Saturday, December 15, 2012

Flygirl in Flux

Flygirl Hyun Kounne casting her G. Loomis NRX 7/8 two hander on the Beaverkill.
Last cast of the season...
H: December 15, 2012: I had hoped to head back up to the Salmon river before year's end, but between work and other obligations, it just wasn't in the cards. I did however manage to sneak in a few quality hours on the river with my baby (my new 13-foot G. Loomis NRX 7/8 two hander :), one balmy 40 degree day.

I guess that's it for the 2012 season. Highlights include my first bonefish trip to Andros island (Bonefishing in Paradise), first west coast steelhead adventure in the beautiful Pacific Northwest on the Deschutes and Klickitat (Camp Deschutes, Steelhead Sisters, I Heart Oregon), first east coast steelhead trip on the Salmon river in Pulaski, NY (Expect the Worst...), attending my first spey clave, and participating in an awesome spey workshop (The Tao of Spey). Throw in an upclose and personal encounter with the formidable power of Mother Nature (Back to Normal?) and you have a rather unforgettable year!

What's in store for this flygirl in 2013? So much is up in the air, in flux... First, regarding this blog: my faithful readers will have noticed that for the past year, 2flygirls has been predominantly the work of just 1 flygirl. I've been fly(fish)ing solo for 7 months now. How long can I keep this up? I guess until it becomes more of a pain than a pleasure (I wouldn't count out the occasional guest appearance by flygirl Josée ;). In 2013, I had hoped to start working towards my casting instructor (CI) certification through the FFF. Well, that's now out of the question unless there's a fair resolution or some positive changes made at the FFF. As for exciting upcoming trips, lord knows I have plenty of ideas—more bonefishing, more steelheading, first Atlantic salmon trip!... But it will all depend on whether this flygirl decides to build her dream fishing shack on local waters next year.

There are only 2 things I know for certain (besides death and taxes ;). 1. My new found love for the two-handed rod and passion for spey casting will only grow stronger. I'll continue to expand my knowledge and improve my skills, learning to cast longer belly lines. 2. I'll be on a river, stream, ocean, flat, or lake, fly fishing every opportunity I get. And hopefully I'll have some memorable fish tales to share.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see what 2013 has in store. Until then, I wish everyone a very happy and safe holiday season, and hope to see you next January at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stop whispering, start shouting

H: November 28, 2012: I'm on the train home, chilling after a long day, listening to music on my iPod. It's on shuffle and Radiohead's Stop Whispering comes on... Well, Thom Yorke's lyrics struck a cord and inspired me to write this post—to start shouting the only way I know how, through this blog—even if few will hear, or worse, care.

Just after Thanksgiving, on my birthday in fact, my friend Craig unloaded on me (heck, that's what friends are for ;). He told me about some recent disturbing events that had transpired at the International Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF). It's Board of Directors (BoD) had wrongfully dismissed and stripped the credentials of Denise Maxwell and Dan McCrimmon, two long-standing and well-respected members of the Casting Board of Governors (CBoG), for launching a website that they claimed created a conflict of interest.

I wasn't sure what to make of it at the time or what to say to Craig that could possibly help. As a master certified instructor (MCI) and actively involved member of the FFF, he'd obviously been struggling with this for some time. It wasn't until the following morning that the plain injustice of it bothered me, even without having all the facts. So, I asked him for more info. He emailed me several links: to the Association of Certified International Casting Instructors (ACICI), to the Sexyloops forum, and to the Association of Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructors (AAPGAI). I first checked out ACICI to see what all the fuss was about, then I started reading the thread on Sexyloops. Now, I definitely can't let it go.

My initial response was to send an email to Denise Maxwell to express my support. I suggested an interview to at least give recognition to her numerous contributions to the sport of fly fishing (she's the first lady of steelhead, being the first female steelhead guide in British Columbia, plus a champion fly caster) and her years of dedicated service to the FFF as editor of the Loop and an international ambassador. But now that I think about it, Ms. Maxwell probably has so much to deal with, possible legal action to prepare for, that an interview with a stranger can't be very high on her list.

I will try my best to summarize the events as they've unfolded, but I strongly recommend reading the actual correspondence sent between parties involved and following the thread at Sexyloops. WARNING: your eyes will definitely glaze over, you'll get a massive headache, and I suggest having a large decanter of your favorite poison nearby. However, you'll be rewarded with lively and thought-provoking discourse on a topic I fear not enough people are aware of, and hopefully you'll be bothered enough to start shouting.

July 7, 2012: Denise Maxwell and Dan McCrimmon, members of the FFF CBoG launch the ACICI website, a forum open to all certified casting instructors worldwide as a means of sharing knowledge and information. July 25, 2012: Chairman of the FFF BoD, Philip Greenlee, emails the CBoG and BoD, stating that the ACICI site creates a conflict of interest and potential for copyright infringement of FFF materials. He refers the matter to FFF legal counsel, James Schramm. July 25, 2012: Dan and Denise respond to these allegations by clearly stating that the ACICI is not a competitive certifying body and that they have no intention of using any FFF copyright materials on their site. They invite all members of the FFF to view the site and judge for themselves. July 29, 2012: Dan and Denise are contacted by James Schramm, who once again repeat the accusations but this time in legalese. He concludes his letter by suggesting their resignation from the CBoG was a way to resolve the matter. It goes on and on... (Again, I recommend you read the actual history of communications).

Well unfortunately, none of their responses were satisfactory to misters Greenlee, Schramm or Diaz (Chair of the CBoG), and rather than have the Ethics committee investigate these allegations further, Greenlee summarily terminated their membership in the FFF, the CBoG, and stripped them of all their casting certifications. Denise and Dan were accused, convicted, and sentenced without a proper hearing. Needless to say, this injustice created an uproar which eventually resulted in the BoD modifying their initial judgment, giving Dan and Denise the option of retaining their FFF membership and certifications on a probationary and highly conditional basis. Basically, they can't do anything without direct supervision by a member of the CBoG (coerced confession comes to mind).

The only good thing to come out of this mess is that it's raised some critical questions about the structure and future of the FFF: should the Casting Instructor Certification Program (CICP) become a separate and independent entity? My vote (if I had one ;) would be "yes" because clearly the CBoG cannot effectively lead if it's at the mercy of the BoD and a professional certifying body is bound to eventually have real conflicts of interest with a nonprofit conservation group.

This incident has raised awareness for the need for organizational reform: The need for better transparency at the decision-making level (make documents, meeting minutes, and correspondence more accessible to members); Need for accountability (should the CBoG be elected by its membership: MCIs and CIs?); Need for checks and balances to prevent future abuses of authority; and most importantly, the need to give their membership a voice. My ultimate hope is that this will bring about some positive change.

The most disappointing part in all of this for me, was the lack of communication and hence the seeming lack of leadership from the CBoG throughout this whole debacle. Where have they been this whole time? I'm not even going to address the letters written by the Chair, Mr. Diaz. Hands down, that man wins the prize, for using the most (vague and convoluted) words to say absolutely nothing of significance. I'm speculating here, but my guess (and hope) is that there has been heated debate and maneuvering going on behind the scenes at the CBoG and it's due to their protests that Dan and Denise have been offered this mitigated sentence. But none of it has been publicized (if a tree falls in a forest...). Dear CBoG: Thom Yorke is singing to YOU. Stop whispering behind closed doors, start communicating with your membership.

I recently joined the FFF when I attended a spey workshop given by two members of its CBoG, Al Buhr and Jim Valle (see The Tao of Spey), two gentlemen I have much respect for. Since then, I've seriously considered getting certified as an instructor, not necessarily to make a vocation out of it, but as a way to learn, improve my skills, teach family and friends, and who knows where it might eventually lead... But my primary motivation was to join a community of like-minded people who are passionate about fly fishing and casting and about sharing their knowledge and experiences with others (people like Denise Maxwell and Dan McCrimmon).

As of right now, I can't in good conscience support or condone this organization unless questions are answered and changes are made. If you have any interest in or ties to the FFF, I urge you to read the correspondence and the posts in the Sexyloops thread, do some digging of your own, then judge for yourself. If any of this disturbs you as it did me—start shouting! Write to the FFF CBoG. Show your support for Denise and Dan, your dissatisfaction with how affairs have been handled, and express the need for change.
Stop Whispering (Radiohead)
And the wise men say "I don't want to hear your voice"
And the thin men say "I don't want to hear your voice"
And they're cursing me
And they won't let me be
There's nothing to say
And there's nothing to do
Stop whispering, start shouting

And my mother says "We spit on your son some more"
And the buildings say "Let me spit on your face some more"
And the feeling is
That there's something wrong
'Cause I can't find the words
And I can't find the songs

Stop whispering, start shouting
Stop whispering, start shouting

Dear Sir, "I have a complaint"
Dear Sir, "I have a complaint"
Can't remember what it is
Doesn't matter anyway
Stop whispering,
Stop whispering,
Stop whispering,
Stop whispering, 
Start shouting

Monday, November 19, 2012

Expect the Worst but Hope for the Best

H: Just returned from my first steelhead trip on the Salmon river in Pulaski, NY. I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd heard so many horror stories, seen pictures and videos of anglers elbow-to-elbow on the river... I expected my experience to be marred by horribly crowded conditions and rude anglers. But somehow expecting the worst, yet hoping for the best, resulted in a great trip! I caught some beautiful steelheed, enjoyed the cameraderie of fellow Juliana's Anglers, Shannon Brightman and Kathleen Clayton, and made some new friends on a lovely river that I hope to fish again very soon.

We arrived late Friday afternoon and settled into the 1880 House, our home for the next few days. Linda Tarbox, the owner, her daughter Dawn, and granddaughter Hannah, are the nicest of people and made us feel very welcome. Later that evening, as we walked back from dinner at the River House, I was shivering in my usually warm and toasty down coat. I started to worry about how I would handle the cold temperatures on the river the following morning.

Got up around 5:40 Saturday morning, after Shannon and KC left to meet their guide. The two of them were floating the Salmon river with Paul Conklin. After donning every warm layer I had brought with me (5 on top, 3 on the bottom, plus waders), I met my guide, Lou Guerrieri (Linda's recommendation), and we drove to the Douglaston Salmon Run. Lou had forewarned me that it would be a good hike down to the pool we'd be fishing. It was chilly (high 30s) but not nearly as cold as I had feared. Still, I relished the thought of warming up with a brisk hike.

We parked in the DSR lot and Lou started assembling his gear. He grabbed a portable folding chair from the back of his SUV and began to strap it to a large, heavy-looking backpack. I was concerned he might have a hard time carrying everything down, so I said, "Lou, there's no need for you to bring a chair for me. I can sit anywhere." He replied somewhat sheepishly, "Actually, the chair is for me. I have a bad back..." I chuckled at my wrongful assumption and we began our hike to the Salmon river.

I never heard the starting pistol but clearly the race was on, as every angler in the lot rushed down to claim the best spots on the river. Lou is no spring chicken and years of smoking has taken its toll on his health and fitness. Hunched over with the huge pack and chair strapped on this back, he reminded me of a giant tortoise, slowly but steadily walking the trail. I stepped aside numerous times to let other anglers pass by (slow and steady wins the race... ;). We talked most of the way down and I knew right away that we'd get along. Lou is a direct, no nonsense guy with a quick sense of humor.

20 mins. later we arrived at the Meadow. It was already filled with 8-9 anglers. Fortunately, Lou knew a contingent of them, a group of 5 italian gentlemen from Montreal and Miami: Pietro, Nuncio, Fabio, Claudio... They were old clients of his who he'd become friends with over the years and they had claimed a prime stretch of the pool. I was pleased to see several of them fishing with two-handed rods. Lou spoke with a couple of them and they shifted positions to make room for me. It took a while for me to feel comfortable casting in such close quarters with anglers above, below, and directly across from me.

I'd already told Lou that I wanted to swing flies with my switch rod. He attached a tippet ring to the end of my leader then tied on the first of many, many flies I would cast that day: an orange flesh fly to start with. For the first couple of hours, the only hook-ups were by Pietro, who due to a bum shoulder was using a spin rod and egg lure. He hooked three and landed one. I fished the same 40-foot stretch of river for quite some time, granted I had swung at least 6 different flies through there. I found it odd that none of guys were interested in moving and covering water. They were content to stay in one spot. I asked Lou about this. He spoke to Pietro and we switched spots.

Flygirl Hyun Kounne with first Salmon river steelhead
6 pounds of fresh chrome from Lake Ontario.
Lou tied on a big white streamer which sucked up water like a sponge. It was a real clunker to cast with my compact scandi line. But several swings later, I felt an aggressive take. 10 minutes and several jumps later, I landed my first Salmon river steelhead, a 6-pound silvery male, fresh from nearby Lake Ontario. As Lou netted the fish, I noticed "Team Italia" had gathered around me. I received 6 very enthusiastic high-fives, as they admired my catch. His fins were pale and translucent! Afterwards, we celebrated with some hot freshly brewed espresso along the river bank. I can definitely get used to fly fishing, Italian-style ;).

We stayed at the Meadow all day. I didn't really mind. It seemed an ideal ambush spot for fresh steel entering the river despite my seeing only 6 other hook-ups all day. Later on, I played another steelhead, this one hooked on a silver doctor fly. It took me into my backing as I walked down river after it. I knew immediately that this one was big brother/sister to the first. Unfortunately, it resulted in a SDR (short distance release), about 10 feet from Lou's net. I rushed it, lost focus for a moment, and the hook came out. Lou said it was about twice the size of my first fish.

After making over 200 casts and swinging at least 15 different flies, I was done. Plus, I looked forward to sharing some good river stories with the girls. Thank you Lou (and Team Italia) for a very enjoyable day on the river!

I returned to find Shannon taking a well deserved nap. KC had apparently gone back to the river for round 2. I was disappointed to hear that neither of them had caught a fish and that there had been some miscommunication with Paul about needing our car as a shuttle. Hence, their trip had been cut a bit short. Plus, they had nymphed all day (not exactly my idea of fun ;). Dinner that night at the 1880 House was a veritable feast—some of the tastiest prime rib I've ever had—along with great company from fellow anglers staying at the inn. I went to bed completely stuffed, exhausted, and dreamt of steel :).

Shannon Brightman and Paul Conklin floating the Salmon river
Shannon and Paul (our guide and taxi driver ;).
Sunday was my turn to fish with Shannon and Paul. We met at 5:40, dropped off my car at the take-out point, then drove to the put-in at Pineville. It was still dark when we boarded our "river taxi." It was incredibly peaceful drifting down in semi darkness. It wasn't long before we made our first stop. Paul set Shannon up to nymph from the raft. She had left her wading staff back at the inn, and with a bad knee, she wasn't very comfortable wading. I walked below them and started to swing a fly that Paul had tied on. He called it mahagony.

I had covered about 80 feet of river, slowly working my way down, when suddenly an angler stepped in about 40 feet below me. I stopped in my tracks but continued to cast, waiting for him to do his thing. He made a couple of casts, fussed with his fly for a bit, then he didn't do much of anything for quite some time. I realized he was now a permanent fixture, a river obstruction, so I walked back up to Paul and Shannon and we boarded the raft in search of our next fishing spot. As we're drifting, Paul pointed out steelhead after steelhead spooked by the raft. We passed one section where apparently quite a few fish were stacked. It was too good to pass up.

Spey mistress, Shannon Brightman on the Salmon River
The new Mistress of Spey, Shannon Brightman.
I had mentioned to Paul that Shannon had taken a spey lesson with me and that she had picked it up very quickly. He rigged his Echo 3 spey rod and worked with her on her casting. I hung out with them for a while and watched Shannon double spey. Once again, she exhibited a natural aptitude for casting a two-handed rod and Paul turned out to be a good patient teacher. Eventually, I decided to get back to fishing. I walked well down river from them and proceeded to swing the same mahogany fly. I'd covered about 120 feet of water when suddenly I had a take and my line started flying off the reel. Before I knew it, I was into my backing.

Paul came down with his net and we walked down river in pursuit. My amazing steelhead jumped at least 5-6 times for me. Everytime he jumped, my heart jumped, too! He displayed some serious acrobatic prowess. I found myself cheering for him like a fan. Woo hoo!!! Paul gave me a few funny looks after that ;). Memories of yesterday's SDR fish prompted me to take my time with this one. I was completely focused yet surprisingly relaxed. Somehow, I knew I was going to land him. Besides the physical fly line connecting us, I felt a strange bond with this fish. Can't explain it... About 20 mins. later, I maneuvered him into Paul's net. (Just writing about this makes me smile! :)

13 pounds of pure fun! My handsome 34-inch Salmon river steelhead buck.
He was big, dark, and handsome: a 34-inch, 13-pound buck. But he had a bit of a gut ;). His stomach must have been stuffed with salmon eggs. I had a hard time grabbing hold of him. I'm still amazed he was able to perform those incredible acrobatic feats.

The rest of the day passed by in a blurred state of contentment. I enjoyed drifting the river and discovering her many different sides. Paul seemed to know every run, pool, tributary, and guide that we passed by and his raft was the sweetest ride on the river, as other drift boats clanked their way down due to low water. I enjoyed watching the new Mistress of Spey, Shannon, make leaps and bounds in her casting. I was thrilled when she caught her first steelhead, a petite silver beauty, but I had hoped she would experience the rush of landing a buck like mine. I was happy just working on my spey casting and made major progress towards earning my CG badge ;).

I don't think anything could have ruined that day on the river for me, not even the smell of death all around me (the putrid stench of decomposing salmon). Perhaps if I'd been elbow-to-elbow with rude anglers... But then, I would have just left for another stretch of river. Thank you Paul, Shannon, and my magnificent steelhead! It's funny how a day on the river and a couple of beautiful fish can make everything seem right for a moment in time.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'm Outta Here!

H: November 8, 2012: Woke up to 7 inches of blinding white snow blanketing the ground and draped heavily over trees and bushes outside my window, compliments of nor'easter Athena. Talk about adding beautiful insult to injury! At least I still had power. I was exhausted from a hellish wintry commute the night before due to downed power lines on the LIRR. But train service had been restored, so I put on my snow boots, winter coat, gloves and hat (all of which I could have used last night walking home in a blizzard!), and headed into work. I had several things to take care of before I left on my first fall steelhead trip on the Salmon river.

snow covered downed power lines and trees from Hurricane Sandy and Nor'easter Athena
Snow covered, downed power lines and trees at my street corner.
It's a trip organized by my women's fly fishing club, the Juliana's Anglers. After Hurricane Sandy, it was completely up in the air whether we'd continue with the trip. I've had mixed feelings about it. Some days, I craved to escape the disheartening reminders of Hurricane Sandy. But other days, the thought of fishing, even for steelhead, seemed frivolous and failed to arouse any excitement.

Today, I can't wait to go! I've had just about enough that Mother Nature can dish out. Surely she will ease up now that Obama is in office. Tomorrow, it's off to Pulaski, NY and the Salmon river with fellow Julianas Shannon and KC. Wish us luck--a brief reprieve from any more natural disasters will do, forget about catching steel. I'm outta here!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Back to Normal?

H: November 4, 2012: I've written pages and pages of observations and my experiences these past 6 days since Hurricane Sandy struck. But they will remain on the loose scraps of paper I've scrawled on—most are just the ramblings of an emotional flygirl in crisis. I've always maintained that this blog should be first and foremost about fly fishing. Those who find their way here are interested in fish tales, not social commentary or politics. There are more compelling stories out there being told by more qualified and superior writers. But I can't leave it alone... So, please bear with me.

I am one of the fortunate ones. I lost power for just 2 days. My home and property are intact. But more importantly, my family and friends are all well. Some suffered more than others, but they're surviving and getting on with their lives. Sandy's aftermath has been an inspirational reminder of our resiliency and has done much to restore my faith in human nature.

I stopped by my parents place the day after and watched as my mom busied herself trying to cook a good hot meal for my dad and I. As the perpetual caregiver, that's just how she copes with crisis—planning the next meal, being resourceful, wondering how long before power is restored and how many days she can stretch out her pantry. As we ate, she and my dad talked about how things were like during the Korean War…

Afterwards, inspired by easterncaster, I went to my local park to cast for a bit. I know, that sounds crazy. I guess it was an act of defiance (or denial) to prove that things were not that far from normal. The usually crowded park with baseball and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts was deserted except for me and 3 guys tossing a football around. I guess they too craved a moment of normalcy. It was still very gusty but I couldn't have cared less. Casting my fly rod felt great!

These past several days, I've watched Sandy bring out the best and worst in people. I won't soon forget the story of a Staten Island mom desperately holding on to her 2 young boys for dear life, screaming out for help, breaking a window to get the attention of a nearby resident, imploring him to let her in, and having her cries fall on deaf ears. I understand that in the chaos of the storm, the safety of one's own family comes first, but that person will have to live with this for the rest of their life. Thankfully, it's mostly been good. I've witnessed communities come together—people opening up their homes to friends and even strangers in need, offering food, shelter, generators to charge their phones, and much needed comfort.

While things appear to be slowly getting back to normal, there are still millions without power, tens of thousands without homes, the death toll continues to rise, 100+, and it's starting to get cold. When Mayor Bloomberg first announced that the NYC Marathon would go on, I was shocked but ambivalent. I imagine Bloomberg and his advisors weighed the pros and cons of proceeding with the race and made a business decision coupled with a desire to restore normalcy to the city. But when I learned the extent of the devastation in Staten Island, the starting point of the Marathon, I was furious. Thankfully he reversed his decision and cancelled the race. If he hadn't, I would have hit the streets in protests, seriously! And I haven't done that since my college days. To divert scarce resources and manpower to operate a sporting event, regardless of the revenue it generates for the city, is unconscionable!

But the show does go on. The Knicks had their home opener at the Garden. The Nets opened the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Tomorrow, the majority of NYC schools will reopen. 80 percent of NYC subways are operational. More importantly, in 2 days time, we will have a critical presidential election. To those who are still without power, who have lost their homes, the responsibility of voting is naturally secondary to providing food and shelter for their families. But even the remotest possibility of NY or NJ's electoral votes being won by Romney is frightening and may prove more catastrophic than the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

I implore everyone to make a concerted effort to vote on Tuesday. Governor Christie is allowing displaced citizens of NJ to vote electronically via email or fax. How worse off would the residents of NY/NJ be right now if Mitt Romney was in office and had dismantled FEMA and privatized disaster relief? Surely, a "Mayor Romney" would have let the Marathon go on. I'm not even going to get into all the falsehoods and half-truths he has spoken, that's sadly a reality of political campaigning. But the fact that Romney seems to change his position as quickly and as frequently as the winds and tides change is a clear measure of his character (or lack thereof), one based on expediency rather than principle.

I confess, I've been disappointed with the job that President Obama has done these past 4 years. But those hoping a vote for Romney will bring about positive change are misguided. A vote for Romney is a vote for another Bush, albeit more articulate and polished. It's a vote for the same ideology that got us into this mess in the first place, an ideology based on greed and profits at all costs including the environment and the 47 percent. It will endanger all manner of civil rights including a women's right to choose. This election is critical… Please vote!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lessons in the Salt

H: October 18, 2012: I finally went on my half-day saltwater charter with Captain John McMurray. I'd won it in a silent auction at a Tag-A-Giant (TAG) reception earlier this summer. I have a soft spot for big fish conservation :). After rescheduling 3 times due to bad weather and a conflict with McMurray's other day job, time was running out for false albacore... I hoped the fourth time would be the charm.

Weather still looked iffy the night before but McMurray called and said it was do-able. He warned that it would be rolling out there. "Bring your boat legs," he said. I replied I was willing to give it a shot and that I was pretty good on boats. As soon as I said that, I thought I might live to regret it... By "good on boats" I meant I have good sea legs and I rarely get seasick.

I worked on a Great White shark research boat in South Africa for several months and we were on the water every day that the weather permitted. The waters off the coast of Gansbaai, South Africa are some of the most beautiful and treacherous anywhere, not just for having one of the densest populations of Carcharodon Carcharias in the world, but also for the unpredictability of its weather.

But fly fishing on rough seas is a tiny bit more challenging then recording data or taking photos of shark fins ;). Plus, I was a lot younger then. At least my fishing partner James was a veteran saltwater angler, so I had no worries about him. Asking Josée to come with me was never even an option. I still remember her turning a bit green last year out in Montauk (see Bring Out the Bikinis!).

We met at 6:30 a.m. at McMurray's house and got on the big boat, the 33' Contender—that was the only way we were gonna get out and stay out there safely. It was windy but more importantly the wind was from the SW. It eventually shifted W and started to change to NW just as we were heading back in. There were some huge swells when we first got out into open water from the channel. First lesson learned, the direction of the wind can matter more than its intensity.

The three of us huddled behind the boat's center console which I thought would offer adequate protection from the elements. Wrong! We got drenched by heavy spray on the way out. Despite having numerous layers on (4 on top!), once you're soaked, its hard to fight the chill. Foolishly, I was cold and wet the whole morning while my waterproof rain gear remained nice and dry at the bottom of my pack. Another lesson learned or rather a refresher.

The albies were out in good force and we had them all to ourselves since no one else was crazy brave enough to be out there. We saw 2 other boats, all morning, but we never had any close run-ins with them (a completely different experience from Montauk). Schools of false albacore were scattered all over and there was no need to be on top of anyone.

I had quite a few good shots at the albies, but ultimately, no luck. My line management skills were laughable as I stepped on my running line at the most inopportune times, created huge tangles which caught on my guides as I tried to shoot line. I've had this Rio Outbound Short intermediate line for months but this was the first time I was actually fishing with it. I should have stretched it to take out some of the coil memory. James brought along his stripping basket—a very smart idea on a rough and windy day. He had absolutely no line issues. Okay, I'm learning...

Veteran saltwater fly fisherman James Jindal with a nice false albacore
James and his albie.
James caught a very nice albie but he's used to catching more than just one ;). He had fished in the same area about a week before and had hooked 20+ and landed about 15 albies! Granted the waters were apparently glass calm that day. It was fun watching James fish. He's been doing it most of his life and it showed as he made some great casts and wasn't fazed by anything.

McMurray turned out to be a fine captain. He kept us out there way past the clock, trying to get us onto fish. His business is aptly named "One More Cast Charters." Several times as we were heading back in, we'd spot some birds. McMurray would turn the boat around and say, "All right, let's try one more cast..."

Despite the cold, the wind, and rough seas, it was great just being out there fishing and James and McMurray were good company. But I must confess, I was happy to get back on land, warm up with some hot soup, and take a nap under my down covers!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Flygirl Mission Accomplished!

Flygirl Hyun Kounne spey casting at Grand River Spey clave, Paris Ontario
Flygirl taking a rod for a spin at the Grand River Spey clave, Paris, Ontario.
H: October 10, 2012: Can't believe it's been well over a week since I returned from Paris and the Grand River Spey clave. I guess working 13-hour days plus the weekend distorts one's sense of time and place... Even Craig beat me to a post ;).

Well, I'm happy to report, flygirl mission accomplished! I found my "One"— it's the new 13-foot, 7/8 weight G. Loomis NRX two hander. Damn! Did it have to be one of the most expensive spey rods made in the USA? Why couldn't I have fallen for the Echo 3 which is a fine rod (and $600 less!)? So, is the NRX 1567/8-4 two hander twice the rod of its brethen?

Earlier this spring, I cast numerous singlehand rods before my first bonefish trip and concluded that the middle tier rods were the way to go. The price you pay for the top end models just didn't seem worth it to me. Sure, they're generally lighter, their components higher quality and possibly more durable. But you're also paying for fancy faux burl inlay in the reel seat or other such nonsense. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate a good looking rod as much as the next flygirl ;). But to me, a fly rod is first and foremost a tool, a means to an end—catching fish—and a good caster can pick up any decent stick and work some magic.

The key word is decent—there is a minimum threshold of acceptability (of castability). I cast one lower end stick (around $300) that had received good online reviews. But I would never use that rod even if it was given to me for free. It felt like casting a stiff, brittle, hollow tube. Ugh! It should at least be a pleasant experience (if not joyous :). So, middle tier rods are the smart way to go…

Then why in heaven's name am I about to spend $1,130 on a fishing pole? For some inexplicable reason, my first spey rod is an emotional purchase. Flygirl logic is thrown out the window! I think it's because the perfect combination of rod, line, and caster in the two-hand world is equivalent to all the planets in the universe aligning ;). It's an event to be celebrated!

I think it was just meant to be. It turned out that Mike Verhoef, one of the presenters at the clave, brought along the only NRX 7/8 doublehander in eastern Canada (or so he said :). I took a few casts and the rest is history. Seriously, it was love at first cast. Incredibly light and nimble, a lethal combination of power and finesse. It felt effortless to cast, perfectly lined with a 480 grain Scientific Anglers Extreme Scandi head and shooting line. I didn't want to let it out of my hands...

Afterwards, I rushed to find my pal, easterncaster, and tell him the good news—I had found MY perfect spey ROD! I was curious what he would think of it. He cast it the following day. His reaction was that it was one of the best rods he has ever cast. I guess it's not just my perfect rod.

Eastercaster Craig Buckbee spey casting on the Grand River, Paris Ontario
A perfectly curvaceous D-loop courtesy of the easterncaster on the River Grand.
As for the rest of the Grand River Spey Clave—It was fun! The weather was fine and the setting was gorgeous. Water levels were low which was great for taking rods out for a spin but not so great for the fishing. I cast about 7–8 different spey rods and easterncaster shot some video of me which has been tremendously useful (Thanks, Craig!). I've noticed a few things about my spey casting: 1) my forward cast has greatly improved but I still need to stop the rod higher; 2) I do a great statue of liberty imitation, particularly in my single spey and switch casts. There is no reason for me to raise the torch rod so high!; 3) My parents did an excellent job ingraining proper lady-like manners in me. I consistently extend the pinky finger on my top hand while holding the rod and line.

Flygirl Hyun Kounne spey casting on Grand River, Paris Ontario
Very lady-like form. Note the properly extended pinky ;).
I must confess I was a bit underwhelmed by the presentations. But then again, Al Buhr is a damn hard act to follow ;). Tim Rajeff was up to his usual hijinx but also gave a solid intro to spey fly lines presentation. Mike Verhoef demonstrated the logistics of coordinated spey casting from a drift boat. I met some very nice Canadian speyniacs and watched some terrific spey casters like Raynald Menard (mr. smooth), Mike Barrand (mr. scandi), Bill Drury...

Who needs a fly rod? Not Tim Rajeff. Tim casting a fly line with his bare hands. Nice loop!

Mike Barrand demonstrating the Scandi style of spey casting, Grand River spey clave
Mike Barrand demonstrating the
Scandinavian style of spey casting.
Besides finding the One (or rather the NRX), the highlights of the clave include geeking out with easterncaster and Tim Rajeff, discussing theoretical casting physics and fly line dynamics. Tim was on the lawn with another speyniac casting a 5-weight rod lined with a compact scandi line. I believe it was Craig who asked, "What would happen if we turned the fly line around and cast it?" This evoked all sorts of speculation and resulted in some unscientific experimentation. How would reversing the weight profile of the line affect its distance casting capability, loop formation, leader turnover? At what point would the cast fail and why? It was seriously good intellectual exercise and lots of fun! So then, if a fly line is cast by a robot at 5 mph in a vacuum and...

Another highlight was meeting Bill Drury and casting one of his prototype switch lines (31 grams) which paired perfectly with the Sage One 11'6", 7-weight switch rod. Very sweet! Craig was casting with Bill. He waved me over and introduced us. The only possible improvement in the overall experience would have been him wearing a kilt instead of the standard boring beige waders ;). I had joked with the easterncaster after borrowing his DVD, The Art of Spey Casting, that the best part was watching the 2 hunky Scotsmen spey cast in kilts. Now, I'm a bit mortified that Craig actually mentioned my appreciation of the Scottish kilt wearing tradition to Bill. Mr. Drury is a lovely man and I have a new found admiration for his lines. His supple switch line flew through the One's guides like silk and having the line's load indicator as a visual and tactile marker inside the rod's guides by the caster's hands is ingenious. I plan on purchasing a version for my 8-weight switch rod when they're available.

Sage One rods at Grand River spey clave
Get your Sage Ones here!
Craig and I fished the Grand river after the clave. He managed to interview a few small mouth bass. Unfortunately, the only excitement I had on the Grand was losing my Rio Scandi Short VersiTip line. My fly and sinking tip got snagged in some fast water. I made numerous attempts to free it without success, so I decided to break my fly off. I must have tied some exceptionally good knots because rather than losing my fly, I lost my entire line! The break off occurred on my shooting line. I guess there must have been a nick somewhere along its length. I watched disbelievingly as 60 feet of fly line disappeared into the Grand. It was in the middle of the river, hip to thigh high depth for me, and the current was fast. Somewhat in shock, I walked dejectedly back downstream towards the easterncaster.

Craig noticed I had broken down my switch rod and asked if I was done fishing. I told him about my line. He stopped fishing and walked back upstream with me to see if we could find it. I led him to the spot. He just walked right into the middle of the river and found my line. Actually he almost tripped over it :). Apparently it was snagged on a chunk of metal debris. I guess being 8 inches taller and 80 pounds heavier has it's advantages. Thank you, easterncaster, for rescuing my line!

The following day Craig and I stopped to fish the Niagara River on our way back. We had stopped there briefly on our drive up to Paris but had less than 2 hours to fish. This time, we had a good 5. We decided to fish our way down from Whirlpool park to Devil's Hole. The lower Niagara, in terms of volume, makes the Deschutes feel like a spring creek ;). It's seriously BIG water and absolutely breathtaking. It's a hike down and back up (they say 300 steps) but it's good exercise and helps keep the heavy beer drinking crowd away.

Whirlpool Park, Niagara River
View of the Whirlpool from up top, Niagara River, NY
I can't remember the last time I did so much scrambling? Perhaps when I was 12? I felt like a mountain goat! It was difficult fishing. You couldn't get into any sort of rhythm as there were so few spots to fish from and small stretches of good water. At most spots only a roll cast was possible and the strong currents and eddies went every which way, forwards, backwards, circular clockwise, counterclockwise. Only at Devil's hole could you actually wade a bit into the water. At Whirlpool,  take 1 wrong step forward and you're swimming in class 5+ rapids on the ride of your life! I managed to spook one dark shadowy chinook just off shore. It was literally about 1 foot away from the bank in skinny water. Craig spotted a few fish, one wearing bright red spawning colors. But neither of us had any luck.

Easterncaster Craig Buckbee at Devil's Hole, Niagara River
A contemplative eastercaster at Devil's Hole.
It was disppointing not catching anything but not surprising given it was a scouting trip. I don't think our lines were sinking fast enough. We really could have used a nice skagit outfit. We were both using floating lines with a T6 sink tip or fast sinking polyleader and we were both swinging flies. I was swinging a gorgeous bright blue and copper prom dress fly and the easterncaster, a white and tan baitfish pattern he had tied. Towards the end of the afternoon, I joked with Craig that if we really wanted to catch a salmon we needed to bring out the egg patterns and load up on split shot. Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It just wasn't how we wanted to fish. I don't even know how to fish that way. I guess I'll learn in about a month's time when I go winter steelhead fishing up in Pulaski on the Salmon river.

After almost 5 straight hours of heavy duty hiking, scrambling, and improvisational fishing (on empty stomachs!) we called it a day and hiked the 300 steps back out of the beautiful Niagara gorge. I'll definitely be back...

Easterncaster Craig Buckbee walking up Devil's Hole, Niagara River
Devil's Hole, lower Niagara River, NY

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Weekend in Paris

H: September 28, 2012: I'm off to Paris for the weekend. No, not the city of lights. That would have been in my pre-flyfishing days when I might have jetted off to Paris, France for some cultural and culinary adventures. These days, it's all about the fishing! So, I'm flying/driving to Paris, Ontario, Canada for the Grand River Spey clave.

This flygirl is on a mission—to find the "One," my perfect match. I know he'll be around 13-feet tall :). I've narrowed the field down to a 7- or 8-weight with a few specific models in the running. I know that when properly lined, it will feel like magic in my hands. There will be an indescribable sense of rightness in the fly fishing universe ;).

Besides meeting and hanging out with fellow speyniacs including my good friend, the easterncaster, I look forward to exploring the beautiful great lakes region, fishing some of its waters including the lower Niagara river and of course the Grand, and hopefully interviewing some fish (that's easterncaster speak :). It's sort of a fishing free-for-all right now with the possibility of catching just about anything: rainbow, brown and lake trout, chinook and coho salmon, bass, walleye, mooneye, steelhead... the possibilities are endless. Wish me luck!

Grand River, Paris, Ontario Canada
Grand River riverfront in Paris, Ontario, Canada. Photo courtesy of Balcer.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Tao of Spey: A Workshop with a Master, Al Buhr

H: 13 from across the Northeast came to practice at Al Buhr and Jim Valle's makeshift temple of Spey on the Jersey shore: 4 CIs (casting instructors), 3 MCIs (master casting instructors), several veteran fresh and saltwater flyfishermen, plus 1 flygirl (yours truly ;). A few sought blessings before their THCI (Two-Handed Casting Instructor) exams. All came in search of enlightenment from a man who can only be described as a Master of Spey, Al Buhr ;).

It turns out there aren't very many THCIs in the world and just 1 resides on the northeast coast of the U.S.: Jim Valle. I had the pleasure of meeting Jim at the Salty Flyrodder's Conclave earlier this summer. I was on a mission to improve my spey casting in preparation for my first steelhead trip. Somehow, Jim (with an assist from easterncaster :) persuaded me to sign up for this 2-day workshop with his mentor, west coast spey guru, Al Buhr. Unfortunately, the workshop would be after my steelhead trip to the PNW. Looking back, I have no regrets. Well, maybe just one—that I was hesitant and self-conscious, rather than grabbing hold of this amazing opportunity forcefully with both hands—This is MY ROD!

The first evening, I sat in on an optional THCI practice test review for 3 workshop members preparing for their certification through the FFF. I went purely out of curiosity, to observe. But I soon found myself wondering, what the hell am I doing here? More than half of the workshop participants were CIs or MCIs (casting instructors or master casting instructors). Then there was me—the only woman (what else is new), a flygirl with barely 3 year's fly fishing experience under her belt, who's been struggling with the fundamentals of spey casting for the past 4 months. Needless to say, I felt inadequate and completely out of my league. As I drove back to my motel I was determined to start the next day with a clear unfettered mind.

I met the rest of our group at 6:30 the following morning during breakfast. Jim had asked for brief bios from all us beforehand. He went around and introduced everyone—several artists and designers, a professor, a teacher, an electrician, fly fishing guides, and instructors. After breakfast, we drove to nearby Wreck pond, our dojo for the next two days. Our first morning was devoted to fundamentals and we began with the overhead cast. After a short demo, we spread out to practice. Of course I walked as far away from the center of the group as possible, to the outskirts of the pond.

Al and Jim went from person to person, spending time with each of us to address our specific needs and questions. I thought I was overhead casting my switch rod decently–loops were reasonably tight and uniform. But Master Buhr must have seen something else. He gently grabbed hold of both my hands and led me through the steps of a circular spey dance. We started going through the motions of an elliptical (oval) overhead cast.

Al Buhr teaching me (Hyun) the circular movements of spey casting
Dancing with the Master of Spey, Al Buhr. Photo courtesy of P. Kolesar.

At first I was puzzled as to why he wanted to change my overhead casting style (was it really that bad?). But I decided to put my faith in him, attempting to mimic the motions, feel the rhythms, and put them to memory. To start, he wanted me to energize my lift, really own it. He asked me, "Who's rod is it?" I replied, "My rod!" as I pulled it authoritatively towards me against his resistance. As my dance partner and counterpart he demonstrated the pulls and pushes, ebbs and flows, actions and reactions in the elliptical cast. I realize now that he was starting to build the foundation of my spey casting.

After 2 hours of practice, 13 hopeful disciples reconvened to hear Master Buhr's sermon on the Constant Tension World of Spey (vs. the straight line world of single hand casting)—a world that is round (not flat), full of suggestion and flux (rather than commitment and stops), where one creates power, holds onto some of it, and contorts it (rather than creating it and then just letting it go). The Tao of Spey according to Master Al Buhr follows 3 basic rules: Rule #1: Effort and tempo are separate. Effort is the energy applied to move the line into key positions. Tempo is the pace at which the entire cast is done. A cast in the constant tension world consists of bursts of effort smoothed by tempo. Rule #2: Line follows the rod tip (that travels in the direction of momentum). This is the out of power state where we set the anchor or complete the forward cast. Rule #3: The rod is in one of two states—it's either IN power or OUT of power. Effort = IN power; Tempo = OUT of power. These rules are all interconnected and act together to make the constant tension world work.

Al Buhr explaining differences between the constant tension world of spey and the straight line world of conventional overhead casting

Al Buhr ready to demonstrate some spey casts
Master Buhr gives a whole new meaning to speak softly and carry a big stick ;).

I watched some great demos at Spey Nation two months ago, from several spey gurus including Simon Gawesworth and Topher Browne. But Al Buhr is on a different plane. He's part mad scientist/physicist, part poetic evangelist for the church of spey. Please excuse the overexuberance and over-the-top language employed by this smitten flygirl, but that's what passion inspires, and Al Buhr has a true passion for spey casting and for teaching it. He is the real thing! As you've probably surmised, I've developed a serious casting crush on Mr. Buhr. I'm positive most of the guys have, too (they're just not woman enough to admit to it ;).

Al Buhr showing how energy is held and contorted during a spey cast
Al Buhr, the magician, grabbing energy out of thin air :).
My first impression of Al Buhr: He's a big/tall man with a commanding presence. Yet he also came across as reserved, a private man (with a very dry, somewhat cryptic sense of humor :). He transforms when he's preaching the gospel of Spey ;). He's mesmerizing. Like a magician he reached out to grab energy out of thin air with his large hands, attempting to hold it and mold it to his will. He paced rhythmically back and forth, ready to spring into action, as he described how spey casting is based on bursts of power moderated by tempo.

He then used a 90 degree change of direction figure 8 cast to visually (+ vocally ;) illustrate the tenets of his constant tension world. Lift and pull hard (grunt! power up); sweep the rod (in tempo) towards the direction of anchor placement (line follows the rod tip); aim it then backoff (power off); circle up to form your D-loop (grunt! back IN power) then make the forward cast.

Al Buhr demonstrating the figure 8 spey cast to show use of power and tempo in spey casting
Al Buhr using the figure 8 cast to illustrate the principles of being In Power and Out of Power.

Inspired by Master Buhr's sermon, we spread out to practice both switch and 20 degree single spey casts, attempting to regulate our power and smooth it with tempo. I decided I wanted to cast with a real spey rod. Jim generously lent me his 14-foot, 9-weight TFO rod. It's a beast of a rod(!) but I felt I had a better feel for the moves using a bigger rod with a heavier line. As I practiced, I saw Master Buhr headed in my direction. I was curious what he had in store for me this time...

Well, we danced again at the waters edge, this time focusing on the forward stroke as well as the tempo. As we went through the movements of spey, circling up and pulling forward and down, Master Buhr started chanting (half-jokingly), "wax on, wax off..." But actually, that was exactly what I needed to do. I needed to wax the car (a whole fleet of cars!), then paint the fence, and sand the floor ;). My forward stroke is by far the weakest link in my casting stroke. Until it's corrected and the right technique ingrained in my muscle memory, my spey casting will always be sub par. So, I continued to wax on and off...

Throughout the day, Master Buhr made allusions to tai chi. The comparison is spot on. In tai chi, one attempts to harmonize the opposing forces of yin/yang, to use one against the other to reach harmony. In spey casting, the perfect cast is a harmony of effort and tempo, knowing when to apply power and when to back off. Martial arts comparisons are also fitting as it takes similar discipline (mental and physical) to master the techniques of spey casting. 

Jim Valle at Spey Workshop
The other spey master, Jim Valle, giving the group some great advice: Don't be afraid to experiment.

We broke for lunch then headed indoors to learn about spey line crafting. I was really looking forward to this (almost as much as the easterncaster :). I had done some research before purchasing my compact scandi versi-tip line for my switch rod and I was fortunate to be able to try it out on my rod before buying it. I think this is invaluable! (Thanks, Andrew). If your local fly shop doesn't support this practice then I would suggest you attend a spey clave where you'll have access to more rods and lines than you can hope to cast in a day. I had a basic understanding of the different types of spey lines, their pros and cons for different fishing applications, the importance of matching line grain weights to rod weights and action, etc., but never in my wildest ff dreams did I think I'd one day be customizing my own spey lines!

Al Buhr welding spey lines and loops
DO try this at home, if you want to be a serious line geek :)
Unfortunately, a few workshop members had no clue about spey lines so Mr. Buhr started with the basics. Before we knew it, time was almost up, so we rushed through the line crafting part. We watched Master (or should I say Dr. ;) Buhr surgically slice, dice, and splice together spey lines and weld new loops, using glues, shrink tubes, and fire... It was so much fun! (Honestly! :) I really wish we could have spent more time on it, tried it ourselves under the master's watchful eye, and learned more about why and when you would want to make these alterations. We each left with copies of Mr. Buhr's excellent books, How to Design Fly Lines, and Two-Handed Fly Casting: Spey Casting Techniques, a pamphlet on how to Practice to Improve, a tube of glue, and a whole new geek level of appreciation and understanding of spey fly lines ;).

By the end of the first day, I was exhausted, both mentally and physically, and a bit confused, reeling from all the information my overloaded brain was struggling to digest. After dinner with the guys, I drove back to my motel and immediately crashed. Never did get to turn on that 50+ inch flatscreen... I woke up late the next morning and rushed to the pond.

Originally, the second day was to be a fishing excursion to Sandy Hook. But the consensus of the group the day before had been to continue working on fundamentals at our dojo. We spent the day practicing a variety of casts including the snake roll and double spey, working towards mastering the principles of effort and tempo. All morning and into the afternoon, I worked on building my spey foundation cast by cast, repeating the key movements over and over again. I also tried to focus on using my whole body, especially the core muscles of the back, chest, and abdomen. Practicing with a bigger rod has made this more imperative. Eventually I found myself in better control of my power, using my top hand less and less, and getting into a good rhythm and flow. I sincerely believe that by day's end my cast was more solid, fluid, and consistent (well, except for my dreaded single spey ;). Thank you Master Buhr and Master Valle!

I've come a very long way these past several months. I've watched a lot of spey porn (some good, mostly bad) until my eyes glazed over. I've learned a great deal from some excellent casters and teachers (enough to catch my first steelhead last month in some pretty tough conditions), and now I've logged at least a whole week of actual spey fishing experience. But taking this workshop with Al Buhr has provided the missing key puzzle piece. It turns out there was a method to Master Buhr's madness. You need to lay down the foundation of a house before you can start putting up the walls. I had been trying to do both at the same time.

After 2 full days attending service at Al Buhr and Jim Valle's temple of Spey, 13 disciples left the Jersey shore armed with a wealth of newfound wisdom and techniques, well on the path to understanding the Tao of Spey. Ommm...... :)

Several disciples were staying another night due to long commutes back home (to Maine!) or to fish local waters the next morning. I stuck around for a bit to avoid the brunt of traffic back to NYC and I'm glad I did. Craig, like a proud father, brought out his babies—the angler's fly rod he had built and used to win a bronze at the ACAs last month, and a humongous (17 foot?), two-hand salmon fly distance rod (aka, the flagpole) which he adopted from a retiring ACA caster.

Al Buhr and Craig Buckbee casting two hand salmon fly distance rod
2 (not-so-serious) casting geeks: Craig Buckbee and Al Buhr.

Al Buhr casting two hand salmon fly distance rod with great success
The eagle has landed!

Most everyone took turns casting them. No surprise: Al Buhr can damn well cast anything in both the straight line and constant tension world. Master Valle did very well, too. He's now considering picking up competitive casting in the Senior's division ;). Needless to say, I did NOT want to cast in front of an audience but I eventually caved in. My curiosity won out over self-consciousness. It looked like so much fun!

Hyun Kounne casting two hand salmon fly distance rod
Flygirl casting a flagpole (This is crazy ridiculous! :) Photo courtesy of M. Gallart

Afterwards, we shared a few drinks before parting ways. Jim, ever the ambassador for the FFF, planted a seed, suggesting I consider becoming a CI. I bet he does this with all his students. But the more I think about, the more it intrigues me...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

H: August 30, 2012: Here's a couple of photos from the Deschutes and Klickitat, courtesy of Mia Sheppard.

Flygirl Hyun Kounne spey casting on the Klickitat River, WA
Spey casting on the Klickitat.
Flygirl Hyun Kounne fishing on the Deschutes river, OR
Fishing a run on the lower Deschutes.

She and Marty write a terrific blog, Metalheads. Check out this video of Tegan, their adorable 4-year-old daughter, feeling the power and fight of her first steelhead. Thanks, Mia for the pics. Tight loops to you, sista!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Heart Oregon!

H: August 19, 2012: Here's the 3rd and final installment of my PNW trip report. So, it's not in  chronological order... what the heck!

Columbia River Gorge

The beautiful Columiba River Gorge, WA
The gorge-ous Columbia River :).
H: I needed a day off from fishing so I packed a picnic and drove along the Columbia river, watching the multitude of windsurfers, kitesurfers, and sailboats dart back and forth between Oregon and Washington. I stopped at the Mary Hill Museum (Mia's suggestion), expecting to spend an hour or so looking at art. I ended up spending 3+ hours exploring the most eclectic collection of art and objects I've seen in a while—Native American artifacts, Rodin sculptures, Romanian decorative and religious objects, a diverse mix of 19th- to early 21st-century European and American paintings, the surreal Theatre de la Mode (Post WWII french fashion miniatures), an amazing collection of chess sets from all over the world, and much more... But the best part for me was wandering the grounds and admiring sculptures by local PNW artists, some against the stunning backdrop of the gorge. Here are a few of my favorites:

Lovely Statue at Mary Hill Musuem: Bird of Paradise, Ellen Tykeson (Eugene, OR)
Bird of Paradise, Ellen Tykeson (Eugene, OR)
Lovely state at Mary Hill Museum: Malabar Bombax, Matt Cartwright (Portland, OR)
Malabar Bombax, Matt Cartwright (Portland, OR)
Lovely statue at Mary Hill Museum: Quantum Man, Julian Voss-Andreae (Portland, OR)
Quantum Man, Julian Voss-Andreae (Portland, OR)
Afterwards, I hit a few vineyards and purchased way too many bottles of wine before making my way back to Hood River. I stopped in at the Gorge fly shop and purchased a few big black and purple flies for the next day's fishing.

Back to the Klick
The next day, I went back to the Klickitat river to fish, solo. Jenn recommended I head upriver to Stinson Flats. The drive up was breathtaking with stunning views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams to be had. It was a lovely and fairly remote spot. I arrived just before light. There was a white SUV parked by the river but no one was in sight. It seemed I had the river to myself.

View of Mount Adams, WA
Mount Adams, the source of the Klickitat.
I was lost in my fishing, the solitude of the river, and the rhythms of my cast... when suddenly a man's voice broke the silence. I nearly jumped out of my waders! He was standing right behind me and apologized for startling me. He told me he had been asleep in the white SUV (apparently the best night's sleep he's had in a while). Turns out he'd been fishing on the Deschutes the day before with Bachmann. He knew exactly who I was and that I'd caught my first steelhead earlier that week (Jeez, it's a freakin small world, huh?). He said he would head further upstream and start fishing. We wished each other luck. I proceeded to fish down...

At the next run, I sensed eyes on me and slowly turned around. This time, to my surprise and delight, there was a beautiful doe grazing behind me with her 2 fawns. We held eye contact briefly before she concluded I was just a harmless flygirl :). They kept me company for a while before moving on.

I stopped and fished a few other spots on the Klickitat on my way back to Hood River, but unfortunately had no luck—not a single bump. I would spot a nice piece of water from the car but when I got out to fish, often times, it would be impossible to enter the river or to wade for any good distance. The Klick would be a great river to float (with Jenn as guide :)! It's a very different river from the Deschutes, at least the parts that I've fished. It's smaller and more intimate. Its landscape is sub-alpine forest rather than desert canyon. But there's one thing they have in common—they're both challenging to fish. The Klick is not an easy river to get to know. Her milky waters make for difficult wading and her currents can be deceptively fast. I guess I'll just have to return and spend more time getting to know her :).

Stinson Flats, Klickitat River, WA
Stinson Flats, Klickitat River, WA

The City of Roses
The very first day, I walked all over Portland. I spent almost 2 hours in the fly fishing section of Powell Books, leafing through some 1st editions with gorgeous historic fly plates :). Then I met up with Kat and we went to Washington park, walking through the Rose test garden (which oddly was not particularly fragrant) on our way to the Japanese garden.

Waterlily at the Japanese Garden, Portland, OR
A perfect water lily at the Japanese garden.
I truly love Portland and her super friendly, laid back, eco-conscious inhabitants. You'll find yourself naturally striking up a conversation with strangers you happen to meet walking down the street! You'll be hard pressed to get a bad meal here (coming from a NYC foodie, that's a serious compliment). Defintiely go to Le Pigeon, sit at the chef's counter, and watch chef Rucker in the tiny open kitchen whip up creative french fare with a local PNW twist. Absolutely go and eat the perfect breakfast sandwich (made with tons of heart! ;) at The Big Egg food truck, in a pod out in Northeast Portland. Sample as many locally handcrafted brews as you can and good luck trying to decide between hundreds of excellent Oregon wines at Vinopolis in Downtown Portland.

The Big Egg food truck in Portland, OR
The Big (yellow) Egg food truck–absolutely delicious!
My advice is to take it day-by-day. It's funny how I was headed to Mt. Hood one day to cool off and do some summer skiing or snowboarding (in t-shirt and hiking pants ;). But instead, I met up with Marty Sheppard on the Sandy river, practiced casting and fished for a couple of hours, drove north to the Columbia river and took a sharp left... Before I knew it, I was on the Pacific coast, stopping to take in the amazing views and killing time in a small coastal town called Manzanita. You really can't take a bad turn anywhere! If it wasn't for her notoriously long and dreary rainy season, this native New Yorker might seriously consider uprooting to the PNW. I truly heart Oregon! (and parts of Washington, too :)

More tourist snapshots :)

Sandy River deer crossing
Deer crossing at the Sandy River.

View of Mount Hood, OR
The omnipresent Mount Hood. Everywhere you look, there she is...
View from the Pacific Coast Highway, OR
A view from the Pacific Coast Highway.
Driftwood sculpture on Pacific Coast beach, OR
Driftwood sculpture on Pacific Coast beach, OR
Nature's beautiful sculptures...