Monday, October 6, 2014

Then Took the Other, as Just as Fair

JBeen a month since we were trekking the Stough Basin of the Winds, having rolled the dice and hit the weather jack-pot.  Finding new lakes, rarely if ever fished.  Catching fish till we're silly and pondering a rise in a sterile looking lake and then later, the big tail splash rise seen only by Pablo.  Exulting in hot, cold, wind, rain, sleet- repeat, and scrambling to rock shelter under blackening skies only to moments later peak out to bright sun.  Seeing one lone hiker in five days.  Welcoming a four point muley into our evening camp.  Spending a morning unable to walk but finally busting it out a day early, in record time, in the mind numbing pain of a cut foot because going was easier than stopping.

Winter is baring down on us.  Expeditions now only in memory or scratching their way on to 2015 calendars.  Everybody dreams, but only a few live those dreams- life is good men, dream on.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back 'n Forth

Weather report for Roaring Fork Mountain reads like the stock market on October 29, 1929.
Not good, Not Good! Down DOWN!  Emails begin flying back 'n forth from UT to NC. Text messages, then phone calls. To quote Delmar, "What WE GONNA DO!?"  Plan B. No. Plan A, wait, should it be B?
Cost v. Reward. Being blown off the mountain, or enjoying Cutt City in Idaho? As any sane person would do, we went with being blown off the mountain, of course. 
As I type this, Gov is in the air; and I fully expect his first words off the plane will be, "So, where are we headed?". 

"How could one possibly say "no" to this?

Monday, August 25, 2014

La lista grande

Man o man, here we go!  When the opportunity arose to book this trip, so soon after Ak 14 I knew it would be the perfect remedy for the PEBs.   And from recent recon sounds like it'll offer all the challenge and require the grit of the great wild north.  So, gentlemen.... Start your staging!

Hiking pants 1 (wear)
Cap two bottoms 1(optional if I'm bringing WP pants)
Light shirt sleeve 1 (wear)
Smart wool mid layer top 1 (could be same as above?)
Under wear 2 (one on one packed)
Rain jacket (lt wt pack able or gortex?)
Wind blocker (arcteryx venta 16 oz)
Synthetic coat (atom SV, nano storm)
Wind block balaclava or beanie
Wind block fingerless gloves (get the whole wind block theme )
Wool socks (2)
Line sock (2) (optional)
Water proof hiking boots
Water proof pull over pants (good idea)
Cool hat
Clean clothes left in car

rope for bear bag? actually mice may be the issue, ask Dixon
Map ( I have it, pablo)
Down bag (can I get a new one?)
Insulated sleeping pad
Tent (hondo) ( Group Gear)
Tent poles (per Denise )(LOL)
Lt wt or string pack for day hikes (ya ya, the gonia waterproof sling)(nope, too heavy, rather have wp pants)
Lt wt dry bag?  Dry compression for sleeping bag?
Rain cover for back? (I've needed one both trips, thinking black garbage bag)
Jet boil (1) fuel (1- 8 oz can. I have it) (GG)
Steri pen (1 each). Ya, I'm getting one (you think we need two?)
Water bottle, too that fits steri pen
Satellite rescue txt thing (mule) (GG)
Head phones
Foot warmers

6x3 = 18 dinners (share (yes) a couple?) 6 each
B jerky
10 Cliff bars
5 ramin noodles
14 oatmeals (7x2)
6 hot cocoa packs
Utensils (fold cup/ bowl, spoon)
Trail mix?

Paper/ wipes
Tooth paste, brush, floss
Small towel (I'll use yours)
Soap (liquid)
First aide (band aids, moleskin, (athletic tape works better),  cianide tablets, for crap weather )

Flies (parachute Adams)(Griffiths Gnats.. lots, wolly worm)

Just a start. Add to it

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Post Trip Blues

A text to the Gov: "I can't take it, I'm dying here".  Response: "Take it easy, find a distraction", yeah, right. If it were so easy. Why does this happen? Why does the malaise, the listlessness set in about 7-12 days after a great expedition? Maybe it's one of those unexplainable things, like "how does an airplane stay aloft"? Okay, I know that's explainable, but I still marvel at it. Or better yet, "how does Bigfoot/Yeti/Sasquatch exist but he never gets photographed or captured?"

I'm here to tell you boys, there is a cure.  Moments in time. As the PTB's enter into my head and emotions I try to cast my mind back to a specific moment in time. One of my favorites this year was on an early morning hike upstream, two days of overcast and rain were giving way to breaking clouds and sunshine, birds were chirping (right Mule?) we were just embarking on one of the most spectacular days we were to have on the river, EVER.. I spotted a couple of Kings, and we all know what lies behind Kings.... I cast cross river, just behind the Crimson Giants, hoping to strike all the colors of a Rainbow.  The fly swings, the line comes tight and as cliche as it all sounds, the river erupted. Like a bat out of the proverbial Hell my line screams downriver, something goes airborne that should not be able to go airborne, (is it a plane?) and I realize I hooked that King. He took several jumps, raced back upstream, one more magnificent jump and threw the hook (barbless, of course Gov). THAT is what I remember, THAT is what is etched in my mind. That crimson missile in mid-air, frozen in time. It thrilled me to the core. Tonic for the PTB's.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Moments to Remember

A big bow had just slammed my dolly lama, ran straight up river in heavy riffles and flew perfectly horizontal, flashing the tell tell red striped sides for both Pablo and me.  The day and the run were shaping up to be truly unforgettable.  Pablo was opposite me on the run and hooting and hollering as rainbows and dolly varden nipped, swirled and slammed his mouse pattern.  I could hardly watch my own line for watching the top water action just on the other side of the heavy rolling current.  We could and did and would take dollys and bows all day on dolly lama flies swung through the current, but the mouse, the popping, diving and skittering followed by the periodic gulp or lunge of a big trout was the stuff of dreams and Simms promo video.  Pablo was good enough to leave his action and photo my flying rainbow, and I clipped off the black and red dolly and tied on Mr. Hanky, the mouse of all mice, sporting more teeth marks in his foam back than gold medals on Micheal Phelps neck.  My decision was rewarded with almost immediate attention, but as all fly fisherman know, attention and takes are two different things.  My memory is a little fuzzy on to order of things, I think I took a small rainbow and on a subsequent cast, Mr. Hanky was carving up the big waves in the deep center section of the run, leaving a big wake and attention demanding splashes, when a big dark shape just materialized to his left and deliberately moved behind the unsuspecting mouse.  There was an agonizing pause and then Mr. Hanky just disappeared.  It was probably fortunate that I didn't see the take coming or I'd probably have janked the hank right out of the trout's mouth.

The five weight rod bent hard the current making it difficult to discern how heavy this mouse eater was, but his first dash to the shallower side revealed big shoulders and ramped up my adrenaline, this is a fish you've got to bring to hand!  The Lay of the river played to my favor as I could eventually work him out of the current into shallower, slower water.  Like a lot of big fish, he bull dogged, as if simply perturbed by the inconvenience of a 185 lb man pulling on him.  Eventually fatigued he swam around my legs and I got a full view of this guy- maybe the largest trout I've ever caught.  The mythical 30"?  Probably not, but in the range and sporting all the trappings of a big mature buck dolly- black hooked jaw, gaping mouse eating mouth and wide powerful tail.  Couldn't get any better than this, a world class fish in a world class fishery.  We were the only fisherman to cast to these trout last year and will likely be the only ones this year. The planning, the cost and the physical exhaustion of two brutal portages washed away in the wake of that powerful tail as the fish of the trip quietly glided back to his world, have graced mine for just a few moments that I will never forget.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

364 Days Ago

I gotta write!  I gotta do something!  364 days ago I was ambling down a sand bar on a big sweeping bend just a few hundred yards from the pick up point.  The previous day had been oddly difficult.  While Pablo and Hondo continued to catch dolly varden and rainbow trout on a regular basis, the fish gods where exacting penance on me.  My Fishtosterone was low, shoulder aching and the morning of the last day wasn't shaping up much better.  I was flinging, swinging, stripping and wiggling through perfect looking water to no avail.  I'd raced ahead of the pack to try and shake off my drought by getting first to the best seams and edges.  I'd about given up on this particular bar, I'd worked the top seam hard and nothing, I was in the middle section, mind wandering to the inevitable end of the the most perfect trip when my rod jolted so hard I almost dropped it.  Instinctively I jerked it up and back hard and instantly saw a writhing chrome  missile explode from the surface!  SILVER!  Holy chow, I'm into a silver!  Heart racing I chased it down river, it running, jumping, shaking it's head furiously.  Can't be a bow, too big, could it be, holy cow, that'd be one huge bow.... gotta land it, gotta land it!  Hang on hang on!  Where are those idiots with the net!

After that fish of the trip, with still a few precious hours remaining I broke down my rod and stowed it in the tube.  Volume 3 of the anthology of my fishing evolution- didn't need any more, that fish was the capstone of the trip.

That was 364 days ago.  4 days ago I started looking at packing lists.  2 days ago my family headed up to Palmyra New York to see the grand parents and the pageant.   3 hours ago I packed my dry bag and back pack.  Now there's nothing to do.  So I write, I savor the last few hours of expectation, of dreams soon to be reality, the next chapter to be written.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Bowtastic River Life

Six years of wild Alaska river experiences weave in and out of my conscious and unconscious thoughts.  Those sun drenched corners, the waves of chum and sockeye darting away from the raft, the incomprehensible streak of giant red that marks the king.  The individual fish.  Sometimes the savage take or the fierce run to the backing or the gentle bump and heavy head shake.   The acrobatics and immediate adrenalin rush with the glimpse of "fish of the trip".  The relief of a sweet gravel bar just when fatigue has taken over.  The sting of rain on the cheeks and popcorn on the tent fly. The nonsensical conversations, the new sayings and the unspoken coordination of camp set up and take down.  The perfect unplanned plan for the day.  It's become such a part of us.  As soon as summer breaks in NC I get the questions, "when you going?"  "How was the trip, been yet this year?"  "Man, so you go every year to Alaska?  How many times have you been?  Just you and your brothers huh?  You see any grizzlies?"  To the lower 48 AK is THE last frontier.  Many have been via cruise ship, some have been via lodge and jet boat, none have been unguided on a raft down an obscure river.  It's become a defining part of my character, my story, who I am. The next chapter will begin unfolding in seven days.