Tag Archives: travel

Eastern Sierra Exploration – Another Chalking Epic

Eastern Sierra Exploration 

On my continuing quest to chalk all 50 states on the fly, my wife Janice and I took a little trip out west to explore the eastern Sierra Nevadas.  Here are the wave tops:

Dates: 9-17 August

Species caught: brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and GOLDEN TROUT!

States Chalked: CA and NV

Water Fished: offshore San Diego, Lower Owens, Bishop Creek, Buckeye Creek, East Walker, Robinson Creek, Truckee River, and San Joaquin River.  All chalked!

Road miles covered:  1100

Bottom line:  it was an incredible trip.  The scenery was breath taking.  The water was beautiful.  The weather was perfect.  All rivers produced and we were able to pick up some Sierra Nevada natives – Golden Trout.  They rival our brook trout in their beauty and eagerness to take a fly and were definitely the highlight of the trip.

The details (scroll on by if you have a short attention span and just want to get to the images):

If I could do it all over again, I would’ve went on this trip in the late fall/early winter.  From talking to the various guides and shops out there, CA and NV are in the grips of a bad drought.  Without any perspective on this, it was hard for me to judge but the catching wasn’t great and we tried everything from dredging to dries – the fish really made us work for it.  BUT, hindsight is 20/20 and we still had a great time – no trip is ever perfect.  Besides, it seems like the dog days of summer are pretty painful across the country as it relates to fishing so I’m very pleased with what we were able to accomplish.

Although the catching wasn’t great, every creek produced.  Some wild, some native,  and some stocked.  I find both states’ conservation methods interesting.  I’ll probably write about this double edged sword in a separate piece but it seems both states stock profusely where the waters don’t require it and much of this stocked water is put  and take.  All the water is beautiful and could sustain wild populations of trout if managed properly but I’m guessing the states’ position is that stocking brings large numbers of people to the mountains thereby protecting the lands and maintaining a steady flow of revenue.

There are pros and cons to this methodology for conservation.  Unfortunately,  the avid fly angler is at the brunt of the cons – but I’ll save that for another time.  Still, I was a bit stunned to be standing  at  the headwaters of a pristine creek near Bishop, CA, surrounded by bait dunkers.  We broke contact quickly and moved downstream in search of wild fish – and found some.

The budget for the trip was very affordable – we stayed in a hotel in San Diego and Reno (first and last days of the trip) and camped enroute.  It’s so dry in this part of the country that you never really feel dirty so 5 days without showering didn’t create a problem (nothing a quick dive in a creek couldn’t solve).  We also kept the costs down by cooking our food at the camp site and eating out sporadically if something uniquely local caught our eyes so we didn’t miss out on the regional culture.  We weren’t disappointed.

Other costs included the flight (Southwest was super cheap), rental car (I’ll never use Avis again), gas, guide fees, and a small amount of gear purchased from Walmart when we arrived in Cali – mainly a cheap cooler, propane, lighter fluid, and food we could cook along the way.  Buying some stuff on the ground saved us from having to pack a lot on the front/back end and incurring  baggage fees at the airport.  Plus – a trip into a Walmart always provides an interesting look at a small segment of the local population.

As a quick aside: I always hire guides for half day trips on these types of benders – for a few reasons.  1. You get local knowledge from a pro, 2. You save time by getting on the best water right away – which may ultimately save you money as well since the time you spend searching on your own could cost you a day, 3. You get to meet someone new with whom you can, exchange stories, maybe make plans for the future, and most importantly, learn something new.  Number 2 is debatable as some might retort that finding the primo water on your own is what makes trips exciting.  Sure – if you have a lot of time, that’s true and an important part of a trip.   Don’t get me wrong – most of the chalking on this trip came from unguided exploration but points 1 and 3 definitely came true as well.

Instead of the usual plastering of photos, we decided to play with a movie app on the iPhone that we think captures the trip quite well.  Maybe some day I’ll invest in some high quality camera equipment but until then….If you’re a photographer or an individual that’s interested in filming some interesting fly fishing adventures, drop us a line – we have pages of potential itineraries waiting for execution.

WARNING: fish porn will not follow.  Like I said before, the catching was slow and just didn’t lend itself to taking a lot of fish-in-hand shots.  Besides, we have enough big trout shots in our albums – new species and natives  are more important these days (yeah – that’s what we’re telling ourselves because no hogs came to hand).  Enjoy and please share!  Oh – I love planning these types of benders so if you need some assistance, drop me a line.


Click here for the video:  https://youtu.be/p2DfV97QD_U






You May Surprise Yourself

“Sunrise, open my eyes, no surprise.”  The Notorious B.I.G. refers to his time in Belize in the track, “Breaking Old Habits”

I’m about 1 week away from my 20 year high school reunion and it has me reflecting a little bit.  There are many strands swimming around the old duder’s head these days – what’s next, how have my peers fared over the years, am I a good father and husband, will I ever be satisfied by my quest to capture fish around the country, etc.?   One question that recently started nagging me is, “When did I become a creature of habit?”  Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve prided myself on avoiding this trend that is so prominent among my fellow adults and found that most times, when I challenged conventional paradigms, I was profoundly rewarded for doing so.

I hope that nobody takes offense to what I’m about to say but I think both men and women can relate to this.  When I was a teenager, I had one goal that I’m willing to bet all teenage guys have shared since the dawn of the human race – to hook up with as many girls as possible.  Long-term commitments, although convenient, never appealed/worked for me.  I had to have as many experiences as possible.  Sure, there were some routines back then: I had to wake up for school and go to my classes but when I got home at the end of the school day and especially over the weekends, anything was on the table – adventure and experimentation was the key.  More times than not, this quest (some might have perceived it as self-destructive but I believed what didn’t kill me gave me some great stories to tell) yielded some fond memories.  I’m not saying this is true for me but I’ve heard many people say that high school was the best time of their life.  Damn – that sucks!  Worst-case scenario, that period of your life represented only 1/15th of your time on this planet.

I digress – my drive for experimentation and exploration continued throughout college but slowed down a bit my senior year when I committed to joining the Marine Corps.  I guess this is when I officially became an adult.  Fast forward a little bit – I blinked my eyes and 2 wars, numerous deployments, my marriage, and my daughter appeared when I opened them.  How the hell did that happen?  ROUTINES!  I’m not bashing all habits and routines as they are essential for survival in today’s society but breaking them from time to time will open your eyes a lot earlier, help you realize balance, and lead to personal growth.  Whatever you do, please don’t take this as another older guy (hell, I’m only 38) trying to pass on a BIG life lesson.  Give me a second; let me tie this in to fishing.

How many of you routinely fish the same beats/float the same water every time you go out?  How many of you always go to those holes you know have fish?  How many of you do the same fishing trip every year?  How many times have you driven past a body of water and asked yourself if it fished well but pushed forward to your planned destination?  I’m willing to bet most of you will answer in the affirmative – YOU ALWAYS DO?  Why?  Because your time is limited and you want to do what you know will work – to have that convenient feeling of escape.  What are you missing?  Are you really escaping when you trade one set of habits for another?

Breaking habits is a lot harder than it sounds.  I received specialized military training for 2 years that taught me to identify habits and understand how they influence decision making in an organization and I still have problems breaking them.  Nevertheless, it’s somewhat unsettling to think that at one point in our lives, we were completely comfortable with change – we thrived in the chaos of our youth.  Yet, as adults with means and goals, we fear chaos and fall back to our comfort zone.  Yeah, many of us have families and we have certain habits and/or routines that we believe will keep drama at bay.  However, how many of them ACTUALLY do?  Carrying this question forward to our passion for fly fishing:  if fly fishing is our escape (or our career – for all the guides out there), should it follow the same patterns we follow in daily life?

I’m not bringing this up to brag, merely to make a point:  I just chalked up my 25th state and 180th River.  What I’ve realized in all my travels is that every place has its own nuances, patterns, and beauty.  All require some sort of adaptation and demand experimentation until you figure it out.  You also meet new people and pick up new techniques.  In doing so, you try flies you normally wouldn’t try.  You tie many knots.  You cover a lot of water.  You see, hear, and smell new things.  You become good at adapting to your surroundings.  Moreover, when you get in your car to drive home or you arrive at the airport for your flight back – you are a better angler.  Another benefit is that you’d be surprised how easy it is to get away from the indigenous/local anglers as they are typically creatures of habit.

The biggest edge we anglers have over the vast majority of the rest of the world is that we have a passion we dedicate a significant portion of our life to – we have a way to escape our daily routines.  Yet, for some reason, so many of us just pick up a new set of routines during these escapes.  I’m not proposing you throw all your habits in the trash – just that you become aware of them and how some may be holding you back.  Maybe I’ll never be satisfied by my pursuits, my longing to explore, and my desire to experience new things but that’s a gamble I’m willing to take.  Are you?  Surprise yourself once in awhile!

Challenge Yourself to Think Differently About your Fishing Habits
Challenge Yourself to Think Differently About your Fishing Habits


Planning for Epic Trips

Bro – how much gas do we have left? – Ryan to Nate in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan, circa summer of 2009 when he realized planning to refuel a couple hours earlier definitely didn’t occur.

Good planning is important.   I’ve also regarded a sense of humor as one of the most important things on a big expedition. When you’re in a difficult or dangerous situation, or when you’re depressed about the chances of success, someone who can make you laugh eases the tension – Edmund Hillary (20-Jul-1919 –  11-Jan-2008 – New Zealander, Explorer, Philanthropist)

It’s summer across the U.S. in the fly fishing world and that means our quarry is extremely active as are all the prey species.  A good number of the country’s watersheds are post run off and are just about in fishable shape – it’s time for a road trip! Many things race through your head as you and your fishing buddies start building your itinerary- where are we going?  What water do we want to cover?  What flies will we need?  What maps should we buy?  Proper planning can turn the best ideas into reality and save a dream trip from becoming a nightmare…but you probably already knew that.  What you may not know is that the adrenaline and excitement that dominates your consciousness on that first day of an epic trip has a tendency to blind you from the simple things that you must get right.  By following a few basic rules, you can ensure your trip starts with success (and you can avoid some of the drama that tests the fiber of your relationship with your fishing buddies).

Picture this: you and a close friend want to go on a big trip to explore a small sliver of the Rockies on both sides of the U.S./Canada border.  10 days fishing in the backcountry where you’ll stay off the grid as much as possible by crashing at primitive campsites, staying on the water all day, and poking your heads into small towns only to resupply on food.  So, you start planning a few months out (if one of you is particularly neurotic, the planning actually starts 6 months out).  Both of you might live in different parts of the country so you’ll have to link up at some distant airport.  This could add another layer of complexity in that you have to compare packing lists over the phone and email and there’s nobody there to hold you accountable for showing up at the airport on time – but that’s not a big deal, right?

When the big day arrives, everything runs relatively smooth.  Well, your friend almost missed his flight because he tends to be late for just about everything but he made it so who cares.  The two of you greet each other at the airport with a huge hug that says, “Damn, bro!  We’re finally here.  Let’s do this.”   All your gear makes it, your rental vehicle is exactly what you wanted, the gas tank is full, you have plenty of food and road snacks (to include copious amounts of energy drinks) – it’s on!  Time to push!

5 hours later, you’re somewhere in the Saskatchewan backcountry where it’s pitch black (darker than a black steer’s tookas on a moonless prairie’s night), the truck’s nearly out of gas, and you and your friend are arguing about the accuracy of that dashboard tool that tells you how far you can get on the gas left in the tank (it changes all the time by the way – depending on how you drive).  What makes matters worse is that neither of you have slept in something like 24 hours when you consider time zone changes so your exhaustion makes the arguments incoherent and unfulfilling.  How did it come to this?   Better yet, how can you prevent this?  Here are 3 simple rules that will keep you in check when your desire to push hard on that first day likely exceeds what your body (and vehicle) can handle.

Rule 1: get some sleep.  O.K., you’re saying to the screen, “Thanks for stating the obvious, buddy,” but if you are anything like us, that night before an epic trip is akin to the night before Christmas when you were a kid – it ain’t gonna happen.  Either deprive yourself of sleep in the couple days leading up to the trip so you crash that night before or take a sleep aid right after waking up in the morning before getting on the flight.  I’m not a doctor or a scientist but I am a veteran that’s spent plenty of nights without sleep – it’ll destroy your ability to think clearly.  Being fresh on that first day will pay off immensely so make sure you plan to get your Zs the night before.

Rule 2:  Don’t drink energy drinks until you actually need them.  It’s always funny to watch a group of people in the morning after they have a cup of coffee or a couple of dudes in a car after drinking energy drinks.  If you’ve never paid attention to this, try it some time.  Conversation flows easier than normal; singing classic rock, hair-band ballads, or rapping 90’s hip-hop becomes inevitable; and it’s likely a debate will break out over a topic of little consequence.  All this is an excellent distraction for hours on the road as well as the readings on the speedometer and gas gauge.  Pound your favorite poison (ours are Monster Rehabs) only when your eyes become heavy and the conversation drops to mere mumbles.

Rule 3:  This is the most important one – take piss breaks every 2 hours.  I can hear the guys in the their 20s and early 30s saying it now, “Dude, you’d lose so much time.”  BullS#$%!  Or, completely irrelevant in that you are usually transiting to a new location and crashing upon arrival so an extra 30mins isn’t going to do anything for you.  Some of you might also be thinking, “That’s a lot of pissing – I never go that often.”   Easy problem to solve – buy a gallon of water at your first stop and chug it regularly.  This will do a few things for you:

  1. After sitting on the plane/travelling for nearly a day, that water will ensure you stay regular and help flush your system after sitting on your ass all day.
  2. Drinking water helps keep you awake.
  3. You’ll have to piss every 2 hours or so, which will force you to stop at a gas station where you can refuel, stretch your legs, and generally pull yourself together.

In another life, it was my job to plan military operations so I always take joy in planning “epic” trips.  However, even the best plans fall apart when human factors enter the equation.  Excitement, anticipation, and adrenaline have all played their role in creating needless drama on those first days of my personal “Odyssey” so I hope these rules can save you from the trouble.  You know what though – forget you read all of this – the chaos makes for a better story at the end of the trip.