sprung

a good friend headed west and we were able to meet up for an early spring day spent chasing trout under deceptively blue skies. full of coffee and stories we switch-backed through the pass and drove by spots we'd fished years ago when we had stomped around the state on a week long fishing bender. the stream we decided to fish is named after dreams but none were made this day. neither of us cared. we fished and hung out and like only good friends can, fell right back into things despite the gap that distance and time can often bring. the fish we caught seemed tired, almost beat up and at times i regretted that i had added to their already torn up faces. once a trout's mandibles are gone they look sunken, like an old person without their dentures in.


the complete opposite of those pounded fish swim in a few gems that are tucked away here and there on these dusty plains. i wouldn't want to fish them everyday but they offer a welcome change of pace and don't require hours of windshield time. the best part is the fish always seem to be looking up. a small parachute and a decent drift will almost always reward you with spring creek colors.


spring is the time when everything propels itself towards summer, towards the future. predators move into the shallows and ensure a future broad and after that is off their to-do list, it seems like they are angry they will have to wait another whole year to "do it" again. so we played into that aggression and hedged our bets with steel leaders and plenty of bucktail.


even an exceptionally cold morning can seem ideal just because it is calm. we all know the wind will come. wind is a fact i've begrudgingly had to accept. a day spent casting straight into a gale can be brutal but when the rewards are measured in pounds, you tighten up your loop and learn to ask for help to get your flies out of your back. at the days end when you are good and wind burnt, you crank up the car's heat and rest your hands on the dash board vents. as feeling returns to your fingers you miraculously forget all the struggle and you start planning how quickly you can get back because spring is about rebirth and moving forward. it's about the opportunity to reach out and hold all of those things from our long winter dreams.

bottom bug

for the most part carp flies seem to be variations on a theme. maybe it's because of the limited presentations that work day in and day out. that's not saying there aren't some innovative things going on, i just wrapped up working on a book that's loaded with plenty of new ideas.

this simple bug isn't the latter and while it's not revolutionary it is an effective and quick tie. an added bonus is it seemed just as appealing to the bass and catfish in this size. so spin a few and give them a try. olive and rust produce best for me.

TMC  105 sz 4 + medium black bead chain + olive finn raccoon + pearl midge flash + rubber legs + peacock ice dub + olive grizzly soft hackle.

surprises

warm water spillways are one of the few places left one earth where the surprises you get are almost always good. sure you could target one species but it's more fun to cast a wide net and see what happens.

open water isn't easy to come by around here in february. but when I saw the forecast i decided to spend the day bouncing a meat whistle or slow stripping a shad pattern and then going through the following cycle: 

cast, mend, strip, strip, strip... set... and the guessing begins. "it's staying deep... might be a catfish, maybe a carp." cast, strip, strip, strip... set... "a long sideways plane. probably a panfish. are their crappie in here?" cast, strip, strip... set... "coming up right away. probably a bass..."

on another note, i've never really been a big sunflower seed guy but on a duck hunt this year i was introduced to these Old Bay nuggets of crack. mid day was crazy slow so we killed the time chewing on these and watching twerking videos. don't judge.

... now i've got a serious problem. my cheeks are super sore from stuffing fist fulls into my face all day long. at days end I realized my bag was getting low so i immediately stopped in the first gas station i could find for a mostly unnecessary resupply. maybe it's childhood of summer crab feasts, i don't know, but if Old Bay is a flavor you like, steer clear of these bad boys. you've been warned.

simple

scud hook 1120's sz 12 to 20 + silver brass bead + medium pearl tinsel + rainbow scud dubbing + grey soft hackle + red thread (UTC 70)


epilogue

*warning this post is full of crappy reality*

open.jpg

pheasant season started on a warm fall day in october. i left in the dark that day and came home hours later without firing a single shot.

months pass and i wake up to a light snow and mild temps for the last day of the season. i dress quickly, while thanking the hunting gods for the ideal conditions. i slam down some coffee and a smoothie for breakfast. i load up the dog and it's wheels up, swilling coffee the enitre ride. i'm a public land guy so i was happy when i pulled up and no one was around. even better there was a big, proud rooster in the edge of some stubble. i rolled by him and parked far enough away not to spook him. if he's made it this far, he's no dummy.

we hit the field and things were going great and then i felt the first stomach rumble. no big deal i tell my self. i try not to think about the coffee and smoothie. sometimes a combo that can really "grease the wheels."

a hen flushes in the distance and even further out a rooster gets up. after another couple hundred yards, another rumble hits.

i'm cool, it's cool.

i feel my back pockets for the few pieces of TP usually folded up in there. but my pockets were empty.

no big deal, it passes and i was feeling fine again.

it's cool, i'm cool.

a few hundred yards deeper in, another rumble hits and things come undone. all doubt is gone. the sweats hit hard and there is only one outcome now.

i'm not sure the last time you have been in this situation, stuck in the middle of the absolutely treeless landscape of the high plains with nothing but shin high corn stubble and wheat stubble to hide behind. it's not good.

i quickly shuffle over to the edge of the corn field and pull off fist fulls of corn husks. then i duck walk over to a slight dip in the landscape. i drop my gun, struggle out of my vest, and well... i'll spare you the details.

so there i am in the most undignified of positions with a dwindling supply of corn husks when I become aware that my world has shrunk to a 3 foot radius around me. some primal instinct says "hey idiot, take a look around" and that's when i realize there are 4 guys and several dogs standing in the wheat stubble staring at my bare white ass.

where did this silent group come from? how long had they been there? good lord baby jesus, what had they seen?

what do you do in this situation? i had no previous experience to draw upon. i've never naked butt squatted in front of anyone before. so i decide to just stand up and gather my things...

...then i waved, because it seemed like the polite thing to do. i turned and walked quickly in the opposite direction. i would have walk to another county if necessary to avoid an up close conversation.

we didn't kill any birds because believe it or not, things kinda went down hill from there. snow turned to rain and my e-collar stopped working altogether. this group of fields was my best option for the day and the least i could do after the sight i'd presented was give it to those guys.

so the last day of the year was some distorted reflection of the first day. we pulled away from the fields  without firing a shot while still managing to end things with a bang.

passing time

one holiday rolled into the next. the snows came and reveled secrets all around. they also tucked the birds in tight and often my vest was heavy with success. then the snows melted and then froze and then every crunching step was like a warning siren. when we did find birds, i would miss. most days the only thing we carried home were the corn cobs i pick up for the squirrel feeder. i had changed chokes when the birds started to flush further and further out. it was a mistake and after a switch back things came into focus again.

i don't ski and i don't like to shovel either, but i do look forward to snow storms for hunting birds. some mornings after a fresh dusting discloses all the comings and going we rarely get to see, i'd leave the gun in the car because tracking mice through corn fields with my kids is just as fun as anything else i can think of.

my dog has hunted hard each and every day. it's our 3rd year together and we still bicker over the little things. we spent more days plodding through fields then ever before and he's the one who took the brunt of it. he's blown pads on his feet, racked up a list of cuts that never got a chance to fully heal, got a face full of cactus, somehow managed to get a bruised and infected rib... and when that snow builds up on him and he's running around with chest balls, he won't even look me in the eye. he's the best hunting buddy i've ever had.

walking miles for birds has worked it's way into my being but there are times when it's better to sit and let them come to you. so from time to time we did just that and i spent those days with a guy who can sweet talk them into a bad situation like no other. it's fun to watch and duck poppers taste pretty good.

i know it's too early to act like winter is gone but as the temps reached into the 40's, the alarm was set for 3 am. tailwaters are as good a place as any to spend the day when winter eases it's grip. my first trout of the new year was healthy rainbow who eat a pheasant tail spun the night before from one of many regal tails gathered under the cold, dark skies of this season.

i'm not sure what this year will hold for us but i do know that one day rolls into the next, one year into another and the only thing worth doing is trying to fill them up with things that matter.

miles

i'm trying to embrace it this year. i'm trying to be present in the season.

nothing is permanent and i don't want to look back at the opportunity to chase these
wild birds with regret. there is too much to regret already.

but no matter how far i try to walk, it seems that those distant waters won't stop calling to me.