GLASS ACT

By , April 13, 2011 11:55 pm

We don’t have cable TV at our house. We just roll ol’ school in the media department and use a pair of rabbit ears (plus converter box) to pick up the stations that are out there for free.

I’m not anti-cable or anything like that. I’m just … frugal.

A lot of people tell me that they couldn’t imagine life without cable/satellite or not being able to watch such and such show every week – I gotta say, in all humility, it hasn’t been an issue.

Now, having said that, when my wife and I travel we definitely take advantage of the in-room cable and the enormous flat screens with surround sound and we thoroughly enjoy episodes of shows we don’t otherwise catch.

We’ll often end up staying awake far, far too late watching some of the crazier “reality shows” that are out there like the one about the dog trainer or the one about the guy who intentionally signs on to do some dirty job or the one about people finding new homes in other countries or the one about people finding valuable treasures amid junk.

That last one, the one about finding hidden treasures, that one really intrigues me. We’ve been to enough homes around the county to know that one man’s junk is truly another man’s treasure.

We have seen some pretty amazing stuff.

I’m not one to judge, so there is no criticism here, I’m just sayin’ that there is no end to what people will collect, display, hoard or accumulate whether by design or default.

So the other day, we were out seeing a client – actually his pet potbelly pig — and I was just sort of chatting with him (the client, not the pig) as we concluded business and, somehow, the topic of fishing came up. Well, one thread of conversation led to another and before long I mentioned that I do a lot of flyfishing. He told me he never really tried flyfishing but he thought it looked interesting. Then he told me to hold on a second and disappeared into an outbuilding that he said was once a smokehouse/meat locker/butchering shed but hadn’t been used as such since 1971.

When he re-remerged he was holding two brick-colored cardboard tubes with the Fenwick label on one end. He said that they belonged to his grandfather and they ought to go to someone who could truly appreciate them ‘cause all they were doing at his house was collecting dust. Despite my objections, he pressed them into my hands and made me promise to actually use them… like that’s gonna be a problem.

When we finally finished our appointments for the day (one of the longest days on record, by the way) and our mobile veterinary hospital was safely docked and carefully cleaned and I was officially off the clock, I carefully unpacked them – a total Indiana Jones moment for me if there ever was one. Both rods were in near new condition down to the original prices tags ($24.95). After pulling the info off the butt section of each one, I hit the Internet (just a little ironic). It only took a while but eventually I was pretty confident that what I had in my possession were two pre-1960 eight-and- a-half foot, 7-wt or 8-wt fiberglass fly rods.

Further research showed that the guys who use fiberglass rods really love ‘em. I sort of got the impression that they are like the guys who still drive 1964 Chevy Impalas or the guys who still listen to oldies on AM radio…or like the guys who still use rabbit ears to watch TV.

So, after reading all the glowing reports … I naturally, went fishing.

And…it was pretty darn amazing… like driving a ’64 Impala…listenin’ to oldies on AM…adjusting the rabbit ears to get the best picture…

I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.

 

PLAN “B”

By , March 29, 2011 6:55 am

Man-oh-man has it been a wacky series of storms and crummy fishing weather here in SoCal. But there finally seems to be an end in sight and the itch to fish is turning into a raging burn, if you know what I mean.

Now, it’s not like we haven’t tried. Over the last several weekends my fishing buddy, Sean and I have hit assorted local waters both separately and together with little to show for our efforts.

This Sunday however, the dry streak finally broke in a most unexpected way. Sean was down for the count with some kind of intestinal bug and I had several things to attend to all day Saturday and most of Sunday morning. But late Sunday afternoon while out on some errands with my beautiful bride she just happened to mention that she wouldn’t object too much if we happened to stop by one of the local lakes and perhaps…fished a little. (Sorry guys, she’s all mine).

Anyway, after bringing the car back into the proper lane and apologizing to the guy in the silver SUV who now had Starbucks all over the inside of his windshield, I made a quick adjustment to our itinerary and had us over at Legg Lake in no time at all.

The fact that we immediately found a parking space right near the start of the path leading to my favorite spot only served to confirm, in my mind, that I had chosen wisely.

It wasn’t until I opened the back of our vehicle that I realized that I had only one fly rod in the car and since my wife had made it fairly clear that she was willing to go fishing on the condition that she could practice her fly casting, it seemed like an obvious conclusion that I wasn’t going to be.

Fortunately, long time readers will recall, I vowed way back in July during our trip to Connecticut that I would ALWAYS have a plan “B”.  Sure enough, tucked down under a couple of duffels sat an unremarkable black case in which I just happened to have my trusty Penfishingrods.com collapsible Goliath model rod and matching reel. (For which I paid full price and do not receive endorsement reimbursement for mentioning, by way of full disclosure).

It was a beautiful moment.

So, after rigging the 5-weight up with an olive wooly bugger for the Mrs. we headed down to the water. When we got down to the lake it was blatantly clear that the burn I mentioned earlier was an epidemic. I hadn’t seen so many fishermen at Legg for weeks.

These guys were fishing hard. Most had multiple rigs with dark colored plastic worms and oversized swimbaits dominating the menu. One guy had a backpack set up with at least six baitcasting poles pointing heaven ward. From a distance he looked like a walking cell tower. The atmosphere was cordial but intense.

We picked a spot where I had success catching everything from Bluegill to Carp to Bass to Trout. I reviewed some technique with my wife and stepped a few yards away with the Penrod and a tiny single-hooked trout-patterned lure. She worked on her backcast while I gently shouted encouragement and suggestions her way (keyword: Gently. Think domestic tranquility. Also remember I don’t like our couch as a sleeping platform).

All the while I just sort of plinked around with my rig. After one particularly well executed cast on the fly rod I was praising my Beloved when I felt the telltale twitch of a hit on the little lure.

I set the hook and the battle was on.

As is made abundantly clear on their website, the key to success with a Penrod is maintaining a loose drag and being patient.

My wife noticed the splashing fish but not that I was tied on to it. She excitedly pointed at it and suggested that I cast toward all the commotion. I gently explained that I was actually the reason the fish was acting so strangely.

Now, I’m not gonna lie to you and say that my little protracted battle was nowhere near as exciting as if I had been on a fly rod because frankly, it’s been a looong winter and I was just so happy to actually have a sizeable fish on that I could have been using a broomstick and wouldn’t have cared. So Purists, say what you will — I was fishin’!

Long story short, I’ll let the photo do the talking. It looks like it is gonna be a great Spring and Summer.

I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.

Follow Up

(Got a phone call today from Michael Di Pippo, President & CEO of Penfishingrods.com. We had a brief but very cordial conversation during which he mentioned that in my previous post, Plan “B”, I did not give the correct e-mail address for his company and the fine products they offer.
Now, with all the scams and cheap knock off versions floating around out there, not giving our readers the correct info was a great disservice to all of you as well as to the REAL pen fishing rod guys who work so hard to offer the quality gear they do and who back it up with exceptional customer service – my sincere apologies.
As I mentioned before, my pen fishing rod is my constant travel companion, fits in my standard all day bag and is a reliable back up rod for those days when fly rodding isn’t gonna cut it.
So, with the mea culpa out of the way, let me suggest that you pay a quick visit to penfishingrods.com site and check out their products. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.)

MID-CITY MIRAGE

By , December 28, 2010 8:19 pm

So the other day, after a rather complicated and slightly stressful two-and-a half hour surgery, we were just getting underway to our next appointment when we drove past a rather large park in Garden Grove.

In the middle of this park there is a very large, flat, grassy area. Now, a heavy downpour had just stopped so this grassy area was pretty well flooded and actually looked like a decent sized pond.

In fact, if I weren’t familiar with this particular park from previous visits, I might have thought that it was a pond and would have excitedly added it to my list of places to explore as potential urban fishing spots.

Just as I caught this little trick of weather in the corner of my eye, a rickety, dented and rusting gardener’s truck chugged out of a side street in front of me and forced me to focus on the task and challenge of bringing an eight-ton rolling hospital to an abrupt slow down on a partially flooded and rain slick road,

“What is that guy doing?” My wife asked but without the same hint of malice that I was harboring for Mr. Gardener at that moment.

“Attempting suicide.” I shot back.

“No, over there.” She said while pointing toward the park, apparently unflustered by our near brush with catastrophe. (That partially explains why she is such a good surgeon — she’s unflappable.)

Secure that we would not have a 1972 Chevy pick-up truck as a new hood ornament, I glanced over to where she was pointing and saw a man spey casting on the same little psuedo-pond that I had been admiring just seconds ago.

“Oh, that. He’s spey casting.” I replied. “And from the looks of it he’s got a Mirage reel from Orvis…”

“What’s that? How can you tell all that from 100 feet away?”

I paused.

Gifts like that don’t just get handed out every day: My wife was asking ME to tell her about spey casting and equipment…

(as they say on Facebook; OMG!)

… Long story, short. That flung open wide the door for a whole discussion (OK let’s be honest – pontificating) on the art of spey casting and perhaps even allowed for the hint of a seed to be planted regarding potential upcoming birthday gifts and such.

Ah, I love this addiction called urban fly-fishin’.

PIER PRESSURE AT BOULDER BAY

By , December 21, 2010 11:47 pm

Most of you already know that Big Bear Lake is where my beautiful bride and I escape to when we are short on time but long on needing to get away fast.

Big Bear fills the bill in a whole lotta ways as far as being a true source of re-creation for us with the schedule we generally have to keep.

But, we don’t get up there as much during the winter because we’ve gotten snowed in a couple of times and things get a little testy when we have to call our clients and try to explain that we have to re-schedule their appointments because we are hunkered down in the cabin (…with the fireplace roaring away…and hot chocolate simmering on the stove … and the radio playing softly in the background…) trapped behind glistening snow drifts which won’t be plowed until at least the next day.

Anyway, the weather has been kinda wet and crummy the last few days and the streets are filled with insane holiday shoppers zipping about from mall to mall and the fishing has been just plain lousy so I’ve been spending a little time hunkered down in the  “man cave” cleaning up some of the files on my computer. While looking through some picture files, I came across some shots I had taken a couple of months back during one of our get-aways to Big Bear.

The last time I wrote about Big Bear Lake, it was to let you know that there is a new fly fishing shop up there on the Fawnskin side. And while I was waxing poetic about being able to walk into a shop and instantly revert to “kid in a candy store” status, I forgot to mention that there have been some big changes up there on the lake itself.

The biggest change is, of course, the building of the new dam. The venerable and aesthetically pleasing arched dam that has served so well for so long just doesn’t meet current seismic or traffic load requirements so a new dam is being built just downstream.

(As an aside: There is nothing like the sound of solid granite being dynamited to get your heart beat into the aerobic workout range really quickly – especially when you forgot what time it was scheduled to happen.)

When completed sometime next year, the dam and re-routed road way will have improved traffic flow for motorists driving the “front way” into Big Bear and better water regulation capabilities for water users down the hill.

Since the area immediately adjacent to the dam is already closed to boat traffic, I’m not sure what effect it will have on fishing. I suspect that the shoreline around the dam will become much more pleasant to fish as you will not have vehicles rumbling past quite so close to your head.

Another change to the Lake is at the park over in Boulder Bay.

I like Boulder Bay. I have spent many a pleasant early morning flyfishing there while enjoying my morning coffee and watching the sunlight play on the rocks as it rises in the sky.

If you position yourself just right, “the modern world” sort of melts away and there is an ageless beauty to the Bay that can be described well enough but can really only be experienced to fully understand it.

Apparently, lots of people like Boulder Bay as it is rumored to be the most photographed place on the Lake. In any event, the park there has been upgraded with new picnic tables, a gazebo, improved walking paths and…a fishing pier.

Now, I’m not so sure how I feel about a utilitarian metal and recycled plastic structure jutting out into the middle of this beautiful Bay but the last time we drove over there, there it was.

It will most certainly up the number of photographs taken of the Bay as it allows you to get out and away from the shoreline and closer to those picturesque boulders that every kid wants to climb on and every tourist wants to photograph.

There are signs posted on the pier warning against overhead casting but, then again, there are signs on every pier I have ever been on that warn against overhead casting. Officially, that pretty much puts a damper on fly fishing unless you happen to be an exceptional roll caster or maybe a spey caster.

But, as with most such things related to the urban fishing mindset, a careful consideration of the situation may find me out there some early morning in the not-too-distant future testing heretofore unreachable sections of the Bay with a nice black or olive wooly bugger… I’ll even have a level place to set my coffee cup down should I hook on to a nice, fat trout.

Hmmm, I guess I just took a little mental trip up to my favorite get-away.

I feel better already.

I love this addiction called urban fly-fishin’.

RULES OF THE ROAD

By , November 28, 2010 9:22 pm

OK. At the time of this writing, I am sitting at my in-laws computer in western Ohio. The air temp outside is hovering around 25 degrees. The wind is blowing somewhere around 20 miles an hour which means the windchill compensated temperature feels like about 11 degrees Farhenheit.

Most of you already know I am a SoCal boy born and bred. Though the sun is finally shining, the world on the other side of the double insulated glass is … shall we say, stinkin’ cold and disorienting to a guy like me.

The sun is out, it should mean shirt sleeves and wet wading, right?

Between the in-laws house and the hotel where my beautiful bride and I are staying there are several small, interesting rivers. As we drove over them today, I glanced at the dark, swirling waters and my thoughts were not of potential Trout nestled up in the eddies and holes behind the bridge abutments but rather, images of Clarence, the angel character from the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, flashed in my mind. Instead of picturing myself landing a massive Brown Trout, all I could see in that brief instant was me in water-filled waders flailing helplessly, screaming for help and hoping that a man of George Bailey-like character was nearby.

It was a sobering image.

After a hardy Ohio style breakfast of eggs and bacon (yeah, I know, but it is Thanksgiving weekend) complete with ketchup (appearantly there are only three spices in Ohio kitchens: salt, pepper and ketchup) I felt a little better and went outside in an effort to come to grips with this new-to-me phenomenom called stinkin’ cold.

I was doing alright until I ventured over to my father-in-law’s pond and saw his fish swimming beneath a sheet of clear ice.

I retreated back into the family home, grabbed the biggest cup of hot, black coffee I could wrap my numbed fingers around, waited for my earlobes to regain feeling and sat down in the comfort of the computer room.

Whilst thawing, I came across an interesting article written by a fly fishin’ Buckeye (that’s how folks from Ohio refer to themselves) which included a nice summary of fly fishin’ etiquette.

After noting the condition of my sister-in-law returning from her Black Friday pre-dawn shopping raid (rural America can be brutal), it seemed only appropriate to pass along such a timely article on the fundamentals of human behavior as it relates to our chosen passion.

Now I realize that this set of guidelines doesn’t include tips on what to do in the urban setting like what to do if you stumble across a drug deal or how to safely skirt a cultic altar or how to disguise your car to look like a homeless encampment rather than a mode of transportation but it is a useful set of rules that we, as fly folks should always strive to practice.

 So, with that in mind     

 

Stream Etiquette

By The Fly Fish Ohio Curmudgeon-in-Residence

   Below are some of the traditional rules of stream etiquette:

1.      When wading a stream, the fisherman wading upstream has the right of way. If you are fishing downstream and approach a fisherman coming upstream, get out before you kick up lots of mud (about 100 yds upstream) and spoil his fishing. Walk around and get in well below him. If the density of stream side vegetation or local laws make it impossible to go around, ask him which bank he would like you to wade by him on and stay as close to the bank as possible. Reel in and DO NOT cast to a rising fish in his vicinity.

2.      If a fisherman is sitting on a log or standing near the bank in front of your favorite hole, he is resting it and it is his to fish. Suffer in silence and move on!

3.      Don’t trespass. If there is no easement along the stream, don’t get out and walk through some farmer’s field for a short cut! Morons who behave like this cause the rest of us to lose fishing rights.

4.      Don’t litter (cans, candy wrappers, tippet material, etc). If you can, pick up other peoples litter that you find and carry it with you.

5.      Don’t be a kiss and tell fisherman. If someone reveals a secret spot to you, do not reveal it to anyone without his permission. If you find a great spot, only reveal it to a limited number of trusted friends. Many great streams have been destroyed by passing out too much of this kind of information. Do other fishermen a favor and allow them to actually learn something for themselves.

6.      Obey fishing regulations and catch and release whenever possible. If you must keep fish, limit your kill. Leftover trout are as tasty as cold tofu!

7.       If you are floating a stream and approach a fisherman, reel in and don’t fish until you are well past him. Ask on which side you should pass, and make every attempt to be as quiet as you can when passing. If possible, stop paddling until you pass. If you are in an aluminum canoe, good luck at being quiet!

 I Would also like to add a few “curmudgeon”  rules of stream etiquette.

 1.      A trout steam with any significant current can be a noisy place. Don’t stand in the stream screaming at the top of you lungs trying to communicate with your buddy 50 yards from you! Fisherman are not only there to catch fish, but also to enjoy the peace and solitude and commune with nature. Therefore, shut your pie hole and save it for later, or learn to use hand signals.

2.      Don’t be like a “chatty Cathy” doll when approaching strangers. They may there to fish and enjoy the peace and solitude, or they may be there to make new friends. Try to determine if they look like they want to talk before asking a bunch of question about what they caught and what fly they are using.

3.      Don’t go to fish a small stream with a big group of people. Split up and go to different locations on the stream and limit the group size considering the available water to fish. Don’t assume your group will have the whole river to fish. Think of the poor guy who used a week of his vacation to come and fish this river, only to find you and an army of your fellow club members at all the access points.

There you have it. Though our urban settings may a long way away from the dark, swirling waters of Ohio and though we, urban fisherfolk, may have to add and subtract as relevant, it is still a good set of rules and a good reminder of why I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.

 

SATURDAY IN THE PARK

By , November 17, 2010 11:31 pm

One of my best friends when I was growing was a diehard fan of the rock group, Chicago. It may have had something to do with the fact that he was part of a drum and bugle corps and had a thing for horns or maybe he just liked their vibe. Either way, he always seemed to be playing their music whenever I dropped by his house to hang out.

Not that anyone really had to make much of an effort to hear a Chicago tune back then since they got a lot of airtime on the radio.

In any event, I can’t say that I was a diehard fan like him. I was struggling just to pick up the nuances of pre-algebra so it seemed like a waste of brain power to memorize concert dates and useless trivia about the kinds of foods various band member liked and so on and so on. Rather, I remained just an ordinary kid who liked some of their songs and would usually sing along to the ones I liked  — provided certain young ladies weren’t around.

Anyway, one of the Chicago songs that I liked (and still do) was, “Saturday in the Park”.

Now, I am just old enough to remember going to some of the parks around L.A. and seeing the balloon venders walking around with, what seemed like, hundreds of bright, helium balloons swaying in the breeze and I am also just old enough to remember the organ grinder guys standing near the merry-go-rounds cranking their tinny sounding hand organs and “singing Italian songs” while their little dressed up monkeys did tricks and then approached you with a tin cup to collect loose change.

I can also remember family outings in the park when we would by ice cream from the man selling it out of a little rolling cart and I remember playing baseball, rolling down the grassy hills just for fun and watching old men argue over Bocce ball and horseshoes. I can even remember rowing around one or two of the lakes – lakes that I now fish – in a rented rowboat with my Dad.

I guess you could say I like that old Chicago song, ‘cause I lived it, even if only for a brief (but happy) period in my young life.

So, you can probably already guess my serendipitous delight, when my fishing buddy, Sean and I encountered a “Saturday in the Park” scenario the other day when we shot over to Heartwell Park in Long Beach to fish the little pond there.

We both had had a very busy week and the weekend was fast slipping away. We both had also wanted to get in some late season fly fishin’ before the start of another equally busy week however morning obligations which then turned into a leisurely lunch with our beautiful brides meant we had to pick a place really close if we were going to get in any time at all on the water before dark.

Heartwell seemed like the obvious choice – not just because of where we were but also because my annual pass to El Dorado Park had just expired.

Sean had scoped Heartwell Park out a couple of weekends ago but despite the fact that I drive by it all the time, I had never actually been there. Upon arriving at the park, I was immediately (and nostalgically) charmed by the well-tended little pond, the trees, the thoughtfully placed benches and the meandering paths. As we rigged our fly rods up and walked towards the little pond, the lowering sun cast long shadows across the wide expanses of grass and also turned the pond water a rosy pink color. I noticed couples of all ages and description sauntering arm in arm along the paths around us talking and laughing. I noticed a young man playing his guitar off in the distance and a couple of kids dancing to the music in their heads. I also noticed a veritable smorgasbord of dog breeds parading past with their owners in tow as we worked our way around the concrete bank. It was a scene that I hadn’t seen in a long time — a real celebration.

Charmed as I was, I didn’t forget the purpose of our little expedition and I managed to hook onto a small Bass on my third or fourth cast while Sean tied on to a couple of sunfish straight away. We each continued pulling in small fish while curious families stopped to watch for a moment or two but then went back to whatever game or activity it was that they were involved in and left us to our fishing.

Eventually, a gentleman did approach Sean and, as fishermen are prone to do, they got to talking. They back and forthed about different places they had each fished and different techniques the had each used and then this generous stranger shared a little history about the pond we were standing at that he had garnered from watching it being drained and cleaned a few years ago.

He wished us well and continued with his late afternoon stroll. We immediately positioned ourselves to take advantage of this new-found intel and within moments Sean had hooked on to yet another fish. I was several yards away, working a corner under a large tree but when he threw his net on the ground, (sort of our unofficial signal for help), I laid my rod down and scooted over to where he was successfully bringing in a fat and sassy twelve-inch largemouth Bass who had fallen for the tried and try black wooly bugger pulled along at a fairly quick clip in short strips of line.

Now, with all of the excitement this fish generated from the two of us and with all the subsequent flash from Sean’s camera lighting up the twilight like fireworks you might have thought our afternoon in the park “was the fourth of July”.

Can you dig it?

I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.

 

EASTERN RISES

By , November 3, 2010 11:09 pm

OK, so it’s no big secret that I have trouble sleeping.

It’s not that I don’t want to sleep. It’s more like I seem to lack the switch that tells my brain to shut up, shut down and recharge for the night. I can lie there and ponder and ponder and ponder until the first grey streaks of dawn peek through the window blinds and then I get so annoyed with myself that I couldn’t get to sleep even if I wanted.

Lately, the “ponder gene” has been in overload.

So, the other night when it became obvious that sleep was going to allude me yet again, I slipped out of bed, crept into the living room and popped a DVD that my fishing buddy, Sean had received in the mail from one of his numerous (and generous) contacts and which he had kindly forwarded to me to review.

It was called Eastern Rises and it followed a tight knit group of intrepid flyfishermen as they sought to fish some of the last uncharted waters in the entire world – the Kamchatka Pennisula of Russia.

Seriously. This place is so remote that it still has speculative parts on the maps and charts and the only way in is via WWII vintage Russian-built helicopters of questionable soundness piloted by almost WWII vintage Russian-built pilots of even more questionable soundness.

Rick Steve’s European vacation this ain’t.

Now, the fact that one of the guys looked, acted and sounded like my nephew was reason enough to keep me watching. But as I watched, I found myself fully absorbed in this story of adventure, discovery and…fishin’.

My heart ached at the sheer beauty of the place these guys had chosen to visit and my pulse raced as they fought some of the most incredible members of the trout family I have ever seen. (Yeah, probably not the best choice of videos for trying to fall to sleep but that wasn’t going to happen anyway.)

As I continued watching, I couldn’t help but think of how excited I get when I discover some hidden pocket water or stream divert that others have nothought to fish and I could imagine how deeply those guys must have reveled in the sheer joy of fishing water that NO ONE had ever fished before and taking fish that had NEVER seen an artificial bait before.

I laughed (quietly) at the ridiculous proportions of the “flies” they were able to use (think ghetto rats) and I studied carefully their techniques for fighting and landing insanely huge, very ticked-off, no-doubt-about-it, top-of-the-food-chain predators.

Now, this neat little film did have it’s questionable moments, like every documentary does, though I guess you could say that it does serve as a fairly serious public service announcement regarding the wisdom of imbibing vodka produced in some Russian backwoods still thousands of kilometers from civilization (read that as medical assistance) with women of questionable ethics who have been drinking the stuff since their mamas put it in their baby bottles.

But all that aside, this video was a stunningly beautiful look at one of the last truly wild places left on this ever shrinking, little blue orb we call home.

It was an astonishing glimpse at possibly some of the last truly wild Salmonids in the world.

And it was just the kind of mini-vacation I needed amidst the turmoil of a very busy week. And though it would never equal the feel of actually having a fly rod in hand and actually being out on the water, even if only a less than pristine urban body of water, it was still a vivid reminder of why I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’

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