Little creeks beg for quiet, contemplative exploration. If you're a creek lover, as I am, then you'll love this story - another bullseye by author Chuck Sams.
I’m from Michigan and my life has consisted of roaming around a peninsula shaped like a big mitten looking for fish. We’ve got a lot of water in all three of its forms. We’ve got lakes, rivers, and creeks. I’m partial to the creeks myself because in the Great Lakes state we are also fond of boat rides in all three of its forms. We’ve got lots of power boats, canoes, and kayaks. If Michigan were a comic book, pleasure boats in all their forms would be the arch enemy of the fishermen. And the rented canoe, well, it’d be like kryptonite to the fly fishing Superman.
Because these places are where our best memories are made...
Creek fishermen are a hearty breed specializing in small rods and roll casts, wandering around the country-side looking for a thin blue line that an army of fly fishermen have somehow managed to overlook. We get excited at the sight of old logging roads, brushy pull offs, and signs that say, "One Lane Bridge". They’re places that are less crowded, that require less equipment, where the trout are less technical and less likely to let a good meal float over them unmolested. Because these places are where our best memories are made, it isn’t unusual for conversations around a remote campfire to start with, "Remember that one time on that creek?"
There was that time in May when it hit eighty degrees, the sun came out, and we caught all three resident stream trout and steelhead smolts. We threw big bushy caddis flies on forty dollar fiberglass 3-weights and the fish just couldn’t turn them down. It was a river by name but it was so small, out of the way, and overlooked I’ll call it a creek 'till the day I die.
And there was that time we entered a One Fly contest and couldn’t buy a fish. That creek could have been running through the seafood department at Kroger and we would have still gotten skunked, until we let a couple of sports fish through our hole. They landed three fish in water we’d been hitting hard by bottom bouncing a bead-head hook with a fuchsia piece of latex tied to it, imitating worms after a big rain. They were nice enough to give us one. We dredged up two more trout out of that hole and it didn’t do us a bit of good in the One Fly. But we caught some trout by God!
...I don’t remember the fish as much as I do the thrill of the stalk.
I remember that day we were stalking a cold, clear creek that averaged maybe a foot and a half deep and came across a two foot steelhead. It was so big in that skinny water that it startled us and for a few seconds we considered digging out a streamer or egg pattern and trying our luck with the 3-weights. A fly rod can always be replaced. But I doubt the memory of fighting a fish like that on a small rod in water that shallow and clear could. I still have a recurring dream that we actually tried it, and it was everything we imagined it would be.
And what about that creek, a real trickle, across from the correctional work camp and under one hundred foot tall white pines? The one where the brook trout were so skittish we took turns kneeling, the water almost coming up over the top of our waders, and casting to the dark holes. We caught a couple that day, but I don’t remember the fish as much as I do the thrill of the stalk.
Then there’s that creek, so brushy that you can hardly fish it after the leaves are on, the one we explored on a whim. It's way back on the federal land next to an old trout hatchery, the depressions in the earth and some blocks from the tanks still there, we caught the brook trout on dries and nymphs.
The brookies so bold and colorful, like fish on a Trout Unlimited calendar or a fly shop post card. We cupped them in our hands and watched each one of those jewels swim off.
But a guy, standing in the alders fishing with worms, whispered us over and showed us what bait can do. The fish he showed us, over a foot long, and slit from asshole to eyeball ready for the frying pan. My mouth waters even now, just thinking about that fight in that narrow water and that trout in the skillet with some butter and onions.
I could keep going, but you get the idea about creeks, running like little blue veins through a map shaped like the back of your left hand. You can jump over some and some you could lay your rod across, end to end three times, before you reach the other side. The fish, on average, are a little smaller than the ones you’ll find in the bigger, more famous rivers. But that’s easily compensated for by the use of a 2 or 3-weight rod.
I can’t give you the key to finding them but I can tell you this much. If you find that secret logging road, the one where you can hear the water running when you roll the window down but can’t see it, get out and part the bushes and check it out.
If you find that one lane bridge, the one whose guard-rails scrape the side of your pickup and you can only see a glimmer of the setting sun on the water, get out and walk it up-stream.
If you find that over-grown pull off, the one that looks like a Panamanian jungle has been transplanted north and has over-grown a ditch, get out and rig a smaller fly rod.
You just might have found heaven on earth.
Chuck Sams lives in South Lyon, Michigan near the banks of the Huron River. His previous writing credits include Editor - The Cedar Sweeper Magazine, Woods-n-Water News, Sporting Tales Magazine and Northern Michigan Journal.
Chucks “Tributary Youghiogheny” was the winner of Trout Unlimited’s 10 Special Places essay contest. That remarkable story was published in TROUT Summer 2016 Magazine. This is Chuck's 6th contribution to The QE Journal.
Publishing a new book can be like giving birth to a porcupine!
Not that I would know what giving birth to anything might be like. But publishing a new book can be a real deal challenge especially if it's outside of your normal scope of interests.
I'm better known for my fly-fishing adventure books, but it's important to step outside the realm now and then just for its own sake. Thus I will, within the month, publish a delicious new book titled STILLWATER - The Secret Life of Ponds.
STILLWATER is a small book at 8.5" x 8.5" and it will be a paperback. The interior copy is expected to be around 80 pages. The way the copy is written is unorthodox too - as much to communicate facts as to entertain and amuse.
As part of my "Young Naturalist" series it is an overview of just a few of the many life-forms that thrive in small bodies of water – in the quiet still-water realms of freshwater ponds. For in these very hidden locations can be found a hidden life. Some pond animals are large and easily observable. Animals like ducks, fish, turtles are all large enough to be easily observed so STILLWATER doesn't go there.
But many pond creatures are very small. Some are what may be termed microscopic animals, or nearly so. And if you are patient, and look very closely, you will find some very amazing animals that can do incredible things you never, ever thought possible.
STILLWATER was written for the curious, inquisitive, serious pond lover.
With STILLWATER, completing the full color illustrations was the most grueling part and there are twenty of them. Each and every one was completed digitally on an everyday laptop using a smorgasbord of computer applications. One app would add the colors, another was used to blend them, yet another to enhance or subdue the exposure or sharpness. Needless to say it was tedious work.
The original line-art for the illustrations was completed many years ago, in 2002 to be exact, with the conclusion of a two year study of three vernal ponds in Michigan. That study was called the "StillWater Project".
STILLWATER is not intended to be a text-book but perhaps as an introduction to pond biology. The age range for the book might be from 8 to 15 years old (Grades 4 to 10) but I expect even some adults might enjoy it also.
Whatever the age STILLWATER was written for the curious, inquisitive, serious pond lover. ~ WES
P.S. - To see all of my book offerings go to Amazon.com/author/wayne.snyder
Night fishing has many dangers not the least of which is being connected to an enormous fish in the depths of darkness.
Author Chuck Sams gives us a blow-by-blow of not only losing the fish and a good chunk of his rig, but also a touch of poise.
The sky was clear the night the salmon stole the fly line. I remember looking up at all the stars and commenting on how many there were, the breath streaming from my mouth in thick white clouds and drifting downwind against the dark purple sky. I looked back toward the river and waited for my eyes to adjust. But even with dilated pupils it’s hard to pick out the drift in dark. Strip, strip, strip, roll the fly rod around your head and drop the weight and fly up stream. Then mend and lift the rod tip and wait to feel the tick, tick, tick of the bottom. If you’re a Hex or Mouse trout fisherman you know what it’s like, the dark not the bottom bouncing.
I remember the fly, a Green Butt Skunk. I know what you are thinking, "That’s a hell of a name for a fly." And you’d be right. I always thought so too. I remember it because you can pick up the chartreuse on the back end of the fly in the dark, one of the few colors you can see when it’s that dark. That fly always brings to mind how I feel after our four day primitive salmon camp back in the woods with only a hole in the ground for a bathroom.
No wonder they nicknamed them "King Salmon" cause this Son Of a Bitch was doing his best to show me he ruled the river!
So there I was on a clear, cold, dark night anchored in front of a good drift lobbing Green Butt Skunks at the salmon. If there is one thing I’ve learned about fly fishing there is a sweet spot in every drift and I was busy trying to find it when a fish tried to rip the rod out of my hands. I could tell right away I was connected to one pissed off Pacific salmon. No wonder they nicknamed them "King Salmon" cause this Son Of a Bitch was doing his best to show me he ruled the river!
I hardly fish alone, and that night was no exception. I mean I'll do it if I need a fix, get some fresh air and feel the pull of a fish, but I'd much rather have some buddies along to share the experience. I could hear a voice over my shoulder from the bank, "Oh shit, he's pissed off."
For a moment I thought I had a chance. The fish would take some line then I'd crank and get it back. I could picture him in my head, a big male salmon with crooked gnarly teeth sticking out every which way and fighting scars all along his sides. It'd make a great picture, the flash from the camera lighting up the woods behind me and showing off the beast, me smiling like a madman and arching my back just so I could lift him up for the shot.
I didn’t know if they were preparing to net the fish or console me after I got my ass kicked.
Then something happened. I don't know what happened, but the fish started running. Not just any run but a reel smoking, knuckle busting run. I heard the voice behind me again, "He's spooked." I was having trouble turning him so I leaned into the rod. It's called "Putting the stick to him" in salmon camp vernacular. I put the stick to him and now that the fish was spooked and running I could see headlamps and flashlights shining up in the trees and bouncing off the surface of the river. They were getting in position on the bank, but at that point I didn't know if they were preparing to net the fish or console me after I got my ass kicked. It gave the whole situation this weird discotheque strobe light type feeling. I heard the voice behind me again, "You're going to break that rod!" My response was something along the line of, "That’s what they are made for,” and, "An excellent excuse to buy a new fly rod!"
It didn’t take long for me to see the comedy of losing your entire set up to one souped-up salmon.
Then it happened.
There was a rifle shot that echoed down the river in the dark and a sound like somebody stuck a baseball card in bike spokes, everything went silent and slack. I turned on my headlamp and the first thing I did was check for bullet holes in my jacket. The second thing I did was shine it up and down the length of the fly rod looking for the break.
It was still in one piece.
I could hear the voice behind me, "You did it now. You broke the rod." I shined my light on the reel, everything was gone except a few wraps of backing. "That bastard stole my fly line!" I said. The dark, scary forest suddenly was filled with loud laughter. Somebody ran down the bank with a light trying to save me thirty bucks. But soon he returned, his light bobbing through the woods along the bank, laughing like a mad man. "I don't see anything down there. I even checked all the logjams."
I'll admit I was pretty upset at first, I mean I work hard for my money and my gear. I don't like losing money. But it didn't take long for me to see the comedy of losing your entire setup to one souped-up salmon. The backing, the fly line, the leader, the weight, and the swivel; even the Green Butt Skunk had been taken. The best I can figure, when I tied my backing off, I must have nicked the Dacron with the scissors I used to trim the tag end and when he ran out enough line...Bang! The night the salmon stole the fly line would forever live in infamy.
Chuck Sams lives in South Lyon, Michigan near the banks of the Huron River. His previous writing credits include Editor - The Cedar Sweeper Magazine, Woods-n-Water News, Sporting Tales Magazine and Northern Michigan Journal.
Chucks “Tributary Youghiogheny” was the winner of Trout Unlimited’s 10 Special Places essay contest. That remarkable story was published in TROUT Summer 2016 Magazine and you can read it by clicking here. This is Chuck's 5th contribution to The QE Journal.
With three words their worlds changed forever.
Some say it's the way their ID's clashed like badly shifted gears when they fished together. But, the truth is Kaine and April are fraternal twins - brother and sister - and they're the rare kind that look alike.
Today it started over drafts of Bellaire Brown served at Shorts Brewery after a tough day of fishing the Cedar River, trying to pull trout from undercuts along the bank, and from the several eddies that formed where the river bends and the current is broken by dead-falls. They had been successful, but only in the sense of having brought a meager few to net - two rainbows and a creek chub each. It was not as productive as they had hoped. They wanted brook trout.
The banter began with laments of the fishing's "would-have-could-have-should-haves" and progressed to critiquing one-another's choice of flies. It was a typical "blonde" vs "redhead" type of discussion that turned heated, whimsical and finally into a contest to clearly acknowledge the better technique...and, of course, the better piscator.
They talked alike, they cussed alike, they even dressed alike...
Kaine, the "blonde" was adamant that the only way – and best way - to produce trout, was with a dry fly cast to a rising fish. The "redhead", April, scoffed at the puritanical attitude, denouncing it as "a ready-made excuse for someone used to making excuses." Pow!
By the time the fourth round of beer arrived, the discussion had turned into near argument, culminating in a wager for tomorrow’s trip to the Jordan River. A wager to prove whether fishing with a wet fly would produce more and bigger fish than those produced with a dry fly.
The terms of the wager were simple: They would fish the same water at the same time. The bet was for bragging rights, but just to make it interesting, the loser would man the sticks for an entire float trip on the winner’s choice of water in their jointly owned drift boat.
Yep, fraternal twins – and some would even say nearly identical. They talked alike, they cussed alike, they even dressed alike as far as a guy and girl can without seeming like cross-dressers - boy boots, tight jeans, sleeveless cable guy shirts and straw cowboy hats. For both it was more of a comfort thing.
Given their different hair color (which is the same as when they were born), and fly-fishing preference (which was also the same until they reached thirteen) their fishing styles are as unlike as any two siblings can be. And their clashes were legendary.
You just keep flipping that poofy thing you call a fly at them there fish.
From the moment they both stepped into the sweet, honey-colored waters of the Jordan one could see the steam begin to rise. Glancing each others rig askance prompted a wrinkle-nose sneer. It's not like they didn't know what to expect. But there was always that dumb-shudder of disbelief.
Why does he fish dry-fly?, she thought with a mental thumbs-down.
I can't believe she fish's nymphs, he convulsed.
It wasn't any different today. April, began by tying on a pheasant tail nymph weighted moderately with lead wire. On the first cast the fly hit the water and began to sink in front of a submerged log that protruded about six inches out of the water with branches stretching and resting on the bottom, creating a fish-hotel of sorts. Nothing happened.
The cast was made again after the nymph straightened in the current and this time hesitated on its way down the length of the log. She lifted the rod in anticipation and instantly felt the tug of a fish. After stripping line, the tug stopped and it was clear the fly was now snagged on one of the arms of the submerged log. Shit happens.
Bah! That's the trouble with nymphing, Kaine thought, Yur always hangin' up.
There are many maneuvers that can free a stuck fly, but none consists of grabbing the rod with both hands and yanking repeatedly. On the third yank April lost footing and fell backwards, regaining it just in time to keep from getting a total dunking. Her sigh of relief was short lived as in her hands was a broken three foot section of her eight foot fly rod. The rest of the rod was dangling by threads of graphite.
Kaine couldn't contain his most practiced evil blast of laughter, "Haahaaaaa! Skues would be proud of you! But, you did manage to stay dry...barely."
Undaunted April gave the line a quick yank, collected the rod parts and stumbled from the river, Kaine detecting her every slip – weird, she's as sure footed as I am.
"Gettin' the backup. You just keep flipping that poofy thing you call a fly at them there fish. We're hardly done, bastardus."
He expected a firestorm...
Uneasy with April's unsteadiness, Kaine flipped the observation away – coffee shakes, he thought. But on her return April waded around a low cedar-sweeper and again she slipped and nearly topped her hip-boots.
Back beside Kaine April sensed the question in his eyes.
"I'm slightly pregnant", she said.
Kaine stood motionless as her three words penetrated his head. The first two were like a shotgun blast. The third was worse; it was like the whole Hiroshima boom complete with mushroom cloud and scorched earth. He looked up and stared at the sky a few seconds, then doffed his straw hat in recognition of her new condition. Or it might have been respect, or a simple salutation between two persons once so genetically indivisible, now forever parted.
He then blurted out the only thing he could think of to say...
"And here I thought you were just gettin' a beer belly."
Kaine leaned down, dunked his straw hat in the Jordan, scooped up a brim-full of its cold, crystal water, and dumped it on April's head. He expected a firestorm but she just laughed, they laughed until they cried.
"There!" Kaine said. "If it's a boy call him Jordan."
April snapped back, "Hell, if it's a girl I'll still call her Jordan!"
But with three words the world changed. From the color of the sky to the shadows of the sun, it all changed.
And all bets were off. - WES:::
That single silver moment that calls to us.
In the dense cover of the early season one can spook-up and never see a half-dozen or more grouse for every bird you may be blessed to actually lock eyes upon. And for that one well-camouflaged bird, in the still-green thickness, you may not see it in time for a decent shot. What one will most likely experience is the sound and whirr of wings and, if you are lucky, the brief blur of a gray-brown projectile just as it disappears from your sight.
Such are the frustrations of hunting for the ruffed grouse in the early season.
It may be whatever you dream. The sporting life calls to us in such ways.
Yet such are the true rewards. When on that rare and sunny day, and when all goes right, there happens a good and noisy flush, and the gun comes up, and a bird, no...a myth...goes down. Perfection.
Such silver moments call upon men over and over again. And he will re-enact his quest for years perhaps, maybe for a lifetime, to achieve that single ideal. It may be the perfect shot on a perfect day. It may be the rise of a trout on the perfect river. It may be the cedar arrow nocked, loosed and that seeks its target as if on a beam of heavenly light. It may be whatever you dream. The sporting life calls to us in such ways.
Nature calls too. Listen to the wind hiss through the tops of tall pines for very long and it will evoke an essential wildness in men that will call to his heart for the rest of his life. And it will be perfect. - WES:::
There's an old maxim that says "Sometimes you have to leave home to truly see it." That can apply equally as well to fly-fishing.
Author Chuck Sams tells it like it is.
The long Michigan winter and Saturdays watching Major League Fishing almost had me convinced to abandon my fly rods this year. In fact, I had vowed not to pick one up, not even for the run of Lake Michigan salmon on the Pere Marquette River this coming fall. I was fat and happy following MLF - the soap opera of bass fishing - and stocking up on plastic worms and bullet weights. I was going to abstain from something I’d been obsessed with for more than fifteen years, and to be honest, I was feeling good about it.
Then the text message from C. T. came, "I am free this weekend. It's late June, it's going to be 90 degrees out there, and we've never hit the Hex quite right. Let's go." He was right; we'd never hit the Hex quite right. We'd always been too late or too early. Hell, we'd never really hit the trout all that right except for an odd fish here or there that we'd figured had been dropped on its head during a release by another angler. I balked at first, thinking about MLF and all the bass out there in the local lakes just waiting to be caught. I'd call up C. T. and say, "No, got too much going on let’s just stay local and hang a few bucket mouths." But then my mind started to work; last weekend in June, warm outside, Hex reports are good, the timing and conditions have never been better.
...there was no doubt that my love affair with the fly rod and trout had been rekindled right then and there...
The first night we got in late and set camp, decided to fish a familiar stretch. There were a few clouds around and I prayed for them to stay and increase. A clear sky can spell doom. With no insulating blanket the heat escapes and the bugs resort back to the bushes and treetops. We stood in the river and waited, the sky getting clearer and the stars getting brighter as the night wore on. A cottage dweller left in a car and his headlights swung out over the river to reveal a swarm of what we figured for Brown Drakes dancing ten feet over the river. We smiled in anticipation, it wasn’t the Hex but there was still hope but I knew it was fading fast. Hope was fading with whatever warmth was left over from the day. We waited a long time and finally I walked down and checked the river for bugs with a flashlight. They were gone and we retreated back to camp thinking about ghostly wings dancing above the water, haunted once again by the Hex that never were.
I’d made a few casts that first night but we all know that casting isn’t fishing and I still wasn’t sure exactly how I was feeling about the fly rod. The next day was long and hot, a bright orange sun beating down on the river. The tubers and canoe renters liked it, floating by with their flesh burned pink from the sun. We sat in the shade on the bank and watched a fish rising to damsel flies on the far bank between flotillas. We figured if we could put a bushy fly over that fish it would eat so we rigged up and gave it a try. It was a difficult drift, behind a log and around the corner of a set of bulrushes along the bank. We took turns standing downstream and trying to spot a cast. We hung the log, hung the grass, hung the rushes, and eventually put the fish down. I went over to retrieve my fly from some grass and saw it finning there for a split second before it bolted for the cut bank with another fish. And there was no doubt that my love affair with the fly rod and trout had been rekindled right then and there with that little riser.
It wasn’t the Hex but it was good, perhaps the best one hour of trout fishing of our lives.
Air temperature and water temperature are two different things and despite the heat we knew we were too far upstream. We had to move down if we wanted to find the big bugs. We crossed Wakeley Bridge on our way down to Connor’s Flats. The flats turned out to be a wide slow guide, a fisherman standing waist deep not even in the middle of the stream, cars squeezed into the lot, picnickers on the bank, and more foot traffic than we cared for. We decided to head back to Wakeley. I’d driven over that bridge a thousand times but never stopped to fish it.
An old man with wool socks pulled over his Khaki pants, piercing blue eyes, and a set of pipes to rival old Tigers announcer Paul Carey sat one leg over the other in a drift boat at the launch. I distinctly remember wondering if his feet were hot. He pointed a crooked finger at a stump across from the access and told us in his deepest bass, "Just put your stuff on and stand there and wait." He looked skyward, "Iso’s will come for sure. They'll be first and that fishing ain't half bad."
We split up. C. T. went upstream and I stayed down by the stump. The sky above the river filled with Iso’s as the old man predicted and eventually fish started to rise, but not at the stump. I could hear C. T. landing fish in his glide up stream and made my way there to join him. It wasn’t the Hex but we had finally hit it just right and for a solid hour landed one fish after another. They were the best trout of our lives but we had both left our cameras in the truck. Finally, we couldn’t take it anymore. We needed to document it for posterity and my partner headed back for a camera. I landed one more trout while he was gone and just like that it was over. The glide we were fishing went still and the temperature began to drop. I looked up and the stars were bright in the blasted northern Michigan sky. We sat around for three more hours, happily drinking warm beers from the back of our vests and waiting. But nothing showed.
Still, we had finally hit something just right. It wasn’t the Hex but it was good, perhaps the best one hour of trout fishing of our lives. For me, it was a Wakeley Bridge revival, and thoughts of fly rods and trout dancing through my head once again crowding out plastic worms and bullet weights.
There are 19 spring fed trout streams that flow through the heart
of Iowa's Driftless region.
Winnesheik County boasts 10 of the best.
What makes Iowa's Driftless area what it is? - Sure, we know that the last North American glacial episode that ended 12,000 years ago just went right around this vast region leaving its high hills and sleepy ravines virtually untouched. Some say the remains of a giant meteor impact crater rest on this very spot. There are bald eagles here, lot's of them, and a list of rare birds you've probably never heard of before. Beyond that there's something mystical about the region difficult to put your finger on.
Many very experienced western guides who fished once in the Driftless never left.
Winneshiek County's spectacular agricultural landscape attracts more trout anglers than any other region of the state. Why? Because its rivers hold fish that are big, plentiful and astoundingly beautiful. Rivers with names like Coon, Bohemian, North Bear and Bigalk (pronounced bee-yalk).
But of all of the trout streams in Iowa, there are only a few as beautiful as the upper mileage of Trout River.
Here, scores of mature brook trout can be stalked and you might even be so lucky as to net a trophy wild brown.
And, although much of the land is private, there is plenty of public access and there are a couple of "systems" that allow opportunities for fishing on private property.
I've heard it said that there are many very experienced western guides who fished once in the Driftless and never left. I've also heard it said that the rivers of Iowa's Driftless area might just be paradise.
That all taken into account, I've certainly added the rivers of Winneshiek County to my list of fly-fishing meccas. - WES:::
You probably haven't heard of him. And he hasn't been inducted into
any fly fishing halls of fame to my knowledge.
The question is: Why not?
One of my heroes and a personal guiding star is Robert H. Smith. You might presume Smith was a fly-fisherman, and you'd be correct to, but he was far more than that.
Basic biography: Born in 1908 Smith graduated from Dartmouth College in 1932 where he studied zoology, botany and geology, three areas of interest that would resurface again and again in his adventures and writings. That same year Smith took work with the old Biological Survey, later to become the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. His work was waterfowl research and for 35 years he surveyed their breeding grounds and flyways on foot, canoe, horseback and airplane documenting almost the entirety of the U. S. down through Mexico and up through Arctic Canada.
Now this is when things get interesting. In 1967 he retired from USFWS and changed his focus entirely from ducks and geese to fish. With the help of fisheries biologist Dr. Robert J. Behnke, Smith set out on an epic quest to catch (on fly gear), photograph and document ALL 34 of the then recognized species and sub-species of trout and charr on the North American continent. He had no interest in stocked, hatchery raised "rubber trout" as he called them - Smith was after native fish in their ancestral habitat. It was a pursuit almost impossible, but after many years of stalking these endemic fish, usually in isolated mountain brooks and hard-to-reach headwaters, and often alone and on horseback, he was finally successful. He even caught trout new to science.
He had no interest in stocked, hatchery "rubber trout" as he called them.
As fortune would have it, he was convinced to write a book about the native trout and charr he sought and his struggles to find them. But what a book! The title of Smith's book is Native Trout of North America first published by Frank Amato Publications in 1984. The book, you could probably say, is my bible – I've read it cover-to-cover at least six times and I've spot-read it hundreds of more times.
Native Trout is also a prophetic work. The final paragraph of his book goes like this, "If enough of us choose to be heard, future generations will have the opportunity to fish for beautiful, wild native trout in their ancestral streams, high in the alpine meadows amidst the grandeur of the mountains and among the rimrocks of the high desert."
Choose to be heard.
This is fly fishing hall of fame stuff, folks. Saint?...probably not.
Hero?...absolutely. - WES:::
Handing off the torch, passing on the flame.
In today's world we must foster a fluid identity to survive as part of modern society. For many, if not most of us, it is an unsettling and sometimes coercive society we live in to say the least. Tradition has been used negatively as a contrast to being original and unique, but innovation, in fact, is how many traditions originated. Yet the concept of tradition, as the notion of holding on to the customs of a previous time, persists. Fly fishing and wing shooting are loaded with tradition, as is cooking, the arts, science, farming, the holidays, and sports.
Tradition is not to preserve the ashes. But to pass on the flame. ~ Gustav Mahler
Recently, I asked some friends the question: "What are the first words you think of when you hear the words "tradition” and "heritage"? I received a variety of answers.
One replied, “Tevye, the word appears and the song is in my head.” Another said “MSU football and Oktoberfest”. Yet another said, “The Last Weekend of April on a special little stream.” Then finally, “Tradition = family celebrations, Heritage = something inherited from the past and stewarded for future generations.”, which was more like what I was expecting.
The fellow in the photo above (on right) is a true traditionalist - former cowhand, horseman, hunter and trapper, rode in the rodeo circuit for years, now lives in a wood-warmed adobe house in the Datil mountain foothills. No electricity. Outhouse. His name is John. He loves the old saloons. He still has skirmishes with local Indians he says. They steal his horses. He steals theirs. Things get heated but nobody gets seriously hurt. It's kind of a tradition he says.
The broad scope of answers and experiences underscored that “tradition” means many things to many people. Tradition is the here and now linking a revered past to an unsteady future. Tradition is the fletching on the arrow that stabilizes the flight of our lives and times. Tradition celebrates. - WES:::
Winds, mail, taxes, 5 bucks and Arizona.
The response was overwhelming. The question was simple: Which would you prefer? Write "River Gypsy" as one complete edition to be released 2018 (or beyond), or as a three volume set?:
Volume 1 - The Rivers of the Rocky Mountain West
Volume 2 - The Rivers of Appalachia
Volume 3 - The Rivers of the Cascade Range & Sierra Nevada
It was almost unanimous - there will be three volumes.
But as eager as I was to launch the 2016 Appalachian tour, several false starts had to be endured mostly involving package deliveries and mail. 2015 Tax returns had to be done and filed. My driver's license, RV registration and plate tabs had to be renewed and physically delivered to me - some of the few things one simply must possess on the road. Magazine articles had to be completed and e-mailed. March, it turns out, is a very busy month.
And before I could wrap up Volume 1 I still had to fish and journalize the rivers of Arizona - Oak Creek, Tonto Creek, Christopher Creek, Silver Creek and Little Bonito to name a few.
Apache trout were calling my name - and that name is Coyotero.
And the thought haunts me - would I be quite so lucky pursuing Volume 2?
Add to all the above was that lovely RV park in New Mexico; at just $5 per day it is an expense saving attraction easy to try to prolong. And there were local villages, vernal streams and ghost towns yet to explore. Living in the desert southwest is like living in a windy, dusty history book and the winds at camp this spring are the worst I've experienced making driving the 30 foot "River Gypsy" inadvisable. Delays, delays.
One other thing; as I sit here, only miles from looming mountains that are my front yard, I have also come to appreciate the happy fact that the 2015 Rocky Mountain tour went wholly without a major incident. And the thought haunts me - would I be quite so lucky pursuing Volume 2? - WES:::