Monday, December 28, 2009

Just One More Whitefish This Year Please

December 26, 2009

Normally, if you suggested floating the South Fork of the Snake River between Christmas and New Years I would respond with, “Ha! No thanks! Snow and ice covered boat ramps, brutal cold, no fun and no way.” I can’t stand when my guides freeze up every cast. However, when friend Rob Parkins, a well know fishing guide and fly tier here in Teton Valley, asked that I join he and another friend , Zack Dalton, of Rio Fly Lines, to fish the day after Christmas, I surprised myself when I answered cautiously, “Maybe.”

Robs offer to me came about a week or so ago. I said if it wasn’t unbearably cold I’d be interested. Assuming that it would be, I never gave much thought to the idea again. But on Christmas Eve Rob was visiting the house and was quick to let me know he and Zack were still going. Since my hunt to Minnesota and Iowa two weeks ago, I’ve spent most my time hunched over art projects waiting for a new excuse to get outdoors. I knew by now that temperatures for the day after Christmas were predicted to be about 12 degrees Fahrenheit along with sunny skies. Surprising to most, 12 degrees isn’t too bad around here as it’s generally a dry cold and with sunshine feels considerably warmer. With all that in mind, my response was, “I’m in.”

Despite being 5 below zero when I woke up this morning, Rob picked me up at 10am and one could already feel the suns warmth. When we met Zack who was arriving from Idaho Falls at the icy boat ramp at the Palisades Dam, it was already about 10 degrees and continuing to rise. While they did our short shuttle, Dam to Husky, I rigged my 6-weight Ross with 10 feet of straight 0X
Rio Flouroflex Plus tippet and attached two flies. Usually my streamer rig is about 18 feet of 0X (Shockingly long to most), however, knowing my fly rod guides were going to freeze, the shorter leader would be easier to handle. When the boys returned I offered to row the drift boat across the river to so they could nymph below the dam.

There are huge rainbows and cutthroats taken with regularity directly below the dam on nymphs. If your wondering why I rigged up a streamer it’s because I’m not a big nympher. Despite many years of competing internationally and applying European nymphing tactics to my daily fishing, it’s not my favorite method. My heart is really in dry fly fishing and I’m known to enjoy chucking streamers. I knew Rob and Zack would cover the water well without my help and until it warmed up I’d be content popping some photos and giving moral support.

Fishing was slower than expected. Although Zack nailed a fantastic rainbow on his first drift with a mysis shrimp, they caught only one other trout and a handful of whitefish. Rather than waste a day there we floated down to another favorite run. I struggled to get more than three casts in a row without having to crack ice out of my guides during the drift. That diminished my fly in the water time and I realized my highlight of the day was going to be lunch.

Rob took charge of lunch putting four huge elk burger patties on the boat size charcoal grill. Both Zack and I felt as though we were on a guided trip and indulged on the delicious lunch. Between eating and cooking, they nymphed the run and I dredged, slowly stripping my two streamers. Zack landed a beautiful cutty but then followed with a hand full of whiteys along with Rob and me.

We floated the rest of the short float in an hour hap-hazardly fishing as we drifted along. I avoided a skunk by landing two nice rainbows and Rob nymphed up a good brown and a “mighty whitey”. While spending much of December working on art projects, preparing for the show circuit and gorging around the Holliday table, it was great to hit the river again. The thought of floating the last week of December will never again be considered a “not a chance” deal. In fact, I’ll just bet there will be another fishing report posted here shortly!

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing Web Site

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blizzards, Beer and a Pheasant

Usually you expect a fishing report from this blog, however, this weekend I found myself in South Eastern Iowa on a pheasant hunting trip. It was a get together with some of my old college buddies from Northland College in Ashland, WI. We studied together there over twenty years ago! Remarkably, we continue to stay in touch like family and do some really fun trips together.

Although this particular trip has been an annual for over a decade, I’ve never been able to go because it occurs in December. Getting time off from the old retail job during Christmas season was next to impossible. But now with my new career, I gave myself the time off and don’t plan to miss such excursions ever again.

There were eight of us total. We expected more, but the blizzard that ripped through the heartland last week put a damper on some schedules. I lucked out by flying into Minneapolis Thursday night just scathing the huge storm. A couple of the fellas are from MN and asked me to co-pilot their road journey to IA. It was a great idea as we got extra time to catch up and I got to see some countr
y that I rarely get to see.

Our precise destination was Marion, IA at our colleague Mike Birmingham’s family farm. It’s a gorgeous estate where he has turned the farms corn crib into his house. It overlooks the property and at any given moment you could watch whitetails feeding on the edge of the oak forest or pheasants in the snow covered corn fields.

Birmingham greeted us in his driveway with open beers. He was quick to inform us, we’d be drinking quite a few of these because pheasant populations were horrible from consecutive harsh winters and serious floods from last spring. This wasn’t bad news to us for the true meaning of the visit was to catch up with old friends. Two of the gang had been hunting the farm for two days and literally saw one bird. That was enough for me to not even pick up a gun (I’m not a serious hunter or a good one) and let the others get their best shot.

That proved to be a wise decision. Despite spending Saturday on another private farm, only a pheasant and a rabbit were taken amongst the crew all weekend. While most the boys spent their time carrying shotguns and running the dogs, I enjoyed a snowy walk through the oak forests where I jumped the occasional whitetail deer.

Today I’m travelling home and as one can imagine after a weekend of post-holing through deep snow and late evenings with old friends, I’m flat out exhausted. It was a great four days and I look forward to our next get-together. From what I hear, it’s warmed up in ID and I just may sneak over to the South Fork on foot for a couple hours this week to fish some midges. Stay tuned. . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

More Art, Less Fishing and Moose

December 5, 2009

There isn’t much snow on the ground here in Victor, Idaho, but the winter temperatures have arrived. It’s seriously cold and with the exception of a run or a hike I’ve been inside working on various art projects. It’s the exact weather needed to get me off the rivers and on to my work. Most of the artwork I’ve been doing is filling orders for Christmas. These include watercolors of cutthroats, brown trout, rainbow trout and even a muskellunge to name a few. It’s been great fun working at home for myself.

It would be a lie if I claimed I could go a whole week without fishing. And sure enough, a trip to Jackson Hole for a few hours of errands today turned into a quick jaunt up to the Jackson Lake Dam in Grand Teton National Park. Although most of the Park is closed to driving during the winter, the road to Moran Junction and to Jackson Lake remains open. From the dam runs the Snake River. Because the water running through the dam comes from the bottom of Jackson Lake, it’s warm enough that it doesn’t freeze. The warmth attracts baitfish such as Utah Chubs and whitefish that in turn bring in the predatory Snake River Cutthroats and brown trout. The dam turbines also blow through some lake trout from Jackson Lake itself. If you can stand the brutal temperatures, you often catch numerous fish until you’re so cold you can’t move.

Today such fishing was not the case. I fished with my friend Mark Kuhn, better known as “Milkfish” and between the both of us managed only two fish. I caught a brown and a laker. It was a surprise to do so poorly, but perhaps the fish were a little “doggy” because it was literally only five degrees.

Two nice fish certainly doesn’t call for a bad day, however, due to the slow fishing and severe chilly conditions, we opted to head home early to perhaps see some wildlife. Sure enough, our drive hardly let us down. We saw a coyote, hundreds of buffalo, elk, and best of all, several rutting bull moose. One of the bulls was quite large and I managed a few photos. Unfortunately, all I had was my point and shoot Canon so the photo you see is the best I could get. Hopefully in a few days I’ll round up a shot from Milkfish who had a nice camera and a zoom lens.

Global Fly Fishing web site