November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving & Tight Loops!

 Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there! If you're like me, you're likely looking forward to turkey (or the sides and desserts) later today, perhaps a parade, dog show, or football. Working in e-commerce, I don't get much of a holiday break (Black Friday & Cyber Monday are afoot) but on Thanksgiving, it's about food, family, friends, and maybe a little fly fishing (perhaps not necessarily in that order). 

2020 Cracker Barrel tasted better than it looked... LOL!

If you're like me and you want to scratch a little fishing itch today, even if you can't get outside, I'd highly recommend pulling up YouTube on your favorite streaming device and giving the first 3 episodes of For Wild's Sake, a series of videos on preserving and pursuing native, wild trout species and the environments in which they live. 

I've highlighted the Tight Loops crew here before, but in my opinion there are few folks in the fishing space making better videos these days. This isn't fish porn (particularly the 1st and 3rd installment), this is education, enrichment, and environmentalism. I'm a big fan, and I'm sure you'll become one too.




November 14, 2021

Wonderfully Wet in Western North Carolina

A few weekends ago I met up with a few of my East Coast fixed line fishing friends for a little getaway in the hills of Western North Carolina. This escape had been planned for quite some time, and in the days leading up to the rendezvous, the chatter in our text messaging group was indicating that everyone was very excited.

I was too. Fishing with friends on "new-to-me" water... with nights in frankly an upscale cabin (with its own trout stream in the backyard)... it doesn't get much better than this.


Well, it could have been slightly better if the weather decided to cooperate. Arriving on Thursday and leaving on Sunday, I'd personally have two and a half days of fishing. And Mother Nature decided to make just those two and half days mostly chilly and wet in the form of a steady, constant, overcast drizzle. But this was definitely not a big deal, this was going to be excellent, wet or dry.

Thursday

Arriving Thursday afternoon a little bit before most, the afternoon was mostly spent unloading my (and others') stuff into the cabin. That said, a few of us decided to test that backyard creek out for a short spell and found pool after pool of welcoming rainbow trout. 


It was a great way to immediately shed the skunk from the weekend, as well as spend a little time with the DRAGONtail FoxFIRE fiberglass tenkara rod in just the environment it was designed for.


Friday

On Friday our group of nine divided and spent the majority of the late morning and early afternoon on nearby beats of the larger namesake water we all came to fish... while yet another smaller subset split up and drove to a different waterway to try and find some larger fish.


I'm happy to report that the outing was pretty fun, even though for whatever the reason I was finding myself catching a stray tree branch seemingly every other cast. Mentally, I was telling myself I needed to adjust my casting plane more horizontally, but my body just refused to do it. Too much unencumbered Wisconsin & Colorado vertical casting muscle memory I guess...

It didn't matter, my companion on the stream that morning (Bryan) is the perfect kind of easy-going fishing partner I enjoy fishing with.


First, he's incredibly skilled and personally had a fantastic morning vacuuming up fish with a leech jig pattern. Second, he just let me be as I fumbled around on the water, giving encouragement (and many prime spots) to work out my issues. Lots of smiles and laughs, and no ribbing until after we bushwhacked through the rhododendron thicket, found the trail, and were finally off the water. 


As clumsy as my morning was, I eventually settled down and caught a brookie-brown-rainbow slam in the afternoon to round off the day's haul, which was sweet... even if the brookie appeared to have been stocked. 




Made me feel good when everyone reconvened at the cabin for an evening of dinner, fly tying, scheming, and bullshitting. I don't really fish for "numbers", but it seemed as if Bryan & I collectively made out the best of the group.

Saturday

Saturday was rainy and cold from the jump. You knew you were going to be wet all day, you just had to prepare yourself and dress appropriately. On this day my fishing partners were Anthony & Jay. However, once we got to the water and geared up, Jay decided to take a right turn when Anthony and I went left. I respect that, some days you just want to fish alone.


This day was really interesting to me. Anthony decided to Euronymph with his new custom fly rod, while I got to test drive a new and unreleased tenkara rod, the Tanuki Shinobi

I had never watched anybody fish with Euronymphing gear before in person, so it was fascinating to see how Anthony approached each section of water and the benefits his rig provided over a shorter, more standard length rod and reel outfit. It was in many ways similar, yet still much different than what I was doing with the tenkara rod.


Fortunately, my body caught up to my brain on this day and I stayed out of the trees and bushes. 


The Shinobi is a really interesting rod visually, with an integrated (and tattooed) grip section. It's a 13 foot rod that casts as beautifully as it's constructed, regardless of whether the kebari on the end of the line was weighted or not. 


I mostly fished a peacock-bodied kebari with a 2.5 tungsten bead that I tied inspired by the "honryu" pattern in Discover Tenkara's Complete Kebari Collection tutorial


Due to the overnight rains, the water was much higher and faster than the prior day, and catching was slightly more difficult. I managed four rainbows, and I think Anthony caught one or two. Not epic, but entertaining nonetheless. Wet and cold, we jointly decided to cut the session a bit short and backtrack to find Jay and head back to the cabin.

While Friday with Bryan was more about fishing, Saturday with Anthony was more about testing new things and conversation. I'm definitely intrigued by the Euronymph rig and spent quite a bit of time on the water chatting with Anthony about a wide array of topics ranging from fly fishing to flipping houses.

Thursday night at the cabin was a bit of a blur. The World Series was on TV, we ate brats and venison, drank beer, and chatted by the campfire for a bit. I eventually caught a chill I just couldn't shake, so I searched for the warmth of bed and decided to turn in a little early. This lack of temperature tolerance shows this Pennsylvanian has definitely become a "Floridian."


Sunday 

Departure day. We left the cabin and mostly went our separate ways. A few guys stayed behind and fished, and from what I hear found wonderful weather and solid numbers of trout. Me? I stopped at the supermarket on the way out of town, stocked up yet again on Cheerwine, (it's a thing I do in North Carolina, see my prior post), and headed home. 

I really enjoy fishing with this diverse group of anglers. I can't wait until we get together again. Maybe it will be a bit sunnier and warmer the next time, but even if it isn't, I know a great time is certain to be had.

November 4, 2021

An Overdue Labor Day Weekend Post

Labor Day weekend was almost two months ago... so consider this an extremely delayed fishing report. Oh, with a little cowboy hi-jinks mixed in for good measure.

The past two years I've headed to the North Carolina Smokies for Labor Day weekend. Last year was to escape COVID, this year was just to regain some sanity through solitude. The Smokies are convenient, a nice little reset to end the summer, and oddly, most people also visiting the area seem to do everything EXCEPT fish inside the Park. Oh well, more water for me.

The campgrounds however were packed, and because of that I chose to stay in a little motel in Bryson City. Checking in Friday evening, it was my first time visiting and found it a nice little mountain town. Definitely touristy, but in a good way.

Saturday was quite busy, with fishing during the day, and a rodeo at night. Huh? Yeah, that wasn't a typo. Driving about a half hour from my room over to Cherokee, NC, I returned to a familiar stream within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While thoroughly enjoying the cool of the mountain air, I did encounter some mixed results. 

This was an hybrid outing, using a tenkara rod in the morning, and a fly rod and reel in the afternoon. Fish were caught during both sessions, although the catching was a little harder than usual since the water was up and flowing faster than ideal due to some recent rains.



Size 14-18 beadhead nymphs seemed to work best on both rods, and it was nice to see some wild rainbows up close once more. It was only the second time I had used my Orvis Superfine Carbon 3-weight; I'm finding that rod is a joy in hand. 

After bouncing back to the hotel for a quick shower, the Seven Clans Rodeo in Cherokee was next on the agenda. I had never been to a rodeo before, so when I happened to see the advertisements along the road that runs between Bryson City & Cherokee, I knew my evening plans were set.



I'm not going to lie, it was pretty damn fun and a cheap 3ish hours of entertainment. I'd definitely go to a rodeo again any day. Roping, barrel racing, bull riding... what's not to like? Well, maybe not the rodeo clown, but that's part of his shtick.

Sunday meant going back to the Park, but I'll admit to a little miscalculation. I thought I'd try a particular "new-to-me" stream across the state line in Tennessee I had read about, but when I got there, it was crazy busy. I guess I found all those anglers that weren't in North Carolina... they're in Tennessee! 

I tried fishing for a little bit, but after encountering angler after angler as I proceeded upstream, I finally gave up. This wasn't the solitude I was seeking, although I will admit that the scenery was quite nice.


So, back to North Carolina & uncrowded water (and elk).

After parking in a roadside pull-off and following a short hike in, I found myself back on a favorite stream and decided to make it a tenkara afternoon. This happens to be one of the more vertical streams I fish and it requires a bunch of boulder hopping and even a little bit of shower climbing. The technical water makes it ideal for a fixed line tenkara rod. 

Thankfully, the rainbows (and a random bonus brown) were quite interested in my Road Kone kebari, making the extra effort to reach them more than worth it.





Sunday evening was rather uneventful, no rodeo, rather some surprisingly good Mexican food and a stop at a supermarket to pick up some Cheerwine for the road. We used to have it in the Publix (supermarket) in Florida, but it strangely never returned post-COVID.

Speaking of the road, Monday morning led to the long drive home. This effectively ended the holiday weekend in the Smokies for me. A trip that was memorable for both the comfort of familiar waters and excitement of new experiences. Can't wait until next Labor Day weekend.

August 24, 2021

Friends on the Fryingpan

Colorado is a really fun place to visit. Even when you have to dodge mudslides that take out highways en route to your final destination. Yeah, that really happened at the end of July, when I flew out West for a week to meet up with some friends to do a little fishing. The first flight I've taken since 2019 I might add...

In my prior trips to this outdoor wonderland, I had always ventured north from Denver, typically up to Boulder and Estes Park (a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park). However this year, we went west. The destination was a small, rustic cabin sitting on the Fryingpan River in Colorado.


This little Thursday to Tuesday escape was really fun for a lot of reasons. First, because I didn't get to travel to Colorado in 2020 (thanks COVID). Second, because I hadn't seen some of these guys in a few years, (some I had never met in person before). Third, and finally, because we had a chance to get into some really nice fish!

Usually when I go fishing, I like to escape to quiet headwaters streams. The kind you rarely see another angler all day. The fishing is relaxing and methodical, and typically the trophy fish starts at around 10 inches. I'm not a "numbers" angler - I don't hunt large fish or qualify my day by the amount caught. Mostly fishing is an escape to blow off steam and relax, although a skunking is never welcomed.

In stark contrast, on this trip we were only a short drive from the gold medal tailwater section of the Fryingpan River beneath Ruedi Reservoir

This is home to large fish, big numbers, tons of anglers, and is just a bit different from what I was used to. This change of pace made me a little nervous at first, but once I settled in and got the lay of the land, found it to be quite enjoyable.  

Thursday

I arrived at the cabin in the mid/late afternoon following a 4-5 hour drive from Denver. Some folks were already there, others yet to arrive. Eventually, the crew all made like the Avengers and assembled - Jonathan, Peder, Chris, Adam, Isaac, & Tadashi - a little before dinner. 

With moving water literally in the backyard it certainly didn't take long to stash my bags, toss on some wet wading shoes, and get that first fish on the line. Man, that did a lot to settle the nerves.


What followed were some steaks on the grill (more about the food later), a little panning for gold, and the first of many lively evening conversations.


Friday

This was the first day we'd hit the Fryingpan. We broke up into groups, and I hopped into the car with Adam & Chris. This water was all about nymphing, and I had some really good success right out of the chute with size 14 rainbow warrior style nymphs. Unlike most others, I went fixed line and was using the Nissin Zerosum Oni Honryu 395 tenkara rod. Adam chose a traditional fly rod and reel, while Chris used his JDM baitcaster set up. 

I actually caught my first fish of the morning on a Pink Squirrel that was previously tied on a line left over from the trip to the Driftless. Guess that fly will catch anywhere...

For a while it was fish after fish after fish for most, if not all of us. Browns, rainbows, and cutbows. I didn't catch any true monsters of the deep, but if you've seen they type of fish I usually catch in the headwaters, you know I needed a bigger net!


While we spent most of the day into the early afternoon basically in that spot, eventually we left and went a little further downstream for a little bit. The fishing wasn't quite as productive, but we all caught some fish in the downstream sections.


Once back at the cabin it was taco night. On this trip, Peder played the role of head chef every night, whipping up downright gourmet meals for the group of ravenous anglers. Seriously, I could have paid to go to a fancy lodge and not have had the quality of meals we enjoyed. Peder has some serious culinary skills. The least I could do was the dishes.


Saturday

We tried to hit some headwaters on the third morning, going quite a bit up in elevation to try and find some cutthroat trout. 


Unfortunately, the stream we had hoped to follow wasn't flowing very well and we (Peder) only found a single brookie in the first somewhat stagnant pool. We quickly bailed, but did pause to take a quick group photo before leaving.

On the way out we did stop a bit downstream where the flows looked nicer and fished for about an hour. I caught some little browns, I heard others caught some brookies.


While fun, I don't think this was the kind of action most of the gang was looking for, so we split into groups again, and while half went back to the Fryingpan, this time I went with Jon and Peder and we decided to drive a bit to give the Roaring Fork in Aspen a go.

This was much more urban than the other fishing. We fished in two different locations, the first alongside a highway, and then the other within a community park. Peder had a GIANT fish on that got away at his feet at the highway drop-in. 

While I settled for a slightly smaller version... 

I did really well at the park section, at least as far as numbers go. While in the middle of a residential area, the fishing was surprisingly good. On one side of the stream were houses, on the other the park. There was also a nice fly fishing themed memorial set up in one of the manicured picnic areas. 



Dinner was Korean tteokbokki with steak and a fried egg. I had no idea what this dish was going in (kind of like rice logs), but it was damn good. Not to mention it was by far the most photogenic dinner of the trip.

Sunday

Okay, Sunday kinda sucked, at least for me. Not a lot of pictures or story to tell because we went to another headwaters stream, but I took a spill in the water and lost my phone (which serves as my camera) and one of my fly boxes. Came right out of a pocket in my pack that was mindlessly unzipped. I had to watch the fly box float away faster than I could chase it, and the phone sink into the abyss out of view to go unclaimed. 

I wasn't much in the mood to fish the rest of the morning, so I walked around with Jon & Peder as they went mushroom hunting. Not being mycologically-inclined, this was kind of an interesting diversion. (I found over this long weekend that this group is really into their mushrooms). They found a bunch of varieties, including these hawk wings, which I thought were cool looking. Although they said the larger they get, the less tasty.


After that, I split off, hopped in the rental, drove about 45 minutes to a strip mall in Glenwood Springs to pick up and activate a new phone. Never really realized how dependent we are on those for travel. GPS, airplane ticket app, not to mention the basics of email and communication. Fortunately, within a few hours I was able to be back up and running, although it took most of the evening to re-install apps and log into them to make sure they worked for the next few days. Ugh.

Think the guys spent the afternoon slamming the gold medal section of the Fryingpan again while I was having phone hijinks. I'm sure they crushed it. Your friends' fishing is always better when you aren't there, right?

Monday

Last day for me, and the stay was already feeling too short. We technically had the cabin rented through Tuesday, but I was going to leave Monday afternoon to head back to Denver and stay the night at an airport hotel. I just didn't want to have to get up pre-dawn the next morning to be able to drive the four-and-a-half hours to return the rental car and rush through the airport before catching my four hour mid-morning flight back to Philadelphia.

Back to the gold medal section of the Fryingpan. I had a few nymphs left, and all was good. I fished alongside Jon, Peder, Isaac, & Tadashi most of the morning, and everyone was catching fish again. 


In addition to the larger fish in the mainstream, smaller fish were actually rising in the shallows on this day, so it was fun to see if I could get any topwater hits after a week of mostly fishing subsurface nymphs.

That said, nymphs still ruled the morning and the fish were active and healthy.



Before I left, Chris & I fished a section a bit downstream where we both messed around with dry flies. I think I worked some soft water near a little logjam for about an hour, enduring rises without takes, before I got this one little brown to hit. All of that frustration turned to exhilaration once that line went tight. While certainly not the largest, this was the "walk off" fish of the trip. The final one brought to hand before I had to start the drive back to Denver.

I bid the guys that were still in our semi-fractured group farewell, drove back to the cabin, gathered my things, and then pulled up the hotel on Google Maps on my new phone, and drove east, effectively concluding this trip. I hear it was pasta night back at the cabin. I had McDonald's.

The flight back to Philly was unremarkable, and luckily, uneventful the next morning.

And that was it. Another very fun Colorado adventure in the books. There was actually a TON of stuff that happened that I just can't write about here. That info is better left at the cabin... only to be resurfaced in what I hope becomes annual storytelling amongst friends at future fishing gatherings.

It was great to meet up with everyone, do a little fishing, (even some that was outside of my comfort zone), a little foraging, and a lot of eating and drinking. Even though the price of admission was a lost phone and a fly box full of flies, I'd happily pay that toll again in a heartbeat. (Although I did buy a phone tether after the trip so hopefully I don't have to.) ðŸ™‚

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Postscript: So is it the Frying Pan or the Fryingpan? I've seen it both ways, and Google doesn't do much to clarify. As you may have noticed, for purposes of this article, I chose to rock the all-one-word Fryingpan, basically because that's what I prefer.

(Additional photo credits: Adam, Isaac, Jon, Peder, & Tadashi)