I’m not exactly sure where we were, but it was an hour from Wheatland, Wyoming and stunningly gorgeous. The topography was dramatic and very un-farm like (which is what Wheatland is known for. You know – wheat + land. Clever clever.). Sloping granite and stony hillocks abounded with rumors of a while marble ridge somewhere in the vicinity. And naturally, a river runs through it. Well, more of a creek or mountain stream, but let’s not split movie title hairs.
While there was plenty of rifle powered adventure, I choose the activity with a start time later in the day for a little fly fishing and found the entire expedition a bit “more” than I had bargained for.
To empathize, I suggest you try the following exercise:
1) Sit down and puut a soccer ball in your lap against your tummy. Yes, a real, full-size soccer ball.
2) Bend forward and fiddle with velcro straps on fly fishing sandals making them secure enough to close up bulk over water booties but not so tight you can’t feel your feet.
3) Find a jacket to zip over you and soccer ball. Bear in mind the “activity” hasn’t started yet.
Luckily, my husband is part giant and I could steal from his outdoor apparel stash. The next complication cannot be blamed on the impending baby. Nope, this one is all on my shoulders. While I may skate in other athletic arenas based on the sheer number of hours I have logged at some point in my life, this situation does not apply to fly fishing. It would appear that my several yearly attempts just aren’t quite enough to get “good” at the sport. Heck, I would settle for decent.
I started with a dry fly, which is infinitely less stuff to get tangled up. Alas, that pesky sage brush also managed to hang me up more than a few times. I would say at the start of any fishing trip, I have about 10 – 20 truly terrible casts before I begin to remember what the heck I’m supposed to be doing. Naturally, by this time all the fish have sent up the “something is not quite right about that fly” alarm and have decided to smugly circle my fly in a taunting manner. This is where one being able to partake in adult beverages is a helpful state of health.
Also, I cannot partake so I merely toddle on to the next fishing whole to spook some more fish. While I won’t reveal my final count, let’s just say I’ve had better days. And luckily this stream had a super healthy population, allowing us to keep a few appropriately sized rainbow trout (that I didn’t catch…) home for dinner that night. Which makes the trip a success overall, I suppose.
For the long holiday weekend we met up with friends in the resort town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. While I had visited the ski town before, this marked my first warm weather visit, and more significantly, my first visit since I’ve been a non-resort town resident. My how perceptions can change.
On my previous visits I found Steamboat’s gentle rolling mountains flat in comparison to the stark majesty of my beloved Tetons. While the ski resort stats are not quite as drastic as my blanket statement (Steamboat clocks in at 3,668 vertical feet and Jackson at 4,139), there is no denying the the younger Tetons make a more dramatic rise out of the valley floor. Obviously the mountains haven’t changed much since my last visit, but I have.
At over five months pregnant, I found the rolling green hills to be comforting. Somehow they just seemed more approachable and the lush green valley had an overall welcoming appearance. But the hiking at the ski resort was nothing to sniffle at with more than enough vertical to get my heartrate up in a hurry. However, my real excitement was directed at the dedicated downhill bike trails zig-zagging the mountain. The beautiful banked turns and one-way traffic had me drooling for my bike and a chairlift up the mountain, but since it’s not a biking season for me I was content just to know the option exists for future visits.
Another HUGE plus? The hot springs. Not shocking given the name of the town, Steamboat boasts a number of natural and developed hot springs. Since I need to be wary of water over 100° (it can fry the babies brain cells), the developed pools with handy temperature guide fit the bill for me. More than just a solitary pool, the Old Town Hot Springs has a number of very warm “adult only” tubs with a larger more moderately heated pool, a 25-yard lap pool, two water slides and a complete workout facility indoors (with child care!). The copious flowering baskets and landscaping was absolutely breathtaking and the convenient downtown location can’t be beat.
Final assessment? Steamboat is a pretty nice place to visit and maybe even a nice place to live.
Diet-Breaker-Of-The-Day: Want a cupcake? No? You will now.
What would you be willing to give up to ski/bike/fish/hike/play five days a week and work two days a week? Your daily latte? Sure, that’s probably a no-brainer. But unless you drink really, really expensive lattes, that’s probably not enough to make up for the three (or five) missing workdays. What about your house? Your car? Would you share a $3,000 car with your spouse if it meant a significant lifestyle increase? Now we’re getting into the hard questions.
Like it or not, our default pattern for the American lifestyle is not to “give up” things. In fact, it might even be focused on getting more things. But at what cost? Do we have a choice? I say we do, and I would like to promote more of us exercising our choices (including myself).
The biggest investment most of us will make in our lifetime is a home, and our homes are getting bigger by the decade. Home theaters, once the bastion of the rich and famous, are now commonplace in middle-class American homes. Homes are bigger and families of five can easily spend weekends “together” in one home not interacting with one another, much less the larger community outside the front door (if a nearby community exists at all).
This phenomenon is sometimes known as the lack of the “third place”, a point where Americans in particular seem to lag. We have work (where we spend A LOT of time) and home, but community gathering places like cafes, pubs, bookshops, etc are on the decline as we spend more time in our spacious homes. One of my least spacious fixed homes (this does not include summers in cars/tents) was a cabin on Fish Creek in Wilson. It was probably all of 600 sq. feet and I had a neighbor on each side in a similar size abode. Because of the tight quarters and scenic location, we often had inpromtu gatherings based on the fact that we were all meeting in the yard, which was basically a share public (or “third”) place.
What if we all had smaller homes that encouraged us to get out in the community AND saved us a ton of cash with lower utilities and, of course, a lower total cost. There are a few companies peddling houses as small as 65 sq. feet to as large as 874 sq. feet (check out some tiny houses here). For less than the cost of a new car, you can get a complete house, which begs the question: what would you do without a mortgage or rent payment?
“I caught a fish I caught fish I caught a fish I CAUGHT A FISH!” That was my idiot rant after, you guessed it, I caught a fish. It turns out this is easier to do than I previously suspected.
By main issue (before) was that I was wading, and it’s hard to cover a lot of river on your own two feet. This is especially true if you tend to cast erratically and thus alert the fish to your unnatural presence. But on this glorious day of fish-catching, I was in a drift boat.
I’ve been told that an important component to a successful cast is floating the fly (or nymph, in my case. More discussion on Nymphing on Mountain Kidd post “No Fish were Harmed“) downstream at the same rate as the river flows. This is infinitely easier when you happen to be in a boat that is also moving downstream. Another bonus: when you’re drifting downstream, you don’t necessarily have to cast over and over. There’s a nifty trick called a roll cast, which I could attempt to explain here but this guy does much better.
Notice how there’s no flinging of the line behind you? This is KEY if you tend to, oh, say, hook yourself in your fuzzy hoody on your head, for example. And that’s just embarrassing. But back to the big catch.
When the fish is bigger and you’re using a fly rod, there is an art to reeling in the fish which includes letting the fish take line and run. If you try to fight this, the fish can snap your line or rod. Luckily, our friend Paul talked me through landing this guy, which involved key tips such as:
In what appears to be an annual attempt at fishing, I stacked the odds in my favor by going to the holy grail of fly-fishing: Grey Reef.
Located only about 30 minutes from my home in Casper, Wyoming and four hours from Denver, Grey Reef is renowned for lots and lots of fish. In researching this blog, I came across a blog posting from Grey Reef Anglers and Wingshooting reporting that on 9/8/2011, “one of our guides Tyler broke in his brand new boat today in style, 45 fish to the net and 4 fish over 20inches.”. American Angler Magazine also named the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River the #1 big fish destination in the world. Let’s just say Tyler and American Angler all have distinctly different experiences than Michelle.
I should start by explaining that we didn’t start our day at Grey Reef- we started in much faster water with this incredible sticky mud bottom. Since a large part of my fly fishing experience is looking at the pretty rocks in the river, this was not ideal. We loaded up the wet, happy dogs and headed upstream. After some very nice help from a guy at The Reef Fly Shop, we waded into the river again with a new and improved nymphing setup. Apparently, I shouldn’t have been dry fly fishing at all. The reason I resisted nymphing initially is a simple math equation: with one (dry) fly, there is less to get tangled than with nymphing, where there are two flies (although one of mine was a ‘purple worm’- what?) PLUS weights PLUS an indicator (small plastic ball thingy). Part of this setup is supposed to be underwater and part above. That’s a lot to get tangled. And it did.
But first, I lost my shoe. Even though Grey Reef did have my required quota of pretty rocks, there was one sticky section as I waded upstream. The velcro on my fly fishing sandals (yes, I have special sandals as they need to be extra-big to fit the neoprene booties of my waders) got seaweed in it and wasn’t functioning at 100%. I tried to slap the strap down under the water but eventually, the sandal was barely hanging on and in immediate danger of floating downstream. I reached down and picked up my sandal with my right hand while I began to wade towards shore with my rod in my left hand and my sandal in my right. And that’s when I saw him.
He was a monster fish. Definitely over 20 inches. And he was 3′ in front of me and swimming slowly upstream as I bumbled towards shore. Frantically, I looked for a place to set my sandal. But I was still in the middle of a river and there was none. Egad! I finally shoved the shoe in the top of my waders and hurriedly readied my rod for a cast. It was a terrible cast and I think I saw bubbles from the now out-of-sight monster fish laughing, “Hey lady the jig is up. Do you think I got this big by being dumb?”. I fished for another 20 minutes before tangling my setup beyond all recognition and having some (more) delicious snacks back at the truck. Maybe next year, but for now I have the consolation of being part of the age-old story about “the one that got away”.
Welcome to the inagural post of the blog “Mountain Kidd”, the blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.
Let me assure all of you non-fishing readers out there that I am no expert and there will be none of that “what the heck is she talking about” in regards to fishing. An active participant in almost every mountain sport, I had decided that one of the last sports to round out my skill set was to learn how to fly fish. Luckily, The Boyfriend is some sort of expert. So, for my birthday in June, I received what I am told is a fairly nice rod and reel. And then the adventures began.
I fished as a kid in Michigan. It was a pretty straight-forward affair. Get a pole (the $19.99 special will do),put a fat worm or minnow on a hook, drop it in the lake and wait for the florescent yellow bobber to start flailing or disappear altogether. Fly fishing also has a hook and a pole. This is where the similarities end.
I think my friend Jason put it best when he said, “fly fishing is a lot like hunting”. So it would seem. Fly fishing starts with a fairly complex cast using the arm but NOT the wrist. You must next cast an artificial fly (usually made of animal hair or feathers and attached to the hook) in a manner impersonating a fly, which involves the fly gently setting down on the water but NOT smacking the water. You don’t want to startle the fish. And the fly? There are MILLIONS, maybe billions of types of flies out there. Once one deduces which feather and hair contraption looks like the bug on the bank, you must discover where the fish are dining at that particular moment and hope the menu involves the fly you’ve tied on. Assuming you’ve managed to do all of this successfully (and one should not assume this about me), there is “the fight” once you get the fish on the hook. Something about keeping the head up and tiring him out until you can bring him to shore. If it’s a big fish, you may need to let out A LOT of line during the fight. More to come on this once I actually catch a big fish.
Back to Sunday. The Boyfriend and I decide to go fishing. Due to the cold weather and colder water, he warned me that the fishing was either going to be very good or very bad. And it was very bad. After hooking my dog while I attempted to fling the line behind me (known as a backcast), morale was already down. Another half-hour before hooking a fish (but not landing it) was fairly mediocre compared to my last fishing attempts. An hour later without even a glance from my scaley friends, I channeled my inner child and starting braiding grasses while The Boyfriend set up something horribly complicated looking called Streaming. While I was patting myself on the back for practicing vital survival skills like braiding grasses, he managed to catch half-a-dozen fish. Good for him. I think I’ll wait for a “this is a GREAT day for fishing” before I go again.