26
Sep 21

Duality

Driving North felt like descending into hell.

As I got close to Redding, 3 hours north of the Bay Area, I was met with a wall of ash. There was a fire, a new fire in months of never-ending fires, and it was close. More forests and homes burning up.

So much has burned this year. 2.4 million acres up in smoke. It was so thick. I wore my N95 in the car and it still smelled like a campout.

Once past this latest fire I emerged just beyond Shasta Lake and into areas which had already burned by other fires in the past couple years. Miles of burned-out forests, no canopy, no undergrowth, just the slightly reddish earth and the charred skeletons of trees.

It is apocalyptic and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the characters from “The Road” walking along the shoulder of I-5.

Arriving in my little home-town the smoke was background level and the forests the clung to the canyon walls were still thick and dark green. A stop at Ted Fey’s Fly Shop and a quick stop off at my dad’s now former home and I set off for the river.

In September you don’t need waders and I stepped into the waters to find them cool. I had been expecting the worst after my drive up and was almost surprised to find the waters so frigid and trout friendly.

It was just so nice.

This summer started off rough up here. June had temps over 100 every day, all month. That didn’t happen when I grew up here. Temps like that were reserved for late August and early September, but not June. June can still be cool. June can still be cold in the early mornings. June can be cold at night. June has runoff swollen rivers that are both a little high and very cold.

This year there wasn’t much snowpack to come down, so the river was not high at all when I saw it in May, and no where near as cold as it should have been. I feared for the summer months.

Now, in the waning days of September, I could see the river had made it though the unprecedented heat. It survived.

I hiked up the tracks to the Falls, which are always beautiful. They are worth the hike all by themselves. They are also about as far as most people get. I started fishing upstream from there.

Over the next four hours or so I enjoyed some of the best fishing I’ve had in ages. It was a throwback to how this river fished for me 15 years ago. I caught fish and then more and then more. I saw a mink. I landed a very nice fish at or above 18″ which is a really nice fish for this river. I didn’t see another soul above the Falls. I had the place to myself to enjoy, to reconnect with, the play in.

It was odd, how I felt on the drive up, how it all felt like it was all being lost, and how I felt standing in that bit of paradise, having it all to myself. It was hard to hold both things in my head at the same time.

I hope this little bit of perfection survives the next few decades… the droughts and the fires that are likely to keep ravaging California and the West as we struggle to come to grips with what exactly we are losing. I want to hold onto this a bit longer.


18
Aug 21

I bought a mangrove in the Bahamas and you can too.

Read this story from Patagonia… worth your time.

Dorian was a monster and it did so much damage. Some folks (including Justin Lewis with BTT) are working to make things better. It’s a big job. They could use your help.

You can buy a mangrove and I did just that. You should consider it.

Mangroves are cool.

07
May 21

New Threads

I was watching Ben at Huge Fly Fisherman and saw his shirt and I had to have it. Turns out it was from the Trailer Trash Fly Fishing podcast folks.

Luckily, I had the $25 in the bank to make the shirt mine.

Man… it is just a thing you have to learn if you are going to chase bonefish (or anything in the salt) and when you get it, when you finally learn how to do it, all things become possible.


24
Apr 21

The Palms of Alameda

I live on an island. It is a nice place. We have great neighbors and live in a great neighborhood. I love it here, deeply.

At the tail end of April it will be 61 here as a high and there are large swaths of the summer the high will be 68. We’ll get a week of 100+ heat at some point, but, it isn’t the tropics.

While this island, sitting on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, is worlds away from the Bahamas, we do have a palm tree we can see from our back yard and if you look at it real hard and actively exclude everything else from your vision, you can almost transport yourself to the Caribbean.

I just got my coffee and looked out the kitchen window to see if there was much wind out and saw the palm, calm and still. If I were fishing for bones today, I’d be comforted by that sight. I can remember other mornings on other islands where the sound of the wind through the palms was the first thing I heard when I woke and I would know from that sound that the day would be tough.

I can’t turn that part of my brain off. I don’t want to turn that part of my brain off.

I love this palm… this little bit of island mentality, or island memory.


14
Apr 21

Wil Flack knows permit

I don’t know Wil Flack. Let’s be honest, I’m very likely not awesome enough to know Wil Flack. Dude is super fishy and we all aspire to that title and few will earn it.

Wil Flack knows permit. Guy lives down in Belize, runs the Tres Pescados Fly Shop in San Pedro and is pretty much associated with catching permit.

I’ve caught one, small permit and the few chances I’ve had to cast at them generally end up with me thinking WAY too much about what I’m doing, which is usually a surefire way to screw something up.

So, in order for you and I to learn something from Mr. Flack, here are some videos of him talking about how to move the fly for permit. I never get this right. Maybe these will help.

Ready?


17
Oct 20

Fly Fishing Journal tribute to Josie

If you are here, you probably already see what the Fly Fishing Journal had to say about the passing of Josie Sands, but, just in case Bonefish on the Brain is your #1 fly fishing news source, I thought I’d share what that fine publication had to say in reflecting on Josie’s passing.

Here’s a well done piece in tribute to Josie Sands.


09
Oct 20

Josie Sands Passes

A bazillion years ago in a world that doesn’t exist anymore I went down to Andros South to fish with a bunch of other fly fishing bloggers. It was called FIBFEST 2 and it was an amazing time (thanks Andrew). It was, literally, the demarcation line between my life how it was and how it would be. I’m eternally grateful for that opportunity.

The crew there at Andros South was a stellar collection of very good guides and staff. One of the top guides there was Josie Sands. Josie was very good, very stern and very serious, I was told. You better bring your A game when you fished with him. All that made me a bit nervous to fish with him. I was worried I wouldn’t live up to his high expectations as my interest and excitement usually outpace my abilities.

I don’t remember who I was fishing with (might have been Andrew Bennett?) but I had one day with Josie. He had me up on the deck as he was poling us along a beautiful bit of Andros when he called out a bonefish. 80 feet. That’s a hell of a cast. By the time I had everything ready to go it was 70 feet, but there aren’t a lot of guides who would even call out a fish at 70. They’d wait until the angler could reach the fish, maybe not even saying anything until it was at 50′. I remember making that cast, consciously thinking about the mechanics and trying to clear my mind of everything else. I summoned up some nordic casting spirit and laid it out 70 feet in a bucket and Josie issued the customary “strip, strip, pause, strip” commands until I was on the fish.

I don’t remember the fish at all. I remember the cast and I remember how good it felt to be given that task and to not let Josie down.

Josie recently passed away in a boating accident down in Andros. It is a loss for that community for sure.

Godspeed Josie.

Here’s a link to a tribute to Josie from FishWest.


03
Oct 20

Thoughts of failures

I was laying in bed last night trying to go to sleep in this craziest week I’ve experienced as an Adult American Human and my thoughts drifted off to Christmas Island.

So, what did I think about? I thought about two things. First, I thought of the day I missed 20+ bonefish shots… second guessing my flies and strip and wondering what I could have done differently. Was it the UV flash that reflects an odd color in the sun? Was it treating the flies like shrimp instead of like minnows? I don’t know. I can’t know. I won’t know. But we focus on the failures more than the successes, don’t we? Our brains are wired like that.

Second, I thought about the last fish i cast at… a very nice GT and a great shot and the fish that just didn’t eat. The guide was urging me to strip fast and I was… but was it too fast? Not fast enough? do you need to let the fish eat? What could I have done differently? Really, I’d need a dozen more shots, or more, to start to answer the question.

The trip has wonderful, beautiful, fantastic moments, but as 11:30 morphed into midnight and then to 12:30, I kept going back to those two days.

Wishing you all sound sleep and few regrets.


01
Sep 20

Re-Baiting

I think a lot of us have gone through a process in our fishing.

I started off dipping worms for bluegill. A little later and I was slinging eggs and hardware for steelhead. I didn’t discover fly fishing and a love for trout until I was 21 and for a long time that’s all I did, maybe with a little superiority in my beliefs.

I had a kid. I wanted that kid to see/be around fish and where I was that meant bait for sharks. I started doing that and grew a love of hers for sharks.

Then, saltwater fishing, I rediscovered the joy of catching fish on a spinning rod… especially barracuda and jacks.

Kid #2 and a new bit of home water emerges, 4 houses away, and I find out we can catch (little) sharks there. He is overjoyed. Said it was the best day ever.

I’ll fish bait. I’ll fish flies. I’ll fish gear.

I still enjoy catching a fish on a fly rod best, but I’m much more pragmatic now.

The joy in his eyes… priceless.


18
Jul 20

Back in the swing of things

At the start of this thing I wasn’t fishing much at all. Hunkered down, waiting to see how things would go, not really contemplating it would be months and months and months.

My Abaco trip was called off and work travel halted. Conferences were cancelled. Trips to the store were cancelled. Life as we knew it was cancelled.

But, you create a new normal when your old one goes away, and I have. I work from home now, thankful for my job. My wife works from home frequently, doing tele/video visits with sick kids and worried parents. We even seen each other on some days.

Recently, I’ve started getting back out there with a rod as well. We had a few days up at a cabin near my hometown with our “bubble family” and I managed to put all the kids and adults on fish and I managed one of my best trout in years.

A really nice NorCal rainbow

I also managed to catch my first striper in about a year and a half, and then my second.

Also managed to catch a ray with my son while taking my lunch break, about 4 houses away… water I’ve visited many times, but not fished. Who knew?

Feels good to fill some of this COVID time with fishing. I can tell I needed by how good it is making me feel.

I don’t know when I’ll be back on the flats, or where. With a wife in healthcare we have to be careful. Lots of the places I’d want to go don’t seem like great ideas to travel to right now. Who knows… maybe we’ll get a vaccine by the end of the year, or early next. That will free things up a lot, if things work the way we expect them to. We shall see.

I hope you get out there, in the fresh air, and get a few tugs. Some good medicine right there.