re talking about).

And of course, Part 3: How to Drink Beer Like a Bahamian Flats Guide While Standing in 40 Degree Riffle Water, doesn’t come until next week. So you are forced to stay tuned anyway.

MG signing off (because saving the best for last is even more distracting than the fishing)

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)

No fishing stories here, so run along now

It’s the second week of August, and there is nary a single trout fishing story gracing these pages to show for it. Some will inevitably consider such circumstances a sad state of affairs, which it is. And while I could use a choice excuse such as “the water’s too high” or “I’m too busy” or “the dog ate my homework”, that would be juvenile (and even more so, boring).

No, I have no explanation for my actions. I’ve woken by six nearly every weekend day this summer, only to watch the day fly by without wetting a line in the coldwater. A pathetic situation if I do say so myself, which I will. Somewhere between packing for the drive and checking the carp infested flows right out my doorstep, I’ve opted for trout only when it’s forced upon me (lack of aggressive prodding notwithstanding).

I could link back to days of old, re-spinning fishing lore in an attempt to portray a certain image. But I won’t. That’s called posing, and seeing as I’m vehemently opposed to wearing waders between May and September, a front page photo opportunity is completely out of question (although the author’s mug hedges that bet).

MG signing off (to imagine the summer isn’t nearly over, although it is)

Top ten reasons carp are better than trout

1) You need just some 8lb leader to catch carp. Most trout fishermen carry 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, 6X, and 7X, or at least all those spools dangling from their vests make it look that way.

2) Most carp fishing requires at minimum a stout 6 weight – a 7 or an 8 if you want to play it safe. For trout you carry what’s called a noodle.

3) Carp shy away from anything that looks like an indicator. Tiers create very effective flies for trout…out of indicators.

4) Carp warn their friends when there are flies in the water. Trout chase their friends away and then eat the flies.

5) When fly-fishing for carp you get to see your backing. When fly-fishing for trout, you begin to miss your line.

6) Carp don’t croak after they’ve been out of the water for ten minutes. You have to revive a trout after five seconds.

7) Carp seem happy, as they often jump seemingly just for joy. Trout must be depressed, because all they do is sit in the feeding lane and eat.

8) A puny carp is ten pounds. A trophy trout is…ten pounds.

9) You’re happy if there is a fly shop near your trout fishery. But it’s likely there’s a strip club next to the carp fishery.

And last but not least…

10) Wipe the slime off a trout and it gets sick and dies. Wipe the slime off a carp and you get sick and die.

MG signing off (hoping spring really is almost here)

Can you ever have too many fly boxes?

dry fly boxI’ve heard the statement over and over again: you can never have too many fly boxes. I’ve always wondered about that.

What if you are getting tired of carrying them? Would rather have the space in your pack for food and drink? Do those boxes wind up glorified storage, like Tupperware operates in the leftovers realm? I know many folks who never eat what lingers more than a day in the fridge, and a while back I got an inkling the same might be the case for flies. I’ve since kept track of what I’ve cooked, and what could now be deemed a science project.

As far as trout flies are concerned, I have roughly ten mainstays – they’re my pizza and PPJ PBJ. While I haven’t chased trout as much as in years past, those ten flies have accounted for 90+ percent of production, with the elk hair caddis and the buckskin making up about half that. If I tossed in a few new streamer and hopper patterns I lucked out with, it would be immeasurably close to 100%.

I also noticed that some flies have been sitting in one box or another for more than a decade, put there for very particular situations such as microscopic midge hatches on the San Juan quality water. I’ve used the regulars in those same places since, and done just fine. Further, a few months back I watched a buddy toss a big yellow sallie in a sea of small yellow sallies – the fish all around us rejected that fly like it was radioactive. I don’t carry yellow sallies, but I did have a plain ole’ caddis in just the right size. We tied those on, and they saved the day.

As of late time on the water has skewed towards bass and carp, but with an even narrower distribution around the mean. Roughly 75% of the bucketmouths I’ve taken were fooled by a single popper (albeit with some variation in color), and the rest by either a Clouser or a Jawbreaker (again in different colors). When it comes to the ditches, I’ve used a handful of flies for smallies, and just two patterns on the goldfish. That’s correct…every carp I’ve caught this season has been on one of two patterns (in two colors), with the color tan accounting for 8 out of 10 fish.

carp

Sight fishing for carp has been a constant reminder of that week in Andros. Where I used just four flies.

Over the last two seasons I’ve cut the number of rods I own in half. Actually, more than in half, as seventeen sticks are now seven. The goal was pushing limits – understand the finer qualities of each piece of equipment in a wider variety of conditions. Reducing predawn decision-making was a side benefit. So far it’s working out – one rod has been damaged since, but I didn’t lose any time on the water because of it. Recent observations suggest the utilitarian method could be applied to flies too. Trick fish with fewer patterns, substituting something very close for an exact match and then overweighting reliance on delivery.

Can you ever have too many fly boxes? I’m not sure just yet, but last weekend I found my hat getting handed to me while nymphing. As many folks who have fished with me know, I’m not wanting for dredging tools. Yet despite zero apprehension regarding multi-fly rigs and truckloads of lead, I was forced to turn things around.

With a single dry.

MG signing off (to balance quantity, size, color and namesake, with method)

Rain, rain, go away. Come back when the season’s over.

The Environmentally Conscious [in 39 words]

The western US is a desert. Precipitation is the lifeblood that keeps the majority of its inhabitants alive. We should be prudent with our use of water, and be thankful for any rain or snow that comes our way.

The Self-Centered Fly-Fishing Prick [in 85 words]

The western US is a desert. So what! Precipitation is the lifeblood that keeps the majority of the lawns in the suburban sprawl green, but I don’t use my yard so I say xeroscape it all. Meanwhile, all this recent rain is cramping my style! The entire South Platte river system is blown out. I thought about crossing the divide but that shit is headed up too. A man cannot live on meat and potatoes alone. Nor can he via clandestine bass fishery jaunts either.

MG signing off (after proving that fly-fishers have 118% more to say than environmentalists)

Contemplating the karmic influences of fly-fishing

To make a long story short, I’ve been on a dry fly binge. As a result, I’ve been catching a lot of small fish, and this last weekend was no different. Armed with a noodle in weight forward four I tagged a lot of fish, but I’d be hard pressed to say anything broke the 12-inch mark. I’m plenty satisfied, but the news has caused significant consternation amongst others and I’m losing friends (who regularly peg beads and throw barrel-eyed bunny strip).

I’ve even been told to cut the crap…

Trout geeks like to say that, “it’s not fishing unless you’re losing flies.”

But in the capr realm, “it’s not fishing unless you’re breaking rods.”

Now quit harassing those ghey ‘lil trout, dump those silly #20 comparaduns, put “Master of Puppets” on 11 and git out there and break some shit…

-B

I leave it to the outsiders’ imagination who “B” is, but let’s just say he always wins. The rest of you probably have a clue already.

While discussing the prior weekend’s events I noted that I now find multiple fly rigs somewhat inefficient, particularly when casting to trout on the inspect and reject curriculum, and that I was swearing them off for a while. One participant in the talk replied that it was a worthy experiment I was about to embark on, then mumbled something about a psychiatrist friend “I just had to meet”. I only got halfway through describing my thoughts to another when they simply hung up.

Anywho…

I decide to go chase some golden bonefish stinkwater redfish sewer trout this afternoon because carp are about to intrude on my sentient being like out-of-town fly-fishing guides intrude on my sofa. I have to dust off the six-weight despite all the delicate, small stream juju I’ve built up. Jim “Masked Avenger” Kanda and I saw a lot of action, and wound up pleased with ourselves despite the fact we didn’t bring any slimy critters to hand.

Then I drop by the post office and find a care package has been delivered from Sacramento, CA, land of busted budgets and fancy fly-tying scissors. I was immediately jazzed about Keith Barton‘s latest invention, but it was the dubbing that really got to me.

It takes a true nutcase to get wound up about dubbing, but not only did this particular material look oh so fine, one of the colors was olive! For what odd reason I didn’t have any olive only Einstein and the Dalai Lama could figure, but just the other day I went digging for some and couldn’t find any.

I was told point blank that some dubbing expert from Minnesota might be quite jealous of this product, and it just so happens that same expert will soon be taking advantage of my extraordinarily comfortable and quite fairly priced sofa. This expert just so happens to favor carp fishing too. Even the newbies worship this guy, and I suspect I can trade some of the body material for smothered burritos and a few cold ones.

I now scratch my head.

Should I continue trout fishing with light lines and single dries, or would tossing some streamers with a 200 grain line curry favor with the old crowd? Would that add to the positive rays obviously cast upon me? What would happen if I devoted the rest of my life to catching carp instead? Maybe just with dry flies? I wonder if excursions for largemouths count as brownlining.

I could give up fly-fishing, sell all my worldly possessions, made up primarily of some well used rods and reels, a few hundred thousand flies, and a [conspicuously] unevenly groomed collie dog, then join a monastery…

…or maybe I should just start charging for the sofa time, payable in Macallan Fine & Rare. That’s good karma, isn’t it?

MG signing off (to contemplate that which is incomprehensible, or just plain confusing)