First, a bug photograph:
Second, I really needed that.
Not the bug, or the photograph. I mean the ski trip into the Upper Sacramento River, where I tried some new gear, fished a bit, caught a trout, and then turned around and slogged skied back up the hill.
The trip (in order).
Skiing into the river here shouldn’t be hard – at least if you could ski acceptably.
It’s downhill, and for the talented gravity slaves among my readers, that means smooth sailing.
Alas, when you’re accompanied by a big, clumsy dog possessed of both a need to be in front (the hunting dog instinct) and the very real tendency to get distracted by tree bits in the snow – resulting in a sudden stop right where my skis are pointed – “smooth” doesn’t quite describe the situation.
In fact – if you’re the skier – you tend to describe the situation with a lot of four-letter words, most of which you wouldn’t repeat in front of your pre-verbal child.
It doesn’t help that the “skier” in question isn’t exactly talented, and to say more would be to flog this horse long after it stopped moving.
And besides, all that’s behind me. Having fly fished and returned home to the bosom of my living family, I’m happy now. See?
The Fishing Part
I won’t delve into the fly fishing overmuch. It was a lunchtime trip – one that actually included a riverside lunch – so my fishing time was limited to that stuff that didn’t include the following:
- Skiing in
- Getting skis off, removing jacket, removing snow jammed in pants (courtesy multiple Wonderdog-related crashes)
- Getting into waders
- Assembling fly fishing
- Starting stove for lunch
- Eating lunch
- Sitting and grooving on intense, snowy, people-free beauty
- Catching a 13″ trout
- Taking photos
- Re-packing gear
- Slogging Skiing up the long, steep hill
I did fish long enough to catch a single trout on a nymph – a brilliant fly fishing decision made in part after I observed the following:
Because I’m the very essence of the Scientific Fly Fisherman, I saw the bugs and immediately made a decision: I’d use a small, skinny black nymph.
(I can almost hear the Undergrounders shaking their heads in wonderment.)
Sadly, the Underground’s waterproof Pentax camera was stuck at home – the victim of a re-waterproofing attempt via some Marine Epoxy – so I was forced to bring the big DSLR, which doesn’t venture out onto the water with me.
Thus – while you no doubt expected one – there is no in-water trout portrait today.
You’ll have to simply trust me when I say the trout was sleek and pure and beautiful and strawberry-striped and leave it at that (you can close your eyes and imagine it if you’d like).
That was it for the fishing portion of the trip: one bite, one hook set, one bowed rod, and one fish.
And trust me, it was plenty. I was a happy man (see picture above).
And why not?
The only thing prettier than a trout stream in spring might be a trout stream in winter. Astonishingly – despite the yards-high piles of snow up in town – the Upper Sacramento wasn’t blanketed with snow, and in fact, a couple bare spots near the river forced me to take the skis off and walk around them.
Clearly, the Snowy Line of Doom for our recent “storm of a lifetime” ran just above the Upper Sacramento River.
The Gear Stuff
Because I often wake up at night wondering if I’m doing enough for my readers, I decided it was time to test-fire a 9′ 4wt rod and reel provided by the Redding Fly Shop – their own “Fresh H2O” private label brand.
How did I end up with this? At one point, I contacted St. Croix rods in the interest of seeing how their “new” Imperial fly rods compared to the much loved, smooth-tapered classic Imperial series.
It seemed like a natural story, and frankly it would have been grand – both from a “is this a new classic?” standpoint and a “where are the bargain-priced rods today” perspective.
Sadly, St. Croix didn’t bother to respond to the request, treating me the same way that cheerleader in high school did, and while I’m kinda misting up right now just thinking about it, I want you all to know I’m moving past the whole thing.
Just talk amongst yourselves for a minute.
OK. I’m back. And happy, dammit.
So when I had a conversation with the Fly Shop’s Mike Michalak about the McCloud relicensing – and he offered up one of his value-priced Fresh H2O combos for testing, I said what the hell?
He did just before I left for Ethiopia, and one problem with testing gear is that you actually have to use this stuff (at least here, though I have questions about some of the other reviews I read).
That I’m just getting around to it now says a lot about my unwillingness to part with the gear I already use and like, but that, my friendly Undergrounders, is the hell of it.
Because I only nymphed with the rod and didn’t actually air it out, I’m not going to craft a detailed report. Suffice it to say the rod’s plenty powerful for all-around fishing (has the high-modulus 4wt become the “standard” trout rod?), and the reel – while a bit on the heavy side – was impressively smooth.
In other words, this is the kind of combo that has high-end manufacturers asking questions about their onshore production lines – and the kind of bargain-priced (under $300) setup that should have been available during fly fishing’s boom years.
In truth, I’m not a huge fan of many of today’s graphite fly rods, but I do try to set that aside, at least so far as the Undergrounders are concerned.
More to come on this setup; I plan to let Wayne Eng loose with it for his thoughts.
In Other Gear Tests
The availability of really warm, really light, really weather-ready winter gear has largely revolutionized cold weather pursuits like skiing, mountaineering, ice climbing, backpacking, etc.
Yet the bleedover into fly fishing has been slow, though after last year’s Patagonia soft shell tests, I’m back testing some new cold weather gear – a pair of ultra-warm, ultra-light insulated jackets from Patagonia (disclosure: I paid for the things).
And I’ve come to some interesting conclusions, which I plan to publish next week.
Until then, let me tease you with a picture of a jacket so warm, comfy, silky and tiny that it was immediately stolen from my grasp by the gear-houndish L&T.
Divorce loomed until the L&T ordered a Patagonia Nano Puff jacket for herself (I had to dangle a new Nano in a far more interesting color, natch), and now that the Nano’s safely back in my grasp, I’ve proceeded with testing.
And yes, the word is good.
In truth, ultra-light backpacking and cold-weather gear isn’t often translated to the fly fishing world (or if it is, it goes slowly). Wading jackets are still (in many cases) bulletproof, but also heavy and bulky. Why is that?
Clearly, there’s more to come on the gear front.
For now, I’ll leave the Wonderdog partisans with this photograph of the ski-career-ending hound doing something mindless. Eating snow:
See you on the ski trip in, Tom Chandler.