Thursday, September 16, 2021
Thursday, September 16, 2021
I once spent a summer in Southeast Alaska when the sun came out two times. I only saw the bright glow while peering out from a dank cannery room where I lined wooden boxes with plastic so the college girls could pack them with salmon eggs. The rest of the time it rained. And then it rained harder. That can be the case anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, but the Alaskan panhandle is notorious for overcast. Annual rainfall can reach 150 inches or more. It would be easy to see that as a negative and write the panhandle off your fly-fishing hit-list, but that moisture fuels the Tongass National Forest, which absorbs massive amounts of carbon and serves, unofficially, as the “lungs of North America.” The air here is cleaner and crisper than anywhere else and that temperate rainforest—the largest in the world—is flat out rugged and beautiful.
Fly fishing continually evolves, be it advancements in tackle, the challenges of new fisheries, or the evolution of fly patterns and fishing techniques. In fact, what may seem like a simple fishing or tying advancement may turn into a significant step in the refinement of a fishery. That’s often the case with stillwater trout fishing, where creative anglers are attracted to the sport because it offers plenty of challenge and equal reward, in the form of skeptical trout that run much larger on average than their stream-raised counterparts.
Organizing fly boxes is a time-honored tradition. Many see it as a requirement for success. For others, “getting ready” has always been part of the fun in this game we play, and nothing means being ready like well-organized boxes. Saltwater anglers tend to arrange their boxes by species or forage types. Fly fishers targeting steelhead or salmon generally organize their boxes by type of patterns—say tube flies in one, articulated patterns in another, and single hook flies in yet another. Warmwater fly fishers may separate their boxes by baitfish, crayfish, aquatic invertebrates—like damselflies and midges—and surface patterns like amphibians and poppers.
I’ve been shooting images for fly-fishing magazines, outfitters and tackle manufacturers for 20 years, and although it hasn’t made me a millionaire, it’s sent me on some unforgettable adventures in some of the most magical places on earth. The rough and tumble of non-stop travel, jumping in and out of skiffs, ATV’s and helicopters is hugely exhilarating, but it requires a robust, reliable kit that won’t let me down.
Some things you discover on fishing trips have absolutely nothing to do with fishing, but become such an important part of the experience that you can’t have one without the other. We were on a small lake south of Kamloops, British Columbia, at the back end of the season. Popular in May, this lake gets pretty quiet in June. But there’s a late chironomid hatch that no one seems to know about, and we had been doing pretty good. The problem here is the rolling hills of this ranchland country don’t provide much of a windbreak, and one afternoon after several hours of excellent fishing the winds arrived to force us off the water.
For as long as he can remember, artist and fly-fisher Tim Johnson wanted to do two things—fish and draw. Unfortunately, nobody in his family fished. But he had an edge on the art side. Johnson grew up in Arizona, where he would ride his Schwinn cruiser to golf course ponds and canals. He made friends with golf course managers and often was granted permission to fish after dusk for bluegill and largemouth bass. He was 12 and didn’t have anyone to teach him how to fish, until a new neighbor kid, Eric, moved in next door and showed him the ropes.
If you’re like us, you live for fishing. Damn near every waking second you are either thinking about the fish you just landed or lost or the next trip where you can even the score. How to balance work and fish? How to balance family and fish? How to fish more? More fresh. More salt. More of everything, man. You can get that way about trout. You can decide that bonefish should be your life. And the masochists can say permit are the only fish worth their time. But tarpon? It is difficult for anyone to jump a tarpon and not say, “I want to fish these for the rest of my life.” These fish are beasts. They are difficult to tempt to the fly. They are difficult to solidly hook. They are at times impossible to land. They may be, in fact, the perfect fish. It’s difficult to articulate how cool it is to chase these fish. It’s equally difficult to capture that essence in imagery. That’s why we’re so impressed with Yeti and Felt Soul Media’s collaboration called 120 Days. It features the mindset of noted tarpon guide Dave Mangum, who can’t get tarpon off the brain. Take our advice here and watch the vid—just don’t blame us when you pick up the phone, right after the video ends, and say, “GFFI, send me somewhere to catch one of those fish.” We can do that. So don’t be shy. — The Editors