Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Turning the Corner

Today was a much better day.  Dad was very happy to see I did not return to Idaho.  He was much more aware of his surroundings.  He spoke to us.   And best of all, physical therapy got him to stand and push a walker a few feet.  He ate well and I honestly feel today was a turning point for the good.  Perhaps Mom and I got the hospital staffs attention yesterday because they gave Dad more help today then he's got all week.  Its great and he's on his way.  I'm so glad I stayed.  I'm now planning to return to Idaho next Tues.

Monday, August 27, 2012


According to the surgeon my Dads brain surgery for his Parkinson’s disease was routine. Brain surgery routine? Seemed hard to believe from my end. But the Doctor assured us he’d have his surgery last Wednesday and remarkably we’d be taking him home to recoup on Thursday. Then he’d be going back for the simple second surgery this Friday. This whole ordeal was going to be so easy that I assumed Dad would be watching me fish the docks around Wolfeboro today before my flight home tomorrow.

The only thing that has gone right so far was that Dads brain surgery proceeded on Wednesday. Going home Thursday didn’t happen. Nor could Dad go home Friday. On Friday when Dad still couldn’t open his eyes, talk, barely move a muscle or even notice that his family was there with him we were told he’d need to be rehabbed through the weekend so he could go home Monday. I and the family were at the hospital all weekend and no rehabbing was done and Dad got mediocre care at best when we weren’t around. We got a constant runaround from the nursing staff.

With me scheduled to fly back to Idaho tomorrow I wanted Dad to be dramatically improved when we arrived today. Good news – his brain was the most alert it’s been since the surgery. He asked a few questions. Two of importance was why wont his eyes open and when can I go home. He’s in there thank God. But he has been in bed for almost a week now and he’s so weak he needs help. Mom and I encouraged him to lift his arms and move his legs and these moves are nearly impossible for him. And the rehab the hospital talked about on Friday – it doesn’t exist.

We are so frustrated with the way things are going that I’ve postponed my flight another week. Dad and the family need me here. Now that Dad’s head is back he’s very sad about his situation and was very sad saying goodbye to me yesterday. I have high hopes that when I see him tomorrow and I tell him I’m not leaving that he’ll spike up and get better this week. We are not sure what the Doctors plan is for this second part of the surgery.

This is hell.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sneaking Out Again

Nothing clears the mind like fishing. Last nights short trip to Back Bay was so enjoyable that as soon as Mom declared we were sleeping in before returning to the hospital today my brother-in-law Don and I loaded the canoe on Dads truck so that at the crack of dawn we could be casting poppers on Lower Beach Pond in Tuftonboro, New Hampshire. It turned out to be a great idea. We only fished till about 9 but we mustered up a handful of nice bass including this largemouth.

Like every day since Dads surgery, we got to the hospital with high hopes of improvement but were badly disappointed. However, there were a couple moments where he said a few words. The words were rarely to do with anything but it’s a start. He’s incredibly confused and struggling with his speech – common with Parkinson patients after brain surgery. What concerns us the most is he constantly leans to his left and has yet to open his eyes more than a sliver. The one piece of good news is that Dads brain surgeon came to see him today. He spent a few minutes and although he too is disappointed with Dads progress, he still feels like everything will be fine.

Tommorrow the rehab folks and physical therapists are planning to meet with us and form a plan to get Dads recovery moving faster.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Break from Dartmouth

Last night was the first time we left Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital. As a family we opted to leave Dad and return to Mom’s house in Wolfeboro for a good break. When we got there after the two hour drive there was still two hours of daylight. I paddled my canoe to Back Bay and fished till dark. The fishing is nothing like it was back in May but I caught a couple largemouth bass and a chain pickerel.

As far as Dads condition, when we returned to the hospital this morning we were disappointed. He still hasn’t changed since the surgery. He basically can’t do anything. We spoke with some rehab folks but it’s the weekend and they don’t have much staff on the weekends to work with him and we are advised not to move him much. His surgeon was off today but the intern covering says this is normal. We do not like this much so far. We returned all the way back to Wolfeboro again tonight and will head back in the morning.

Friday, August 24, 2012

After Surgery - Good News and Bad

A quick note to update Dad. 

It's Friday and we are still in Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital despite an Dad's expected release yesterday.  While the brain surgeon says the actual surgery went very well, Dads recovery is going poorly and he will continue to be hospitalized until at least Monday.  My family and I have been here most of the time since we brought him in at 5 AM on Wednesday.  The only time we leave is at night to rest up at the Days Inn.

He is very confused, barely awake and can not do anything.  Its scary as hell but the doctors say he'll be ok.  The slow recovery is due to his age and original shape.  And as we expected to, an hour ago we were informed that the earliest he might leave the hospital will be Monday.  On that note, I may take a break and wander around this area with Moms car, find some water and make a few casts.

Thanks everyone for the notes, calls and emails and thinking of Dad.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back in NH

I arrived in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire shortly after 12 this morning. In case you haven’t been on the blog of late, my father is getting brain surgery for his severe Parkinson’s disease tomorrow. This is an operation Dad and the family talked about when I was here visiting in May. We figured in a few years he may have to seriously consider the risky surgery. But recently Dads symptoms have taken a turn for the worst, so bad that most days he can hardly function. So just as fast as we all learned about this surgery Dad is getting it tomorrow.

Today I had the good fortune of spending some quality time with Dad. With severe Parkinson’s there are terrible days and not as terrible days. Mom described Dads condition this morning as his best in months. Perhaps it’s the excitement of me being here – who knows – but the important thing was that the two of us took advantage of his positive energy.

I drove us downtown and I got a fishing license. Then I took us straight to the family cottage where I’ve fished my entire life. I set up my 5-wieght Ross while dad worked his way down to the docks with his cane. We both made it down about the same time and I made a dozen or so casts with a beautiful smallmouth bass popper. Dad has not been able to cast for about two years so he kicked back and watched.

Fishing was lousy around the cottage. I caught a rock bass and had a few hungry pumpkinseed sunfish tried to fit my smallmouth popper in their mouth. After an hour of that Dad was still doing well so I drove us out to some ponds and small lakes on the outskirts of Wolfeboro. Not much was happening on the small waters either, however, it only takes one fish to make a great day and this nice little largemouth was him.

I’d love to have kept running all over casting on the little ponds and lakes of New Hampshire spending time with Dad, but by 1 PM he was shaking beyond belief. I got him home and he was so bad off I had to lift him from the car and almost carry him in the house. In a way it was a sign that no matter how wonderful our time was this morning, Dad needs this surgery.

Tonight we arrived at the Days In about two miles from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. At 5:45 AM we’ll be checking Dad in. It will be a long day tomorrow, but I have a lot of confidence Dad won’t be watching me fish in the future, he’ll be fishing too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to the Sveum River

A neat thing about being in the heart of the fly fishing world is that you make a lot of friends that trade out their work skills to you if you help them catch more fish.  My doctor for example trades me a check up for a day of fishing.  Providing the local bar tender with up to date fishing info gets me a free beer.  The list of swaps goes on.  The best tradeoff ever was with my friend Ken Holder.  Twenty or so years ago, Ken, who works for United Airlines, was a customer of mine at the fly shop in Jackson, Wyoming.  He became quite the regular and I set him straight on all his fishing needs for years.  Ken not only spent a lot of money at the shop but he often brought us lunch when we were busy and all kinds of simple acts of kindness that meant a lot.  Then one day he wanted to build me a website as a favor.  Ken convinced me it would be good - just a couple pages about me and something to help promote my books and artwork.  Well, ten years later, 250 web pages later, my site is like a second job for Ken.  So every time he visits Jackson I take him fishing.

Today I took Ken and his girlfriend Nadi on the Sveum River.  Surely the Snake or South Fork would be a better choice but lots of small fish and no other boats to contend with sounded best to all of us.  After a big breakfast we were floating downstream by 9 AM.  The skies were clear of clouds but hazed by smoke.  There wasn’t and ounce of wind and temps were a comfortable 75º

Ken hasn’t fished since last time I took him.  That was slightly over two years ago – a terrible thing.  Yet despite the lack of recent practice he casted well and right away he landed a nice little marvelously camouflaged rainbow.

Ken caught about a dozen or so small rainbows and brook trout, all on dry flies.  Fishing was decent for sure.  The highlight however was the wildlife.  As always there were plenty of great birds including a great horned owl that we woke up several times as he kept moving downstream of us.  Best of all we saw about six moose.  Last month when I was here with Granny and her friend Jessica, we floated a fly past the knee caps of a velvety antlered bull moose.  Today we saw another, might even have been the same one only this time he was laying down in the shade actually in a foot deep of water.  He was cooling off.  We floated nervously right by him – literally twenty feet away from the massive animal.  We had to get past him.  Amazingly, he stayed laid down right in the water and cautiously watched us float by. 

If you get out enough you see a lot of amazing things.  I’ll be catching up on some things this weekend around the house then flying to New Hampshire on Monday.  For those who haven’t followed the blog of late, my dad is getting brain surgery on Wednesday in hopes it will help his severe Parkinson's disease.  With luck everything will go fantastic and I and the family will have him home by the weekend.  If this works out, I definitely plan to spice up the blog with some bass and pickerel fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Uncle Jeff Fly Fishing with the Nieces

August 14 & 15, 2012

The more your personal time on the water adds up the more you enjoy setting the rod down and taking others fishing.  For me, unless it’s a new species or an especially large fish I’m actually happier to see someone else stick a fish, especially if it’s my nieces.  These last two days Granny and I have been camping, fishing and hiking with our three nieces (five, eight and ten years old).

You may remember Sierra, Montana and Sammy over the years.  These little girls have done some trout fishing with us in the past and most recently, warmwater fly fishing with me back in New Hampshire.  New Hampshire is where the girls really started to pick up the fly casting and the actual understanding of what fly fishing is all about.  Of course, what certainly excelled them along were the pink Ross fly rod and reel outfits I got them for Christmas.

Granny and I, my bro and his wife, my sister and her husband and the kids drove up to one of our favorite family campsites near Jackson Hole on Monday night.  It was a dusty smokey drive all the way.  The fires are really starting to show their presence.  But once we arrived at this spectacular camp it was nothing but a great sunset, good food, cold beer and fun fun fun. 

This already small river we camp and fish on is frighteningly low.  Honestly, its half its normal size due to this years lack of precipitation.  To give you an example, normally I hang on to the girls when we wade across, but with the exception of little Sierra, they could wade across themselves.

The water was warm as well.  This is undoubtedly why the cutthroats were few and far between.  While the adults nailed a few trout, none of the three girls landed a cutty on their own.  However, kids just need action and any competent fishing guide heightens the quarry available.  The mountain whitefish were active in hoards.  Each morning and each evening the surface boiled with rising whitefish.  It was an absolute dream situation for keeping a kids interest.  Both days we took advantage of non-stop excellent dry fly fishing for whitefish.

Almost eleven year old Sammy is the perfect age to learn to fly fish.  She did an incredible job not only with her casting but more impressively her line control was amazing.  It’s hard to teach any beginner how to retrieve slack on an upstream presentation with a dry fly but she did fantastic.  Thus her results too were great.  She constantly had fish eating her Parachute Adams and landed a handful of whities

Montana and Sierra did great with their casting as well.  But at five and eight years, the line management and ability to hook and land a fish wasn’t so easy.  They both worked at fishing amazingly hard and had numerous whitefish eat their flies.  The only bad thing about whiteys is that it’s hard to hook them with their tiny mouths.  Sierra never got one herself and Montana got this one.  Nonetheless, I’m excited to say they both still loved the fishing.  Just seeing those whiteys munch their flies was enough to keep them in the game.

After yesterday mornings fishing session I decided to throw a little trudge up a mountain idea on the table.  While Sammy surprisingly opted not to join, Sierra and Montana weren’t leaving my side for anything.  And although their parents weren’t so sure about “Uncle Jeff’s” great idea, they let them go for the hike anyhow – assuring me that it was doubtful that they would make the summit of the mountain we picked out.

The mountain is one I’ve gazed at from camp every time we’re here.  I knew it would be easy and I’m proud to say both Montana and Sierra made it to the top in less than an hour.  Neither complained even once and in fact they thoroughly enjoyed the scramble.

On the way down we had even more fun.  I picked up a few good sized rocks and started rolling them down the mountain side.  Some of the rocks must have rolled and bounced all the way down for nearly three minutes.  Others exploded apart when they rolled too fast and the girls giggled and screamed so much their stomachs must hurt.  Before I knew it the three of us were shoving rocks down the mountain at every angle and I’m most certain my shoulder will be wrecked tomorrow!

It was a great weekend with the nieces.  There’s nothing like seeing them light up when they catch a fish and the trip up the mountain was one they’ll always remember.  The family heads home tomorrow then I’ll get one more day on the water later this week.  Then Monday it’s the long trek back to New Hampshire to be with dad for his surgery.  I’m confident all will go well and I’ll be posting some warmwater stories from Lake Winnipesaukee by next weeks end.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake in Montana

August 6 & 7, 2012

One of Granny’s and my favorite trips of the summer is on up to Hebgen and Quake Lake in Montana.  These lakes offer some of the best dry fly fishing you can imagine on a lake along with great scenery, history and big browns and rainbows.  Granny and I usually make this trip in late August but due to a crazy upcoming schedule, it was now or not this year.  “Not this year” was not an option.

After a hard day of fishing on the Henry’s Fork Monday, I returned all the way back to Victor, Idaho to pick up Granny and the drift boat.  Then after a slight repack I drove us all the way up to Hebgen Lake, arriving at about 11 PM.  We had a short sleep in the Explorer with our boat literally backed up to the lake.  At 5:30 AM Granny was brewing the coffee and I was launching.

When we pushed off, coffee cups full, it was overcast and the coolest we’ve seen temperatures since early June.  All I had was shorts and even with the tattered blue sweater I always keep in the boat, I was shivering.  We started motoring to one of my most reliable areas only to find the water pump on the outboard wasn’t working.  I advise never continue motoring with this issue so I turned her off and despite packing enough gas to cruise anywhere we wanted for two days, all our boat travel immediately became by rowing only.

In years past first light on Hebgen Lake provided so many gulpers (cruising trout continuously rising) you got confused as to which one to cast too.  However, for some unknown reason fishing hasn’t been that way the last three years.  There are still plenty of callibaetis mayflies hatching.  There’s damsels and yesterday even some caddis zipping around.  But the activity of steady rising fish is nothing like in the past.

Once I rowed us to my spot, we drifted along in a light wind.  With the clouds, dawn light and a minuscule breeze on Hebgens surface, spotting a gulper was tricky.  Soon my eyes adjusted and there was the first gulper of the day.  Then I noticed several.  The fish were here, but rather than gulping long enough to chase down and cast at, these trout made two or three rises then disappeared.  Fishing was extremely tough.

To say Granny and I are persistent is an understatement.  Every time we saw a rise we charged after it.  Occasionally a trout would continue long enough that we’d get a fair shot with the cinnamon ant pattern but after the fly landed the trout would change direction.  Then finally we got one.  This first fish was a well-built rainbow of about 18” that not only smoked me to the end of my fly line but made several fantastic jumps. 

Opportunities remained few and far between.  The clouds burnt off and the breeze stopped completely.  At noon Granny and I had landed a mere two rainbows.  The blue sweater was long retired back in a heap in the bottom of the boat and we were sweltering in windless heat.  The few fish we’d seen were gone deep.  We packed it up and drove the short six miles to our true favorite, Quake Lake.

You can trace back on this blog to at least two other trips to Quake and Hebgen.  The most memorable was last August when Granny and I caught one of the biggest browns we’ve ever seen in Montana.  With that monster painted in our memory forever, we had high hopes for yesterday afternoons session.  However, it was so darn hot that from 2 PM all the way until 8 PM, we saw only one fish rise.  We got him.  He was a tiny rainbow about 8”.  Rather than waste time fishing hard during the six quiet hours, Granny and I tied up to a tree and cooked up a feast on the grill, sipped a couple beers and relaxed.

Don’t ever leave a slow day of fishing too soon.  Quake was quiet all afternoon.  My point being, almost every fishery turns on at some point.  The longer the slow period the more active the feeding period will be.  From 8 PM till we couldn’t see anymore the fishing erupted!  Granny and I caught about 25 incredible rainbows and browns.  Not one of these fish was smaller than 14” and several were easily 18” if not larger.  Every single one of these were gulpers that fell for an old beat up Pale Morning Dun that’s likely been in my fly box for ten years. 

We got off the lake so late that rather than drive anywhere we figured we’d sleep right on the lake.  We put away a minimal amount of things and then crawled in the back of the Explorer.  Morning came quick.  I tell you, we’ve played hard this summer.  A lot of early mornings and late nights filled with hardcore angling in between.  Though we weren’t bright eyed, at 6 AM I was rowing to where last year we caught that enormous brown trout.

Once again this morning was a chilly one.  I haven’t carried a pair of long pants with me since June.  So I wisely threw on some long johns as pants with my shorts over the top – New Zealand style.  It was so nippy that there were few to no fish moving, only a huge flock of geese.

Once the sun came up, fish activity exploded.  A few bugs started flying around, mostly midges followed by some PMD’s.  Then came the callibaetis and the fish started rising.  We were in the area where there’s just enough current from the entrance of the Madison River that the fish face upstream and don’t cruise around too much.  Rather than fish my usual lake dry fly rod of a 5-weight, I strung up my 4-weight Ross RX.  Granny was still cold and wanted to row.  I went to work and before she was warm enough to fish I landed about ten beautiful rainbows and one awesome looking brown trout.

We spanked the fish hard today.  Its worth mentioning that I’m almost positive we ran across the same monster brown trout that we caught last year.  When you catch a fish that big you remember every detail – where, when, what he was eating and in that giant’s case, I remembered his awkward rise.  His head and nose were so big that it did not look normal when he ate a small fly from the surface.  Well, we were in the same spot and there was a large brown rising.  I could see his creamy brown colored nose break the surface and sometimes his incredibly wide tail followed through.  He was huge and his rise was awkward.  We threw everything at him – just like last year but he’d rise inches from our offerings but never take it.  As a last attempt, I presented him a cool looking damsel dry fly.  On my first cast to him he tried to eat it.  Problem is, he was facing me directly and before his massive jaws completely shut on my fly I yanked it away.  Say it wasn’t so!  A common and tragic mistake often made when setting the hook with a dry on a huge fish.

Our annual weekend to Hebgen and Quake did not disappoint.  Although the midday fishing was slow due to this hard to believe heat wave, the mornings and evenings more than made up for it.  We caught a ton and all but one were on dry flies.  Some family rolls in tomorrow then I’ll take the weekend to get caught up on things.  Our next fishing will be with the family at a camp we settle on where there should be plenty of easy fish.  You may remember me taking my nieces fishing in May in New Hampshire with their new pink Ross Outfits.  Uncle Jeff will be doing it again.  Should be a kick!

Monday, August 6, 2012

August on the Harriman Ranch of the Henry's Fork

August is always exceptionally busy as it’s the month when friends and family come to visit (which is why I’m behind on the blog).  It’s always a lot of fun.  These last two days I’ve fished with a couple friends on the Henry’s Fork and on Thursday my brother and sister and their families arrive.  In addition to the usual busy August, on August 20th I’ll head back to New Hampshire to be with the family because dad has been cleared to have brain surgery for his Parkinson.  This certainly sounds scary but dad hasn’t been able to toss a fly rod in over a year due to this horrible disease.  The results from this surgery can be incredibly positive and with a little luck he’ll be a part of this blog in the next year. 

The Henry’s Fork in August is very challenging.  This year even more so because of our consistent 90º days.  You can hit the water early and fish the tiny Trico hatch until about 11 AM.  Or as we did yesterday, arrive around 10 AM and catch the end of the tricos and then fish terrestrials the rest of the day. 

I fished with friends Derek Mitchell and Norm Thomas.  We walked our butts off till about 9 PM yesterday.  It was beyond hot and we had hardly and ounce of wind.  Fishing was very difficult and I caught the only two fish.  Both were dandies however including this incredibly fat 18 incher.  Both my fish fell for honey colored ant patterns.

Today was flat out brutal.  It was not only scorching hot but also muggy.  It never gets muggy in the Yellowstone area, but this summer is an exception.  Norm headed home last night while Derek and I camped.  We got an early start in the Harriman Ranch and found a few fish, none of which we caught.  We pulled out when major wind started around noon.  However not until after we smoked a good cigar together! 

Believe it or not, I drove all the way home this afternoon and will head back past the Henry’s Fork on up to Hebgen Lake tonight with Granny.  She finishes her work week at 5 and these next two days will be our last together until late September.  Sounds ridiculous but with visitors, my trip back east and then One Fly – it’s the way it works out.  In any case, this is why these next two days are going to be incredible.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Smokey Fishing Day on the Snake River

August is forest fire season.  Unfortunately this summer fires started earlier than August in the Yellowstone area due to the hot dry conditions.  Gary Eckman and I floated the Moose to Wilson section of the Snake River under a smoke blurred Grand Teton Mountain Range.  Although the smoke certainly takes its toll on our lungs and the rest of our environment, it hardly affects the trout.  If it affects them at all, in my opinion it’s in a positive way because it acts as cloud cover, something almost all fish love.   

As usual, we started early and beat the guide traffic down the Snake.  The only other boat we saw all day was a couple old friends of mine that put in as we were pushing off.  And in the first ten minutes of fishing this morning Gary and I proved the fish might like the haze of smoke.  Every where you would expect a Snake River cutthroat to ambush your streamer, there was one. 

Many of today’s cuttys were special too.  Heck, their all special, but we caught several of the most vibrantly colored Snake River cutts I’ve ever seen.  This one in particular was more yellowish than the normal gold.  And his solid orange fins and pulsating pink cheeks – he was unreal!  If Snake River Cutthroats were sea run, this is what I’d imagine them to look like.  I don’t paint many fish for myself but you may see this one in my portfolio next time you see me at The Fly Fishing Show.

We caught some huge cutthroats as well.  Any day you catch a Snake River cutthroat longer than 18 inches it’s a great day.  Today, I kid you not; we caught about five big boys.  Fishing on the Snake was flat out awesome!

It’s back to work tomorrow but not for long.  My long time friend Derek Mitchell rolls into town tomorrow night and as of now, we are planning two hardcore days on the Harriman Ranch of the Henry’s Fork.  Then I’ll be home briefly Monday night, like ten minutes, to pick up Granny and the boat and we are heading for Quake and Hebgen Lake in Montana.  Be sure to look at the blog from last years Montana lake trip.  We caught one of the largest browns I’ve seen in more than 25 years of living in the Yellowstone area!