Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Hulk

H: December 13, 2013: While doing some Xmas shopping online, I opened an email for 20 percent off everything from a fly shop website. The offer was just too tempting. With my birthday just passed, having received 0 presents, I decided to treat myself to a new 8 weight fly rod for my upcoming bonefishing trip to Abaco in the Bahamas.

It's not like I go bonefishing very often. This will be my second trip in about 2 years. The first was to Andros in 2012 (First Bone, Bonefishing in Paradise). So, with a maximum budget of $500, I researched potential rods. The Sage TCX 890-4, which was on clearance, caught my eye. While I read rod descriptions and considered the merits of a few contenders, I sent a text to easterncaster for his opinion. Turns out he has the TCX in a 7 (1 of perhaps 50? rods he owns ;). He said the 7 weight was one of the best 7s he had ever cast. So, I took a leap of faith, clicked, and purchased it.

I must confess, while waiting for the rod to arrive, I started having doubts about whether I would like it. Until now, I had NEVER bought a rod without first taking it for a test drive. Some reviews mentioned the TCX being a cannon, a beast of a rod, ultra/super fast. Others said it was difficult to cast, meant for expert casters and distance casting competitions.

10 days later, my 9 ft, 8 weight, Sage TCX finally arrived. I liked the luminous kryptonite green shaft finish and decided to call it the Hulk ;). I immediately put it together and did the wiggle test in my apartment. It barely wiggled, just the top third. Boy was it stiff! No surprise, there. I was dying to cast it. But all week, it was unseasonably cold and my schedule was super busy. So every night when I got home, I would pick it up, say hello, wiggle it, and sigh.

With a snow storm expected over the weekend, today was the big day. I left work early. With about 40 mins of daylight left, I went to the park to cast. An inch of snow lingered on the ground from last week's dusting and wind chills were near 20 degrees. It didn't bother me one bit, although my 8 weight bonefish line clearly objected as it resisted my numerous straightening/stretching attempts.

The Hulk lived up to his reputation. There's no doubt he's incredibly strong and powerful. He's also quite unforgiving. If your timing is slightly off or your stops are not firm and crisp, he's quick to show his displeasure ;). I definitely need to spend more time getting to know him. As for my first, gut impression: I heart the Hulk. I think he'll make a damn fine bonefish rod. Hope he hearts me back with some nice bones in a few weeks time ;)

9 foot, 8 weight Sage TCX 890-4, aka The Incredible Hulk
9 foot, 8 weight Sage TCX 890-4 rod, aka the Hulk ;)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Winter Initiation

Tree in the Douglaston Salmon Run, Pulaski, NY

H: November 21, 2013: Flygirl itinerary: Quick stop at Tight Lines to buy some flies and tippet; Pick up spey gear and overnight at the cabin; Off to Pulaski the following morning for second steelhead trip on the Salmon River.

My first trip was about a year ago with the Juliana's Anglers. I had an amazing time and caught some beautiful fish. We had fished with guides back then. This time (being a seasoned vet ;) it was strictly DIY. But at least I wasn't fishing alone. I was meeting up with 2 other flygirls: Sam and Demetre (best friends who have been fishing together for a long time).

Sam had already been up there twice in the past 3 weeks and Demetre had joined her the previous week. Unfortunately, water levels had been really high and they mostly nymphed. But the timing for our trip looked to be perfect. The water was scheduled to go down Sunday afternoon. Time to swing some flies!

I arrived around 9am and drove to the Spey Nation parking lot. The forecast called for 50% chance of showers all day, highs in the 40s, and wind gusts up to 40 mph. For once, the weathermen were spot on. I geared up and headed upriver in search of a pool I'd never fished before. An angler I met in the lot recommended it.

Hiking along the riverbank was like hiking through a minefield of death and decay. Countless times, I narrowly missed stepping on (and exploding) large bloated salmon bodies hidden among the weeds, silently decomposing. Ugh! Last year, we had used Paul's river taxi service to get from spot to spot, so I had been spared this very special experience ;).

As I approached the pool, there was an angler already spey casting in chest deep water. So, I settled into a spot 60 feet downstream. Water was definitely quite high. 4 steps in and I was waist deep. I opened my flybox, picked one of the flies purchased at Tight Lines, and began to rig up. Unfortunately, I only had a floating and intermediate polyleader. My brand new, still-in-package, fast sinker was MIA.

I had practiced my spey casting a couple of weeks ago at the shack. But as luck would have it, I was fishing on river right. And for some reason, I had only practiced the single spey and snap T. I stripped out line and attempted to double spey... Wow, did I suck!

I don't know why it took so long, but it was a good 30 minutes of frustration before I realized it wasn't me. Well, not ALL me. It was my line and fly choice. My compact scandi + intermediate polyleader just couldn't handle the heavy fly I had I tied on. No matter how much I grunted and used my core muscles (the Buhr method), I could barely lift that fly so my anchor placements were way too low. The wind gusting 30+ mph didn't help. As I had this much delayed epiphany, who should be walking towards me but Mr. & Ms. Tight Lines—Andrew and Nancy. Small world, smaller rivers.

As we chatted, I realized I was chilled to the bone. I wished them luck (tight lines ;), hiked back to the car, and drove into town to warm up with some hot coffee. I returned 45 minutes later, body temperature a few degrees closer to 98.6. This time, I decided to head downstream and look for familiar water, water I had fished with Shannon and Paul last year.

I find it rather ironic that I have an absolute horrible sense of direction when I'm driving or walking through the streets of an unfamiliar city. I desperately need my iPhone Google maps and rely on it like a crutch. Even then, I can travel the same route several times and still manage to get lost or make a wrong turn. But put me on an unfamiliar river (even in semi-darkness), let me fish a few pools and runs over several miles, then take me back to this river a year later. Somehow, I remember and find my way back to those pools and runs. Weird, huh?

Sure enough, after hiking half a mile or so, I found the very spot where I had landed a magnificent steelhead buck last year. I changed to a smaller, lighter fly. The water was high and the pool was fairly deep. I knew it might not make it down deep enough, but at least I could cast it ;). Why didn't I pick up a sinking polyleader when I was in town? Then, the light drizzle that persisted all morning changed into a steady downpour. Why did I leave my rain jacket in the car? Clearly, I was not on top of my game today. I guess mild hypothermia can do that.

I fished for about 30 minutes before my phone buzzed. It was Sam and Demetre. They were close to Pulaski and asked if I wanted to meet for lunch. Drenched and cold and a bit deflated, I looked forward to meeting up with them. As I left the water, I swear, a fish rolled on the surface.

I joined them at Malinda's Fly shop. I met Malinda, the no nonsense, very knowledgeable owner who operates a terrific shop. We bought some flies, hung out and cast with Walt Geryk from Spey Nation, then grabbed a quick burger before heading off to fish till dark. None of us had any luck that day but we witnessed some rather surprising behavior: numerous big fish (they had to be steelhead!) rising like regular trout. To what? We're not sure.

The next day, water levels had dropped significantly and we finally had some success. I broke in my new landing glove and my 13-foot 7/8 NRX on a beautiful fish. Sam also landed a couple of beauties. Demetre had one bump but unfortunately that was it. We still enjoyed a great day on the river. Turns out everyone up there knows these 2 flygirls: Sam and Demetre. They are regulars on the Salmon river. They fish hard, but they also know how to have fun!

Sam Decker and Demetre Bove on the Salmon River, Douglaston Salmon Run
Salmon River regulars, 2 flygirls: Sam and Demetre. Douglaston Salmon Run
It was on our 3rd and last day of fishing the Salmon river, that I became a real winter steelhead fisherman. Weather-wise, it was the coldest I've ever fished in—20-something degrees. A high of 30 was expected with snow showers in the afternoon. With 6 layers on top (pretty much every wool and fleece layer I had brought with me), 4 on the bottom, plus 1 fingerless fleece glove, I felt prepared for whatever was in store for us today, or so I thought.

First stop was the Flats in the DSR (Douglaston Salmon Run). We both wanted Demetre to have the best chance to catch a fish. She took her favorite spot while Sam and I walked further downstream. The water looked perfect. It was even lower than the day before. I tied on my last black and purple intruder (lost the other to a big strong rock the day before ;). It wasn't long before I had an aggressive take. Steelhead on!

It jumped several times, took plenty of line and backing, and plenty of time to finally bring in close to the bank. It was a gorgeous fish! Well over 10 pounds. Sam walked up to help me and 2 other fishermen came by to watch. I don't know if I could have dragged it on to the bank nor did I want to. We played tug of war a few feet from the bank for several minutes. End result was a SDR. Oh, well! I was still a very happy flygirl :)). That was by far the most fun I've had in a long time! About a year to be precise.

I returned to where I started and once again swung the black and purple, getting into a fine rhythm. About 15-20 casts later, I had another strong take and fish on. I was playing it, reeling in, when suddenly I couldn't retrieve any more line. I thought my reel must have jammed. I looked down, inspected the reel and spool, checked the drag, everything seemed fine. I walked upriver to maintain tension on the line and then climbed on to the bank. I yelled/pantomined to Sam who was fishing downstream that my reel wasn't working. She made her way up, took one look at me, and told me my guides were frozen. I looked at the top guides on my rod, and sure enough, pebble-sized ice crystals had formed.

Right before our trip, in preparation, I had researched ways to prevent frozen guides. Anglers on several forums had suggested: olive oil, Pam spray, vaseline, lip balm... I had mentioned this to Sam the night before and she told me, none of them really work. I had forgotten all about it until just now :).

Well, I somehow managed to land that fish and finally get a picture of one my chrome beauties. Thanks Sam! And thanks to the Salmon river for my winter initiation.

Flygirl Hyun Kounne with a Salmon River steelhead landed despite frozen guides!
Beautiful fresh chrome caught on a purple and black intruder on the Salmon River, DSR.
P. S. Demetre got her chance to fight a really nice fish later that afternoon in the Meadow. I had an opportunity to cast her skagit outfit and was amazed at the ease in which it threw a large, heavy fly. I know that's what it's meant to do. I was surprised how pleasant it was to cast. I just might have to relegate my scandi to summer steelhead fishing... Hope to make another trip up this winter!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm Just a Girl...

    ...Who Loves to Fish :)

H: November 3, 2013: I've never given too much thought to being a woman who fly fishes. Perhaps a few times a year:
  • Definitely at the Somerset Fly Fishing Show where I still feel like a fish out of water among the throngs of camo and flannel clad men. Although that's changing as I make more friends and acquaintances in the ff world and as more and more women pick up this sport.
  • Often times when trying to buy new gear. Last year, I wanted some good studded boots for my first winter steelhead trip. Finding a store nearby that carried boots in my size (women's 7) even in men's equivalent sizes was impossible. And I was planning on sizing up for double socks, too. I had to order 2 different sizes (the manufacturer was out of stock of all women's boots in my size) and settled on the only men's model where my size was available. They're not ideal but they get the job done.
So, back to women and fly fishing. Several recent events have inspired me to give this more thought. First, my friend easterncaster was organizing a women's panel for the next Somerset Fly Fishing show as part of the FFF's continuing education program (Way to go, easterncaster!) I was looking forward to attending and even suggested making it our next club event for the Juliana's Anglers (my women's fly fishing club).

But then I learned that the FFF, in typical parochial fashion, decided to make this a closed-door event, only for FFF certified instructors. The reasoning: so instructors can receive something special from the FFF in recognition of their certified status (oh, btw, it's going to cost you extra $$ to attend ;). That's all fine and good. But by keeping this seminar closed to the public, the FFF missed a valuable opportunity to change it's current image as a stagnant, outdated, old boys' club. 

A women's panel could have been the perfect venue for showing the fly fishing community that the FFF supports the changing face of their sport and has the potential to evolve into a dynamic and more open organization. NOT! (apologies to easterncaster, Al Buhr, and a few other FFF friends). To my best knowledge, there have only ever been 3 females on the CBoG (Casting Board of Governors). There are 11 female MCIs (master casting instructors) out of a total of 241, along with approximately 50 CIs in the US out of 899 total! I'm relying predominately on the accuracy of the FFF online database for this information.

Another event that triggered this train of thought was a recent Juliana's Anglers' event—a book signing party for Julianas' alum, Sara Low, who published her first book earlier this year—A Guide's Guide to Fly-Fishing Mistakes. As I listened to her speak about how her book came to be, including how her editor insisted she change the sex of the people she wrote about anecdotedly in her book, I was simply flabbergasted! For heaven's sake, we live in the year 2013 in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

The point was to convey fly fishing lessons learned through the stories she shared in her book. Whether the angler in question had one, or two (or even three) X chromosomes, does it honestly matter? Did the publisher think that a book containing stories with women fishing would turn off a male readership? Would dropping the s in "she"really increase book sales? For crying out loud, the book is written by a female fishing guide! I'm surprised they didn't ask Sara to adopt a male pseudonym ;). It's just ridiculous!

Then, a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of fishing with the indomitable Sam Decker, the only licensed female guide on the Upper Delaware river. It was a beautiful, crisp, and windy autumn day. Water levels were low and the fishing wasn't "on" but we shared an enjoyable day floating the Lower Main stem. I think we talked more than we actually fished ;). Well, she did most of the talking and I was an avid listener.

Fly fishing guide Sam Decker by her boat at Long Eddy put in on the Delaware River
Sam Decker and her lovely Mayfly boat. Long Eddy, Delaware River
I wanted to hear her story. How and why she decided to become a fly fishing guide. It's a demanding occupation whether you're male or female. Long days and evenings on the water, often times in harsh conditions. That this is her second career (she used to be a nurse) and that she's in her 60s is pretty damn impressive. She's been cheerfully at it for about 12 years now.

So why did she decide to become a fly fishing guide? That's simple enough... She loves (and I mean LOVES to fish! :). Everyone who knows her can attest to that. We ended up fishing together the following weekend and we're fishing again next week on the Salmon river. Meanwhile, she's fishing every chance she gets. She's been to Pulaski twice since I last saw her!

As for how, it was a long road full of obstacles, overcome by sheer determination, and a little help from a few good fly fishermen (Floyd Franke, Lee Hartman...). It was a real struggle to gain acceptance from the other male river guides. Some of her stories made me wince in disbelief.

At night, the guides would meet up at a local restaurant/bar to eat, drink, and swap stories from their day on the river. She decided her best course of action was to not socialize with them after hours. It had to be ALL about the FISHING, and fishing only. Who knows... Perhaps if she had hung out with them, she would more easily have been perceived as one of the boys... Or perhaps she would have just been the target of harassment and continued resentment? Anyway, she stuck it out, grudgingly earned their respect, and eventually made friends with them. Next time you see Sam on the river, ask her about the rattlesnake story ;).

As for my own personal experiences as a female angler, it's mostly been positive. Granted I'm not trying to break new ground or any records. I'm just out there fishing, enjoying my time on the river, and trying to learn as much as I can to become a better angler. Sure, I've been harassed a few times but never in a horribly offensive way. It's mostly been fly fishermen assuming I have little if any knowledge of the sport, sometimes patronizing, but generally, just trying to be helpful. And I've been fortunate to meet both great male and female anglers who've encouraged and helped me along the way.

What amazes me is that guys are still amazed when I tell them I fly fish or I run into other male anglers on the river and they say "Wow, it's great to see a woman on the river!" I know we're a minority, but come on! Fly fishing is a sport where being male or female has little bearing on success (except in gear selection ;). The playing field is level except that most women are, on average, years behind in experience (with the exception of Joan Wulff!) having been in the game for a shorter period of time.

I'll never forget that one time on the Farmington river when Josée and I took a coffee break. We picked up some coffees and drove to a different spot on the river. We were still dressed in our waders and with coffees in hand, walked down to the river to check out conditions. A couple of anglers were fishing upstream and several men were hanging out by the bank. They saw us and asked if we were taking coffees out to our husbands on the river. Seriously??? I nearly choked on my coffee. (Yeah, sure. We donned these waders so we could offer on-river beverage service for our spouses ;). Okay, these guys were old-timers (in their 70s perhaps?), so I cut them some slack. But honestly, they really need to get out of the house more...

I did a Google search to see what others have written about women and fly fishing. The top search return was a recent blog post at Fontinalis Rising, Chicks With Fly Rods. I've read it and some of the comments that were posted. As for my take on his post, I have to disagree with just about all of it. But I understand it's a rant, written emotionally in the heat of the moment, not completely thought out. Dude (Jason Tucker), you need to lighten up. If there is one thing I've learned in my 40+ years, it's never pass judgment on someone until you've walked in their shoes or at least attempted to imagine what it would be like.

In his post, he takes umbrage at a Facebook page suggestion he keeps receiving about a girl who fly fishes. He writes, "This gal is one out of a dozen or more that have come through my social media outlets in the last year that all seem to have the same message—'Look at me, I'm a girl who fly fishes.' They offer nothing else except perhaps lots of pictures of themselves posing with fish in smooching, pouting, or even suggestive poses."

First off, these are Facebook pages, meant for sharing pictures, thoughts, and personal stories, for better or for worse. I too have posted numerous pics of myself and my friends fishing and with fish we've caught. Why? Because they're snapshots of beautiful places and great/funny/silly memories we want to share with friends and other anglers who might appreciate them. Lord knows there are countless Facebook pages of fly fishermen who post the same.

Here's a picture of spey guru, Al Buhr, "smooching" a steelhead. Even if I didn't know him, I wouldn't assume he's trying to be be suggestive (look at those smoldering blue eyes ;). He's having fun! Showing his love for a beautiful fish. But if a woman were to post something similar, some men just might read it as suggestive.

Al Buhr kissing steelhead
Al Buhr showing some love for a beautiful steelhead.
A line from the movie G.I. Jane comes to mind. "Women aren't the problem... We (men) are". Gender bias is so ingrained in all of us, that unless you're specifically looking for it, it's only too easy to overlook. And yes, it works both ways. So, when a woman says, "I'm out to prove fly fishing is NOT just a man's sport... that gals who fly fish kick ass," cut her some slack. Unless you've experienced first hand being a minority in a sport/field dominated by the opposite gender (or aliens from Mars), I would be careful of judging too quickly. Minorities throughout history have had to prove themselves, constantly. Have you ever walked into a fly shop with your boyfriend/husband and been completely ignored when you ask a question about gear? I've heard this from my female fishing friends, way too many times.

He goes on to say his rant is nothing against women but only against their shameless self-promotion centered around the the fact that they are women who fly fish. I don't know exactly who Jason Tucker was initially referring to in his post. She might be a real angler, she might simply be an attention-seeker. But seeking attention is not limited to the female sex. As for my opinion on women who use their sex to garner attention. Sex sells and until men stop thinking with a certain body part, it will continue to sell and there will be women and men alike who continue to exploit this fact.

I find it ironic that he writes in one of his comments, "I'm happy to count April (Vokey) as a friend and I left her out of this discussion simply because she is operating on a professional level and doing her job, and I think she is a positive role model." Okay. If you were to ask both male and female anglers, "which fly fisher comes to mind when you think of shameless self-promotion based on their gender?" April Vokey would be at the top of the list. I'm guessing she was young and naive and needed a quick and easy strategy to promote her business. Since then, she's proven herself to be a serious angler and I believe she's doing positive things. But her initial approach has certainly not won her the respect of most anglers. Lots of hot-blooded, male fans, perhaps.

It's certainly a double-edged sword. Sure you will gain recognition (not for your angling skills) and it might be a quick foot in the door. But there's a price to be paid. If you want to be taken seriously, you will need to prove yourself constantly. And by your actions, you are helping to perpetuate gender stereotypes and prejudices. So, ask yourself: Is that the sort of role model I want to be?

Jason Tucker concludes his post by saying "...keep fishing, keep sharing your pictures and story. Just take the emphasis off your gender and go fishing..." Unfortunately, until the numbers of women and men in fly fishing become more equal and until we can overcome gender bias and established roles ingrained over centuries, we can't. Alright, enough of my own "rant" about this blog post. EVERYONE (men and women) continue to share your pics and stories and your especially your unique viewpoints on Facebook and the blogosphere... FISH HARD, FISH ON! HAVE FUN!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Day in my Hood

H: Flygirl Josée came up for a visit so I showed her around my hood.

Close up of the tracks along the Delaware River We  s t r o l l e d  along the tracks, 
Walking the tracks along the Delaware River

stumbled
upon
a
tree
house,

Cool treehouse along the Delaware River

 hiked up 
                   a 
                         mountain,

Josée strikes a pose

cooled off by a 
w
a
t
e
r
f
a
l
l
,

A beautiful waterfall

admired the local architecture,

Tree with scale fungus
Beautiful and lethal scale fungus.

Close up of tree scale fungus
enjoyed the views,


Flygirl Hyun Kounne getting ready to fish and fished!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Flygirl Heaven

Bird's eye view of my home waters.
July 23, 2013: H: It feels like an eternity since I found my slice of flygirl heaven. I've been M.I.A. for way too long! Several times I started writing but somehow just couldn't finish anything. This past weekend, I went up to the Salmon River for Spey Nation VI. I had a great time and I met several nice folks who actually read this blog. So, this one is for you guys. Thanks for the kind words and support. I'll try and bring you up to date since my last post but be forewarned, there isn't a whole lot of fishin' involved.

Yes, I closed on my fishing shack (way back in May). Hallelujah! Praise the fish gods! I drove up for the settlement, handed over a small fortune in checks, signed about 20 different legal docs, and with keys in hand…

I immediately drove back down to the city :(. Deadlines and work schedule were stupid crazy at the time.

A few days later, car packed with all my fishing paraphernalia, pillows, blankets, sheets, towels, and a celebratory bottle of 2007 Napa Cab, I drove up to my very own fishing cabin. Amidst all my excitement and rush to get there (I had appointments with the propane and satellite dish guys), I got a speeding ticket—first ticket in 16 years! Not exactly the housewarming gift I was hoping for.

The cabin came fully furnished. You would think that's a good thing—just move in and start fishing! And most normal folks probably would have. But as I took close inventory of the contents, a very strong urge to purge came over me. I jumped into cleaning/organization mode. The previous owners had left everything behind: furniture, pots and pans, dishes and cups, sheets and blankets, and enough religious artifacts to fill a small church. It was rather overwhelming going through it all. In the end, I decided to give pretty much everything away. I wanted my own things around me. I wanted to make it MY fishing shack ;).

Main stem of the Delaware river
First day on the river.
The first evening, after a long day settling in, I walked down to the river. Caddis were everywhere with a healthy dose of hendricksons sprinkled in the mix. Truly flygirl heaven! It was too easy catching a huge, beautiful brown on a tan caddis dry fly (the perfect flyshack-warming gift!). Unfortunately it was impossible to take a picture of him without help (honestly, no fish tale). He had plenty of fight still in him and was too big to grasp securely with one hand while holding my unprotected iPhone in the other. That's one bit of fish porn I'll forever regret not having—my first fish from my home waters. Oh well!

Second evening was a repeat of the first, swarms of bugs and fish rising to them everywhere. Ahh, paradise! I caught another lovely brown (a younger sibling), again on a tan caddis dry. My river is known for its feisty wild rainbows. But that particular weekend, I guess the Browns were visiting in substantial numbers. No complaints, but I'm definitely looking forward to a 20+ inch rainbow taking me waaay into my backing :). Yet, in order for that to happen, one does need to be on the river, fishing...

Since that very first weekend, I've spent more time at Home Depot than on my home waters. I know that'll change, in time, but these past couple of months have been devoted to cleaning, purging, organizing, painting, and furnishing the shack (along with the occasional flygirl freak-out ;). It's been a rude awakening as I've come to realize how unprepared I was for this new responsibility. How much of a pampered city gal I am, clueless to the demands of shack ownership and the realities of country life (rattlesnakes like to hang out by the river?), and just how much STUFF one needs to buy for a shack! I've purchased more tools, machinery, and hardware (at Home Depot) these past few months than I have in my whole life! And there's plenty more still on the ever growing to-get list: string trimmer, tree pruner, programmable dehumidifier, a shed to put all this stuff in...

So, you want to replace a rusty old mailbox, the one with the previous homeowner's name glued on and barely discernible address numbers, with a new one? Sure, that should be relatively simple. Well, it took 2 trips to Home Depot, 3 weekends, and eventually my brother-in-law's help (and some of his tools) to get it done. When I mentioned my mailbox difficulties to my friend Richard (whose fishing cabin inspired me to search for my own), his response was, "You have a mailbox? You get mail?" That cracked me up and helped put things in perspective. Yes, I know. Forget mailboxes, I should have been fishing ;).

The weekend my sister and her family came up the cabin, I had just purchased a cordless electric lawn mower (at Home Depot) the day before. They're environmentally friendly, lightweight, and I wouldn't have to deal with buying/storing gasoline, changing the oil, air filters... For a girl who has never mowed a lawn in her life, it seemed ideal. Well, it took 4 charged batteries and hence 4+ hours to mow my considerable front yard. It was probably a blessing in disguise when it refused to start after 4 weeks.

So, a couple of weeks ago I got a new gas mower (from Home Depot). On my way back from Spey Nation this weekend, I stopped at the local gas station, filled a container with gasoline, drove to the shack, unpacked the 80-pound mower, brought it down the stairs of my deck by myself, put in motor oil, gassed it up, started the engine with the recoil (on the very first try), and cut my wildly overgrown lawn in just over an hour. Most of you are thinking: she mowed a lawn... big deal! But this city gal felt a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment afterwards!

Hanging out on the deck.
Okay, enough about lawn mowers (and Home Depot). How about some fishin'. Well, I've fished a few times since that first weekend. It's only been when fishing friends have visited that I've put house chores aside and escaped to the river.

My beautiful home waters are the perfect place to practice spey casting. So, how many times have I been out there with my 13-foot NRX? Just once! That's just plain silly! Flygirl, you've got to change your ways!

Flygirl Josée fishing on the Main stem of the Delaware
Flygirl Josée, recently fishing at the shack.

It was somewhat of a last-minute decision to head up to Spey Nation this year but I'm glad I decided to go. It was definitely more low-key that last year. Despite the previous day's 750 cfs release that made finding a place to cast somewhat challenging, I had a great time. And it only poured for about 30 minutes (unfortunately right in the middle of Andrew's presentation). I ran into some friends, cast a few 6-weights (looking for a home water spey rod), and watched some very good demos from 2 young guns of spey casting from the west coast: Travis Johnson and Josh Linn.

The highlight was watching Travis cast. He's a member of the Carron competition Spey Casting team and placed second at the CLA World Championships last year. I videotaped his demo on my iPhone. While watching it back in slow-mo to analyze his casting stroke, the thing that struck me was how absolutely consistent he is from cast to cast. His hands end up in exactly the same position after every cast, ridiculously long or short, snake roll or reverse single spey. Oh, and how damn tight and narrow his loops are (even casting lefty)! I met some really nice people and even won something in the raffle—a landing glove which I hope to put to good use later this fall on the Salmon river. Looking forward to Spey Nation VII!

Travis Johnson gave a great demo at Spey nation
Travis Johnson
Travis Johnson prefers V loops to D
V-loops all day!
Travis Johnson throwing consistently tight narrow loops

Well, I think I've finally chilled out and I'm less stressed about the shack. I will get through my to-do list in good time. While my immediate home waters are now getting a bit too warm for trout fishing, there's still bass and other species to pursue or nearby cooler waters to fish until the fall. Meanwhile, I'll never tire of sitting out on my deck, quietly spying on a doe and her fawn walking along the riverbank, watching hawks and eagles circling high above, startling rabbits and grouse out from their hiding places in the brush, slowly learning the names of the birds with summer residences in the trees around me, or watching this gorgeous majestic river forever flow by, always moving, constantly changing. She's utterly mesmerizing! I know, I'm a very lucky girl—lucky to have found her piece of flygirl heaven :).

River view from deck of the shack

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Uber-cool!

sign and photo courtesy of easterncaster

H: April 23, 2013: With closing on my fishing shack postponed yet again, I decided to stop by the Wild Trout Flyrodders' casting rendezvous on Saturday. I saw some good demos, said hello to friends, and watched members of the new Catskills ACA (American Casting Association) Club practice for future games. I even stepped up to the plate and tried my hand at one of the accuracy events. Not quite sure what got into me... ;)

West Branch of the Delaware River
west branch
Unfortunately, strong storms the night before knocked out power and blew out the rivers making fishing afterwards rather pointless. Nevertheless, I went out and cast streamers with my spey rod for a couple of hours on the West Branch—a futile but enjoyable exercise. It was incredibly windy, barely a hendrickson in sight.

Still, I'm glad I went up. Besides hanging out with fellow casting geeks (always a pleasure :), I sat in on a technology for teaching workshop and learned about Ubersense, an iPhone and iPad coaching app that I hope to use on the guinea pigs ;) students at the Juliana's Anglers' school this coming weekend. It's a HD video app that allows you film, playback in slow motion, annotate using a variety of drawing tools (lines, angles, circles), record audio feedback, compare videos side-by-side, and share immediately with your student.

I know that watching video of my casting has been instrumental in my own improvement. Those images are still stuck in my head and whenever I feel my technique slipping, I remember what I learned from them and try to apply it. I'm definitely downloading the Ubersense Golf app for my dad, so he can see just how awful inefficient his golf swing is ;), and hopefully use it to get better.

Ubersense is uber-cool, uber-useful, and I highly recommend it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Connetquot

H: April 14, 2013: Yesterday, I met up with our club president, Linda Hotchkiss, for a tour of the Connetquot River State Park. The Juliana's Anglers will be holding their annual women's fly fishing school there in 2 weeks, April 26-27th.

Gil, the park manager and only male (honorary) member of the Julianas, showed us around the main buildings. He's been taking care of this 3,473 acre nature and wildlife preserve for over 65 years. It's chock full of glorious history and Gil will happily tell all, discreetly. Originally the Southside Sportmen's Club, presidents, princes, chancellors, and captains of industry, have all fished and hunted here (not to mention numerous Julianas!).

Linda shared some stories from the glory days when anglers would line up before dawn to secure the best beats. She spoke of previous Julianas' schools held here when the Connetquot was teeming with fish. Back in those days, you had to shove trout out of your way as you struggled to wade across the river unaccosted ;). Teaching students also proved to be quite difficult, when attempts to demonstrate the line mends required for the proper dead drift of a dry fly would be rudely interrupted, almost instantaneously, by an agressive take ;).

Those days are long gone due to IPN (infectious pancreatic necrosis) which wiped out most of the juvenile trout population and closed the Park's hatchery in 2008. Since then, the DEC in conjunction with scientists and other conservation groups have conducted extensive research and apparently there are plans to reopen the hatchery some time in the future using eggs from IPN-free stock and cultivating them in water from a newly drilled well. We'll have to wait and see if she can return to faded glory. Meanwhile the show (school) must go on...

The Connetquot river on Long Island NY
Thick weed/cress beds and abundance of overhanging branches makes for challenging fishing on the Connetquot.

A couple of months ago, the ladies asked if I would be interested in teaching casting at this year's school. After several early refusals, I finally agreed (took the bait ;). This will be my first official teaching gig. Yes, I'm nervous... but also excited to help new anglers learn this sport I love so much.

It's a good thing I had a chance to scout things out (Thanks, Linda!). I had heard the Connetquot was a small, intimate "spring creek" but I saw firsthand on Saturday just how challenging the conditions are. There are trees and shrubs and overhanging branches everywhere! Add to that crystal clear waters, slow currents, and thick weed/cress beds and even an experienced angler, not to mention a beginner, will have his/her hands full. Forget overhead casting—there's no room for it, except from a few of the platforms. Accurate roll casting, a couple of singlehand spey moves, and a 4-weight outfit is all you need. Well, a few fish would be nice, too! There was no sight or sound of them on Saturday.

Fortunately, I've had very little time to think (or worry) about my first teaching gig. Looks like I will finally be closing on my fishing shack later this week. Wish me luck in both endeavors!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A little preseason fishing

H: March 31, 2013: A few friends and I headed up to the Catskills yesterday for a bit of preseason fishing. With Opening Day just around the corner, it was time to get back into game shape after a really long winter! Time to dust off the gear, test out new rods and lines, flex long dormant casting muscles, regain tempo, and put new fishing game plans into play. For me, the primary objective was to seriously chill out! For the past 2 months, I feel like I've been stuck in a time warp. Well, the Beaverkill and Delaware rivers, along with a few friends worked their magic, restoring much needed balance and perspective.

Fishing friends, old and new: Shannon, Anne-Marie, and Doug.

First stop, the Beaverkill. Shannon took her new 6-weight Sage spey rod for a spin while Doug settled into a spot just upriver from her and cast his new 4-weight Rise rod. Anne-Marie, the explorer, vanished downstream with rod in hand. A strong persistant wind made casting difficult at times but it was a bright beautiful spring day (finally!) and a decent hatch of stoneflies welcomed the sun's warmth.

Richard with a lovely preseason brown.
Unfortunately, the trout were less responsive. Two days till Opening Day and they stubbornly remained hunkered down despite the tantalizing skittering of female stoneflies laying eggs on the water's surface. I was pleasantly surprised when my friend Richard stopped by. He fished with us for a bit and landed a gorgeous brown. As we hung out on the bank, warming our feet and catching up, we were soon covered in small black stones.

After a late lunch we drove to Hancock. I wanted to check out some water on the Main Stem of the Delaware. In hindsight, we should have gone to a more sheltered spot. It was still very windy. We spread out in all directions to fish. Shannon earned her spot on the starting lineup, landing a preseason brown. I decided to take out my spey rod and cast a streamer—it wasn't pretty. I'd be lucky to make the cut.

There were some sporadic splashy rises in the middle of the pool. I gladly switched to my singlehand 5-weight and tied on a black caddis dry—no takers—no real surprise. I know I should have nymphed, but the thought of staring at an indicator for the remainder of this glorious day killed me. So, I hiked along the riverbank gathering intel for future use (tough work but someone's got to do it ;).

Main stem of the Delaware river
Main stem of the Delaware.

Hopefully our preseason warm-up will pay dividends in the weeks to come. Shannon and Doug are headed back next weekend. It looks like it will be another couple of weeks before my season officially begins (Thank god! Still time for a spring training tuneup). Here's to a great season everyone!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Back to Basics

stairs to the delaware river
To the river...
H: February 11, 2013: Apologies for the long lapse between posts. My life of late has been consumed with all things house related—building and construction, septics and wells, inspections and repairs, gas leases and property deeds... Yeap, this flygirl has found her dream fishing shack! More on that later, first, a quick 2013 Somerset Fly Fishing Show report.

I finally met up with members of the NYC Fly Meetup group—Matt, Jinny, Ryan. They turned out to be a great group of enthusiastic fly fishers and tyers. I look forward to fishing and tying with them some time in the future. I attended 4 seminars: Great Lakes Steelhead, Wingless Wet Flies, Dry Fly Strategies, and Swing Fly Techniques. I was scouting potential programs for my women's fly fishing club, the Juliana's Anglers (as well as feeding my newly acquired steelhead obsession ;). Except for the Wingless Wet Flies seminar which I found interesting from a historic ff perspective, I was rather disappointed with the lot. Given the 1-hour time frame, these presentations are just too general and broad to have much substance. Granted, there was some good photography and interesting fish stories told...

Of course I had to watch at least one casting demonstration to satisfy the casting geek in me ;). It turned out to be Prescott Smith on Casting in the Wind and Other Difficult Casts. His demo was simple and to the point—the point being that the key to casting successfully in the wind is to maintain constant tension. He used the analogy of a yo-yo, a lasso, and even a racetrack. If you keep your rod loaded at all times, the wind cannot take control of it.

As he gracefully executed the Belgium wind cast, he shared his experiences as a Bahamian bonefish guide and demonstrated some of the common mistakes he's seen anglers make—overpowering the final forward cast, breaks in the cast that introduce slack (public enemy #1), and bad form on the double haul. To finish things off, he visually illustrated that good casting is all about technique and has little to do with physical strength. He cast while sitting in a chair, then proceeded to lay down flat on the ground and cast. Good stuff! His demo covered the basics, but it's so often the basics that are lost in the heat of the hunt on a bonefish flat with 40+ mph winds blowing in your face. I can personally vouch for that.

Bahamian guide Prescott Smith casting while laying down on the ground
Prescott Smith physically demonstrating that good casting is ALL about technique, not strength.
Most of the show was spent catching up with fishing friends and acquaintances. I was really pleased to see a strong contingent of Julianas! I also ran into several FFF CI acquaintances. When I asked them how they felt about the whole Maxwell/McCrimmon incident, I was rather surprised at their responses. Most just shrugged their shoulders. It didn't seem to bother them at all or perhaps they just felt powerless to affect any change. That was very disappointing...

On a more positive note—I finally did it! I tied my first fly, something I've been putting off for years. Ironically it was at the FFF learning booth. I tied a black wooly bugger, alongside a fresh-faced 9-year-old girl who was tying a bright pink one ;). It certainly looks buggy. I hope to catch a nice trout with it later this year, although in hindsight, I really should have used a bead head.

Well since this momentous occasion, I have tied 3 more flies: a green caddis emerger, cased caddis, and diving caddis, courtesy of my good friend Kat Rollin. She's a gifted and celebrated fly tyer, known for tying beautiful, traditional salmon flies by hand (no vice!). In her basement, beside her extensive wine cellar, she has an amazing fly tying cave filled to the brim with more materials than I've seen in some fly shops. Thanks again, Kat!

So, back to the flygirl fishing shack... After a month of researching building design options and formulating a concept for the home I wanted to build (modern, open floor plan, green as possible), I decided I should at least look at a few houses on the market before making a final commitment. I saw a wide range of riverfront property and even considered making an offer on one—house was impeccable, river was appealing. But on my second scouting trip, I went to see a property that was over my original budget. Well, it was love at first sight! I fell hard, for an absolutely gorgeous stretch of river and stunning views. I'm afraid I didn't take a very close look at the house. Can't remember the last time I was so impulsive! Perhaps 11 years ago when I quit my job to study Carcharodon Carcharias in South Africa? Well, the house needs quite a bit of work... but the river is perfect!

Hopefully, if things go according to plan, I'll be settled just in time to greet the hendricksons :). I'm making 2013 all about getting back to basics—back to fly fishing (the simple joy of it) and discovering my new home waters (with a few house renovations thrown in). Fingers crossed XX.

looking out at the delaware river
New home waters?...