Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Pappy

Happy Fathers Day to all the dad's out there and especially mine. This was taken along the banks of the Secure River in Bolivia following a rather uneventful day of angling for myself and a rather adventurous day for my dad. So many great adventures and experiences in my life have started with my dad planting a seed of an idea to go somewhere. 

He led me to a life outside which has brought me profound gratitude and happiness to be in this world. Can't ask for much more than that. Thanks Dad!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Rambling Back with Stutter Steps

Awoke on Sunday with that unfamiliar feeling of "No Impending Doom"- in the next 72 hours for a change. At first I didn't know what to do with myself as the wife and little guy are out of town and the dogs get me up at 5am weather I want them to or not. I had that sneaky feeling that I should maybe go fish for awhile. Actually, I didn't really want to go fish as much as I wanted to go spend some time on the water with one of my new guides.

A rabbit hole opened in front of me early that morning as I started to think about all of the good guides and friends that have come and gone over the years. I miss Rick Weisend just about everyday - I wish he was still here with the team so that he could see the successes that we are experiencing now as a result of our hard work in the early years. Some old employees are back around and it always makes me feel great to see them all grown up like Jay Yockel and Swanson (though I never see him anymore). How could I forget good ol' Nick Moses, Paul Neuman, and even Thadeus? I cant and don't so I am trying to take  a few minutes to get to know the new dream-team and share just a bit of time on the water which seems to get harder and harder to fins these days.

So, we grabbed the jet boat and headed out. Actually I grabbed the jet boat, ran out to 4-Corners, picked hime up, realized I left my trolling motor at home so drove back across the valley to get it and then drove back to 4-Corners...yes some things never change. Finally made it over there and fished for about 20 minutes before the trolling motor quit working. Watched the G Man miss a couple of fish and cast like Hank Patterson on crack for an hour or two. The sun was hot, the boat was floating, and I was done.

However, it was another interesting day in the life aquatic on a piece of water that will remain unnamed.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

New fly shop opens soon and what's up anyway.

Quick catch up for the world.

  • Spent most of the winter - from late November through mid-April on skis. Skied the most i have since 1992 and had a blast reconnecting with the winter, my kids, friends, and my wife of course.
  • Travelled to Argentina, Louisiana (twice), Belize, and Florida in pursuit of fish of one flavor or another. Fished with buddies and my youngest son on those adventures.
  • I spent a good chunk of late April and May on the Missouri River, guiding longtime friends and sleeping on cots.
It has been awhile since Ive had the desire to write or say much that needs to be said. However, I'm feeling focused and excited about the season ahead in terms of the fly shop and guiding. More fly shop than guiding.

Here's what we have going on this summer.

  • The Fly Fish Truck took a ton of work and money to pull together in 2018, its back for 2019 with a full summer schedule of traveling around town, bringing fly fishing "to the people." See a full list of events on our website and Facebook Events page.
  • We are opening a new fly shop called Fins & Feathers Upstream along the Gallatin, in the "community" of Karst at mile marker 55.5. on HWY 191. We will be opening on June 15 for the season.
  • I will be guiding some, working in and around the shop a bunch. If you see me holding pictures of carp while fishing in the Hog Island, you will know its been a successful summer.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Fishing With Matty

The trip ended with just another one of those moments in an angling life that is best described as nothing less than disappointing. Standing on the bow with my 11-year-old son, staring at water the color of lead, I saw the slightest of bumps, maybe 80’ feet out at 12 O’clock. Stillness followed for a time that seemed long enough to indicate that I had seen nothing after all. The water moved again, this time at 15’ and 1 O’clock, followed by a hauntingly orange glow that just barely poked its way through the dark grey water of the Louisiana Gulf that October morning.
Matthew made the cast, stripped tight and one can imagine the rest. The line cut clean on an Oyster shell after 10 minutes or so, leaving us with that empty feeling, knowing only that we will never know what might have been. This wasn’t his first rodeo and he shook off the disappointment quicker than most, moving on and looking for the next push. The next push never came.
Planning the Day with Rich Waldner and Fins & Feathers of Bozeman in Louisiana
Four months later, we arrive once again to the Gulf Coast shores just south of New Orleans in search of Bull Reds and respite from the bitter cold of our Bozeman, Montana home. The forecast was not in our favor with the weatherman calling for clouds, cold fronts, and winds in the 15-20 mph range for the duration of our stay. The guide was willing to give it a shot, so we geared up and headed across lagoons, bayside ponds, open water, narrow trenches and man-made canals in search of hungry Redfish. The conditions were terrible and the visibility even worse with water the color of Louisiana mud.

Most anglers would have opted for a few days off Bourbon Street and chasing who knows what around the Big Easy. Matthew isn’t old enough to know about these distractions, so he opted to stick with it and just keep looking so long as our guide was willing to push-pole us across and up into the relentless winds that wouldn’t settle.

Day one was a shut-out followed by a day two that held very little hope of being much better. The sun worked its way through the clouds sometime late morning and the water clarity went from none to just a little bit less than some. We started bumping fish here and there with their pectoral fins out and bellies glued to the mud with no sign of tailing fish, nervous water, or the occasional push of a feeding fish.

Just after a lunch of Oreos and PBJ, Matthew stood tall once again on the platform and renewed his efforts to find something to cast at before we lost the light. Just around a couple of bends in a small channel connecting a pair Oyster ponds, we saw a tail stand tall for just the narrowest window in time, 200’ out and downwind. Our guide slowed the boat and we settled in to stillness, staring intensely for another sign of whatever it was we had seen. The tail reappeared at 20’ and 11 O’clock, Matthew made the cast we all wish to make when it matters most, and the fly settled just inches from the Black Drum’s probing mouth. Needless to say, the line went tight, ripping away through those narrow waters with the reel screaming and us all savoring the moment. Matthew landed the fish after 10 minutes or so and brought to hand his largest Black Drum to date at just a notch over 25 pounds. Still, dad was riding the skunk-train high and dry for two days in a row.

The morning of day three greeted us with calming winds and warming air cloaked in a pea-soup dense fog from ground to sky. Once again, far from ideal conditions held just enough hope for us to salvage the trip if only the wind or sun decided to show up by late morning. Per usual, neither really made a grand appearance and we ended up navigating to the holy waters via GPS and some gut feelings on our guide’s part that seemed more certain than not. We ended up finding some clean water, tucked into a lee shoreline with some sun here and there as the fog began to move, more so than dissipate.

Fish started to show, and contrary to my typical Redfish experiences, they wouldn’t eat.  We made cast after cast to laid up fish, cruising singles, and even a few schools moving in and out of the grassy cuts lining the shore. Eventually, one ate my fly and the 2.5-day skunk was gone. However, as any dad will appreciate, I had hope that the cooperative one would have been on my son’s fly rather than mine. Still, we smiled, laughed, posed for the pic and released one of the hardest earned fish in my angling life. Matthew told me that he was happy for me and thanks for bringing him along as we watched the fish swim away. Hard to beat, to say the least.

The fog began to settle in once again and the 4 O’clock light convinced our guide that we should start heading back. References were made to the loneliness of a winter night spent on a Louisiana oil well-head. He followed his tracks and picked our way across the open water as the sun began to set with the fog turning the light a pumpkin orange.

The boat slowed as our guide decided to check one last Oyster pond that had eluded us the previous days as the winds and tide had made the opening inaccessible. He tested the depth, made a push, and suddenly we were in. The light was pretty much gone in terms of being useful for spotting fish by this time of the day. Still, we could see a push here, some mud clouds there, and even a few tails poking up near the bank. We made some blind casts with little spoon flies and crab imitations, stripping slower than one would expect with the day rapidly disappearing into darkness.
I felt a tug, saw a splash and watched my line go limp as the hookset never came and yet another fish won the battle. Another tug followed moments later with a small Redfish coming to hand in the evening light.

Matthew asked if he could use my rod for the last few casts to which I offered no objection and watched as he methodically worked the water out and ahead as we prepared to head to the dock. The tug didn’t come, he seemed understandably frustrated as he was casting and fishing well. When I offered words of encouragement, he asked if I would take the fly from my rod and put it on his rod for the last few casts. As I finished the loop of leader to fly, a push of water showed just 30’ out at 12 O’clock on a small point just ahead. Matthew climbed onto the platform, made the cast, and got the fish.

He has caught many fish to date, including Permit, Tarpon, and even a 30-pound Bull Redfish on previous trips to the salt. I’ve been fortunate enough to be there for all of them (except the Permit - which he caught with his grandfather) and I know that this little 5-pound Redfish will always be near the top of his list. He would surely love nothing more than having one of those days where big Redfish show up and eat from start to finish, but I think that he will always cherish the success found on the hard days more than most.

I love fly fishing. The greatest gift the sport has given me is the medium in which I share my life with my children.
Matthew Swank celebrating the end to a great trip withRich Waldner in Louisiana during Winter 2019

Friday, February 15, 2019

Life Goes

Back from another fun-filled adventure to the Bayou heartland with Matty. Weather was borderline, water was dirty, fish seemed as cold as the bite. The food was awesome. The experience was as good as ever, maybe even a little bit better, to be honest.

Matty is growing up...almost 12 years old. This was probably the last trip that he'll have to wear a life jacket while running around the boats. It has been so fun for me to have him be into fishing the way he always has been. I love sharing the moments with him, the fish are just a bonus. It is all about the adventure and living in the moment with him, I'm so lucky to be able to be his co-pilot through much of it right now.

I'm not looking forward to the days ahead when I once again become a stupid idiot in the eyes of my son. At least I know they are coming!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Keyser Soze Stix

I received a package last week from my friends at Orvis that I knew contended a few rods. These were replacing the rods that I lost in a fishing/rafting debacle last fall, the Orvis folks felt some sympathy for my misfortune and offered to help me get some new H3's to replace the ones that my friends somehow dropped and lost while rolling upside down in the dark on a cold, unfamiliar stream as the result of what could or could not have been caused by pilot error. He said She said stuff.

These rods were a bit more special than most in my collection as the set included a prototype Helios 3D that had worked it's way, painfully, to number one of my list for the 905 category. The other rod was matched with the 15 Year Limited Edition Hatch Gen 2 that I literally nought that morning. I hadn't lost a rod in that manner in well over 20 years (it was a Sage 590 VPS with a Gunnison) and I had become numb to the pain of losing something sweet.

Special gear just can't be replaced in the fly fishing world as they are, after all, just toys that come to mean more because of the emotions and time spent together rather than their practical functionality. So, I lamented quietly and came to resent my fishing buddies just a little bit more, everyday, for opting to cling to life in the cold, dark waters rather than clinging to my sacred sticks just a bit longer.

Shawn Combs - one of the smartest, hard-working and quietly competitive fly fishing executives I have come across (and master rod designer with Orvis) - and I exchanged a few texts one night as the weight of this loss became too much for me to bear. Also, I had given up on suing the landowner and the hope that my buddies would ever step up to replace my losses. Again, all they had to do was hold their breath a little bit longer and avoid being trapped under the raft as it POTENTIALLY rolled, end over end, in the dark down a fast-moving river in the dark...jeez! Anyway, Shawn said he would see what he could do, it might be awhile and I had the sneaking feeling that he also intended to say "don't hold your breath".

The package contained 3 new Orvis Helios 3D fly rods, one each 905,906,907. I have a store full of new fly rods so the wonder of opening a new rod tube is often lost on me these days. However, Shawn mentioned something about personalization so I opened these with particular excitement and curiosity. I had excepted the white label on the rod's butt section to be miscolored or perhaps even not present. Maybe my name or some disparaging words referencing my boat rowing skills that particular night would be written on the label instead.

No, each rod has the name "Keyser Soze" cleanly etched into the aluminum reel seat insert. You'll have to watch the Usual Suspects from start to finish if that name is lost on you.

What did I think....I Have Been Heard!

Serious thanks to Orvis for these sticks...and to my buddies that gave up on my gear rather than risk a few more moments precariously rolling underwater in the dark.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Down But Not Out

No, I am not "OUT" once again. I have been under the weather for the last week and a half and saving all of my spare energy for skiing. During the times that I have not been either lying in bed or on the slopes, I have been working on diagnosing my illness thanks to this super-awesome toolkit my wife gave me for Christmas. I either have TB, a Wondering Spleen, or throat cancer according to this self-help kit. My doctor says I have a "cold"! I'll try to work on drilling this down a bit more whilst shredding the mega fresh gnar gnar on the hill tomorrow with the little Googan (turns out he has opted to call in sick to school tomorrow).