Death of a Stranger

Yesterday I was at work in corporate cubeville when I heard sirens. That’s not unusual; the building where I work is near both an industrial area and a busy thoroughfare. The police and fire departments always seem to be going somewhere fast.

A few minutes later I took a break and got up to look out the window. Five floors below me in the driveway in front of the the lobby were two city fire trucks; one county emergency truck; one company emergency truck; and two company security vehicles. That’s an infrequent but not uncommon sight for we have a large population of older workers and some do have medical emergencies. I did think the response was larger than I typically see.

But then I looked to the left and noticed two parked city police cars. I knew something tragic had occurred as the police come on scene when there’s been a death.

Word soon spread that there’d been a death two floors below and that staff had been requested to leave the area.

At one point the company emergency truck dropped off a gurney and left; some late arriving workers coming into my area said the emergency truck was parked near the elevator in the parking garage. That seemed to confirm the rumor.

As the morning progressed most of the emergency vehicles left to continue with other calls both grave and minor.

As I was going into the cafeteria some time later there was a group of sober-faced people talking about notification of next of kin, and I understood that a number of people somewhere didn’t yet know that their worlds were about to crash down upon them.

I don’t know the name of the person who died. I’m not sure I’d recognize who it was if I heard it.

I don’t know if it was a man or a woman. I assume that he/she was someone I’d seen at some time in the hallways, elevators, or cafeteria.

I’m not sure if it’s important I know who that person was for you see that nameless/faceless person was a stranger.

We never worked together. We never were in meetings together. We never shared a table in the cafeteria. At this point if it was otherwise I would have known.

But that stranger had hopes and dreams, and hopefully loved and was loved.

That stranger had once been a baby with a life of potential and possibilities.

That stranger had passions and interests.

That stranger had worked for many years – hopefully doing something of value and personal meaning.

And now that stranger is dead.

So why do I care?

I care because someone’s death is a reminder that each day of life should be savored. Of course it’s trite to say it, but it’s an inescapable truth.

Rushing from crisis to crisis; taking no pleasure in the small things; much too soon they will all be gone.

As fly fishers we treasure time on the water. But do we take the time to enjoy the small things: rigging up the rod and line; putting on waders; the slow approach to the water while taking in the day, and the selection of fly for the first cast?

I care because that stranger is every one of us; we are all strangers to others – sometimes even to people with whom we share some part of our lives.

When we’re fishing do we see someone else as an intruder or as someone sharing the love for the same activity and the same special place?

The choices are still ours to make – for as long as we have.

Rest in peace.

Winston BIII-SX: First Fishing Trip

My previous post on casting the Winston BIII-SX (see post here) came after my fist afternoon casting session in my backyard. Since then, I’ve had a chance to cast it more in the backyard; experimenting with different reels for balance; and got my first time with it on the water – using it during an Introduction to Beach Fishing Course (see post here)

I’ll say this with no hesitation: the BIII-SX 9’ 6” 6 weight is a wonderful casting rod with plenty of power, and with the fishing soul of every other Winston.

First on the choice of reel. After a bit of experimentation I decided the Galvan Torque T-6 reel was the best match. Coming in at 5.2 ounces, it gave me a balanced feel in the hand. I had tried a couple of older reels I still had and a Nautilus FW8 7/8 (4.1 ounces), but in each case the rod felt tippy in my hand. That’s not a slam on the Nautilus reels; I use them on my BIIIX and find the lighter weight a great match for lighter rods.

One point to consider is that both the Galvan and Nautilus reels were loaded with SA Mastery GPX 6-weight for the comparison; what I might have thought had I made the comparison with the line I used on the water I can’t say. I suspect the Nautilus would have been a bit better balanced given the extra volume of backing. I may test that at some point.

In terms of the line I used on the water, I went with the recommendation I got in the Introduction to Beach Fishing Course and rigged it with an Airflo Forty Plus Intermediate Fly Line. This is a great line for beach fishing; with its semi-translucent head that sinks at 1.5 inches per second, it tends to float just beneath the surface on the windy conditions of Puget Sound.

One thing I did learn in the class was that a stripping basket made all the difference in terms of line management of intermediate lines. Without it, there was too much drag from line in the water.

As far as casting the rod on the water, I found the elusive groove.

One of the challenges I’ve had since I starting fly-casting is learning to not overpower the cast. I’ve had glimmers of doing it right, but nothing consistent from cast to cast.
Even in my first session in the backyard and the first few casts on the beach with BIII-SX I was doing the same thing.

Then I started to experiment and things got much better. What I found was the rod’s obvious power allowed me to slow down my cast and let the rod do the work. I felt like I was casting better than I had before. Blake, our guide and instructor, came by twice and complimented me on the way both the back casts and forward casts were rolling out in straight lines. After that, it didn’t matter if I caught any fish– the confidence of his compliments made my day.

We had a bit of wind from the left (I’m a right-handed caster) and I had no trouble in keeping the line moving in the direction I wanted. I could vary my cast to see how the rod handled it and most casts felt easy and relaxed.

I gave the rod to Blake for a demonstration of double hauling (something I still have to learn) and he easily got the line out to some distance, showing me what this rod’s capability in the hands of a great caster.

Did it turn me into an expert caster? Of course not. I have to much to learn and need to get miles under my casting belt. But the concerns I had about whether this was a rod I could grow into were dispelled within the first hour on the water.

I can’t wait to get out with it next time I go chasing sea-run cutthroat trout.

Best Socks for Cold-Water Fly Fishing

One of the challenges of fly-fishing in cold water is warm feet. Standing in cold water with cold feet is uncomfortable at best and can lead to a decision to end a day of fishing early.

There are many sock choices out there, but after trying a number of synthetic socks – including ones described as for the coldest conditions, I’ve found what I think are the best socks for fly fishing in these parts. They are knee high boot socks from a company called Alpacas of Montana.

Made from alpaca fleece, one of the warmest fibers – described by some as seven times as warm as sheep’s wool, the socks are warm and light. I use them with a light liner sock and my feet stayed warm over three hours in cold salt water. I wish I had found these earlier as they would have made a number of ski days more bearable as well.

The ones I have are knee-high in length. This provides warm lower legs for the type of wading done in Puget Sound for Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout.

You can find them here.

Beach Fishing 101

Fishing the Ebb on Puget Sound
Fishing the Ebb on Puget Sound

When starting something new, one of the first questions to be considered is how to begin? The choice at the extremes comes down to plunging in or taking a class.

In my case, I’ve always believed one can never know too much or learn too much, so I opted for a class; assuming I’d pick up the needed technical information, local knowledge about where to go, and get some instruction on casting (for which too much instruction doesn’t exist).

Given I’d been fishing fresh-water rivers, I already had most of the gear I needed. I did pick up a Winston BIII-SX (more on that in a later post); and bought a few flies for the species of choice: sea-run cutthroat trout (bought a few more the day of the beach session).

There are a number of outstanding fly shops in the Puget Sound. But I chose Gig Harbor Fly Shop’s class. I like the area a lot and there are tentative plans to move there when I can cast off the harness of corporate America. The shop’s location overlooking the harbor borders on the sublime. And I was impressed with the shop staff in both past online orders and talking to them in the store.

Their Puget Sound Beach Course (Fly Fishing 1.5) was held in two sessions: the first was three hours on a Wednesday night followed by a four-hour session on the water.

Taught by Blake Merwin, the owner of Gig Harbor Fly Shop, the course was a great introduction to fishing in the salt water of Puget Sound.

The three-hour classroom session, taught with slides and a lecture that was interspersed with tales of trips local and afar, was like drinking from the proverbial fire hose. I scribbled notes furiously as the course covered equipment, target species, food sources, tides and winds, and where to find good fishing. When I reread my notes I was surprised how much ground we covered. One tip: if you take the course please bring beer – none of the five students in our class did and it’s a shop practice!

The Saturday session was held on a sunny Saturday morning on a local beach near Gig Harbor. The tide tables called for a -1.3 foot low in the afternoon so we were in prime time to fish the ebb.

Driving over the Narrows Bridge earlier, the winds were calm and the water smooth. By the time we met at the shop, bought a few last remaining items, got down to the parking lot and got into our waders, the wind was up. A very visible back eddy in front of the beach matched the strong ebb.

Blake took some time to explain the beach and where good fishing should be found as well as tips for fishing different types of flies.

We five students separated along the beach and sought to catch a sea-run. Unfortunately, the back eddy never dissipated allowing a rip to form close to the beach. The bottom line is that no one caught anything.

And it wasn’t just the five of us. Water birds on the water weren’t diving for anything; a seal that poked his head up out of the water disappeared; likely finding better fishing elsewhere.

But I wasn’t disappointed. One doesn’t go fishing to only to catch fish. As Haig-Brown consistently alluded: fishing is more about context than practice. Standing on Puget Sound watching the sea birds and a bald eagle circling overhead, and feeling the chill of the wind and the warmth of the sun more than made up for getting skunked.

The course gave me the tools and information to head out on my own. And we did get some good information on where to go on our own. But you’ll have to the class to find out where.

First Casts with Winston BIII-SX

Finally, I got a nice day for a first casting session with my 9’6” 6-weight Winston BIII-SX. The rod, as the day, did not disappoint.

The day was pleasant for early March – sunny and relatively warm (high 50’s) with no wind. I could have gotten out any time in the last month after I had the rod delivered, but who wants to stand in the rain on a cold, windy day and cast across a muddy backyard?

A first experience is always what it is. But when possible it’s always better to stack the odds for success rather than failure. Most life experiences begin with excitement mixed with trepidation as the expectation turns into reality. That in itself is enough; other factors that can be avoided, should be: a flat tire on a first date; spilling coffee during an interview with a potential employer; or having rain pour down the arm through a loose cuff while casting a fly rod for the first time.

And a warm sunny day seemed to be to the ticket. Not having to deal with layers and outerwear was something worth waiting for. I managed about 20 minutes with the rod – not long as I wanted, but about all I had given the day’s schedule.

As to the rod and how it cast? It’s a Winston: different than the BIIIX, but still a Winston in looks, feel, and casting.

The components are Winston quality. They require almost no comment. This is a beautiful green stick. I’ve read some complaints about the black anodized aluminum reel seat, but I don’t what the complaints are. I thought it looked terrific – particularly with the script R.L. Winston on the seat.

This post is what I’d call initial impressions given the limited time I’d spent casting and in the condition I cast it. It won’t be called a review until I spend much more time with the rod and in more conditions..

I was using an old Orvis large-arbor reel with a similarly old SA Mastery GPX 6 weight line with an Umpqua practice leader; I keep those for casting in the backyard and keep my Nautilus reels for use on water. I didn’t check rod/reel balance this time – I was just in a hurry to get out and cast. The rod/reel combination felt comfortable and I didn’t notice any issue with balance.

My first cast was made with about 20 feet of line stripped out. I had no problem getting the line to load the tip – but the tip was all that loaded – and make a reasonable-looking pick up and lay down cast. I say reasonable to focus on any limitation being mine, not the rod.

I began to shoot line and without hauling (something I still have to pick up) was making 50-60 foot casts with little problem. The cast tracked well, with me being able to put the fly where I aimed.

I watched my back cast on every cast for this first session to know when to begin my forward cast as well as to watch the rod tip, which is something I no longer do with my BIIX. I have the feeling a bit more practice and I’ll be able to do that with the BIII-SX.

I had never cast the BIII-MX so I can’t offer any comparison. Other early reviews I’ve read suggest the BIII-SX is a smoother cast than the MX. I can only say it’s faster than the BIIIX. By how much, and how it comparatively handles wind, is something I still have to discover.

My deltoid was bit sore after I finished – much more noticeable than when casting my BIII-X 5-weight. That could be to the almost five months from when I was last out on the Yakima river, or it could be due to the stiffer feel of the rod (I’d noticed similar sensations when casting a Sage One).

My casting is a work in progress, and as my technique improves along with more casting this year, that should problem should go away.

I bought this rod for use on the beach this year, fishing for Puget Sound cutthroat trout. With a more practice to learn how the rod behaves – as well as polishing my casting skills, I should be ready.

Winston BIII-SX 6 Weight Has Arrived

boronIII-SX-4

Buying a new rod is always a time for mixed emotions – excitement at the prospect of a brand new rod to learn and love; and the the hopefully temporary buyers’ remorse after having to spend money to get it. That’s particularly true with a high-end rod like a Winston.

My new 9′ 6″ 6wt BIIX-SX is going to come in handy both on this side of the state for fishing in the Sound and east of the Cascades on the windy days on the Yakima River.

A review will be coming once I get out to cast it.

Fewer Fly Boxes – An Exercise in Simplification

Plano Box

Fly boxes are an essential element of most fly fishers’ gear. The problem is that many of us have too many of them. In my case, I have different boxes of flies for different seasons on the same river; I bought them that way in collections for a particular season.

I built up my fly collection that way, but at cost of too much duplication of the same or nearly the same fly. And then there are the small boxes of assorted nymphs; dry flies; small streamers; larger boxes of streamers; and now I’m beginning a collection of flies for sea-run cutthroat trout.

It’s become almost too difficult to know how many flies I have or where they are. And that doesn’t include the twenty or thirty dollars (or more) every time I need a new fly box for storage.

I read a post on Deneki Outdoors about the use of Plano boxes. These translucent plastic boxes act as fly warehouses; the idea being that you keep all your flies in the Plano boxes and then pull the flies you need for a particular day on the river and put them into a smaller fly box. At the end of the day or trip, you put them back.

Deneki recommended buying a couple for different types of flies. I’m starting with two and see how it goes. If nothing else, it should make maintaining an inventory a good deal easier than sorting through 10 boxes of flies.

And the Plano boxes are a good deal. I picked up two for around $13.00 on Amazon. You can get them here.

I’ll report back later on my efforts.

Abel Reels Sold

Abel Automatics was sold to the Mayfly Group LLC, a private investment firm. The sale was announced on January 2, 2013. The press release is here.

Hopefully this change means we’ll finally see Abel coming out with lighter reels to balance today’s modern rods. I like their reels but they are heavy as tanks.

6 Weight Rods for Beach Fishing

Gig Harbor Fly Shop just reported the results of their recent shootout on beach rods used for sea-run cutthroat trout. Similar to river fishing when the wind and water are bigger or when sinking lines are used, the rod weight of choice for our salty fly fishers is 6 weight.

The number of rods used was relatively small – based on the preferences and use by their staff and customers. But the results were interesting with the winner being the Winston BIII-SX. While i’ve not yet cast the BIII=SX, I do own the second place finisher the Winston BIIIX. The Scott S4 came in third, followed by the Sage One.

Complete results can be found at the following link:

6 Wt Shootout Results