Friday, February 9, 2018

Blog Update/Photo Contests

I know, it has been a long time since I last posted.  A lot has been going on in my life, and some of the events have made it hard for me to blog. Our family recently moved and I have been travelling for grad school interviews. Lastly, my computer decided to crash. It simply will not turn on anymore. I haven't been able to take it to a computer store as of yet to see what the problem is but hopefully I can soon. As of now, I am borrowing a computer until mine is up and running. Truth is, writing is a form of therapy for me. There is something about journaling and expressing your emotions through writing that is therapeutic. I hope to get back to posting more regularly soon simply for my own well being.

Being that it is now winter, though it honestly does not feel like it due to the extreme lack of precipation Utah is experiencing, I have not been out fishing. Sad excuse because I know there is open water. I have also not been tying flies. Moving has really put a halt on tying due to lack of room in our current living situation. Hopefully I can get back to tying soon as I miss the art. Regardless, this season I have done other things with the family such as hiking and snowshoeing. It has been a lot of fun making memories together.

Recently, I am honored to say that I have won two photography contests. One was just a small Facebook contest, the other, a larger one put on by American Angler magazine. The Facebook contest was through a fly shop in Wyoming- Fly Shop of the Bighorns. They sent me a surprise box filled with all sorts of goods and also threw in something special for my daughter. As you can see in the picture below, Emma was quite happy with the gift, so was her dad. For the American Angler contest, my image debuted in the February/March edition which was recently released. I received the mag in the mail last week and it was awesome to see my image in the magazine. I won third place in the "Pass It On" category. Photography is something I really enjoy and seek to get better at. The few contests I have won have been a rewarding experience.

Hopefully I can get back to posting more regularly soon. Thanks for reading and tightlines!

Emma loves her new Patagonia jacket

My image is featured on the bottom right

Monday, August 7, 2017

Gear Review: Smith ChromaPop Sunglasses

It's hard to admit, but I used to be someone who never really wore sunglasses when fly fishing. I know, crazy right? Well, this all changed in June of 2014 on the green river. My awesome wife organized a fishing trip for my 25th birthday. I brought along my dad, and brother-in-law Mike. I remember getting on the boat floating over the greenest water I had ever seen when my cousin Scott (owner of Spinner Fall Guide Service) said, "hey Sam, did you bring sunglasses." I told him no, and he reached in his pocket and pulled out his spare sunglasses. From that day on, I never set foot on a body of water without polarized shades. Wow had I missed a lot. Both the sun protection and the polarization helped me tremendously out on the water.. With the sunglasses I wore that day on the Green, I could see fifteen feet down at the big browns lurking below.

Fast forward one year later to IF4 in Provo Utah when something very lucky happened. The twenty dollar raffle tickets I bought scored me some new Smith ChromaPop sunglasses. I remember when Nate with Outsmarting Fish read the winning number out loud. I was listening eagerly and yelled out loud when he read the last number. "Better be louder than that with a prize like these" Nate says. I yelled out again, this time even louder while smiling uncontrollably. This was the best twenty dollars I had ever spent. I now had some top of the line shades to fill my sunglasses void.

The Smith ChormaPop lenses are awesome. They really do make colors "pop" as intended. Colors all seem to have a higher saturation. This makes spotting fish that much easier. I fish a lot of alpine lakes and spend a good amount of time scouting for fish and structure. With the ChromaPop's, it makes it really easy. The colors of fish really come through and often I can see deep into a lake and it's structure.

I have now had my Smith shades for a couple years, and had no issues with them. They continue to provide everything I need in a good pair of sunglasses. Comfort, durability, and excellent polarization. I am somewhat biased toward my Smiths, as they are the only pair I use when fishing. However, I do believe they compete with the other top brands. If you have been searching for a good pair of sunglasses, look to Smith ChromaPops. They will enhance your fishing experience, and provide the important protection to your eyes in the relentless sun.

Below, I took a photo with my camera shooting through my Smith's.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Beaver Dams & Feisty Rainbows

My dad called me the other day and asked "hey, want to go fishing Saturday? I need to take my new car on a road trip." Of course I said yes. I was jealous as he had just bought a new Outback, a car I had been trying to find for months. Long story short, I was unable to get one, maybe someday I will. Right now the plan is to get one when I finish grad school. Though I will be in thousands of dollars of debt, maybe I'll pull the trigger. Time will tell.

We chose a stream that we knew would not be blown out from recent rains. I wanted to fish bigger water, but the rivers were either too high or chocolate milk, some both. I was confident the stream we chose however would be clear, and I was right.

This little stream makes it's journey through a spectacular desert landscape lush with pine trees and vegetation. It portrays true Indian country, with it's vibrant almost unreal red rock and towering cliffs.  It is also the home of a particular animal, one that serves as a double edge sword for fly fisherman; the beaver. You hear stories of how beaver dams provide great habitat for trout. The backed up water forms a sort of mini lake per se, why would there not be fish in there? Well, for this stream, the beavers have made a true mess. They have foraged sticks and branches from all over, creating lots of dams along a portion that stretches fifty yards. This has changed the natural course of the river, and created lots of very small streams that branch out like the roots of a tree. This made the fishing in this area nearly impossible. I saw a few fish, but they would pass as bait for an eight inch brown. We had no success until we went well above the beaver's chaos.

The fish that day were picky of our offerings. We finally dialed it in, the true producer being the elk hair caddis. Further confirmation of this fly was given when we were walking back to the car. A man and his son, fly fisherman, were rigging up and asked us how we did. I began talking and he eventually said "and they were hitting caddis?" Portraying he was already well aware of what the fish would want. I smiled and nodded.

The cloudy skies with distant thunder and five minute rain we had made for a great setting. I love monsoon season, and the unexpected weather it brings. Just as you think a storm is heading away from you, the wind shifts and a big purple cloud is soon right above you. It's a humbling experience, feeling so small and at mercy of mother nature. The power and beauty she shows enhances the wild experience.

The rainbows we caught that day really impressed me. They were aggressive, and often leaped out of the water to smack our dries revealing their crimson red stripe. My biggest, which had to be around sixteen, fought hard and made a few leaps. The browns also came out to play. We did catch a few, though they were smaller than the rainbows. Catching quality fish in small stream is tough to beat.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tiger Country

Tiger trout are fun to catch, especially from alpine lakes. It seems appropriate that these fish live in the high country, surrounded by dense forests and other wild animals. It is where you would expect a fish that resembles a tiger to reside. Their markings are a maze of yellows and browns, with red and white tipped fins that bring euphoria when brought to hand.

 A month ago, Mike, my dad and I set our sights on tiger country. I honestly felt that this just might be the trip where I land something special.

We picked a great campsite which sat lower down on the mountain. It had everything you would ever want and need. There was a big fire-pit, a table, lots of room for parking and tent space, and a stream that ran through camp. The latter being the best feature in my opinion. As soon as we set camp, I hurried to the stream with my 3wt and tossed my dry fly over and under thick brush. It was tight casting quarters, but I managed to bring a few small brookies in.

The following day we hiked into tiger trout lakes. Mike had brought his new row boat and we decided that we would hike it into these lakes in hopes of getting a better angle on the fish. The boat was not terribly heavy, but surely tested our endurance and muscle strength. The hike in was a mile and a half, but felt longer carrying the boat. We took turns carrying the boat at different angles with various techniques until we finally found the best way. Carrying the boat side by side, trading sides/hands every so often was the least strenuous on our bodies. It was not easy, and we concluded we would probably never do it again (unless it helped us catch monster tigers).

Rigging up

Are we there yet?

After finally reaching the lake we stumbled upon a couple guys fishing. We exchanged words in the usual fisherman manner, and then set out in the boat. Fishing from the boat proved to be a difficult task. For one, I had never rowed before so that took practice. Second, We had no anchor system, (yet) so when two grown men tried to cast and battle the wind at the same time it was quite difficult.

Later on Mike went into MacGyver mode and rigged up an anchoring system with a rock and rope. This system helped us to keep the boat steady, and enabled us to each cast without worrying about the boat slamming into the bank.

Tight Loops

We all caught some cutthroats at the lake, but the big tigers eluded us. I blamed our misfortune on the two angler we talked to earlier. They had been camped there for a few days and must of scared the big boys away. I wasn't too bummed though, there was another lake nearby.

While rowing out in the middle of the next lake, Mike and I heard a faint hiss of spitting water-the sound of a small stream of air hitting water; a leak. Mike found it, and though it was small, we decided we better beach the boat. We concluded the leak had to of come from one of the many trees downed by beavers. They were everywhere, and made the small hike in a bit challenging.

On shore I found a big rock near the corner of the lake. I tossed a bright chironomid pattern right beside it and waited patiently, A good size tiger soon erupted and engulfed the fly. It was no trophy, but it would be my biggest tiger this trip. My trophy would come another day.

This lake proved to be much more successful than the first. We all caught lots of tigers and enjoyed a full day of hooking and releasing these beautiful fish.

The following day we hiked into and fished four lakes. We had success at all of them, catching one of my favorite species, brook trout. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Smoky Skies and Hungry Browns

Southern Utah has been on fire (literally) for the last few weeks. A local Brian Head man stupidly decided to torch some weeds behind his house and it erupted to what is now the largest fire in the country. Bet he's regretting that decision. The man (no name has been released yet), lost his own cabin and around thirteen others were lost to the fire as well. Tragic, though I cant say I'm too sorry for the perpetrator.

There has been lots of hype about this fire due to how largely and quickly it spread. I remember hearing over the radio one of the fire chiefs talk about how he had never seen a forest fire spread so rapidly. Well, it was no surprise to many locals in Southern Utah. Many knew that this portion of the mountain was a time bomb waiting to happen. As history tells, years ago, an environmental group fought against the eradication of a pine beetle that came into the area which destroyed thousands of trees. They also fought against the removal of the dead trees. Just stupid. Regardless, this was a wild fire and our area has been very dry and hot lately. Did the dead trees even matter? Some say it didn't.

I am someone who cares deeply about the environment and doing what ever we can to protect the great outdoors. But honestly, I would have fought to remove the beetle in looking at the greater good. No beetle, no dead trees, no raging wildfire. Listen, I get the logic of letting things run their own natural course. However, we live in modern times with new knowledge and resources. If removing a little bug is for the greater good of the forest, then so be it. We need to look toward the future, not just the present. There's also the argument that fire brings new life to an area. This is something I also truly believe in some cases. But, try telling that to the innocent people who had their cabins burn to the ground. Again, I believe we need to all look to the future and what is best for the greater good. 

Alright, enough debating, now onto some fishing. Due to the raging fire, my dad and I drove North to one of our favorite spots. This area holds a special place in our hearts, and always will. It is a place where you could say I re-ignited my inner fly fishing flame. I, of course, fished when I was young but, I took a long leave of absence from the sport for a long time. This all changed when I was in college and decided to hitch along with Mike and my dad for a fishing trip. I don't know what happened that day. Maybe it was all the fish brought to hand, the beautiful serene landscape we were in, or the fly fishing gods instilling something upon me. Whatever it was, something clicked, and I'm never looking back. 

In all honesty, something had been greatly missing from my life. I did not know then, but I sure do now. The truth is, fly fishing brings such calmness and relaxation to my life. Being someone who is a worrier and prone to anxiety and depression, I needed fly fishing in my life. The older I get, the more I realize how vitally important it is for me to make time to do things I enjoy. Fly fishing will be something I do until I physically cannot do so anymore, which hopefully never happens. Who knows, maybe my last minute on earth will be spent standing in a river, fish on, and smiling. That would not be a bad way to go. 

The evening with my dad last week was a great one. Though the sky had a tinge of orange and we could smell smoke this far North, it only enhanced the experience. The water levels on the stream were coming down, and more clear from weeks past. We rigged our dries, and tossed them to willing browns and the occasional rainbow. 

Spots for days...

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sixth Year Anniversary Trip

Natalie and I had our sixth year anniversary a few weeks ago and decided to go to a state that had been on our radar for a while. The destination was Colorado, a place neither of us had been before. We were both seeking cooler weather and knew Colorado would be nice this time of year. The heat had just swept across Southern Utah and it was time to get out of here.

Our first stop was at our favorite restaurant in Moab called Pasta Jays. We visited this place for Valentines once and were really impressed. I got the manicotti and Natalie the asparagus and artichoke raviolis with tomato cream sauce. What I love about this place is the food comes out piping hot and tastes amazing. So much better than Olive Garden.

Our journey to Colorado began by traveling behind the La Sal mountains. The mountain range still had a dusting of snow on top, which seemed quite surprising due to the extreme heat. These mountains were beautiful, but I had a feeling the mountains of Colorado would be far more majestic.

The drive into the new state started out quite interesting. A truck ahead of us had suddenly pulled over and it soon became apparent that the man inside and the woman were fighting. She immediately got out of the vehicle and when we drove past them she held up her arms as if to say "come pick me up!". We slowed down, but kept on driving. I'll admit, I kind of felt like a jerk. But I honestly could not tell if she wanted a ride or not. We then noticed that she had gotten into the bed of the truck-- strange. While driving along they would pass us multiple times. They would drive ahead, pull over, and we would pass them and then a few minutes later here they came again. We noticed she was no longer in the cab.Maybe they worked things out? At one point, we saw the truck pulled over a ways off the road. We drove past, and never saw them again. Whatever happened, I hope they worked it out. Also, while driving Natalie passed one of the locals going ten under the speed limit. As we passed he graciously flipped us off. This was our first experience of Colorado. Good thing the mountains were coming into view by now. We could not get there fast enough.

The San Miguel river with towering pines was a refreshing site to drive along.The river was roaring from a heavy winters snow pack and I kept wondering what it would be like to fish when the flows were down. Soon enough the valley opened a little and we could see the tall mountain peaks that towered above the town of Telluride. The peaks were unlike any mountains I had yet seen in Utah. They were tall, spiny and wild as ever. Driving into town felt like going into a city that was a cross between Jackson Hole and Park City. The old western style vibe was there but it had a definite modern presence.

That evening, after unloading our gear at the Victorian Inn, we went for a walk along the river that runs through town. Looking up out into the distance, the elegant bridal veil falls seemed to be the main supplier of this river. It was beautiful, and the river provided some much needed cool air. We passed over a bridge where some locals were hiding out and we were met with a peculiar scent. Now this felt like more of the welcome to Colorado I had forethought. Cool rushing water, towering mountain peaks, and the scent of mary jane. We had landed.

"To Hell You Ride" as the nickname goes
Chocolate Milk

Sunset walk
For the following two days in Telluride, our adventure consisted of all things both Natalie and I love. We of course did some hiking. One early morning we took the gondola up for pristine views of the entire valley which did not disappoint. During the ride, a couple local guys rode with us and after what seemed like countless minutes of awkwardness due to none of us speaking, I broke the silence. Mainly in part due to the Howler Bros and Simms clothing that covered them. They were of course fly fisherman, and it was fun to chat with some locals about what the area has to offer. They told me what I already knew, all the rivers were muddy, but the lakes were beginning to produce. Of course, one major item missing from this trip was the fishing. Yes I brought my gear, but I never had high hopes of clear water. Being that our anniversary lands in June, I am always facing the spring runoff hurdle.

Regardless, the morning's richness was amplified by the cool crisp air and wildness of towering peaks above us. If I could not fish, at least the surroundings were on point. The Bridal Veil Falls hike was another great one that actually unveiled numerous other water falls. At one point I climbed up onto a big rock and was met with a spectacular view of the entire surroundings.

Can you spot me?
Second guessng my efforts
Picture at the gondola drop-off

After hiking we went to what was one of my favorite parts of Telluride. The Friday farmer's market. It puts our local Cedar City one to shame. Beautiful local fruit and vegetables piled out of baskets, local decadent fine chocolates (the kind ladies selling gave us a free one because we told her it was our anniversary), hand carved cups made from wood, fresh baked pastries, local flowers and herbs, grass fed meat, and the bread! At one particular booth, a local artisan had a beautiful assortment of bread. Though everything looked amazing, my eyes eventually gazed upon the cheese bread. We bought some, sat on a nearby rock, and were both experiencing the best cheese bread we had ever had. Mmm.

Telluride Farmers Market

Maverick Cheese Bread is no comparison to this
Chocolatey goodness
Of course we hit main street and explored the local shops. They were what you'd expect in just about any mountain town. Numerous shops selling local attire branded with Telluride. Countless coffee shops, fine and casual eateries, a weed shop, and of course, my favorite, a fly shop. Most fly shops to me are roughly the same. You walk in and the guy(s) at the table are usually friendly. Most all have beards and look as if they have spent countless nights in the mountains. My kind of people. The man at the counter was talking with another who seemed to be a local about saltwater fly fishing and drag strength. They discussed the new reels coming out in our modern time and how drag is essential for big fish. Someday I will experience saltwater fly fishing.

Anyone there?
Dog Parking

Crazy locals
On the way out of town we hit the local pizza pub and snatched a bbq chicken to go. This seems to be a tradition of Natalie and I's. It seems our favorite mountain towns all have a great pizza place that we cannot wait to try.

Mmm tasty

Leaving Telluride

Our next destination was Durango. My sister and bro in law had been there before and gave us a slight glimpse of what we'd expect. We were both excited, and quite nervous as well. In two days time we would be running the Animas river during peak flows. The only visual I had seen of this river was on the internet. It looked big, but I knew I would have to see it in person to really feel it out.

The first destination in our new area was Mesa Verde National Park. The park was small, but housed beautiful ancient Indian dwellings. There was not much hiking here that we found, just short walks to look-outs of different dwellings.

An obstacle for our first night in Durango was finding a camping spot. A light bulb eventually went off in my head and we were soon heading toward the local BLM office. They, of course were not open. However, there was a detailed map we took showing countless camping sites and minuscule information about each area. We picked a place about ten miles out of town, along a river, and hoped there would be an open spot.

We finally reached the area and it was perfect. Not too rugged for our Mazda 3 rental and there were numerous open camping sites. Although we could not see the river from camp, it was still a nice area. There was river access down below, and you can be sure I will be back with rod in hand. We pitched our tent, set up the new hammock, and enjoyed a moment of solace as the pines swayed and the birds sang us their tune.

That evening, around midnight curdled up in my sleeping bag I woke to the sound of something outside our tent. Startled, I sat there for a moment trying to decipher the scene. Finally, I determined it must be cows grazing that we saw earlier near camp. I peeked out the tent window and looked out and confirmed my theory. At least thirty cows had invaded our camp and were munching away. Dang cows.

The following morning Natalie and I boarded the Durango and Silverton Railroad. We sat in an open train cart so we could have a true experience. After passing north through town we were soon into the canyon section where the Animas runs through. The ride was nothing short of spectacular. We passed along steep ridges that looked down into the valley, and rode right along the river for the majority of the trip. The canyon section was beautiful with the roaring Animas and tall mountain peaks. Everything was green with wildflowers abound.

During the ride we met a nice Japanese guy who was taking photographs. He was a true mountaineer, having climbed numerous mountain peaks and explored many national parks. We each talked about our own individual adventures and we came to find out that he would be getting off soon in the canyon to climb four more mountain peaks that were at least fourteen thousand feet. He was going solo, and I couldn't help but think how dangerous that was.

About a third of the way through, the train stopped and let off a youth group going on a fishing expedition and the lone Japanese man. As he was setting up his backpack below I gave him a thumbs up as we rode passed him and thought to myself, "be safe dude."

The town of Silverton felt like going back in time to an old western town. There were no paved streets, and no traffic lights. The buildings were all old and had that classic western style look. This was an amazing place.

After spending time scouring the shops we were soon picked up by the rafting company to take us back to Durango for our float. The ride back was beautiful, as we were now above the canyon we had just gone through. We passed by multiple rivers and it was definitely a place I will come back to fish and explore.

After a quick change into our wet suits at Mountain Waters headquarters, we were anxiously waiting to get out on the river. The temperature outside was in the 90's, and it was time for some cool mountain water to break the heat. We loaded up into an old school bus and were on our way.

Our guide, and 6th year veteran river runner.

After a quick briefing alongside the river about safety and what to do in worst case scenarios, we were off and floating. We were riding along with another local family from Colorado. They had two children, whom took the bow for the first part until we reached more treacherous water. Natalie, being quite scared, rode right in front of the guide. I did my best to try and calm her, but her face told me she was fearing for her life. Luckily, our guide was awesome and provided reassuring words of comfort to her as well. After ten minutes of non-threatening rolling water, her nerves seemed to lift a bit and she was smiling.  It was fun to see the boys up front get wet and scream when we hit bigger water. I kept thinking I wish I was riding with my nephews, they would love this.

Eventually, we approached the class four section and let the kids out and picked up another guide to provide more weight to our raft. Another guide company had just set off toward the rapids and we all watched with intent as they rode the class four. As far as I could tell, they made it down, though it was hard to tell due to the decreasing slope of the run. Our safety guide raft team then went down and we would soon follow. The two man team was along for the entire ride to provide backup assistance if needed.

Our guide then gave us instruction as to the various scenarios that could play out during the run. I'll be honest, at this point I couldn't really focus on what he had to say. The only thing I remembered was to keep rowing through the waves and to not stop and celebrate that we had made it through. Or, worse yet, to grab a-hold of the rope along the side of the raft if we were to fall out. With GoPro filming and clenching tightly to my oar, we set off.

I could soon see the first drop, and it was a good seven foot descent into a white whirlpool of splashing water. Within a matter of seconds, we hit the drop and my footing came out from the bench seat in front of me. I felt for sure I was going to fly out. There was a matter of a few seconds where time seemed forbidden and my thoughts were blank.  Few moments provide this experience in life. For me, it's times of great adrenaline rush and the unknown of what is about to happen. For instance, a time when I rolled my four wheeler on top of myself along a cliff side. There was a matter of seconds of total blackout, and when I was finally laying on the ground looking up at the sky, I felt numb, both body and mind. This is what it felt like on this first drop. Water came surging over my head and I could not see anything. My footing came out and I did not know where I was. When the water finally cleared, luckily I was still in the boat, but leaning half in and out. I quickly re-positioned myself and put my feet back under the seat and surveyed the surroundings. Natalie was right beside me. She had flown into the section of boat I was in. Later on I found out that the guide had actually been jolted into Natalie's seat. It was a powerful drop. Luckily, all others were still inside the boat, and we were soon bracing for the next waves. During the madness, our guide had lost one of his oars and was scrounging for another. Luckily, we were now positioned in an eddy and he was able to grab a spare oar. We ended up making it through the class four section, and what a ride it was. The remainder of the trip was easy going with fun waves that got us all a little wet. The kids were riding up front again, and having a blast. All in all it was quite the experience, and one that I'd love to have again.

Words from previous river runners
The highlight to our last day was four corners. It was in the middle of no-where, but I'm glad we made the stop. Local artisans surrounded the area with all kinds of goods. Everything from jewelry, art, pottery, and various crafts. We picked up a couple gifts for family and ourselves and made the long boring drive back to Cedar. The trip was a huge success, and Colorado left an impression on us that we will never forget.

"The Wedding Vase"