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.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Couthless So and So's I curse your name!

Some dudes have no couth (ya, I don't know how to spell, but I have couth).  See, when a big trip is coming up, in fact getting close, the chatter (just like with terrorists) ramps up.  Gear reviews, map reviews, reading logs from past trips (for the hundredth time), emailing wife's of float plane pilots, even considering alternate rivers (which shall forever remain unnamed until Mike tells everyone).  But if a dude has no cooth, he'll bale on the chatter.  I mean, only nut jobs chatter with and to themselves (or on their unread blogs).  How do you keep the excitement building when one or both of your compatriots takes a trip before the big trip?!?  I mean come on- NEVER LEAVE A MAN BEHIND!  So Hondo is embarking on a tour De Torture (8 kids in a car for 9 hours to see 10 other people for 11 days- so he's not as uncouth cause that's a nightmare on elm street) but Pablo, he heads to Cuttyville in the Winds City!  I mean, how's that right?  He's hiking in one of the most remote and pristine trout waters in the west (WHICH I WILL NOT NAME) and I'm sitting here chattering to myself, on my blog, sheesh man.
 Even terrorists have enough cooth to not do an attack right before the big attack.  Man, no virgins for you boys in the after life or better yet, the fish gods will extract their due- wouldn't it be justice if only the Govna caught steelies for the first, say 2 days in AK!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Birthday Tiger

Not sure why the UnGuided has neglected their blog site, but I assure you, the adventures continue.  In April, the crew undertook a Southern Utah dirtbagging trip that consisted of climbing various cliffs and crags, though I'll let Gov write about that trip.  I'm here to report the annual Birthday Fishing trip undertaken by Pablo.
Each year, for the past unnumbered years, Pablo has spent his birthday fishing, usually with the Mule in tow. This year found them among the tiny streams of Central Utah (actual stream names will not be listed here). Friday the 6th found the partial team day-hiking downstream 3 miles to a large meadow that held the "S" curving stream and many large Cutts and Tigers.  Tigers you say?! Yes! Tiger! That horrible and deadly man-made Frankenfish, a cross between a Brook Trout and a Brown Trout, or as my father is wont to call them "German Brown Trout", (that may stem from WWII).  But I digress.
The water was high with a touch of color, but not enough to dis-wade (get it?) our intrepid anglers.  But what finally drove the two back to the campsite late that evening, was the hordes, and I do mean HORDES of mosquito's that fed on their tasty flesh.  The last words spoken at the van prior to hiking downstream were, "dude, I don't see any need to take the bug dope". Dopes indeed!
Not all was lost. Many nice fish were landed, including this MONSTER, out of the 6 ft wide creek. Though the following day brought less fish and high winds. Did I say high winds? I meant to say, gale force winds. Hey, no mosquito's though!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New Year Dreams

Christmas Eve. I'm watching my wife and girls make sugar cookies, I'm stuffed by a wonderful pizza lunch; yet my mind wanders.  I can hardly stay in the moment.  It is a beautiful moment, mind you, but I'm already in AK.  I blame it on the Gov.  He has since gone underground; but he started it with forwarded emails from our bush pilot... writing about the fly-out schedule for next year.  Cuss him. We've already booked the tickets.. it's on the calendar, yet the anticipation is building early.  I've got to stop this. Anticipation is usually greater than the actual event; not counting this years expedition.  "The greatest ever", though I've heard  Gov utter that sentence before. Tonight my dreams will be filled with sugar plums and steelhead, hoping that the fat man will bring me some great piece of gear for the upcoming expedition. I know he will.. I bought it for him.