Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tom Rosenbauer

"Do you guys like chocolate?" The scruffy voice of Tom Rosenbauer asked us, as we drove him back to his hotel room after a fun dinner.  
"Yeah!" Gracy, my wife, said before I could even think of a reply. Tom sat in the back seat, offering the front to Gracy, as I drove. 
"Well, let me give you something." Tom said, as he opened his backpack and fished something out.
"Here is some chocolate that I made that I would like you to have." Tom said, handing us a bar.  
"You make your own chocolate?" Gracy asked, as she took the bar.  As soon as Gracy had the bar of chocolate fully in her hands, she shot back around looking at me, then the chocolate, with a manic, excited look on her face!  I know this look, this look means, yes, she is excited... but it also means I will never be able to touch or look at this chocolate bar without proper notification and 24 hour observation. Better yet, this was not our chocolate bar, it was 100% hers, and I'd be damned to think otherwise.
"Thank you, Tom." I said.
"What got you into making your own chocolate?" Gracy asked.
"Well, our family loves chocolate..." Tom said happily, "...but my son has a peanut allergy, and just about every chocolate bar made today has a high probability it has been cross contaminated with peanuts. After doing some research on how to make my own chocolate, I discovered a place called Chocolate Alchemy where I could buy high quality cocoa beans in a reasonable bulk-size to make my own chocolate!"
"How long does it take to make?" Gracy asked. 
"About three days." Tom answered, just as we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel. The thought of making my own chocolate was intriguing and I wanted to know more, but the next day was the 2nd day of the expo and we needed our sleep for another big one.   

The fly fishing expo ran smoothly both days, and the presenters packed the house.  Both Phil Rowley and Tom Rosenbauer sat patiently waiting for the Hank Patterson presentation to begin. 

Recognizing the two fly fishing celebrities in his audience, Hank took the time to thank both Phil and Tom for opening for him at the show. Hank was kind enough to thank them in front of everyone. 

Six to eight months of planning, over a hundred hours of volunteer time, and constant running around during the show to make sure everything is working right... just for the expo to be over in two short days. It goes by so fast.  

The last dinner with Tom, Phil, and Pete was a good time had by all. The conversations about their experiences fly fishing reminded me how much more I have to experience and learn. 

As we walked out to our vehicles, Tom brought out his backpack to hand out more homemade chocolate. 
"Hey, Phil.  Do you like toasted sesame seeds and chocolate?" Tom asked, handing Phil a bar. 
"I guess so..." Phil replied, not sure what was being offered. 
"Here, Pete." Tom said, handing a bar of chocolate to him. "This one has Vermont maple syrup in it." 
"What is this?" Pete asked, taking the bar. 
"He makes homemade chocolate!" I said. 
"I have started to experiment by adding some flavors together." Tom said, excited to share, "and my son drew the cover that we use...  Take a look at the ingredients." 
The bars were turned over, and we looked at the ingredients list: cocoa beans & organic sugar.
"It doesn't get better than that!" Tom said with a smile, as I brought up my camera to take a picture. 

"Okay, Phil, let's get a picture." I said. Phil raised his chocolate bar and I snapped a shot, but not before Gracy jumped in for a photo-bomb. 

Everyone said goodbye, and once more, Gracy and I were giving Tom a ride back to the hotel. 
"Did you try the chocolate I gave you yesterday?" Tom asked from the back seat. 
"Are you kidding me? There is no way I can get close to that chocolate bar." I replied, looking at Gracy, who was trying to look innocent. 
"Well, here is another one for you." Tom said, pulling out another chocolate bar. "This one has sea-salt! Do you like that?" 
"Yes!" Gracy said, once again taking the bar. 
Tom explained the entire process of making chocolate at home, from roasting the cocoa bean to forming the chocolate bar.  He did his best to describe the rich aroma making chocolate can produce at home, but I bet experiencing it firsthand would be even better. 
Sadly, the night came to an end. Tom reminded me to pick him up at 3 a.m. to catch his plane before he said "good night".  

The car ride home was quick.  I opened the garage door and parked the car, then Gracy opened her door to get out. 
"My chocolate bar!" I said happily, and grabbed it from the middle console.
"HEY, THAT'S MINE!" Gracy howled.
"No it's not. Tom gave it to me, because you took the first bar he gave us." I said, holding the bar away from her clawing hands.
"I decided I wanted the sea-salt one, and you can have the other one!" Gracy pleaded, while becoming more aggressive.
"NO WAY!" I yelled, and made a dash to get out.  I flung the door open and slipped out quickly, but Gracy had anticipated the move and pounced like a chicken on a June-bug!
"Ahhh!" I screeched!
"GIVE ME BACK MY CHOCOLATE!" She demanded, as she held my leg to keep me from escaping!

I felt like Harry Potter trying to keep his Hogwarts acceptance letter away from mean-old Uncle Vernon, as I slipped away. As fast as I was getting to the door to go inside, Gracy was faster: almost teleporting to the door to block my way.  We were at a standoff, Gracy looking like she could stop a train.  In a flash, I reached for the doorknob, leaving myself open for Gracy to lunge for my homemade chocolate bar.  The amount of pressure she put on my hand to release the bar frightened me. The bar is going to break, I thought... so I let it go. 
"Ha! HA!" Gracy gloated holding the chocolate bar, but as she celebrated, I slipped inside the house: the door shut quickly and I locked her out! 
"HEY!!!" I heard her yell from the other side of the door. I stood there for a long moment before unlocking the door and stomping away. When I came back from hanging up my jacket, two chocolate bars sat on the kitchen countertop... Gracy was willing to share, after all.

She took each bar and split them both in half so that we could share the flavors equally. I took the chocolate in my hand and raised it up to take in a deep breath. The rich smell filled my lungs causing me to smile, then I did it again.  The distinct clop sound of chocolate breaking sounded perfect as I took a piece, and let it melt in my mouth. Gracy was just as happy, trying one of her small squares of fine chocolate.
If Tom Rosenbauer were to ask me what I think of his chocolate, I could easily say it offers a deep rich chocolate taste that warms the soul, and would be the perfect remedy after an entanglement with even the fiercest dementor!

Read Tom Rosenbauer's Article About Chocolate
Tom Rosenbauer's Podcast

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Winter Euro Nymphing

The first fishing trip of the New Year is always a good one!  This year I was joined by Mr. Stillwater himself, Phil Rowley.
"What time do you need to pick up Tom Rosenbauer today?" Phil asked, making sure I was staying on track this afternoon.
"Tom's plane was delayed; he will not join us on the river today." I said back.
"That's great!" Phil said happily.
"What?" I asked with a chuckle. "He's stuck in an airport an extra 7 hours now!  How is that great?"
"Well, no.  That's not what I meant..." Phil said, back-pedaling. "Now we can fish the entire time, and not have to worry about picking up Tom."
"Only thinking of yourself... that's the Phil Rowley I know!" I said jokingly, yet adding to Phil's guilt. 
"Oh, be quiet!  You are just trying to make me feel bad." Phil said, chuckling.
"Are you here yet?" Phil asked.
"I'll be there in just a sec." I said, and pulled into Pete's Erickson's driveway where Phil was waiting, and we quickly made our way to the Boise River.

"Pete said he would join us after he gets off work." Phil reminded me as we grabbed the rest of our gear and headed towards the river.
"This is the path?" Phil asked, as we stood looking down the steep decline. The previous precipitation had muddied up the steep trail and after one step down, Phil's boots started slipping from under him.
"NOPE!" Phil said, turning back to crawl away from the slick trail. I quickly pulled out my camera, just in case Phil slipped.  
"I hate you!" Phil said, as he climbed back to the paved walking path.

We eventually found a path that was not as steep and made our way down to the river.
"Why do you have that backpack?" I asked, as we got into the water.
"It has my cameras in it." Phil replied, setting it down on a small rock island in the middle of the river where he could keep an eye on it and still fish.    

The water was a bit cloudy today due to the fluctuation of flows from the dams upstream. Despite the adjusting water flows working against us, we started to fish. With the rig Pete Erickson taught me, I slapped my flies into the water, and it wasn't long before my orange slinky sprang to life!
"First fish of the year!" I yelled over to Phil, who looked over and offered a few hollers of approval. I netted the fish quickly, and saw that it was not the prettiest white fish in the river, but it was my first fish of the year.  That's worth a picture, I thought, and snapped a shot before dumping my fish back into the water.

Both Phil and I walked to a different section of the river that also looked promising. The small, picture perfect pools and tail-outs where we fished were not providing us with any luck. 

"It's not too bad out here." Phil said.
"Yeah, I was expecting it to be colder." I said, looking at his back pack that held his cameras.
"Are you going to take any pictures?" I asked.
Phil laughed. "I lugged that thing down here only to realize that both batteries in my cameras are dead."
We both had a chuckle about that, but with the way catching was going today, the camera picked a good day to be dead. Pete was almost off work, and we only had two white fish to speak of. As I took a few steps upstream and started fishing the faster water, my slinky stretched out as I led my flies quickly downstream, and I set the hook fast!
"It's a 'bow!" I said happily.
"I hate you." Phil said, as I netted my fish and took a quick picture of the first rainbow of the year.

Together Phil and I headed back up to the parking lot, where we met up with Pete Erickson to fish a different stretch of the Boise River.

"Here, Phil, put on this hat." Pete said, handing Phil an Oregon Ducks hat. 
"Well I like my hat!" Phil complained, putting his hands up to shelter the hat on his head. 
"Well, I'm going to write a blog for Echo, and they would kill me if I sent in pictures with someone else's company's hat." 
"But I like this company, and this company likes me." Phil said, making things difficult for Pete.
"Just..." Pete said, taking the Ducks hat and tossing it at Phil, "Put this on!" 
Phil caught the hat, and said, "Okay, but I'm not taking off my hat." Sure enough, with Phil's hat still on, he placed the Ducks hat right on top. 
"There, that's the best you're going to get!" Phil said with a smile.
"Go Ducks!" Pete said with a smile!

If we thought the river was off-color where Phil and I had fished prior to meeting up with Pete, it was nothing compared to where we were now.  There was a definite stain to the water that was frustrating all three of us, but I stood upstream as the two fishing masters euro-nymphed a promising riffle. 

Finally, Phil's slinky sprang to life, and he set the hook! As his fly rod shot up, a large stick shot towards him. 
"Another damn stick!" Phil yelled, not happy about his catch. 
"The next guy that fishes here will thank us, because we are cleaning out the river for him." Pete said, and he was right.  This had to have been Phil's tenth stick, and Pete and I were easily catching up.  Still, the three of us together can make light of anything, and Phil was happy to hold up what he called 'the biggest stick of the day'. 

"I just want to catch a fish so that I can brag to my friends in Canada that I caught a fish in January." Phil said, as he released his stick.  
The day was fading fast and the temperature was right alongside. It was nearly time for me to get going when I heard yelling from upstream,"Got one!"
It was Phil, and sure enough this time it wasn't a stick! 

I bolted upstream in full sprint where Phil was backing into the slower water, reeling in his fish.  
"It's a brownie!" Pete said with excitement, as I brought out my net to land the fish. 
"You got the big fish of the day, Phil!" I said as I handed him the net, and brought out my camera for a picture.

Phil dipped his fish back into the water, and it slipped from his fingers to return home. 
"Sweet, Man!" Pete said to Phil, as he stood up.  
"I can say I caught a fish in January!" Phil said happily, before we all made our way off the river to end the first day on the water for 2015. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Die Another Day

Today will be a day that will stick with me for a long time, and not because I spent a great day fly fishing with my brother, Kris, and long time friend, Davis Russell-Smith.  Today the three of us experienced a two-ton Toyota Tundra barreling toward us out of control, providing a very unpleasant near-death experience. But before that, we fished.  
"Damn! Did I bring the wrong boots?" David asked out loud, projecting his English accent and looking inside his boot for a size.
"Don't tell me..." I answered back, fearing he was going to go through the day with no boots.
"It wouldn't surprise me if they were wrong!" David added, "You damn well sold them to me!" He said with a laugh.
"What's up?" Feef asked, after layering up from within the cab of his truck.
"Nothing... David just hasn't fished in so long that he forgot how to gear up!" I said back, and picked up his boot to loosen it up for him.
"Why thank you, Erik!" David said, laughing. "Are you going to help me tuck in my shirt too?"  
"Wouldn't surprise me, David. After all, you are getting old." I said, handing his boot back.  David plopped his boot on the ground and stuffed his foot into it with a grunt.
"I am getting old." David echoed back as he synched his boot tight. Together we put our fly rods together and found our way to the river.
I watched a few fish rise before I selected a size 18 BWO adult pattern to offer up as a meal.  Feef had gone upstream to throw a streamer, while David remained across the river tying on some nymphs.  With my fly in hand, I waited for the fish to show itself again, and it didn't disappoint.
"Erik, a fish just rose right in front of you!" David yelled to me from across the stream.
"Really?! Gee, I didn't see it!" I yelled back, sarcastically.
"Well, catch it then." David said.
The fish rose again, and by now I had the fish's feeding timed.  I laid out a well-timed cast, and a mouth took in my fly.
"Boom!" I yelled lifting my fly rod to set the hook on the fish.  By the time Feef came down to aid, if needed, I had netted my fish and held it up for a picture.  
"That was a nice fish there, Brother." Feef said to me as I dipped the fish back into the water and let it slip from my fingers.
"Anything on the streamer?" I asked.
"Nothing." Feef said bitterly, as I redressed my fly. 
Whooping and hollering echoed down the canyon wall, catching our attention.
"What is that?" Feef asked. 
"There must be someone on the mountain." I said, as we both scanned the canyon wall.
"There!" Feef yelled, "I can see three guys up there... They look like they are sliding down."  It took me a sec, but I saw them, and brought out my camera to take a picture.
I looked back down and saw another fish rise.
"Here..." I said, holding out my fly rod and recapturing Feef's attention. "...catch that rising fish over there." 
Feef took my fly rod and looked to where I pointed. He saw the fish and it didn't take long for him to get hooked up!
"Yeah, Brother!" I yelled over to him.
"Feels good to fight a fish again, Brother!" He said back, with a happy growl.  Feef held his rod tip high as he brought in the fish close enough to get our first real glimpse at it.
"It's a nice fish, Brother. Don't screw it up!" I said with excitement.
"I'm not!" Feef said, bringing out his net and scooping up the fish.
"Yeaaaaaa!" Feef yelled, after seeing his fish fill up his net!
"Let's get a pic!" I said, and Feef was happy to cooperate.
I called David over so he could have a shot at a rising fish.
"Did you see it, Dave?" I asked, after a fish rose.  I had already given Dave the fly that was working so there was no question that it would work.  
"No." He said.
"No? It's right in front of you." I said, and this time he saw the fish. 
"Okay, I see it." He said, and pitched out his fly. 
"Erik, you need to make these flies with a big white top so I can see the bloody things!" Dave complained. But it was true; even I was having a hard time seeing his fly.  Another cast, and we both watched for a rising fish.
"That's you!" I yelled as a fish rose, and David set his hook.  
"How could you see the fly?" David asked, as he fought his fish.
"I couldn't, I just figured your fly was in that same vicinity." I said loudly with excitement.  David brought his fish in fast, and I had my camera out for a picture.
"No!  You are not getting a picture with me and this little fish!" David said laughing.
"Come on, Dave, little fish have feelings too." I said, but Dave didn't even touch his fish, he just dipped the net back into the water, after netting it, so the fish could slip away, unharmed.
"I guess if I caught a small-ass fish like that I wouldn't want a picture either." Feef added, after Dave's fish was long gone.  
"It's not all about catching fish, you know!" David said in protest, "It's about being out and enjoying the wilderness with friends!" 
"Yeah!" I said loudly, "That's what I say too..." I turned to look at my brother. "...when I catch small fish."
I hooked into another nice fish, but it snapped off when my fly line knotted up and was suddenly stopped by the guides as the fish ran. Another feeding fish caught my eye quickly, and it looked bigger than what any of us had caught so far.  
"Oooooo, go get that, Brother!" Feef said, also spotting the fish.
"Don't screw it up, Erik." David added, for some extra encouragement.
I crept closer to the fish, practically crawling through the snow, to get into a good casting position.  The fish was close to the bank and would spook if I approached it any other way. My first cast sent my fly right into the low hanging bush that sheltered the fish's feeding lane. I broke off the fly after some rousing from my audience, and was back casting in no time. Then it happened: I was close enough to see my fly float into the fish's feeding lane when it's head came up and ate my fly!  The fly line wicked off the water as I set the hook, and as soon as the fish felt the pull it shot off tail-walking out into the river!  The fish was bigger than I thought, so I stood quickly as my reel screamed to life.
"It's a pig!" David yelled, watching from downstream.  The fish was running hard, and leapt completely out of the water... where it spit my hook.
"Damn it!" I yelled, throwing my rod back into the snow behind me. 
"Well, you almost impressed me, Erik." David said, adding injury to insult.  
"I didn't see it, was it big?" Feef asked, as I sulked in silence with my hands holding my head.
"God, it was a pig!" David said, and he was right.  It's not very often I pitch a fit over a lost fish, but it just got to me because it was in such a difficult place to cast. I deserved that fish. 
Both Feef and Dave went back to fishing as I finished up my little pity-party.
The sound of the water flowing by us was magnified due to the silence created by the falling snow. A slight breeze was cooling the already freezing temperature, which aided in the decision to go back to the truck and warm up. With everyone having caught a fish today, we decided to end the day early and go home to grab an early dinner.  We did not expect what would happen next.  
Feef kept his truck in 4-wheel drive while we slowly made our way back out of the canyon.  Around a blind corner and headed down a slight decline, we pulled up next to a car that had slid off the road into a deep ditch.   
The car was high-centered, and there was no way they were getting out without help.  After Feef found his tow rope, David strapped on the chains he brought for some extra grip.  
"There was a Subaru stuck in the ditch just back there." One of the guys said, pointing to a section of disturbed snow. "It took six of us to push it out, but there was no hope for our car."
"How fast were you going?" Feef asked, as David finished tightening up the chains.
"Slow, I would say 20 miles per hour." The driver said.
"Hey! Were you the three guys sliding down the canyon earlier?" I asked.
"Yeah, that was us. Were you the three fisherman we saw?" The driver of the car asked back.
"Yep." I replied, and brought out my camera to snap a picture of them.  
Driver, Friend who lost his phone, and the other one.
With the rope in place and tire-chains secured, Feef hopped in his truck to pull out the car. The chains dug away at the earth as he stepped on the gas, and just as the car started to budge... SNAP! The tow rope broke, and the hope of pulling out the car was lost.    

The tire-chains take forever to remove, so David got to work on them right away. With the driver side done, he moved over to the passenger side of the truck. This side was near the snow filled ditch away from the road next to the steep incline that continued up the canyon wall.   

"What's going on, Dave?" I asked, as I saw him stick his head behind the tire and struggling with the chains.
"I can't get this link..." David said with a grunt, as he stuck his hands back there again, feeling for the link.  We were both kneeling when we heard yelling.
"Oh, $#!t! That truck is not going to stop!" The friend with the red hoodie yelled, pointing up the road.  
"$#!t, He's going to hit my truck!" Feef yelled, as I looked up...

1... I looked up to see a silver Toyota Tundra barreling down the hill traveling at 35-40 mph. Its wheels were turned towards the large ditch, but the truck was not turning.  Instead it was coming straight toward us, only seconds from slamming into Feef's truck with a force that would pin both David and I under Feef's truck and most likely into the ditch.
"DAVID MOVE!!!" I yelled.

2... I turned towards the ditch and leapt over it, scrambling up the steep embankment to avoid being pinned under Feef's truck. I looked back at the truck, and saw that it was not going to slam into Feef's truck: the driver kept his foot on the gas to propel himself in the direction his wheels were turned. The only problem now was with the speed of the truck, there was a chance it could bypass the ditch, slam into the steep embankment fast enough to climb it before it stopped, and it was headed straight towards me!   

3... The truck slammed into the large snow pile that lined the road, causing it to explode in a cloud of white.  I backed away, scrambling down the embankment towards the back of my brother's truck, without taking my eyes off the Tundra.  The truck flew into the ditch and slammed into the far end of the embankment.

4... A tsunami of dirt, rock, ice, and snow was so large that it completely disrupted my vision of the truck.  Like Luke Skywalker avoiding being squashed by the foot of an imperial walker, I dove backwards without looking where I would land. While being pelted with the wave of earth created by the truck, the last thing I saw was the truck tipping on two wheels, before it came to a stop.

I opened my eyes, and felt something weird under my chest, like I was on a soft, round rock.  I pushed up to realized I was on David's head.
"Sorry, Dave." I said, as he got up and removed his glasses that were caked with snow. 
"Holy $#!t man, are you ok?" The driver of the white car came running towards me to help me up. "That came so close to hitting you." He finished, as I stood. 
"Is everyone ok?" I asked, looking to see David up and my brother standing by the driver side door of his truck.  The kid with the red hoodie ran over to the wayward truck to see if they were ok, and they were.

I walked over to Dave who was brushing snow off his hoodie.
"I thought that truck was going to roll after both those tires came off the ground." David said, checking his glasses.
"I saw that too." I said with a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. 

Everyone was shaken up, but okay.  I pulled out my camera, and the beeps emitting from it indicated I had turned it on to take a picture.
"You're joking, Erik..." David said in disgust, "how can you think to take a picture right now?"  His reaction made me laugh, but with everyone ok, I saw no harm in taking a picture.

The Tundra that slammed into the ditch was stuck, but the gentleman inside had a tow chain, which Feef used to pull him out. As they worked I walked to one end of the road, while one of the other guys walked up the opposite way to slow down any incoming traffic.
With the Tundra unstuck, David helped secure the gentleman's tire chains on his truck to help pull the original white car out of the ditch. The Tundra tugged on the white car, and the tow chain did it's job by pulling the high-centered car out of the ditch. 
From there we let the three guys go ahead of us as we made our way out of the canyon, but not before one more task.  The car we helped pull out had low profile tires, and did not make it up the hill.  The tundra got ahead of it and attached the tow chain to pull it the rest of the way up the hill.

"So much for getting back early." Feef said, as we followed the two vehicles up the road. We passed them when they stopped to unchain the car, and we waved goodbye to our new friends as we cruised by.
"Man, I thought he was going to hit my truck." Feef said with a relieved sigh, reliving the moment in his head.
"I'm glad we didn't get hit." I added.
"Well I had Erik jump on my freaking head as he tried to get away from the truck." David said loudly. The image of David pulling his face out of the snow with his glasses and face packed with the frozen element made me laugh.
"Yeah, laugh it up, ERIK!" David said, laughing along.
"Well gentleman, I guess we'll die another day!" I said.
"Oooo, James Bond!" Feef said happily, and drove us back to Boise all safe and sound.

PS. If you happen to find some keys on the South Fork road, please bring them into Anglers Fly Shop.