Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It's all about "Fish Porn"

It seems that I’ve been out of commission for some time. Looking at my last Blog, it really hasn't been that long. Towards the first of the month I went on a cruise to Alaska with my mother, father and sister. Having never been to Alaska before and making my living in the fishing business, you would of thought my first travels to the “Last Frontier” would have been with fly rod in tow. I didn’t even pack one.

Many years ago I learned that families are much happier if under certain circumstances fishing doesn’t enter the equation. I’ve been accused of being a slow learner, but fortunately I seem to have caught on soon enough to keep my family relation in-tack. Oddly enough I’ve also found that I tend to be a little happier if I don’t mix matters of family with matters of fishing.

So off to Alaska I went. Upon returning my manager, Ken, took off for the Dean for a week. Poor guy. Someone had to go and since I'd had the opportunity to fish this legendary river a time or two I felt that Ken would best be served by jumping on this grenade.

If you haven't been to the Dean before, it's one of those magical places. To get there your means of transportation gets smaller and smaller until you touch down within the Dean's narrow corroidor on the floats of a single engine plane. This place should be at the top of your "A" list if you have such a compilation. While Ken was gone Outdoor Retailer was in town. Between him being in “Steelhead Heaven” and OR I had my hands full. Upon his return we both backed our bags and headed to Fly Tackle Retailer, for our industries annual buying show. Where did August go. For that matter where did the summer run off to.

Fly Fishing Retailer first and foremost is a show about fly fishing stuff. The latest, greatest, bigger better bobbers, it's all there. Rods usually highlight the big buzz. It's been that way since the first year breathable waders were introduced. The new rods looked good and felt nice in the hand, however with the casting ponds lined with testosterone laden “Casturbaters” there’s never room to give any of these new rods a flick let alone leisurely stroke. These masters of the fly rod are the same bunch every year. As active as the ponds were the new stuff must be pretty good. Can't wait to try some myself.

There was a cornucopia of new items introduced that you guys, me included, are going to have that are pretty trick. After all, we are nothing more than a bunch of "Godfrey Gear Freaks" when it comes to this stuff.

For me the flies are what really gets lit up about. I'm a fly junky. Needle marks all up an down my arms when it comes to creations tied on a hook. Did I tell you about my $400.00 fly box that contained only a dozen and a half flies. Desperate men do desperate things. I won't incriminate myself any further on this one. However, there are those who will.

I remember the first time I saw a bin chauked full of flies. I was hooked. No pun intended. One of the great advancements in this sport over the 25 years I've worked fishing retail is flies. There are simply some very edible bugs out there. Flies that our finned friends love to rap thier lips around, but also make me want to go fishing. In my mind these are two critical components of a great pattern. On any given day I can walk over to our fly bin and pick a selection of flies out that I have total confidence in. I couldn't of said that 10-15 years ago. Again this year this fly addict found some very very tasty morsels.

Running out of steam late on the third and final day of the show, I stopped to say hello and take a brief reprieve with our friends at Scott Rods. These guys always have good fish energy. Several nights back they sponsored the first Fly Fishing Retailer Film Festival. Frank, kindly referred to as Fred when he’s our drinking buddy, asked me if I’d seen his starring role in “Running Down the Man”. My "No" answer got me promptly escorted over to the Oakley booth for a look.

At this juncture in the show I could use a little juice to revitilze my efforts. What better way than to view a little teaser about what got me into this business in the first place.

“Running Down the Man” is the second film by Feltsoul Media. Their first “Hatch”, we’ve watched a thousand times without tiring of it. Their new production takes place in Baja and opens with Frank and his brother motoring down a desolate dirt track in a sand buggy of some sorts. Talk about a couple of desperados. They looked like a couple of drug runners, vs. two guys headed to the emerald waters of Baja in pursuit of Rooster Fish.

As the brief clip came to a close a rather significant crowd had gathered to watch. By demand it was run again. More gathered to take in the second viewing. As good as Oakley's shades are, unfortunately, all present focused on the "Fish Porn" playing on the screen.

Unlike most areas we now fish in, this part of the world is still raw and rather desolate. Frank and his compadres were the only one frantically wind sprinting up and down the beach in pursuit of these elusive giant Rooster Fish. Not a location or way of fishing that would appeal to the masses, fortunately, but definitely of great interest to this crowd, myself included.

Needless to say I and my cohorts can't wait to see the full version. For the next several hours business matters at hand were temporarily put on the back burner as visions of vibrant blue waters, stripped piscatorial giants and frantic fishermen clearly overtook our mission. Pornography of such a nature will has such and effect on fish starved anglers. Evidence of the films success was easily recorded in our ensuing actions.

As enthused as I get about fly fishing gear, the show and its success comes down to what I love most about this sport; the people, wild places and fish. At the close of this last day several of us shared a taxi to the airport loaded down with the industries propaganda on their latest offerings. Yet it was clear our focus wasn't on products. Instead our conversation soon wandered to fishing, fishing trips and a place not to far from here called Baja.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Old Ones

No one talks to the old guys anymore, who in many instances have pioneered our sport. That is unless his name is Lefty. These pioneering guys know things about a time and place in fly fishing that most of us will never come to appreciate. They have been through eras where the advancement in fly fishing equipment will be like none other. They have fished waters that in their time have been fished seldom if at all, and the arduous travel necessary to reach some of these places alone is worth the conversation.

As I’m getting up there in age, there’s much that isn’t the way it use to be. An expression among this group that is frequently uttered and one that is more relative now then it use to be. For example just look at the way we fish today. For gods sake we put balloons on the end of our line where most of this group wouldn’t even think of using such a crutch. I thought that’s why anglers began fishing with a fly in the first place. To get away from all that stuff that made conventional fishing so cumbersome.

Looking back into my brief history of fly fishing, I’ve been fortunate to run into one or two of these sage old veterans. I can’t say I’ve spent my time wisely with them, but friendships were kindred and memorable days on the water were spent.

I remember one of my early ventures to the Strawberry River brushing briefly with an older gentleman. Back then the Strawberry River below the dam was a labyrinth of beaver ponds, clear as any spring creek and loaded with very large and selective Cutthroat. After the Division removed these dams from the upper portions of this river it’s never been the same.

While fishing this tremendous fishery, I ran across this guy name Whitey. Obviously the connection with his name was related to the color of his hair. I remember him introducing himself. While I had been busy trying to trick a trout or two on my intricate hand tied imitations, he was using patterns that were indicative of his era: Millers, Mormon Girls, Hare’s Ear, Cow Dungs and such. They’ve always worked and he offered me some. Being ignorant as I was, I refused his offer believing that his outdated flies wouldn’t fool any of these educated trout. Of course he proved me wrong. That was the one and only time I saw this fine gentleman who had obviously fly fished far more years than I had.

Another choice encounter happened several days before I opened the shop, back in 1986. He was my first customer, Art Dittman. Art didn’t know the word mediocre. I remember at Art’s funeral all his buddies paying their last respects and expounding on his vast array of achievements and virtues. Art won just about every state tournament there was to win. In his last years, he was still working on perfecting his fly fishing skills. He was also taking a few young bucks at the pool table. When he was younger his parents would drop him off in Kamas and pick him up in Duchesne some weeks later after fishing his way across the South Slope.

On most days, you’d find Art curled up in one of our chairs reading the latest fly fishing publication. After all the years he’d spent chasing trout with a fly rod, he was still interested in hearing what other anglers had to say and learning the latest fishing or tying techniques. Most people barely paid this incredible gentleman any mind. For those who did, they got an incredible dialect on; taking trains to Yellowstone Country, trekking across the South Slope solo, insight into virtually every famous water in the west, and if you were one of the lucky ones, a personal casting instruction from the master. I miss Art. His unique laugh was a part of the shop for many a years.

Then there was Cal Riggs with his crusty laugh. The Henry’s Fork was our common denominator. Until then I found Cal to be one cantankerous old man who didn’t give anyone the time of day. Cal use to guide out of Godfrey’s shop, The North Fork Anglers, back when I first began my travels to this part of the world. By the time I met him, he had good reason for being gruff. Cancer combined with a life of hard living will do that to you.

He had a great story from those early days at Godfrey’s. The guides that lived in the shops back room took turns doing dinner. On one of Cal’s nights he decided to make a nice large serving of spaghetti. A nice bag of basil leaves just happened to be available to season his Italian dish, however he would learn later that his bag of basil leaves were actually a bag of pot. He’d tell this story and get the best chuckle out of it. Although he told it with some frequency I never tired of the story or his ensuing laugh.

I’ll never know of Cal’s cooking abilities, but I’m fortunate to have experienced his abilities with a fly rod. By the time we met he was failing in health and struggling to make it day to day. Even with all his ills I learned that he could still fish with the best of them. We have a photo of Cal framed with his favorite fly in the back of the shop. Although Cal wasn’t the warmest human being in the world, once you broke the code he was as genuine and knowledgeable as one can be. How could you not be. After all he was fortunate to guide and fish with some of the most talented anglers in all of fly fishing: Reid Bonson, Will Godfrey, Mike Lawson, Gary Engelbretson, Terry Ring, Carl Richards and Doug Swisher, along with a few other prominent figures. I use to love getting the opportunity to sit around and listen to his stories about the early days on the Ranch, back when Lawson and Godfrey’s were the only two players in town. I only wish I’d gotten the opportunity to share a day with him on the Henry’s Fork. That would have been special.

A number of years back I got several opportunities to fish with two gracious gentleman, Jules Dreyfous and Henry Dinwoody. I took them on the Green one day and remember several young ignorant fly fishers mocking the rods they had brought to use for the day. These two young arrogant anglers thought these two old chaps to be a couple of stuck up fly fishing snobs. I should have looked to see what they were fishing, but was too agitated to pay them much mind.

Jules was fishing one of his Edwards cane rods. It was beautifully worn from years of fishing. I can’t remember what Mr. Dinwoody was fishing. It may have been a Pezon Michelle, for I remember that name coming up during our morning of preparation. I would have given my eyeteeth to fish rods of such character and quality. Although I have fishing some with bamboo, which I truly enjoyed, it’s only happened on a few memorable occasions. To both of these men, their beautifully crafted rods of bamboo where nothing special, it’s just what they fished, much as I fish my old 1978 Winston.

On this trip, Jules hooked a Rainbow that I can vividly remember to this day. He took it on an old Royal Coachman. It jumped 13 times before we landed this large trout. He was joyous in laughter through each and every jump. That old bamboo rod of his worked just fine and in actuality made more poignant the special qualities of that moment. Those two arrogant no nothings at the put will never know what they missed nor likely experience the pleasure of fishing with such elegant rods or gracious gentleman.

That night, upon their insistence I’d stayed in a hotel room. Those who know me, know that I much prefer an open ceiling of stars to the confines of brick and mortar. I had to do a few things before I turned in, and both these gentleman were sacked out when I returned to my room. To my surprise they had turned my bed down and left me a bedtime toddie on the nightstand. That’s class.

All these guys had unique and venturous lives, each very different yet equally fascinating. As I grow older, I realize what a gift it was to have crossed their paths and have shared, however briefly, in their travels during an era that harbors much of our modern fly fishing roots. Today many of our elder sportsman have been driven from the sport by the new prevailing young guns whose aggressive streamside nature has eliminated what they have found to be pleasurable in our sport. This is unfortunate, for in their loss and waning interest we lose much that makes this sport special.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

We're Being Played!

I’m headed to Alaska tomorrow. Believe it or not, I’m not even taking a rod. It’s a family trip with my mom, dad and sister. We’ll all hook up in Vancouver on a cruise line that will eventually take us to Juneau. Inquiries among those who have taken this trip before, all enjoyed their travels. Although I could fit some time in with a rod, it would be a distraction under the circumstances. Besides I’ll get a chance to go back to Alaska one day and wet a line. These days, time with my mom and dad are special. They really aren’t the Alaska type, so I’m just excited to spend time with them in a part of the world where I feel comfortable. That is once I’m off the ship.

So while I’m gone, I plan on doing a fair amount of napping, eating, reading, writing and learning as much about the native costal cultures as I can. With the events at Little Hole and work taking up so much of my time, I haven’t any opportunities to write about much else. Over the next week, I should find plenty of time to get caught up and it will be nice to be able to focus on other things for a change. Although I’m nervous about leaving with regards to the events surrounding the Green River development. I leave the efforts in very competent hands.

Before departing here is the latest in our efforts to work with SITLA to preserve the Little Hole parcel. Things took an interesting turn last week after meetings with DWR and Kevin Carter. For those who have had little time to follow this, here is a brief summary of where we are to date:

For over a month SITLA and those opposed to the development of the controversial parcel situated within one of Utah’s most prized water resources, the Green River, have been exploring options in hopes of preserving these lands as open space. Considering that in the grand scheme of things, should this parcel sell for development, it would only generate a rather small amount of revenue to SITLA’s beneficiaries, we are a little puzzled by their position. However, those opposed to this development feel there are options available to SITLA that would allow it to not only preserve the parcel but in the end generate comparable revenues to satisfy it’s mandate. Evidence of this became very clear at the end of last weeks meetings.

On Thursday, July 27, 2006, a meeting was held with Kevin Carter and those interested parties opposed to proposal to develop the Little Hole parcel. Those opposed asked that he consider a deal that would involve a land exchange between the Division (DWR) and SITLA. Mr. Carter was adamant in saying that such a transaction at this late juncture was not possible. . Such a land exchange would allow the critical Little Hole parcel to be maintained for its wildlife and esthetic values. Lands to be exchanged could then be sold or, as in the case of many SITLA properties, left to increase in value to be transacted at a later date. A virtual win-win situation for all parties involved.

At the time, back in December, when the Division became aware of the proposal, they immediately called Mr. Carters office to discuss such a possibility. The DWR’s initial offer of properties to exchange did not meet SITLA’s requirements of preferred parcels for such a transaction. Upon the rejection of these Mr. Carter stated that he called the DWR to communicate which properties were desirable. Mr. Carter said that the DWR never responded to this correspondence. Since these properties were never on the table, at this juncture in fairness, he could not go back and accept an exchange from the Division.

Friday, the same individuals meet with Jim Karpowitz and members of his staff at Division headquarters to review documents secured through a GRAMMA request involving these critical lands. These documents were able to identify letters that showed the Division had offered the preferred parcels for exchange, but also additional properties. Not only did they respond to Mr. Carters request, they met in person with his office and discussed this options. This meeting was even acknowledged by a member of Mr. Carters office in another correspondence.

Mr. Carter has a better deal on the table. The Division properties are not only comparable in value, but are developable. This is a questionable aspect of the current parcel that is in questions. Even if the developer is given the opportunity to build on the Little Hole site, there remains significant problem: access, water quality, special use permits, power. In plot mats from the 50’s, the road that SITLA claims as granting them access fall 400’ short of their property. There are no water treatment facilities on this side of the river. The FS, in another letter has stated there opposition to this development and refuses to make available any Special Use Permits granting the ferrying of clients, equipment or supplies from the north side of the river. Should these and other viable issues prevent the development of this parcel then SITLA would have a property that is worth considerably less than the current offer that is on the table. A risk they appear to be will to take.

Another issue that SITLA is unwilling to disclose is the investing party. Flint Timber is a front for those who will be financing this Lodge. From two independent sources it has been learned that Casino owners are the money behind the project. One source lies within a federal agency, another is an angler from Texas with connections inside Flint Timber. When Mr. Carter was confronted with this issue he didn’t deny the allegation or care where the money came from as long as he is able to satisfy his mandate. Although he stated that those he answers to would not be influenced should such be the case, given the heat that SITLA has been under as of late that would be questionable at best.

Again, why all the fuss over a potential windfall that in the grand scheme of things isn’t significant given the fact that there are viable alternatives, alternative that would be in the best interest of the public and SITLA. SITLA has an opportunity to not only serve their beneficiaries but serve them two fold as stated. The DWR’s offer is appropriate and was made in a timely manner in response to Mr. Carters suggestions. Why he continues to deny such an offer exists is a mystery considering his options.