Friday, December 4, 2015

2015 Fly Swap Prep

Every year, the Ozark Fly Fishers host a fly swap for their members. It's a simple idea. Each member ties a dozen or so flies, wraps them in a box with Christmas paper, and puts them in a big pile at the December meeting. When your number gets called, you pick a random box and see what flies you get. The trick here is not necessarily going for the biggest box. Not that I have anything against big bass flies, I'd just rather get a dozen trout flies. Last year I picked the smallest box I could find, and wound up with a dozen tiny dry flies that I had trouble even finding a tippet fine enough to thread them with - exactly what I wanted.

I've been lazy about tie flying lately. I suppose this is due to the fact that I spent most of my summer fishing (summer recap post coming soon-ish!), and still kept pretty well in stock as far as flies went. Add in the fact that I recently changed jobs, and can no longer fit the Tuesday night fly tying group in Maplewood into my schedule. It's a real bummer. But now the weather is getting colder every day and those impromptu fishing weekends are probably finished for this year until spring. I have plenty of time on my hands (well, on the weekends at least) to actually tie some flies, and I have some motivation to stay inside on a Saturday morning in my warm office with a hot cup of coffee and my tying vice.

This year for the OFF Fly Swap, I definitely wanted to tie my own dozen flies to give away. The first flies I tied were a novelty, not so much because of their pattern, but for their irregular materials.

The Royal Wulff, with Norma hair
#14 Royal Norma

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Swap Meet Finds

Over the past few weeks, I've come into some new fly fishing gear in the most unexpected ways. First, about a month ago, Emily and I were having a lazy Saturday, and drove down to the old Lemp Brewery to visit her cousins' booth at the Saint Louis Swap Meet. I've known Emily's cousins, Joan and Theresa, forever - way longer than I've even known Emily. They are a couple of twin hippies that were my classmates from first grade grade all the way through high school. They were right at home selling their knitted goods and custom screen prints at a swap meet outside of an old haunted brewery. We were hanging out in their booth, when I wandered off to go look for nothing in particular. I found a crotchety old man selling a table full of your standard old tools, radios, board games, and jewelry - your standard swap meet fair. However, laying on top of this pile of junk was an old 1960s Heddon Pal Mark IV fiberglass fly rod. It was an 8.5' 2-piece, and looked to be in decent condition. Don't get me wrong. I didn't recognize the make and model on the spot. I had to go home and google the markings on the rod to figure out if it was a hidden treasure or a piece of junk.

Heddon Pal #8457 Mark IV 8 1/2

Heddon Pal #8457 Mark IV 8 1/2
"Heddon Pal #8457 Mark IV 8 1/2"

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Return to Montauk - August 2015

After my first fairly successful solo trip to Montauk back in August, I had the itch to return as soon as possible. The last week of August was looking promising for a quick weekend trip, but my work schedule wasn't 100% set in concrete. I wasn't positive I'd be able to take off the Friday like I was hoping, and I also wanted to make sure the weather would cooperate, so it was going to a short notice trip.

As much as I enjoyed camping by myself on my last trip, I think for my own mental sanity, I needed to bring someone along with me this time. Luckily, my buddy Jeff is always up for an impromptu camping trip, and I knew I could count on him to join me at the last minute. So Thursday, our plans were finalized. We would both work half-days on Friday, I'd drop off my dog at my parents in Washington, MO, and meet up with Jeff on the road to Montauk in the early afternoon. There was only one snag in the plan - Montauk does not accept campsite reservations with less than 24 hours notice.

I'm sure back in the 1980s, this policy made a lot of sense. But there is no good reason today, in the age of online reservations, that I should not be able to book a damn campsite in real time. When I spoke to the very polite park worker on the phone, she did let me know that there were still campsites available, but they were on a first come, first serve basis. When I asked her the reasoning behind the 24-hour reservation rule, she had no idea. So Friday morning was spent at work nervously doing math equations in my head of what time we'd have to arrive if a campsite was booked every hour or so by people who got to take all of Friday off, instead of a half day. I met up with Jeff and we hightailed it down to Salem as quickly as we could. The drive down was an anxious one, trying to figure out a backup plan if we arrived at Montauk and found the campgrounds full.

Luckily, when we arrived, there were some empty lots available. Thank god. Honestly, I have no idea what we would have done otherwise. There were surprisingly few campsites between Salem and Montauk that would have worked. We probably would have had to hide out and camp behind a storage locker shed or something like that. We checked in and began putting our camp in order. When we went to pay the lady in the little wooden hut, we had a near death experience. While standing under an awning attached to the small check-in building, some guy who does not know how to drive a camper cut a corner to short and plowed his skyscraper-on-wheels into the side of the shack. The entire building shook and the camper driver had a lovely new brown streak down the side of his giant RV. Luckily for us, the only casualty was the check-in building's gutters. The driver popped his head out of the window and asked, "Did I hit it?" as if the loud crash and scraping noise weren't a dead giveaway.
Damaged shack
Yes. You hit it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Trip Summary - Montauk State Park, August 2015

Early last week, sitting at my cubicle, I realized that I had an event-free weekend coming up for the first time in a long time. I decided to reserve a campsite for Montauk and do a quick overnight trip. My wife, Emily, decided she didn't feel like going, and I couldn't talk any of my friends into joining me either, so it turned into my first solo camping/fishing trip. My buddy Mike Hoffmann had given me his old 2-person tent and sleeping pad, so I only had a small load to bring down with me. Fair warning, when I originally wrote this post in my fishing journal, illuminated by my Coleman lamp, I was about three sheets to the wind. But the sentiment was true. To be honest, it was bit boring and lonely sitting there by myself. Everyone around me seemed to be having a great time with friends and family, and I was there by myself writing in a notebook like a crazy person at the library. My phone battery was at 68%, in airplane mode, and the alarm was set for 6:00 the following morning. My goal was to have enough time to make coffee in the morning and tear down my meager camp before the bell rang.

On the way down to Montauk, I stopped in St. James and bought a six-pack of Rod's Cream Ale by Public House Brewing Company out of St. James. It was an incredibly hard decision, as the gas station just south of town has a surprisingly tremendous beer selection. Rod's Cream Ale is an incredibly delicious beer. I thought the temperature outside was going to be too hot, and make a cream beer somewhat nauseating, but it was perfect. It has the flavor of a heavier cream stout, but without the weight. Really just top notch stuff. Another reason to love St. James, in addition to their competing flag stores. So if you read this post and opine that it goes way off the rails emotionally, blame the Cream Ale.

Rod's Cream Ale, Public House Brewing Co., St. James, Missouri
Rod's Cream Ale, Public House Brewing Co., St. James, Missouri

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Trip Summary - Bennett Spring, June 2015

Keeping with the tradition of this blog, I am writing this out by hand as I sit in on a SLU Law continuing legal education seminar. I’m in downtown St. Louis at the new SLU Law building, and my buddy Pat Eckelkamp, another attorney and fly-fisherman, is sitting next to me, also not paying attention. But hey, we both need the CLE hours to keep our law licenses, and this seminar is free. It’s been raining non-stop in St. Louis for a solid week. Water has been slowly but steadily seeping into my basement bathroom, and all of the streams in Missouri are completely blown out.

When I was fishing down at Bennett Spring back in mid-May, water output was at about 150 cubic meters per second. As I write this, output is over 1550 cubic meters per second. Insane. A few weeks ago, towards the beginning of June, my dad, Al, and I ventured down to Bennett, and although the water was a bit high and a bit fast, it was manageable, about 800 cubic meters per second.

Flooding at Bennett Spring
This pic of the Bennett Spring bridge from mid-June 2015 comes from Weaver's Fishing Report.
So even though conditions in June weren't as good as May's, I'm starting to come to realize that "good fishing conditions" don't necessarily equate good fishing. Conversely, I'm finding that I tend to catch fish in high, fast, murky water fairly regularly. That was the case last week at Bennett Spring. It was my second trip there in three weeks, and instead of traveling with a family who were all expert fly-fishers, I was going with my dad, who swore off fishing at a young age.

Al Voss, the Selfie King
Al Voss, the Selfie King

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Trip Summary - Bennett Spring, May 2015

If you read my last post about prepping for this trip, my brilliant plan of partying late into the night on Friday, and waking up early on Saturday worked with moderate success. For one thing, I found myself on the patio of The Royale bar at about 1:00 a.m., knowing full well I needed to wake up in two hours. The original plan was to wake up at about 3:00 a.m., quickly pack and leave, and get to Bennett Spring by about 6:30. Patrick, whose family I was staying with, ended up having to do a quick business trip to Iowa late in the week, so he was riding with me now, and I'd have to pick him up in the Grove before heading towards Lebanon.

When I finally wandered into bed at about 1:30 a.m., I was a little too exhausted to set my new phone's alarm clock. What I thought was 3:00 a.m., was actually 3:00 p.m.. Android phones used to tell you how long you have until your alarm was set to go off. Apparently that feature was too useful so they decided to scrap it. I awoke, with a shock, at 4:00 a.m. with a text from Pat, a full hour past what I was planning on. Worst of all, I still needed to pick up Patrick at 4:00 sharp. So after a few muffled curses, a quickly packed car, and a thermos full of coffee, I shot over to the Grove as quickly as I could to pick him up. All told, I was only 15 minutes behind schedule, and looking back, the extra hour of sleep was a lifesaver. Still, there was no way we were making it to Bennett fast enough to gear up and make it into the stream by opening bell. Oh well.

The drive down from Saint Louis to Lebanon, however long, is fairly pleasant. Once you get past Rolla, you can begin to appreciate the landscape of southwest Missouri - rolling hills, beautiful bluffs, lots of small streams and rivers. The weather forecast for the weekend didn't look great. There was always a threat of rain, or even thunderstorms, but on the drive down, all we had was a slight drizzle. Patrick and I spent the time waxing poetic about the jackasses we went to high school and college with, where they are now, and what they've done with their lives. Pat's been my best friend since I was six years old, and with everything like law school, careers, mortgages, weddings, wives, and dogs taking up a lot of our respective free time, it was nice to spend a long car ride and fishing trip with him and do nothing more than shoot the shit and try and catch some trout. Plus, he's getting married this time next year, and has asked me to be his best man (along with his brother, Phil, who we were meeting at the spring). Nothing quite like a three hour car ride to exhume some embarrassing speech fodder.

This pic of Pat and me isn't fishing related. We just look cool in it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Trip Prep - Bennett Spring, May 2015

A few weekends back, I was out at the Schlafly Tap Room with some friends, and my buddy Patrick mentioned that in May, he and his family would be heading down to Bennett Spring for a weekend. I hadn't been to Bennett in over a year, and at that point in the night, I already had downed a few Summer Lagers, so I quite rudely invited myself on the trip. Pat was polite enough to accept my offer, especially after texting him constantly in the following weeks to make sure it was cool with his parents.

Pat comes from big fishing family. Pat's dad, Kevin, has been fishing as far back as I can remember. Pat himself landed, and had mounted, a fairly huge rainbow trout back in college, and proudly had it displayed in our dorm room. I have vague memories from childhood of walking the path around Maramec Spring with Pat and his family, and for the longest time didn't put it together that we were there so Kevin could fish. I've only been fly-fishing for a few years, and somehow have never gone fishing with Pat, so I'm very excited about this trip.

The Plan

Pat and his family are heading down to Bennett Friday during the day, and I won't be able to join them until Saturday morning. I plan on waking up early enough to leave my house at 4:00 a.m., and hightail it down to Lebanon. Google says it's two and a half hours away, so barring any freak early early morning traffic, I should make it to the park around opening bell at 6:30 a.m., hopefully earlier. It's going to take a full thermos of coffee and expert bladder control on the drive down there, but I'll manage.

I'm heading there on May 16, and am writing this post on May 6. That gives me ten solid days to tie flies, clean gear, monitor the weather, and dick around at fly shops getting the latest tips. Mike Swederska posted that he had a lot of luck last week at Bennett using a Root Beer Dry Emerger pattern. He was nice enough to post a recipe and directions as well. After a quick, and surprisingly cheap, stop at Tom Hargrove's fly shop, I was able to tie a few of these last night.

The Root Beer Emerger
Root Beer Dry Emerger

Friday, April 3, 2015

Some Quick Random Friday Updates

Well it's a dreary Good Friday in Saint Louis, and every 45 minutes or so it's been raining. My dog woke me up at about 5:00 a.m. this morning to let her out, and to her credit, this was before the rain began, so now she's dry and sleeping. Maybe Norma's smarter than I thought. Not being able to fall back asleep after that, I did find some time to tie a new pattern, and I thought I'd write about that, and post some other items that don't deserve a whole post.

The Royal Wulff

First and foremost, check out this size #14 Royal Wulff I tied this morning. I'm very, very happy with how it turned out, and I've tied a few of these in different ways.

The Royal Wulff
The Royal Wulff
The only piece I'm missing is using elk or moose hair for the tail. Right now, I'm just using pheasant tail fibers, which I don't believe are stiff enough. This is also my first time tying a fly using calf tail fur for the wing, and even though this material is very slick and has a tendency to fall off the top of the hook shank, the end product has been looking fantastic. It was my first time tying a body with floss, and I'm not sure if I'm using the stuff 100% correctly. Either way, I hope these Wulffs look appetizing to the trout.

Wetlands for Kids Day

Tomorrow, April 4, 2015, I'm volunteering out at Busch Conservation Area's annual Wetlands for Kids Day. I'll be out there from 10:00-3:00 helping kids fish in the lakes. There will probably be more worms than flies, but still, it's supposed to be 60 degrees and sunny - a perfect day for fishing. If you have kids and are going to be in the area Saturday, you should come by and say hello. For all of the Russians and Israeli people who read this blog, you'll probably need to leave now if you're going to make it in time.

Colorado Trip

Finally, yesterday my boss approved my time off request for a week in July. Emily and I are heading out to Boulder and Lyons, Colorado, and she's ensured me that I'll have plenty of time to fish while we're there. If you've fished the area before, please let me know some spots I should check out. Also, I'm going to do my best to refrain from just showing up on John Gierach's front porch when I'm there, as he lives somewhere in that area.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Trip Summary - Blue Springs Creek and Maramec Spring Park, March 2015

I'm currently writing this post out by hand on a yellow legal pad, sitting in the back of a hotel conference room in Chesterfield, Missouri, listening to some schmuck drone on and on about the exciting new developments in family law, and how mortgage refinancing rules are affecting divorce cases in the state of Utah. Barf. (Note: I'm at home now transcribing these notes on blogger and my left hand is killing me. I haven't written this much since . . . the LSAT? I'm not sure when.) As a condition of maintaining my license to practice law in Missouri, I am required to complete a certain number of continuing legal educations (CLE) hours per year (15 hours, to be exact). This means that once a year, I have to take a vacation day on a Friday and sit through nine hours of inapplicable legal training - a vacation day that I could have spent out on a stream somewhere. Hell, I'd even rather be at work than at this seminar. At least work has wifi and fewer lawyers.

Handwritten notes of this blog post
What one all-day CLE seminar's worth of hand-written fishing stories looks like.
Two weeks ago, in mid-March however, I did take a proper vacation day and did get some fishing in. It wasn't the perfect day of fishing, or even necessarily a good day of fishing, but at least it wasn't a law seminar. I'd planned on writing about the trip weeks ago, right after it happened, but it seems that it's taken me longer to write about it than I thought it would. I could blame it on something superficial like being too busy with work or life, but that wouldn't necessarily be true.

If you read this whole post (and sorry in advance for the lack of pictures) you'll see that I talk about impatience more than once. One of, if not my main problem when fishing (aside from lack of funds), is that I have a tendency to feel rushed. I rush to drive to the stream, rush to rig up, rush to wade to a spot, then rush to catch something. There's the problem. I fish too fast too often. I don't spend enough time with my fly actually out on the water. And honestly, I don't want to make the same mistake with this blog. Admittedly, when I started it a few weeks back, I was in a rush to add as much content as I could, but I don't want to feel that rush each time I have an idea to write on and post. So I'm trying to slow down, both with fishing and writing, and give each post the attention it deserves. Although I didn't get a chance to snap any pictures on this trip, there were a few things worth writing down. Any pictures would have been crappy anyway. The weather was miserable. If you really want to see pictures of Maramec Spring, I have a gallery from last month. I did want to write about this trip though because it was my first fishing excursion of 2015, and the first time I've ever fished with my own flies.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Early March - "March Brown" Wet Fly

Life has been getting in the way of hobbies lately. I haven't had many chances to tie, much less fish for a little while, but that should all change soon. Pending managerial approval, I think I'm going to take off a day next week, and like many dead teenagers in the movies, go spend Friday the 13th wandering around the woods and try not to get myself killed. Yes, I've decided to check out Blue Springs Creek again in Bourbon, MO. The first time I tried that creek, I had not been fishing very long, and had been wading even less. I didn't see a single fish all day, mostly due to two factors: first, I was probably wading through all of the best spots and not even realizing it, and second, I don't think I went nearly upstream enough. I didn't even cross Highway N. Next week, leaky waders permitting, I'm going to try and fish all of the public water that I can.

But that's next week. Today, I did a little shopping. This upcoming Wednesday, Mike is hosting another fly-tying session at his auto-body shop (look for a post about it next week), and I needed to stock up on some supplies. Today was the first decent Saturday St. Louis has had in a long, long time, and I spent it running errands with my wife. Luckily for me, Feathercraft is right across the street on Manchester from K. Hall Designs. Fellows, I'm telling you, K. Hall is the best place in the city to buy your lady a birthday/anniversary/Christmas/Valentine's/whatever day present. Just go in, buy some expensive soap, tell your wife/girlfriend/mistress that you got it at some fancy boutique, and you're set. Feel free to omit that part about it being practically next door to a great fly shop. I dropped Emily off there and had all the time in the world to mull around Feathercraft, and was able to get all of the supplies I need.

The most significant purchase was a bag of Hungarian Partridge Feathers. I needed these for the Depth Charge pattern recipe that Mike posted online, but wanted to try them out before Wednesday. I flipped through one of my fly books and found an easy looking pattern that called upon partridge feathers, the March Brown.

March Brown Wet Fly
The March Brown

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fighting Winter Madness with the Orange Bass Popper

It's been a few days since I last posted, and I have to say, winter madness has officially set it. Today I sat in my cubicle and stared at my wall calender for at least 30 minutes straight trying to figure out when would be the absolute soonest I could get out on the stream. I'm writing this post on March 4, which means the trout streams in Missouri have been open for four whole days now. Usually, I am not one of those who gets suckered into opening weekend. I find that I would much rather watch 60 idiots stand on the Bennett Spring dam on their trout cam than be out there with them. However, I have the itch bad this year. Trying to balance my work life, my married life, my bank account, and my desire to go fishing is prooving to be difficult. Plus, now I'm writing about it and sharing those feelings with the entire internet, and that's just exasperating the problem.

Fishing will come soon. Fishing must come soon. Who knows. I might hit up Blue Springs Creek on Good Friday. The best thing about Blue Springs Creek is that if the fishing's lousy, it's only about 20 minutes from Maramec Spring.

Anyway, this post is about a big, orange bass fly I tied. This past week, I had an unexpected learning experience. It snowed in Saint Louis again so I was working from home. My rear-wheel drive Ford Rangers will spin out with a light breeze, never mind a quarter inch of snow. I popped onto the Ozark Fly Fishers' Yahoo! page and saw a post about a last minute get together to tie some bass flies. I checked and this was happening just across the highway over in Maplewood. I had been staring at my Outlook inbox for the past eight hours, so the idea of getting out of the house and tying some new flies really struck a chord with me. The winter madness was already beginning to creep in at that point.

The Orange Bass Popper
The Bass Popper

The fly we were learning (myself and two other OFF members) was a bass hopper. We were using a neon orange pattern on a size #2 hook. I have to tell you, after tying size #16 hooks for the past month of so, this size #2 felt giant in my vice. To be perfectly honest, I was in a bit over my head with this fly. My one month or so of experience was perfectly insufficient. Our teacher was former OFF president, Mike, and he was teaching us in the office of his auto body shop. Pretty sure my chest is about 200% hairier than this time yesterday from this last week.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Internet Blackout Blue-Winged Olive

A popular myth says that nine months following the Northeast Blackout of 1965, New York City experienced a surge in babies being born.* Now, I'm not sure how true this is, but I had a similar experience Monday night. No, Emily's not pregnant, but my internet was out for about 6 hours and I tied a Blue-Winged Olive for the first time.

My internet went down at about 3:30 on Monday afternoon. I was working from home at the time so this was a real problem. I had to gather my laptop and high-tail it over to Starbucks to steal some wifi. When I wrapped up later in the evening, I came home to an empty house. Emily had a study group, ironically at the same Starbucks. I gave her a polite nod on my way out to avoid embarrassing her in front of her grad-school friends. Like I said, I was working from home that day and looked like crap. Not the best first impression. Not only was the internet still down, but we had recently gotten rid of cable as well. I had no idea how to waste my time, so I decided instead to actually do something productive, like tie flies.

John Gierach talks about Blue-Winged Olive constantly in his stories. Because of this, I bought Blue-Winged Olives constantly when I first started fishing. (I'm going to shorten this to BWOs for the rest of this article. It's a pain in the butt to type that out each time.) Now, I've never caught a trout on a BWO, mostly because I have only ever caught a handful of trout, but because I enjoyed, and continue to enjoy Gierach's stories so much, BWOs have always been a personal favorite of mine. So when the internet went out Monday, I thought I'd try my hand at tying one.

Blue Winged Olive
Still pumped about my new lenses.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Let's Talk About Photography for Another Moment

Last week, I posted about my frustrations with photographing the flies I have been tying. To summarize, it seemed my DSLR Canon Rebel was unable to get a focused, close-up shot of any of my flies, causing me to rely on my smartphone's camera. Not optimal. However, my buddy Mike Hoffman from over at Missouri Trekking pointed me in the direction of a great, cheap solution. Mike pointed me to a 58mm macro lens kit designed specifically for my camera. I am stoked with the results.

The lenses arrived, of course, as I was walking out the front door Thursday night to leave on a weekend trip to Michigan. (It was a lovely time, by the way. Beautiful, but cold weather. Very fun wedding of a buddy from law school. The entire Great Lakes region seems to be complete frozen over. Driving through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, I saw a ton of people ice fishing.) I had to wait all the way till Sunday night to play with my new lenses and try each of them out. Here's how the pictures turned out.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lazy Sunday Nymphs

This afternoon, my wife decided she was going to go see a popular romance movie based off of a popular female romance novel of the same name that I had no interest in seeing. It gave my the opportunity to spend this dreary Sunday afternoon to stay home with the dog, listen to Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Riders, tie some flies, and wait for the incoming winter storm to hit. St. Louis is expecting 6-9 inches of snow tonight, so it looks like I'll be working from home tomorrow as well. The downside is that Part Four of the fly-tying class I was taking will probably be cancelled. Hopefully they'll reschedule.

But today I got a lot of tying practice in, and experimented with some patterns I haven't gotten to try before. Most of these come from Peter Gathercole's "The Fly-Tying Bible." I've found this book to be incredibly helpful. Gathercole manages to condense fly patterns into six photos each.

The first fly I tied, however, did not come from this book, but rather was Mike Ott's Pheasant-Tail Nymph pattern. I've been practicing this pattern for over a week, and still find it challenging to correctly form the pheasant tail legs at the head of the fly.

Pheasant-Tail Nymph
Pheasant-Tail Nymph

Can We Talk Photography for a Moment?

I started this blog for a few reasons, one of them being to share all of the photos I take on my fishing, camping, and hiking trips. Since I am beginning to tie my own flies as well, I thought it would be a good way to share photos of the flies themselves, and my progress in tying them. However, over the past few days, I've become increasingly frustrated with my camera.

Canon EOS Rebel T3 DSLR Camera
My Canon camera, taken with my call phone camera.
I own a Canon EOS Rebel T3 DSLR camera. I use the EFS 18-55mm lens that came with the camera. Overall, I love this camera. I get a lot of great shots with it on my trips, and it has also provided the Voss family with our Christmas card photos for the past two years. That said, I can't seem to get a focused, zoomed in picture of a fly to save my life with this camera.

Blurry vice
Typical result of using my Canon.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gallery - Maramec Spring, May 2014

Here's some shots from a camping trip Emily and I went on back in May, 2014 with Jake and Alice Dunlap at Maramec Spring. Jake caught quite a few fish that trip. I didn't have as much luck, but I don't believe I was completely skunked either.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Gallery - Maramec Spring, November 2014

This past November, I took a mental health day and decided one random Friday to skip work and to wake up early to drive out to St. James, Missouri to go fishing at Maramec Spring. It was a wonderful, beautiful, and ultimately delicious day.

Gallery - Montauk, November 2014

In my latest effort to avoid getting Instagram, I decided I'll be posting pictures of my fishing trips here instead.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Leaky Wader Repair

Author John Gierach titled his compilation fly-fishing short story anthology, "Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders" so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at all last November when I nearly froze off the lower half of my body going underneath a bridge at Montauk.

But let's back up. I started fly-fishing around late 2011/early 2012. My first time out, Emily and I went camping at Bennett Spring. I woke up bright and early to get a good spot at opening bell. I set up near the top of the damn and waited for the sun to come up and the bell to ring. However, I soon realized my perfect spot was, to use a technical term, pretty sucky. Seemed every other fisherman in the park was wading right into the water. I was marooned on the shore. I had no idea waders would be a useful investment. (I ended up getting skunked that trip. Probably had more to do with the giant flies I was using, and less to do with the lack of waders.)

My old boot-foot waders
My waders, in their prime.
Fast forward to Christmas 2012, and I received a pair of waders from my mom. (I realize now that I get a lot of fishing stuff from my mom at Christmas.) Since then, I've been able to find all the best spots on the water, and have only been dunked a handful of times, usually in front of large crowds and my wife and family. The Johnson Shut-Ins incident comes quickly to mind.

Lonk Elk Park - January 2015

A few weeks back on a particularly warm January Saturday, my wife Emily and I took a hike out at Lone Elk Park. It's a wildlife management area located just a few miles west of the City of St. Louis. You could drive past in a thousand times and never realize the beautiful landscape and animal population just next to Interstate 44. I have vague memories of driving through the park with my family as a child, but I hadn't been there for at least a decade, and was excited to check it out.

In the park, there's a great trail that loops through the entire elk region of the park. The White Bison Trail is approximately 4 miles long and beings and ends at park visitor center. The trail is fairly hilly, but nothing too treacherous. Emily and I knocked out the entire trail in a single afternoon.

Lone Elk Park Map
White Bison Trail
The best part about the trail was the wildlife. About 10 minutes into our hike, I happened to turn around and much to my surprise, the largest elk I have ever seen was laying on the ground about 15 feet away. I told Emily not to make any sudden movements, and very carefully got my camera out.

Elk - Lone Elk Park, Missouri
So maybe a little farther than 15 feet. It seemed pretty close.

Fly-Tying Class - February 2015

For the past three weeks, a new friend from work and I have been taking a fly-tying class through the Missouri Department of Conversation out at the Busch Conservation Area. This is my first ever experience tying flies and I could not be happier with the outcome.

For the longest time, I have bought my flies either from T. Hargrove's Fly Shop here in St. Louis, or from the local fly shops on the trout streams here in Missouri. However, this past Christmas, my mom, Barb, was nice enough to stalk my Amazon wishlist and give me a fly-tying set I've had my eye on. In addition, I received a fly-tying material starter kit from my godson (well, from his mom--Mikey's only three). I now had everything I needed to start tying flies (except thread, hackle, pheasant tails, dubbing fur, any sort of knowledge base, etc. etc. etc.).

Back in November, in my fly-fishing club's monthly newsletter, I saw that a four-part class beginning in January would be available. I quickly called the Department of Conservation to register and was told (by an Australian sounding woman, oddly enough) that registration was only available a month in advance. Fast forward to a month in advance, and I was all registered to go. The class would be taught in four parts, gradually increasing in difficulty and building upon the past weeks' lessons. Like I said, the class takes place way out at the August A. Busch Conservation Area near Interstate 64 and Highway 94. It's a fantastic area with a great deal of forests, plains, an fishable ponds. However, it's nowhere near my house or my job. (Busch Conservation Area really is a jewel for the St. Louis area. I'll need to write more about it in the future.) As luck would have it, a new guy had just started working at my job, and is a fly-fisherman out from Colorado now living in western Illinois. When I told him about the fly-tying class, he was eager to sign up as well, so at least now I could carpool to the class.

The class is put on by that fly-fishing club that I mentioned earlier, the Ozark Fly Fishers (OFF). I've been a member of this club for two years now and they're a great group. Most of the time, I'm the youngest person in the meetings by about 30 years, but that's just fine with me. I joined the club to learn from those who have been fly-fishing for a long time, and they're a perfect fit. They have monthly meetings and quarterly outings, and even have an environmentalist branch and participate in water monitoring and stream clean-up activities. If you're in the St. Louis area and even have a remote interest in fly-fishing, I'd suggest joining. But anyways, this post is about fly-tying. The fly-tying class is instructed by Mike Ott, OFF's Fly-Tying Chair. Mike makes fly-tying look incredibly easy, and his step-by-step instructions make it so that I don't go completely cross-eyed trying to follow along.

The back of Mike's head, as he explains a Pheasant Tail Nymph.

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