Friday, June 26, 2015

The Other Brother

It was only a matter of time before my little brother, Bryan, would make his way back to Boise to visit, and when he did I would take him fly fishing, because it’s the only time he gets to go. Despite his lack of knowledge on the subject, Bryan always catches fish when we go out. He is a quick learner and does exactly what I suggest.  I always have a place to take Bryan that will hopefully allow him to catch some fish with little effort, but this time he made the call. 
“I want to go to the place that has the trees in the water.” Bryan said, looking at my Facebook page. 
“That’s Lake Lowell. But I can’t guarantee you will get a fish.” 
“I don’t care, I want to walk and fish around in the trees.” He said, “It looks cool.”  

We arrived at the south side of Lake Lowell and immediately went to look at the water. Bryan was walking just ahead of me when I yelled at him. 
“Stop!” And he halted. 
“There is a bass there.” I said pointing near a cluster of trees. It took Bryan a second before he spotted it, but after seeing the bass we both ran back to the car to gear up. 
“I want that bass, Erik!” Bryan said eagerly, as I tied a small popper onto his line. Armed with my ten foot five weight, Bryan bolted to the trees and flicked his popper into action.

“Do you remember how to cast?” I asked, as he pulled out more line for a longer cast.
“Nope.” He said, and before I could offer any advice he flicked the rod forward sending his popper right into a low hanging branch.
“Hmmm.” Bryan mumbled after his failed attempt.  
“This is going to be a long day.” I said to him, as he plucked his popper out of the branch.

Some quick pointers and Bryan was back in business. The little popper was being hurled in between every stump and shrub, but nothing was interested in it. 
“Let’s change things up a bit.” I said, snipping off the little popper and replacing it with a larger one.  
“Do you know what’s special about this popper?” I asked.
“It’s yellow?” 
“Nope, it’s a Bruce Lee popper!” 
“Oooooo!” Bryan's eyes widened. 

The morning had started off slow, but the Bruce Lee popper brought all kinds of confidence in Bryan’s cast. With every cast, Bryan added commentary by explaining how to fish with the Bruce Lee Popper, with his obviously-practiced Bruce Lee accent.
“First you have to take your popperrrr, and swam it down!” Bryan continued... “And you have to put your hip into it, and then swam it! His popper slammed down near some trees. Bryan looked at me and said, “And that, my friends, is a very hard ting to do...”.   
All was interrupted when a bass came up and slammed the Bruce Lee popper!
“Ooop, ooop!” Bryan yelled, failing to find words in his excitement.

“Same spot, Erik!” Bryan reminded me, after I had just told him not to keep throwing the popper in the same spot. But it had worked.  
“On the Bruce Lee popper and everything!” I said happily, then I got a good look at his bass. One side of its mouth was a bit tore up, meaning that this bass had been caught a few times. 
“Aw, that fish has been caught so many times... you caught the one dumb fish in here.” I said with a laugh. 

I wanted to get a good picture with him and the fish, so I said, “Hold it up so I can see it”, but right at mid-sentence, the fish flopped out of Bryan’s grasp and splashed, unceremoniously, back into the water. 
“Oh, you dropped it!” I yelled. 
“Ohhh.” Bryan whimpered.   

“Time to let him go.” Bryan said, as if he had planned it. We laughed it off and went back to fishing. 
“Get your fly rod.” Bryan said, because I had yet to pull mine out. 
“I wanted to be sure you got a fish first.” I said, before I grabbed my rod to start fishing.

Bryan and I had split up, but we could still easily see each other amongst the trees. Now that I was in the thick of it all I could tell that casting a fly rod was not going to happen. 

Armed with my 4wt. fly rod, I had on a small brown leech that I would slingshot-cast in and around bushes and tree stumps. The wind was starting to pick up, but the trees and bushes acted like a jetty to keep the water calm where we were.  Some movement in the water caught my eye, and I pulled back and let my fly soar in front of the fish’s path. 

I watched my brown bugger swimming in the water and something was following it.  With the shade, it was hard to make out the type of fish, but when I saw the flash of a take, I set the hook on a nice bass. 

“How are you casting in here?” Bryan asked. 
“Ah, Slingshot-cast...” Bryan said, and I showed him how it was done.  

Bryan got into position, and held onto his Bruce Lee popper to take careful aim. 

He let his popper fly, and it splatted down right in a very tight spot that was surrounded by bushes and sticks. Bryan quickly looked at me to see if I had just witnessed his accomplishment. 
“Nice.” I said, giving Bryan the reassurance he was looking for.

With the trees not producing anything, we decided to blow up the float tubes and try the perimeter of the lake. 

Just as suspected, the wind was creating quite the disturbance on the water.  Bryan was not terribly familiar kicking around in a float tube, but he got the hang of it. He switched to a perch pattern, but was getting no love.

I too was not having much luck, so I kicked a bit closer to the bushes, casted further into them, and saw a school of carp.  I quickly presented my brown bugger, but the carp wanted nothing to do with it. I saw that there was a midge hatch coming off the water, so I quickly clipped off the bugger and replaced it with a chironomid. 
Carp are spooky and a poorly presented fly can spook the entire school.  I aimed for the school, thinking that one should take, and started to cast.  After I got my distance down I presented a very delicate cast right in the middle of the school of carp. Oh no, I thought after my fly wrapped around a twig that I had failed to see. The leader wrapped around the twig one entire turn, before the fly hit a larger twig, causing it to recoil and unwrap from the original twig. The fly came loose and fell like a raindrop in the middle of the school of carp. That couldn’t have happened any better, I thought and made one strip before a carp ate my fly.

I had absolutely no control of this carp. As soon as it felt the pressure of the hook set, it bolted and there was no stopping it. 
“I got a carp!” I yelled over to Bryan, “and it’s hooked on a 4wt fly rod!” 
“I don’t know what that means!” Bryan yelled back. 
“I don’t know if I can bring it in.” I said back, as the 4wt arched further than it ever has.  I could feel that the carp was tiring. I may be able to land it yet! 
“It’s coming up!” I yelled happily.
“I can’t see it!” Bryan yelled back, but then its head popped up, tired from the fight.

“Yuck!” Bryan said at first glance at the carp. 
“I’m not sure I want to touch it.” I said.
“Go ahead, Erik, stick your thumb in there!” Bryan said with a laugh.  

“This is gross.” I said, as I picked up the carp, “Look at this gross.” I said to Bryan who was ready with the camera.

The carp slowly swam away after placing it back in the water, and I did my best to scrub the slime off my hands. 
“That will be a fun fish to put on Dad’s father’s day video.” I said, as Bryan turned off the video camera. 
“Yeah.” He said, and with the wind picking up, we decided to end our day on Lake Lowell.  
“Fun day today.” I said.
“Yeah, I just wish I had brought my camera. It looks cool when you are in the trees.” Bryan said, “And let me know when you make the video, I want to see it.” 
“I will!” I said, and we drove home so that I could sterilize my hands after touching the carp. 

Here is Bryan’s portion of the Father’s Day video.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Happy Little Bluegill

When my wife, Gracy, is interested in going popper fishing, I do whatever I can to keep her interest peaked. 
“Would you like your own poppers?” I asked.
“Yes.” She said, happily. 
“Would you like them large, medium, or small?” 
“Small.” She said, after some consideration. 
“What color?” 
“Mmmmmm... Purple, with purple sparkles.” 
“You got it!” I said, and with the next batch of flies I made her three purple sparkly poppers. 

Another item on her list was the Orvis purple sling pack. Years back I had showed her the purple sling, and she was not interested in it. I brought her to the 2014 F3T event in Boise, which had a number of lady fly fishers with the purple Orvis sling. 
“I want that pack!” She said in hushed excited tones, but Orvis had discontinued the pack that very year, preventing us from getting any more in the fly shop.  It was not until the 2015 Orvis Rendezvous when I spoke with a gentleman named Tyler Hallquest, who was running the pro shop at the event, about possibly getting one of the purple slings.  It was a shot in the dark, but Tyler came through and found the last purple sling Orvis had in their warehouse and he put my name on it.  The package arrived at the house before I got home from work, and it was no surprise that the Orvis box was already opened with the sling neatly organized for a day of fishing.

The forecast called for a 90 degree day, which can make any beginner hesitant about getting out to fish.  I knew if I got her in the float tube fast, sitting with her legs in the water would be a welcoming comfort, even with waders on. 
“This is nice.” Gracy said, after she sat in her float tube and dipped her legs in the water to kick away.  

The water certainly made the day twenty degrees cooler, and on top of the nice cool water, it was clear. The visibility was at least 10 feet, which made it easy to spot cruising carp from down below. 

“How are you doing over there?” I called out to Gracy, who was fishing near some tall reeds. 
“I’m getting bites, but I keep losing them.” 
“Would you like to switch to a smaller popper?” 
“No, I want to use my purple one.” She said, and continued to fish. 

I soon found out what she was talking about. Little bluegill was all we could find on the edge of the water, and when I finally hooked into one I was not even sure how it got the little popper in its mouth. 

“I need a bass to take my popper!” Gracy scolded the pond after another lost bluegill. 
“Get it way back on those rocks.” I suggested, but Gracy was way ahead of me.  Her popper landed near the edge of a rock, and she made a few pops.
“Whoa!” She yelled, when a bass slammed her popper with no warning. The bass put on quite the show before Gracy brought it in. 
“Check out the eye on that one.” I said, kicking closer to take a picture. She held it up for me to get an eyeball shot. 

“Are they always red?” Gracy asked, after her bass made a splashy get-away. 
“The small mouth bass usually have red or orange eyes. That’s another way you can tell what kind of bass you have.”  I said, and she started to cast again. 
“Hold on, I want to switch your popper.” I said, taking out my box, and selecting the smallest popper I had.  I clipped off her purple popper and Gracy tucked it back in its place while I tied on her new fly, and it was just what the doctor ordered.  On her first cast she hooked into a bluegill that took her fly like it was going out of style.

With a much smaller popper, the bluegill were almost swallowing it. This made it a little harder to get it out of their mouths, but with the numbers of fish we were catching, it was worth the extra effort. 

Gracy dipped her bluegill under the water, and waited until it kicked away to its home. 

I happened to be floating over some little fish, and figured if I didn’t move they wouldn’t spook. 
“Quick, cast your popper over here.” I said, dropping my camera into the water.  Gracy tossed her popper over near me, and when she gave it a pop, it got the attention of a little bass. 

One last jolt, and the bass took the popper.  It was not the biggest bass in the world, but it put up a nice fight.  The little fish was swimming my way as I grabbed Gracy’s line and brought up her fish to unhook it. 

“They like this little popper.” Gracy said, after releasing another fish. 
“I think it’s just because they can fit it in their mouth.” I said back. 
“Are you ready to get going?” I asked, after we had our fill of catching. 
“Yep!” She said, turning her float tube around. 
“Are you having a good time?” I asked.
“Yep!” She replied, with a smile and a thumbs up.

I was sure to stop by the gas station to pick up a cold smoothie for the drive home, along with a few snacks to keep Gracy happy. When she was a kid she used to love going fishing, because it was the only time her parents allowed junk food. I like to think I’m keeping up with her family tradition by supplying the white cheddar popcorn she loves; and the best thing is that I actually like fishing with her.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pop it Like It’s Hot

It was nearing the end of the workday when ol’ Terry Kowallis came through the doors. 
“I got a hall pass for tonight, can you sneak out to fish?” Terry asked me, as he started picking out poppers from the tray. 
“I think I can arrange something.” I said, knowing I had nothing planned for the evening. Terry has access to a private bass pond out in Star, ID, so I was going to do whatever it took to go. 
“I’ll swing by your place and pick you up on the way out.” Terry said, as the clock struck 6pm: closing time. 
It was a miracle. It’s always when you are excited to get somewhere when everyone seems to be in your way, or you hit every red light... but not today.  Green, Green, Green all the way home, and there was hardly any traffic at all.  I made it home in record time, and had all of my gear out when Terry came to pick me up.

“Heck, we are just going to a little bass pond. What do you need all this stuff for?” Terry asked, after I had loaded all my gear into his truck. 
“You never know, Terry!” I said. With the pond being in Star, which is only about 20 minutes from my house, we were there in no time at all.

Terry got the boat ready as I put together my fly rod. 
“Go cast off the dock while I rig up my rod.” Terry suggested, and he didn’t have to say it twice. By the time he had his rod rigged with a popper, I had hooked into three bass and was waiting for him to back up the drift boat.

I got behind the sticks first while Terry slammed his popper near the tall reeds. The water was as still as glass, until Terry jerked his popper to life.

WHAM! The bass came out of the water to kill his popper, and Terry set the hook fast. 
“That was my third cast. If a fish hadn't hit that one, I would have thought there was nothing in this pond.” Terry said, bringing in his fish. 

A quick release, and Terry was back at it.  Just as suspected, his popper was hit again, this time with such voracity, that if you didn’t expect it, it would scare you half to death. 

It was finally my turn, and I didn’t waste any time getting my fly where it needed to be. I was armed with my 7wt. so my fly hit hard when it landed.  Slap! Slap! Slap, it hit, but nothing was eating my fly.
“You must have caught them all, Terry.” I said, still fishing like mad.
“Try over there,” Terri pointed, “I know there are is some structure underwater that is always good for a bass.”   

I was long overdue for a bass,especially at a private pond, and nothing took where Terry had suggested.  I flicked out my popper, and it landed a bit off target.  Shoot, I thought, and lifted my rod to pick up my popper when a fish took right at that same moment. 
“Hell, you couldn’t have timed that one better.” Terry said, as I brought in my fish.   

It was non stop catching after that.  Fish after fish we nailed, and all on a popper.  It was Terry's turn, and he hooked into a fish right off the bat. It was a large pumpkinseed fish that was easily the size of his head. 

It was great catching bass after bass, but I really wanted a large bluegill or pumpkinseed.  I casted to all the little pockets of water in search of one, but only bass hit.  The sun was starting to set, which made the water look like ripples of silvery mercury when a fish hit my fly. 

It was definitely starting to get dark, but the bass fishing was only getting better. 

I slammed my fly down, and gave it some hard pops back when a fish ate it.  I set the hook, pulling my fly right out of the fish’s mouth. I quickly got it back out to where I had yanked it away, and the fish was still there.  It hit my fly again, and I yanked it away, again without hooking the fish.

I quickly plopped my fly out for a third time, to the same fish, hoping it would still be there. 
“It already gave you two chances; it probably figured that was enough.” Terry said, as my fly hit the water.  SLAM! The fish hit!
“He isn’t getting away this time, Terry!” I yelled, as I brought in my fish.

“I think we need to be off the pond by sundown.” Terry said, as it got darker yet. 
“How can you have a private bass pond, and not expect people to say late when that’s the best?” I asked. 
“Well, you are up, because I can’t see anymore.” Terry said, reeling in his line.

I didn’t waste any time switching him spots again. It was getting hard to see, but there was just enough moonlight for me to make out the bank.  Terry was rowing to the dock to end the night, as I pitched out my popper into the darkness.  Things had slowed down, which isn’t saying much. I still caught plenty of fish along the way, but after I dropped Terry off so he could get his truck, I oared myself out one last time. 
Give me one last fish, I thought as I casted my popper again and again.  The white reverse lights shined in my eyes as Terry backed up the railer. It was time to go, so I had myself one last cast. I was reeling in my line with every pop, and heard a splashy take. BOOM, a fish was on!

“Is it a big bluegill?” Terry asked from the shore. 
“No, it’s a bass, but I’m not complaining.” I said back, lipping my bass and taking out the popper. I secured my fly rod in the boat and oared back to Terry, who hooked it up to the trailer to take it out. 
“Well thank you for coming along, that was fun.” Terry said, as we got back into his truck. 
“How many fish do you think we caught?" I asked. 
Terry thought about it for a sec',“It would have to be 65-70 at least.” 
“65-70?” I asked, amazed. 
“Math was never my strongest subject.” Terry said. 
“Mine either, 70 it is!” I said with a laugh, as we headed home to end the night on a sobering white lie.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Chocolate Night, Not About Fly Fishing

Yes it’s true, I do a lot of fishing. And my wife, Gracy, is very generous when it comes to giving me time on the water. So every once in a while, on top of my regular house chores, I do something nice for her that has nothing to do with fly fishing.  Well, almost nothing. Tom Rosenbauer  got me started on this whole chocolate kick, and ever since I have become a chocolate snob.

The Chocolate Bar in Boise offers an evening of fun, making chocolate treats to take home, and if you have a group of 6-12 people they will host a private class. I invited the Grajcars and the Kazkoffs to a fun night of chocolate making, allowing us to have our own private party. Chris and Christy Preston own the Chocolate Bar and were the ones teaching the class. To kick off the night, Chris offered red wine which was well accepted and quickly consumed. Oh, and did I mention that Chris and Christy are also avid fly anglers? 

"One of the most important things about working with fresh chocolate," Christy explained, "is to keep your work station dry, because fresh chocolate and water do not mix." To prep for this Chris and Christy covered the granite table with wax paper. Everyone was excited to start making chocolate and Gracy was no exception; in a flurry of excitement she reached for some chocolate and failed to see my glass of water right in her hand’s way. She tipped the glass of water that flooded our workstations to the point where Christy had to redo the wax paper. Gracy helped to get things moving along. 

The dipping process took some technique that Christy taught us before we began. 
“I can even show you how to make tuxedo strawberries!” Christy said happily, as we started to dip our strawberries. 

“I want to make a tuxedo strawberry!” Mark said loudly. 
“Oooo, I want to make one too.” Carolyn said, looking over to see how it was done. 
“Do you guys know how to make Pico strawberries?” I asked. 
“A Pico strawberry...” Jim said with a chuckle.

The tuxedo strawberries were fun to make. The bow tie was the hardest part, but I was able to capture it nicely. 

Drizzling was another technique that Chris and Christy taught us. 
“Dip your knife deep in the chocolate, and hold it up hight while wiggling the knife over top of your strawberry.” Christy told us, as she handed over the knife. Gracy got this technique down quickly, covering up her strawberries nice and professional-like. 

“My tuxedo strawberry looks more like a nice blazer...” Mark said, “Is that okay?” 
“Well I don’t know what mine looks like...” Jim added, laughing at his creations. I walked over to see how Carolyn was doing on her chocolate creations, and noticed they were disappearing quickly after being created.

Both Mark and Elaine were watching as Chris explained how to dip a truffle into the chocolate and not lose it. However, Mark was working on something else more serious. 
“Everyone, look at my incredible creation!” Mark said stepping away from the table and holding out his hands... “I call it my Jackson Pollock truffle!”

“I’m sensing you were a bit sloshed on red wine, and angry.” I said, looking at his truffle. “With these textures you added, I am definitely picking up an angry vibe when you were creating this piece.” 
“Interesting how you were able to pick that up, Erik.” Mark said, sounding as snobby as possible, “Only a true artist could have seen that.”  

Next up was biscotti, and at the sound of the name Gracy snapped to attention. 

Christy quickly taught us how to dip them properly, as Chris went around making sure everyone had a full glass of wine.

“Oh I probably shouldn’t have any more wine.” Mark said, as Chris came with the bottle. Chris started pouring Elaine more wine, and Mark couldn’t keep his eyes off the scarlet liquid splashing safely in her cup. 
“Well, maybe just a sip more...” Mark said, looking at his wife, Carolyn, to make sure she approved.

Mark’s wine didn’t last long, so he was back to his biscotti dipping. 

Jim and Gracy were both too focused on their chocolate treats; there was no time for chitchat. 

Near the end of the night we started to run out of room on our table. I did my best to fill every nook and cranny with a chocolate treat before Gracy stopped me from looking like a greedy chocolate mongrel.  

The time flew by, and it was already time to collect my chocolate treats. Chris mentioned that the class would last until 8:30 pm, and when I looked at the clock it was already passed 9 p.m. While everyone neatly organized their chocolates in their boxes, I had to, sloppily, stuff my chocolates on top of each other in order for them to fit. 
“Maybe I did make a little to much.” I said.
“You think?” Gracy replied. 

Everyone's chocolate was boxed up and ready to go, but no one was ready to go. Instead we all chitchatted about fly fishing, chocolate, and food as the time flew by once again.

I was very happy to see that chocolate night was a major success. We all had a fantastic time. It was rounding 10 p.m., which was an hour and a half passed the ending time, and we had just started talking about fly fishing Yellowstone, which could easily soak up another hour. Sadly the night had to end, and everyone took off with, easily, a pound of chocolate in their hands. As we walked to our cars, the ladies were in such a good mood that they completely okayed a trip to West Yellowstone, with no rebuttal... Not about fly fishing indeed