Menu

Michael Gracie

Completed Winter Reading List (inclusive of LSD substitutes)

Winter is supposed to be the time when you relax on the couch, well-tended fire and warming cocktail close by, and spiral into a state of severe depression over your “friends” social media posts read a good book. The absolute value of literary consumption has dwindled yet again, but only because the chimney sweep flew south last December …

The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday MachineMichael Lewis (link)

So the movie just came out (and I already knew the story), but the book is classic Lewis; a thorough – and gripping – tale of monkey business.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show BusinessNeil Postman (link)

The conceptual transition between the written word and television repeats itself; this time it’s zombies staring at little blue screens instead of big black and white ones.

Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandLewis Carroll (link)

Cannot believe I’d never read this before; like The Bible, a source of many otherwise inexplicable pop-culture references is finally uncovered.

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human ValuesSam Harris (link)

“Faith” is the exchange of critical thinking skills (and money) for someone leading you into a pasture; there a creature (of likely sharper intellect) keeps the flock in check while it in turn baas out ways to treat those outside the ring with patronization and/or passive-aggressive disdain; Harris continues proposing alternatives to this malinvestment.

MG signing off (because Spring draws near, or at least Daylight Savings Time does)

Something Thoreau wrote on January 30, 1854

“It is for man the seasons and all their fruits exist. The winter was made to concentrate and harden and mature the kernel of his brain, to give tone and firmness and consistency to his thought. Then is the great harvest of the year, the harvest of thought. All previous harvests, are stubble to this, mere fodder, and green crop. Now we burn with a purer flame like the stars; our oil is winter-strained. We are islanded in Atlantic and Pacific and Indian Oceans of thought, Bermudas, or Friendly or Spice Islands.”

Thoreau may have been surrounded by snow and early darkness, lacked a television, and at times nursed a persistent cough. I can appreciate all that right now. But he didn’t have any fine graphite fly rods and yet still alluded to persistent thoughts of tropical climes.

MG signing off (because he does have fine graphite fly rods, and he is also thinking about the tropics)

UPDATE: It’s the worst kind of seasonal affective disorder, which has otherwise been particularly widespread this year.

The first catch of 2011

We tromped around, spying just a minuscule number of the capr. And from quite a distance I might add.

To hell with distance I say!

So without further ado, I give you my first catch of 2011…
(more…)

Adventures in Fly-Fishing Retail – the new series begins December 4th

Trouts Fly FishingWinter can be dismal. Outliers across the northern hemisphere will chase tailwater fishes while dreaming they were standing on a flats skiff in The Bahamas. The rest will scan their boxes for empty space and then hit the tying bench, inevitably filling the holes ten times over. In the spring they’ll find those patterns don’t work that well after all, and they’ll trade the surpluses for petrol and microbrews. The seasonal migration to the indoors will drive many batty, and if you’re unlucky enough you’ll read the rants online.

In the future you’ll have options

Around here it’s all about disclosing closely guarded secrets to improve your fly-fishing prowess striking a balance between useless babble and the provision of entertainment value. Keeping said interests in mind, something wonderful is coming your way: Adventures in Fly-Fishing Retail. A fresh new series brought to you by the the same folks that created EntouragePirates of the Flatsfly-fishing hacks, we will explore the seedy underbelly which is the local fly shop, from the inside on out.

Trout's Fly FishingContent for the documentary series will be acquired on location at Trout’s Fly Fishing in Denver, CO beginning December 4th 2010, continuing on occasional Saturdays until the producers score a slot on a bonafide reality series or springtime, whichever comes first.

Trout’s proprietor Tucker Ladd had this to say about the latest and greatest in winter fun:

“When we were first pitched on this idea, Jim [Kanda] and I were skeptical. We took to the back office to mull the concept, and after polishing off a half-gallon of single malt came to the conclusion that while having that Gracie guy lingering around probably isn’t all that good for business, at least if we pay him something we can order him around.”

The creators of this concept originally wanted to call it How Long Can a Fishing Junkie Hang Out in a Fly Shop Unsupervised Without Robbing the Place Blind, but when the contract was being inked the producers noticed shop management was already getting prepared.

By doing a complete inventory.

MG signing off (to offer up something different to cure the off-season doldrums)

“Three” becomes the charm

As of January 22nd, I had not caught a trout in the year 2010. It was not for lack of trying.

On January 1st I hit Cheesman Canyon. And despite decent weather and plenty of spottings I went home empty handed. Last weekend I could be found tromping around the Blue River. The temperature was bitter, but the fish were plentiful. From Spectator Bridge a buddy watched me bop resident pigs in the nose, time and time again. Not a single take. That makes two skunks.

Yesterday was different.

A wildly popular section of the South Platte River was the target. When we arrived arrived there were a half dozen cars per lot, and anglers in every imaginable hole. This particular section has never been an MG favorite, and the reason is abundantly clear: crowds, even in the dead of winter. The fish have seen every pattern a million times. Even the yearlings shift feeding lanes when they see beadheads coming their way.

They (and I’ll note that “they” seem to be omniscient, whomever “they” are) say that bad luck come in threes. “They” probably don’t know me, but I love pushing my luck. To the nth degree, just in case I get a chance to give bad luck the middle finger (back luck deserves it now and then). So on my third trout-ing this year, after two previous pummelings, I not only picked a spot I didn’t care for, but also a start time (in the water by 11:30am) that guaranteed a mob.

And then came the three. Two bad decisions deserves another – the weather service predicted decent wind for the afternoon, so I threw caution to it and carried a three-weight. Not just any three-weight, however, but a Sage 389-3 LL three-weight. I now call it my fly-fishing middle finger.

For those just joining, the Sage 389-3 LL is kind of like the Ferrari 250 GTO of fly rods. It’s precise, beautiful, and has won accolades far and wide. It’s nowhere near as quick as today’s fast-action drivetrains, but it sure is fun to take for a spin. I figured if the odds were already against me I had nothing to lose.

The end result: it was cold, moderately gloomy, crowded, and the midge hatch that appeared about an hour in lasted all of minutes. The breeze blew, not strong, but non-stop.

And I caught more than my fair share of fish. Plenty of littlies, and only a few of chunk. But no more skunk. Three becomes the charm.

MG signing off (to give bad luck the middle finger every chance I get)

What does the fly-fishing set do to pass the time during winter

It’s winter (and how’s that for stating the obvious?). For some that means peering out the window to cold, dark skies, maybe doing a little gear maintenance, and in the off chance you do hit the water, getting brutally skunked.

Fly shop proprietors, like those at Denver’s venerable Discount Fishing Tackle, do things like tear their retail floor plans to smithereens:

   

More than a few customers suggested they stopped the project cold, as the place presently has a cleaner feel to it than it’s had in five years.

Those who retired from fly tying because they were too busy with workfrustrated with wrapping hackle around microscopic Tiemco 101s…really only capable of tying clouser minnows to begin with take the Brett Favre approach:

The author readily admits that a Dyna-King Professional was probably going a bit overboard, especially since the last fancy vise he owned was smashed on the kitchenette floor of a room at Abe’s after the size 26 hooks he was mass producing adult midges with kept slipping out of the jaws. But then again this IS fly fishing related stuff we’re talking about here.

What do you do to pass the time during winter?

MG signing off (to bloody my fingertips on some tiny hooks)

Editor’s note: surfing pornography websites day in and day out DOES NOT qualify as passing the time, and for some may substitute for fly-fishing during most other seasons anyway.

Lowering the bar for the winter

Lowering the photography bar tooThe call came in Monday at 7:58 am.

VOICE #1: How was it?!

VOICE #2: So so. We picked up plenty of stockers, but only two decent native bows. No rhyme or reason.

VOICE #1: How was the weather?

VOICE #2: Nice, and cold, in the morning. Got some cloud cover in the afternoon, but didn’t see any bugs. Probably too cold.

VOICE #1: Okay. I’m on my way to work. Will catch up soon. See ya.

An early winter fishing report, exchanged in less than sixty seconds and in under sixty words. No embellishments about a bang-up day. No mention of a post-outing beer guzzling fest either. Someone hoping to live vicariously through a fishing story. Sorely disappointed. It just didn’t happen.

It’s a sign of the season. Lowering the bar for the winter.

MG signing off (to find a ballroom dancing class for winter, thinking it might just improve his wading skills come spring)

Winter solace isn’t supposed to mean ‘cold, and sans fish’

Cold Rod

I spent roughly four hours today playing winter river commando. Ducking behind rocks and blending into tree shadows cast by a low sun. Slipping on ice, tucking hands into jacket, and repeatedly coming up short on casts when ice magically appeared on guides that moments before were clear as a summer day. You know the drill.

I expected there to be a few people out – we haven’t had a storm in what seems like weeks, and the temps were supposed to climb into the high 30’s. From the looks of the banks, the section I did icicle dancing on was well traveled. But I’d been there before when it was shoulder to shoulder, and was plenty fine with taking my fair share and moving on. Today, I not only didn’t get as much as a look, but the temperature was still lingering around 30f when I got back to the truck.

What did I throw today…Mysis, San Juans in red, pink, and purple, a tungsten-weighted golden stone, Black Beauties down to size 24, Discos in three colors (and in the same size range), Black and Red Jujubees (yep, tiny), and a few darker WD-40s that were so small I generally stuff two in each slot in my box. Zero, zip, nada for fish.

Frozen laces

By 2pm I had plenty of sun on my cheeks, and headed back to the truck for some grub. Thereafter three more vehicles pulled up, and out jump four humans apiece already donning waders. I decided I’d write the afternoon off (or what was left of it, since the glorious sun would be disappearing behind the mountaintops in another hour anyway). I broke down the gear and then reached for my bootlaces – they were still frozen stiff. So, I had to stand in the middle of the lot facing the sun for another ten minutes in order to thaw. I eat slow – high 30’s my ass.

Before I left I called a friend who’d being hunting out on the eastern plains, to see how they had done. He told me they’d bagged precisely nothing, and on account of the weather. Said it was too warm! Had we been forced to live off the land, the sign on the kitchen door would say ‘closed’ right about now.

Nevertheless, I’ve dodged cabin fever for another week or two – and frankly, I’m not really complaining about the cold as much as the lack of action – the latter just means I get to continue having nightmares (of popped tippets) and hallucinations (of angry browns attacking me with piranha-like frenzy) until the next try.

First winter visit to Cheesman Canyon

There are a few things everyone knows about the Cheesman Canyon tailwater fishery:

1) It’s a short drive from Denver;
2) The fish have Ph.D.’s in entomology; and
3) You don’t trespass on Wigwam Club grounds.

What many don’t know is that the upper canyon (i.e. closest to the dam) is stellar water, and much less crowded than that accessed via the more popular Gill Trail head. They also don’t know that said hike in begins and ends with sections that will make you think you are climbing a thousand flights of stairs made of quicksand (although having the ground frozen is a help). But you will have to deal with it, along with frozen fingertips and blocks of ice constantly forming on the bottom of your boots, if you want to fly fish the upper Cheesman Canyon in December.

Despite the slight adversity, which included zero fish landed in roughly four hours of attempts, it was a good time. There were plenty of hookups to be had – you just had to have a sense of humor because each time a bite came, the fish were bolting for the closest four inch wide gap between rocks and bound to snap you off. Landing is always an issue here, but it’s even more pronounced when the water is flowing at winter lows. Breakoffs happened all day, which was fine by me – regardless of losing a half-dozen WD-40s, flashback pheasant tails, and zebra midges, I was cringing at the thought of getting my hands wet. The action alone was enough to satisfy, and you’ll know why I felt this way the moment you go down there…

The sun absolutely does not shine on this water during the winter!

winter-fishing

ADDITIONAL NOTES: 6X tippets carrying Black Beauties, brown WD-40s, and Pheasant Tails produced the most strikes – stay small. Copper Johns in blacks, silvers and whites were used as attractors, although we’re not sure if that really helped. Leading with an orange or pink egg did help, at least as far as seeing flies in the water against dark bottoms and consistent shadow. A little grease on the line keeps water from beading and freezing up on it – I generally wipe with a little Armor All for this purpose. And don’t hike in ready to fish – it’s a workout, and you don’t want to be standing around in sweaty waders once you arrive. Last but not least, bring food, plenty of water, and watch your step (ice is slippery, don’t ya’ know)!

MORE: The flow was 51 cfs. That’s very low for Cheesman, although not out of the norm for this time of year.