Friday, December 30, 2011

Driving on the other side ( Part 22 )

At the Pub in Moana, Jane is direct and asked the two red eyed surfer dudes, "so, just how old are you two"? The two blurry eyed boys look at each other with a look of surprise, "Uh, my name is Alex, I'm 24 and I'm from Sydney, this is my mate, his name is Christian, but you can call him C".
Jane in her haste to get some food in her, slipped on a pair of panties and a short, loose fitting white sun dress that was adorned with small colorful flowers. Her honey colored hair was pulled back in a pony tail, she wore no make up, and, was wearing just tan clogs. As usual Jane looked incredible, without any effort Jane Greenfield could turn a man's head at 100 yards. Kelly looked playful, she was a much more attractive women then she gave herself credit. It was the lack of attention for so many years from her ex that broke down Kelly's confidence. Kelly was lightly made up, she wouldn't dare go out before putting her "face on". She wore a short, dark brown skirt, and a tan, tight fitting, sleeveless cashmere top, and 2 inch tan pumps, she looked hot.  Kelly's shoulder length red hair was just combed out,  naturally wavy, both girls had a look of being sunkissed from returning from their hike earlier. Jane leaned forward with a serious look, exposing her voluptuous cleavage and invited the two Aussies to join them, the boys could not find their chairs fast enough, Alex signaled the waitress for drinks all around, "my shout", exclaimed the obviously excited surfer dude.
Bender realized that he was completely under dressed for his dinner date with Kate Granger, but Kate's warm smile eased his worries , as Kate reached out with a quarter filled large glass of red wine, she said, " It's our best Pinot Nior, I hope you like it. Please , be seated", came from the smiling and elegant dark red haired beauty. The small wooden table was adorned with two crossing long white linen banners that left the rest of the wood exposed. White linen napkins were atop-ed with sterling silverware, and in the center piece there were three tall white candles, and, salt and pepper shakers, both in Sterling. In front of each large China dinner plate was a small arrangement of local Spring flowers, on the right side were matching small salad plates. Billy helped Kate be seated and then sat and said ,"Kate, wow, this is much more than I expected, this is wonderful, thank you ". Both raised their glasses and took a sip of wine, before the put their glasses down, out from the Kitchen came two uniformed, white gloved wearing young women carrying large bowls that had extra large silver serving spoons that were protruding off to each side.  Kate was served first, she adds," tonight we are having red stag medallions in a brandy cream sauce, boiled potatoes, basil-ed carrots, and Spring salad with a balsamic dressing, all grown here on the property, I hope you enjoy".
The food is exquisite, perfectly prepared, Bender has seconds on the venison, Kate barely eats a thing, but does manage to finish the salad and Vegi's. The conversation is polite and casual, Kate suggest to have dessert out on the back deck, it is a warm evening, and the moon is nearly full. The two move out to be seated on a small couch on the back veranda that over looks the lake. The moon is just rising and reflecting off the placid small lake, it is a rare Spring evening in the southland of New Zealand. Kate looks surreal in the light being reflected from the Lake, like a Bond girl on the big screen. Kate starts to light another cigarette, when Billy ask, "would you like to smoke something besides a cigarette"? Then from his upper shirt pocket displays a hand rolled looking cigarette. Kate with a look of surprise, tosses her thick red locks backward, exposing her long elegant neck then laughs. "OK, it's such an unusually warm, windless evening, and this is such a unexpected pleasant surprise, why not"!
Billy and Kate both take turns inhaling the sweet smoke of the Rangatikie Red Bud, and take in the the view of the Moon rising over the far off Mountains that seem to take guard protecting the endless rows of the young grape plant that are attached to wooden post. In the small Lake, Mayflies are hatching, the sound of gupling trout fill the air. Kate turns to Bender and asks, " so, tell me what are your plans, you told me about work, I don't mean that, I mean this week, tomorrow, what are you going to do"? Bender looks into the hazel eyes of  Kate Granger  and says," tomorrow I'm off to Christchurch, I met a women on the flight down, she is someone that really moved me in just a short time. I need to see if what appeared to be a real connection is in fact just that. She is someone special, one of the most beautiful women I have ever met, she is talented, succesful, she Fly fishes, shoots, we have many things in common, I can't stop thinking about her. Kate asks, " who is it, Christchurch, I know alot of people from Christchurch". Bender hesitates, then says, " Ann hunter, I'm sure you know who she is". Kate tosses her head back and lets out a very un- lady like laugh, then adds, " Ann, I've known her all of her life, her parents are good friends of mine, of course I know her, she is a lovely girl! Does Jack and Addy know your coming"? Just then Billy realizes that he'd forgotten to call, "oh shit, I meant to call and let them know I was coming, it completely slipped my mind". Kate says" don't worry, I'll call them in the morning to let them know you are on your way, they are wonderful people and dear friends, no worries"!
The sexually charged electricity that permeated the air all evening , seemed to wisp away along with the thick, sweet, white smoke of the red bud. Kate and Bender both starred at the Moon lit Lake and watched large Brown Trout porpoise in small u's pouncing atop of the lake surface eating  large yellow Mayflies. "It's late " Kate says, " Billy, thank you for your company, it was a delightful evening, but I'm off to bed, sleep well, I'll see you at breakfast, 7:30 am OK"? Bender replies", no, thank you for everything Kate, your a wonderfiul host, and it is a pleasure to spend time in your company, 7:30 is perfect, thanks again, sleep well, good night".
As Kate walked off to bed,  a gentle breeze left a light sweet smell of Kates perfume lingering, Billy could only hear the click, click, click of Kates heels on the wooden porch as she went off to prepare for bed, and Billy could not help to wonder what Kate Granger wore to sleep, if in fact she wore anything at all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Driving on the other side (Part 21)

One of the reasons the girls choose to stay where they did, was due to the fact that they would have an individual cabin, and, the fact that the cabin they choose was right on the lake with a stunning view. As they drove through the small town of  Moana, they noticed that one Pub seemed to be the hot spot and decided to check it out. The Pub's of the South Island had changed from the years past. In the old days, each Pub had two sides, one for women , and the other for men, usually there was a bar in the middle where both could eat, drink and mingle. These days most people just went to the bar in the middle, wow, now that is progressive. This Pub was a DB ( Dominion Bitters) Pub, the most popular drink in this part of the South Island. Jane and Kelly get a table instead of sitting at the bar, they were there to eat, they thought they could drink later. The Pub's almost always serve food, good food, and lots of it. The menus are typically pretty similar, Kidney and Steak Pie, Lamb Stew, Fresh Fish and Chips are always available, and typically a special of some sort , what ever is in season, tonight it was Venison ( Red Stag) in a cream brandy sauce.
Both Jane and Kelly had one thing in mind , and that was to eat, after smoking the red bud that Billy had given Jane, both girls were starving, and were focused on food. Everyone else in the bar were focused on the two women who just lit up the Pub with their beauty. The waitress appears with a small pad and an active pencil that is tapping the pad in a rapid pace. Whatya have girls?"Jane looks up to say" ah, menus please" The waitress with a look of discuss says, " it's written on the board behind you, there is fish, stew, pie, or if you'd like the special is bambi". Jane ops for the Fish and chips and Kelly the Lamb Stew, Jane ask for bread as well. At the bar, there were two young men who did not appear to be locals. They had wild sun bleached blonde hair, they were both dressed similar, with baggy canvas pants, loose fitting short sleeved shirts and Teva sandals.  Jane noticed the two after she  had eaten three of the hot, fresh rolls that came accompanied with real butter. "Kelly, check these two dudes sitting at the bar behind you, they don't look like local's" says Jane casually. Kelly turns around to have a look, then turns back at Jane and says, " they look a little young, don't they"? Jane with a look of surprise replies, "since when did you get so picky'? Kelly with a defensive tone adds, "well don't they"?
The food came nun too fast for the weary travelers, both girls devoured their food  in what seemed just minutes, Jane with a devious smile lets out a small burp, and says, " that hit the spot"! Kelly sighs and says, "Oh man, I needed that , it was delicious.' Jane bends her head back and has a big laugh, only to return to see both tall young men standing directly behind Kelly's chair. " Good evening ladies, can we buy you a drink" came from the one of the surfer looking dudes, that appeared to have an Australian accent.
Back on the East coast, Billy enters the dinning room to find  Kate Granger sitting at the bar smoking a cigarette  with a enormous glass of red wine parked just in front of her. Billy is stunned to see the women he met earlier who was decked out in a loose fitting Logan green outfit  to now be looking absolutely ravishing. Kate wore four inch heels, a dark green emerald dress that was a beautiful contrast with her full , dark reddish shoulder length hair.Her dress was sleeveless, and the front cut in an exposing V, that showed the clevage of her fine perky breast.She was lightly made up, and wore diamond ear rings with a matching necklace, ring, and bracelet. Kate Granger was a stunner, Billy was speechless for a few seconds until Kate broke the silence with , " Billy, welcome, would you like to have a glass of Red or White wine"? Bender could feel his heart pounding in his chest, he was starting to focus, and realized he quickly needed to get in the zone...

Driving on the other side (Part 20)

The road into Blenheim was slow going, Bender had to wait as farmers moved sheep on the highway from pasture to pasture and the only way was on the road itself. Two plaid shirt wearing gentlemen donning shorts and wide brimmed hats whistled constantly at five black and white sheep dogs, slithering low, then running, stopping, and then again running to keep the heard on the road . The working dogs were a sight to see, Billy forgot about his lack of nourishment for a few minutes to take in the moment. As one of the men approached the car , Bender put his window down to say hello. There was a deafening sound of Bah, Bah, Bah's coming from the enormous heard, along with an eye brow raising smell that permeated the air. The farmer was wearing boots, shorts, a wool shirt that was covered by a Icelandic style sweater and a floppy wide brimmed, dark colored hat. He was also sporting a long, dark colored walking stick that had an appearance that it was hand carved. "Good day Mate" blurted from the farmer, " no problem mate, stay to the right, you'l be right, no worries" So Bender drove on the right side of the noisy, smelly moving mass of grass eating mammals, finally getting ahead of the last of the filthy, long haired sheep.
As Billy approached the town he was struck with just how extensive the row after row, mile after mile, of  grapes were being grown in this region. He noticed a sign that read Timara Lodge, fine dinning, luxury rooms, spa and vineyard. Well, this had everything that Bender was looking for, all in one place, so he turned into the driveway to find a charming, English style garden that surrounded a perfect ginger bread style house that was located on the banks of a small lake that had fish rising and feeding. "Perfect" Bender shouted, but it looked closed, nobody was around. It was the Off season, but Billy thought that it had to be open, so Billy knocked on the front door. A gorgeous women in her early 40's dressed like she just stepped out of the Field Magazine, green from head to toe that only accented her dark red hair and fair complexion, was smiling as she welcomed Bender into the lodge."Welcome, I'm Kate Granger, the owner, and you are"? Billy was taken back by the beauty of Ms, or Mrs Grange? And finally stumbled out with "nice to meet you , I'm William Bender, but you can call me Billy". The two got through the introduction and Kate showed Billy his room and explained that he was the only guest, but, the staff was present and they would serve dinner, and everything would be open for him. There was a small store that sold wines from their vineyard, and of course t-shirts, hats, some jewelry, and local artifacts. Kate gave Billy the tour of the grounds and  told Bender a brief history of the area and of the lodge itself, also telling Bender that he was welcome to do some fishing, or have a swim in the pool, or hot tub. Kate inquires," Mr Bender will you be dinning alone this evening, I need to let our chef know, for tonight we will be serving Medallions of Venison"? Bender replies, "Yes, I'm alone, it will be only me". Kate, with a smile and eye brows raised, suggest that they dine together, for she is a widow of five years, and that it seemed silly for both to dine alone. Bender agrees, and they set the dinner for 8:00 o'clock sharp, the dress, casual.
Jane and Kelly finally, despite the heat of the afternoon arrive at the landcruiser , both girls completely exhausted, and dripping from perspiration, decide to drive to a B and B to rest and get a good meal. Kelly takes the wheel and Jane looks at a map to find the nearest town that may be something of interest on their way down the west coast. Billy at this time is on the east coast and working his way to Christchurch, the girls  are on the opposite side of the Island , heading south down the west coast, on their way to hike the Milford track. Jane suggest that they just drive for awhile until they both agree on a place to stop, Jane says," there is only one road down the west coast, so, we won't get lost, so lets just see where we end up". Kelly is in full agreement, then adds, " this country is stunning , I mean look around us, what beauty, the mountains are white capped and jagged, along with the contrast of the super green hill sides, and these rivers are just pristine, my goodness, everything seems to be so clean". Jane says, "yea , but I've seen enough sheep to last me a lifetime, I'm ready for some fun, lets go out tonight" . Jane pulls out a small pipe and lighter and begins to smoke. "Whats that?" ask Kelly, " is that Pot, where did you get it"? Jane after exhaling a long hit replies, " Billy gave me half of what he'd gotten from a friend up on the North Island, it's red bud, he says it's really good, want some"? Kelly with her mouth open, looks at Jane and says, "why not , we are on vacation, might as well have some fun"! The two girls, high as kites, driving down the west coast of New Zealand in their rented Landcruiser come to a small town on the edge of a Lake. The sign at the entrance of the town reads Moana. This is a small tourist town on the edge a Brenner Lake. They get a room at the Counrty Motel, then go for a swim in the Lake that is just in front of their room. The water is frigid, but , at the same time refreshing after the long hike and drive. They both run into the cabin to take a hot shower, and start to get ready to go out that night. Jane blurts out, " I could eat a horse I'm so hungry, we haven't eaten a thing all afternoon", and with that, the two drive into Moana looking for a nice place to eat.
Billy, on the other side of the Island, is just getting out of the shower , and getting ready for his dinner date with Kate Granger. Billy thinks while he is getting ready, " this could be interesting'...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Driving on the other side (Part 19)

Bender pulled out his South Island map to get an idea of the best route to get to Christchurch. He decided to drive to the town of Blenheim, which is in the heart of the most famous wine-country in the South Island . From his Northern location , he notices that it will take sometime due to the mountainous , curvy road that winds through the arid mountains, and through the rich fertile valleys that produce world class wines. This is the area of  New Zealand  called the Marlborough region, famous for it's white wines, with Sauvigon Blancs being the top producer, along with Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs being a close second and third respectively. This area of the South Island has excellent soils, abundant sunshine, and cool nights that are perfect conditions for growing grapes. Billy thought back to his first night in Auckland when he first tried an excellent Marlborough Riesling  that was delicious, accompanied along with the Bluff Oysters, Lobster, and fresh Asparagus. Bender planned on spending the night in Blenheim, then he would have time to buy a case of wine to bring as a gift for the Hunters, and not show up empty handed. Billy wanted to make a good impression, so, to choose the correct wine might take some time.
Back at the beach, Jane and Kelly got dressed, and, continued their trek along the flat white sandstone path that led them to the first stopping spot that turned out to be a small hut that was comprised of wood walls with a grass thatched roof. "perfect " Jane exclaimed, " lets spend the night here". Upon entering what they thought was going to be their home for the evening, they found that all four beds were already occupied, with colorful backpacks resting atop of the four small single beds. "oh shit" came out of the mouth of Kelly, and she asked Jane, "now what"?
The girls were disappointed and perplexed to know their next move, when a sexy bikini clad brunette entered the hut. "Hello, are you two wanting to spend the night here?"came from the brunette, with a  European accent. "I'm Anna, we just got here this morning", behind Anna standing in the doorway was a blonde, wavy haired, tanned, great looking man in his early thirties, " Hi, I'm Eric you two just arrived?" Both girls were just starring, since Eric had only shorts on, nothing else, just a big smile and shorts. Finally, Jane blurted out, " yea, we just walked in, looks full, I'm Jane and this is Kelly, we are both from Colorado". Anna says that she is from Sweden, and that Eric is from Montana. "So", asks Jane," how far is it to the next hut"? Eric pipes in and tells the girls that they have missed the ferry to the small Island where the next hut is located, and, that the next ferry is at 8:00 am tomorrow. The girls decide maybe they would hike back to the car and continue down the road to the west coast where they can hit the Milford track. "We are going to also be on the Milford track" says Eric,"maybe we will see you there". Kelly enthusiastically replies, "hope so, that would be fun!"
The girls figure they have around three hours to walk back to the Landcruiser, so, they say goodbye and start their journey. As soon as they are out of earshot, Kelly turns to Jane and asks, "was that guy hot or what?, I could have done him right in front of that sexy little swede and let her watch, or join in, or, whatever!" Jane with a look of disgust, turns to Kelly shaking her head and says, "Kelly, you really need to get laid, I mean". Kelly replies, "your right, I do need to get laid, and I'd be happy to be with that hot little Swede, because I noticed how Eric was burning a hole starring at your white bikini top, he could not keep his eyes off of you Jane". With a devious smile Jane says, "I know, he was getting hot, did you see the size of the simi he was sporting through those shorts?"I'll make you a deal, if we see them again, I get Eric and you can have the sexy Brunette, deal?" Kelly sighs and say "deal".
Billy was getting weary after driving through the curvy hillsides, it had been hours since his last stop, and he was in need of nourishment and drink. Then he noticed off to a distance a fair sized town, it was Blenheim, just in time thought Bender. As Billy started the decline and into the green fertile valley, he thought that he had forgotten to call Ann Hunter to let her know that he was getting close.  I'll have to call her tonight, to at least give her a warning that I'll be there tomorrow, Bender was thinking. Tonight, I'll dine and drink some great Kiwi wines, shave, and look for a appropriate gift to bring for Ann's folks, I hope they drink wine, thought Bender. Billy wondered what Ann would be like with her parents there all the time, then, he remembered her face, what a beautiful women, and what a body, tall lean, curvy, maybe the most beautiful women Bender had ever seen.Tomorrow could not come fast enough, Billy needed a drink...




Monday, December 19, 2011

Fishing a New Style , Tenkara, an ancient Japanese fishing expirence


In 1986 while working as a guide for the Rivers Edge in Bozeman Mt, one morning two men came into the shop looking for a guide. One of the men was American, the other was Japanese, the American was an interrupter for the man from Japan. We all met and were getting ready for the day when I noticed that the Japanese man had a something in his hand he was trying to show me. It was a tube that was around 18 inch's in length, I had no idea what this was, but the American said this is his rod for fishing. Just then, the man started pulling out the rod in the shop, it was very long once it was all out, maybe 14 ft in total length, a telescoping rod made from fiberglass. Of course I asked if he had a reel with Fly line, when I noticed that there was no guides on the very long soft, flexible telescoping rod. The Japanese man was very excited, and was trying to mimic just how he used the rod for fishing, but he did not speak a word of English, so I was completely in the dark. He was holding a horse's tail that he presented from his back pocket, in which just confused me even further. Then the American re-appeared, and explained the process that we would be using to fish that day. He said that there was no reel, but that the single strand of horse tail would be tied on to the tip of the rod, the length was around 2-3 feet Then, a hook would be tied to the free end of the single strand of horse tail. On the hook, the Japanese gentleman would put on what ever he could find to entice the fish to feed,  that lived near, or in the river.
We decided that the three of us would  float the Yellowstone River near the town of Livingston MT. While I was preparing the boat for the days float, and getting the boat in the river, I noticed that the Japanese man was turning over rocks in the river and collecting a fair number of golden stone fly nymphs. He was very happy with his bounty, the American said that these would be perfect for his style of fishing. So, off we went, the American in the front of the boat and the long rod fishermen was fishing from the back of the boat. Once we were off and floating, introductions were re- established, the Americans name was Bob, and the Japanese gentleman's name was Ichiro. Bob told me that Ichiro was a well know and extremely successful business man from Tokyo and that Ichiro had wanted to fish the American western rivers for most of his adult life, and today, was a dream come true. Then Bob told me about the style of fishing that was taking place in the back of my boat , it was called Tenkara, and that it had a very long history in Japan, Bob was not sure just how long , but he thought for hundreds of years this style of fishing had been popular, usually with small creek fisherman. Just then Ichiro was screaming from the back of the boat, he had a fish on, I moved the boat into the shallows to anchor and try and land the fish that was just in the surface slashing wildly. As I reached out with the net in an attempt to subdue the fish when I noticed it was a whitefish. Oh , I thought, too bad, I would have loved to see his face if it would have been a beautiful Brown trout, or a colorful Cutthroat , or fiesty red striped Rainbow, but the dull , greyish colored whitefish seemed like a constellation prize for a man who came all the way from Japan to catch a wild trout. But, I could not have been more wrong, Ichiro was beaming with complete delight, he said to Bob, that his day was made, if he did not catch another, it did not matter. Ichiro jumped out of the boat and into the shallows, splashed the water from the Yellowstone river on his head and face , turned to the Big Blue Montana sky and yelled something in Japanese, that Bob could only say, he is very happy, very happy indeed.
The morning was typical for June in this part of Montana, cool, with intermitten clouds, with hopes of a  better day to come. As Ichiro re-entered the boat, the sun broke though the metal -grey colored clouds  and emitted a warmth that warmed all three of our souls, and we continued down the beautiful Yellowstone River through the Valley they call Paradise. Ichiro kept hooking fish, some were trout, these were just too strong for the horse hair tippit, and would break usually after becoming airborne. With each hookup Ichiro would let out a yell in Japanese, no interpretation was needed from Bob, it was  a sound of pure joy.
Just after eating lunch around mid-day, Ichiro was hooking fish on a simi- regular basis, 9 out of 10 would be the dull brownish- grey Whitefish, but on the rare occasion even a trout would become airborne and break free. Then, around 2:00 pm Ichiro stopped fishing, he told Bob that he had caught too many , he felt guilty for catching so many fish, and wanted to go home. Ichiro was ashamed of himself  for letting his emotions get the better of him , and he felt like he was being a glutton. OK said Bob, lets go home, Ichiro has caught enough.
The ride home was quiet, we returned to the parking lot at the Rivers Edge, Ichiro bowed, then shook my hand and thanked me, Bob shook my hand and said, I'm not sure you will undrstand,  Ichiro felt like he caught too many, it is not the way of Tenkara fisherman.
We as western Fly fishermen can learn alot from the Style of fishing called Tenkara. I have to say as a long time professional guide, I loathe the Fly fishermen who starts out the day with , "all I want to do is catch a mess of fish, and I don't care how we do it". What a dichotomy from the typical western "client" and the style of fishing called Tenkara.. I find myself somewhere in the middle, and comparing both ends of the spectrum, it seems like a nice place to be.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Driving on the other side (Part 18)

Bender was focused as he watched the  #14 size Elk Hair Caddis float perfectly over the the feeding Brown Trout. Billy had no idea of the size of the fish, all he could see was small brown lips breaking through the surface from time to time eating the large moth like bugs as they helplessly floated in the path of the hungry Brown. Bender was fishing with a very long leader, the total length was 17 feet of the clear mono line that was attached to his light green fly line, each cast Bender made, only the leader passed over the trout, the fly line would land a foot or so down stream from his quarry. Billy presented  the large fly perfectly, it landed soft, never spooking the ever feeding trout. There were a good number of the naturals hatching and floating over and near the small brown lips, but only the Caddis that floated directly above the trout were molested. Billy had made very good cast, but the currents would either take his fake to the right of the trout, or, float it to the left, never floating in the direct path of the feeding lane of the Brown trout. Bender made a  perfect cast and kept his rod up high keeping his line tight almost skiddering the large imitation directly over the feeding lane of the trout. The small brown lips attached themselves to Billy's fly, it was too much for the trout to refuse, the fly was right there for the first time. Bender was shocked to see a huge Brown Trout jump two feet straight up in the air  and land on it's side, Billy was wondering at that point if he had made a mistake tying on 5x tippit, he had no idea just how large of a trout he was casting to, the trout tore line off the reel and was heading down stream to a deep slow moving pool. Lucky for Bender, for if the trout went up stream it might have broken the fine tippet on one of many of the large Volkswagon sized boulders. After a short battle, Bender brought the trout near shore and gently placed his hand under the belly of the spectacular specimen. He placed his rod over the top of the resting beast and measured the trout while it was in the water, 29 inches, Billy knew this because the first guide of his fly rod was exactly 30 inches. Bender removed his fly from the corner of he trouts mouth , and he watched the gorgeous golden trout swim off  to rest just three feet away to catch it's breath. Billy sat on a boulder and just watched the trout revive and then swim off into the the dark green pool until he was completely out of sight.
Bender had dreamed since childhood of accomplishing the task he just completed, landing a near 30 inch trout on a dry fly in New Zealand. Billy felt content, he sat streamside on the boulder for a good 20 minutes , reminiscing about his uncle who use to take him out the the Big Mo near Wolf Creek, teaching Billy the importance of presenting a dry fly with pin point accuracy over a feeding trout. Billys uncle use to say, if you can cast up stream to a feeding fish on the Big Mo, and not spook him, you can do it anywhere. All the years of fishing with his uncle had turned Bender into a world class angler.
About the same time Billy was releasing his accomplishment, Kelly and Jane were just starting their trek on the  unbelievably beautiful Able-Tasman trail. The girls donned their backpacks and were pleased to find the trail was around four feet wide of hard packed of white sandstone, completely flat, it was the most friendly hiking trail either woman had ever seen. It was a spectacular morning, a brilliant sunny, warm, windless start of a day that would be etched into their minds forever. Kelly exclaimed,"what a unbelievable place, easy walking, and look at the color of the white sand against the aqua -blue colored bay, unreal!" Jane was in complete agreement, "wow, this is just gorgeous, my goodness, this is a very special place, I'm so glad we decided to do this trek!". The two walked for around two miles until they came upon a small cove of black lava like rocks encompassing a small white beach that was just too inviting to pass up. Both dropped their packs, tore off their clothes and ran down to the aqua -blue water and dove in. The water was cool but not cold, the girls swam, and dove off the rocks, it was a dream spot on a perfect day. Kelly noticed while climbing up on the rocks that on the bottom of the rocks just below the surface were covered with large green and blue mussels, one of the true delicacies that New Zealand is famous. The girls collected a fair bounty and brought the mussels back to the beach and boiled them right there. Kelly had a lemon, some 10 grain bread, and a bottle of white wine in her pack, the two ate like queens, naked on the white sand beach. After eating and drinking to complete fulfillment, the two laid and sunned themselves when Kelly asked Jane about what was going on with her and Billy. Jane sighed  and said, "Kelly, I have been in love with Billy for twenty years, we are not together, there must be reason for it. I know Billy loves me too , but something is missing, maybe he is just not ready to get married, who knows, but we made a deal. The deal is that when we both return to the States, we will see how we both feel. Billy says if I want, I could transfer to Great Falls and work for Century 21. The owner is a friend of Billy's , and he said he would hire me in a New York second. So, we'll see, I'm not sure I'm ready to leave Denver and move to Great Fall Montana. So, we just left it up in the air, Billy is not even sure he will be employed with DA Davidson when he returns, there are alot of unknowns". Kelly looks puzzeled , and ask," so whats with this super model?". Jane takes a deep breath and then says," Billy met Ann Hunter on the flight down here, he says they had a real connection, so, he says, he needs to go and see if there really is a connection, or maybe, it was just two ships passing in the night. He doesn't want to have regrets , so he needs to know, I like the fact that he's being honest". Kelly leans in close to Jane and lightly kisses her on the lips, then says "Janie you are so beautiful, I could just eat you!". Jane replies, "Kelly, your a good friend, but I'm not attracted to women, I think we need to get you laid". They both laugh, and Kelly says , "yea, your probably right".
Billy walked back up the path back to his car, he broke down his rod and then put away the rest of his fishing gear, he then drives south towards Christchurch  in search of  the unknown, is Ann Hunter the one?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Driving on the other side ( PART 17 )

The three enjoyed breakfast in the large hotel restaurant that over looks Nelson Harbor. Kelly and Jane were both light eaters having toast and handmade jams and local white honey, accompanied by dark black coffee, and hand squeezed orange juice fresh off the tree. Billy on the other hand grew up on a ranch, he was use to eating a real breakfast, ham, eggs lightly tossed, a large slice of honeydew melon, fried bread covered in powdered sugar, dark black coffee, and two glasses of  a mixture of breburn apple juice with local fresh orange , in a 50-50 mix. Bender liked the less acidic juice, and it seemed like it was available all over this wonderful lush country.
Kelly cleared her throat , then asked, so, whats the plan? I mean you two seem like it may be like your ready to start all over again, what gives? Kelly was looking straight at Jane when she said this, giving just a glance toward Billy near the very end of her direct question. Jane, using her napkin cleared a small dot of the light colored honey that had paused in the corner and between her perfectly lushes lips, then said, Kelly, we made plans, nothing is going to change, after breakfast you and I are heading to the Able-Tasman trail and we are going hiking. Billy is heading down to towards Christchurch, alone in some kind of pursuit of a Super Model he met on the flight down here. What? Exclaims Kelly, you have got to be kidding me! Billy Bender, the fucking nerve of you, Kelly  then adds, excuse my French, but, that is absolutely unbelievable, Jane, this is bullshit! Kelly jumps up, napkin in hand nearly knocking over her chair upon her arise, catching the top of the chair just before it tumbles toward the ground, then throwing her napkin with vengeance atop of the half eaten toast and jams, and turning and walking away pointing a long stiff finger in the direction of Billy and says , you Billy Bender are a real Son of a Bitch. Jane turns to Billy and says in a muffled voice, I didn't know Kelly knew your Mom? They both smile and laugh before Bender says, why is she so mad? You would think I was her ex -boy friend, and not you. Jane turns to Billy and says, she just went through a very ugly divorce, Kelly is very raw, in her eyes all men are evil, I'll explain it to her on our hike. OK says Bender, but please explain it to her in detail, I feel really bad for her and I don't even understand why, Billy adds, crazy.
In the parking lot while loading up their two cars, Kelly stood in the lobby and watched Billy throw the luggage into the trunks, Jane who has not broken a nail in over 15 years, leaned on Billy's Ford and watched. The task complete, Billy and Jane started with a small kiss and goodbye, which quickly escalated into heavy petting and a full makeout scene that was headed toward the hood of Billy's station wagon until Kelly slammed the door of the Land-cruiser she and Jane had been traveling in for the past two weeks, and upon entering screamed, enough already, lets go Janie! Lets go!
The mood broken, Billy and Jane straighten their clothes, Billy holding Jane by her shoulders looked Jane deep into her Sky Blue eyes, then released her, both smiled , then both drove away in two different directions, Jane watched the tail lights of  Ford Taurus station wagon fade away .
 Billy knew he was at a crossroad of his life, not knowing what the future held, he knew he needed to go forward and see what was around the next corner. The next few weeks would be pivotal in the life of Billy Bender, as he drove south out of Nelson, he came upon a river that was just a perfect size for wade fishing. Billy pulled over to have a look, he did not know the name of the small river, nor at this moment did he care. Large Caddis flies were hatching in the mid -morning sun light that penetrated through the thick green foliage that lined the emerald green meandering stream. Bender could see a few large trout feeding on the edges, when ever one of the unlucky moth like bugs would flutter as it floated over the feeding lane of one of the large hungry trout. It was too much for Bender, he quickly moved to the back of the steel-blue ford and grabbed his Simms vest and his 9'-5 Sage rod and headed down a small trail that would take him stream side. As Billy assembled his gear, he thought of Jane, he also was thinking of Ann Hunter, there was just something about Ann that Billy needed to know more, she seemed perfect for Billy in every aspect. I'll never know unless I try, thought Bender. Billy tied on a # 14 Elk hair Caddis, he took line off his reel, and began to cast to a large brown trout who was feeding on the surface 30 feet up stream along the bank . At this moment the images of both Ann Hunter and Jane faded, all Billy could see were currents, a large rock just up stream from the feeding trout, and the rhythm of the feeding brown opening it's white mouth every ten seconds or so, Bender was focused, he had already thought of what might happen once he hooked the big brown, Bender was in the zone.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fly Fishing Alone in Alaska (Part 8)



The Kenectok River was quite an experience, culture shock really, after spending so much time alone fishing on the Igushik River. It seemed strange to be around the vast number of guides, and clients, boats racing around competing for places where the guides felt confident their dudes would be able get into some fish.
It was my first experience in Alaska dealing with such a busy river, the amount of traffic on the Kenectok at times was over whelming, and remember, this was 1985. There was a reason why there were so many guides and clients fishing, the fishing was incredible. On my last day I moved down by the Airport on the lower river to wait for my plane to retrieve me. We did not have a specific time, so I felt it best to be near and fish just around the runway.  Within two hours of fishing I landed numerous amounts of salmon, most fresh, just in from the salt. It may have been a strange year, I do not know, but, I remember catching Kings, Chums and Sockeye. It was late summer, but indeed all the salmon were present, even a few “Pinks” were making a showing, and the silver salmon were just starting to inhabit the lower river.
The silvers are a perfect fish for a fly rod; they are very aggressive and will attack a fly. The silvers vary from area to area on size, but, usually they range from 8-12 lbs., and they fight with every pound. The silver’s are great leapers, jumping and attaining air trying to dis-lodge the hooks in their mouths. The very first salmon I caught in Alaska was silver just outside of the Capital Juneau. I just had arrived to Alaska and could not wait to get out fishing, so I hitch–hiked out to a stream well know for its silver run. An Eskimo in his late twenties in an old van picked me up and told me he was just released from prison, and he too wanted to get out and do some fishing. He told me how hard it was for him to be incarcerated, he said he felt like an animal in a Zoo, caged. I offered him a fresh orange, and he declined, saying that he only liked fruit from a can; he said it was just what he was use to eating. This was my first encounter with an Eskimo, little did I know, in a month’s time I would be living just above the Arctic Circle on the Kobuk River teaching and living with Eskimo’s.
We arrived at the creek and there were just a few other fishermen, we were both happy to know that it would not be crowded, and we both assembled our gear and started fishing. The creek was tidal; it was low tide so it made it easy to get the fly in a zone where the fish could see the artificial. The creek itself was only 25 feet across, slow moving, three to four feet deep in the pools, and had a dark amber color, which meanders through a large meadow that is lined with a thick forest of Ceder Trees. Along the creek was huge piles of very pungent, grey bear scat. The bears would eat salmon and walk along the creek depositing what they were eating, and leaving half eaten salmon up and down the sides of the creek. The smell is just awful; it was the only downside to such a remarkable environment to fish.
My first salmon was something I will never forget, for many reasons, but mainly due to the great size of the hard fighting silver salmon. I was using a six weight Sage, and it always makes landing a large fish more interesting when your using an under sized rod, not that I recommend this practice, I‘ve always been one to advocate “right tool for the job”. But, I was not sure of the size of the quarry; I’d just arrived and wanted to catch something, anything.  I was using a light sink tip line with some flashy flies I had tied, my new buddy was getting fish on a pixie, he had never seen anybody fly fish before, and thought it looked strange. Just then, I finally hooked up, my sink tip line started screaming off my reel, but due to the dark color of the water I could not tell which direction the line was going. Off to my right, up stream around 70 feet, a huge fish became airborne, shaking and bending like a fish possessed. I pulled up on my line and much to my amazement to find that this beast was indeed at the end of my line. This being a small creek, there is not a lot of room for a fish of this size to run and fight, so it was airborne most of the 15 minutes or so it took to land the beauty. It being my first big fish caught in Alaska, I measured this big male, and it came to 34 inch’s long and had a girth of 26 inches. Weight, who knows , 17, 18 lbs., maybe, it was big, and fought  like crazy, and it was my first, yes, I was glad to be in Alaska.
Upon my return to Manokotak from the Kenecktok River, I found a busy Village full of people of all ages, walking, riding four wheelers, kids playing, and the beach full of boats, everyone was back from camp. I’d run into Leroy and he’d said the upper river was full of Silvers, and that everybody was catching them. I couldn’t wait to get up stream and get into the last run of Salmon for the season. My freezer was full of Red salmon, so, I’d only eat fresh fish from now on, or just release them.
My first summer after teaching in Noorvik (Kobuk River), I decided to spend the summer in the Village and fish. This is in Northern Alaska on the Western part of the Brooks Range, just east of Kotzebue. I’d fish on the beach down from where I was living, there were Sheefish, (looks like a tarpon, but fresh water fish that can tolerate estuary water mixing with salt) that would migrate by the Village to spawn up stream. In addition, were the salmon, and, the Pike were everywhere. I had a small boat to move around some, but the fishing was good right off the beach. Here I would catch mainly salmon, but always pike, all sizes; most were around 24 inch’s. After releasing around 20 salmon (Chums), and many pike, I went up to the house to take a rest, when there was a knock at my door. It was an elderly native man who looked puzzled. We drank some coffee, eat some salmon, and then he asked why I throw the fish I catch away. At first, I was confused; I didn’t know what he was saying. Then it hit me, “catch and release” was a concept that was not even in the thought process of a native of this generation. So, I explained that I was releasing the fish to live, and not throwing them away. He stared at me for maybe a full minute, and then he asked, then why do you fish?
I met many people in the days before School started; Stella at the post office would introduce me to folks when I would go in and retrieve my mail. I thought with the rumor mill of the village that everyone knew who I was, but I was wrong.
I couldn’t wait to return to the upper river, it had been my personnel fishing spot for months, and I’d grown quite fond of the environment of the upper Igushik. There were a lot more people on the river, coming and going on the lower and upper river, just more people all over. By the time I reached middle stretch, I was starting to run into boats netting salmon in all the mouths of the channels where the silvers love to rest. They would siegne the slower water and take a net full at a time, most of these fishermen were around my age, but, I’d not met any of this group. In the nets along with the silvers would be huge rainbows and char, I felt sick to see a rainbow of around eight pounds being taken along with the silvers.
I was fishing one of the mouths of a channel and catching quite a few silvers, when one of the boats came right into where I was fishing, and ran a net right through the spot where I was fishing. The three native men were acting quite aggressive, saying nasty things towards me, I felt saddened to see this behavior  after spending the whole summer alone fishing the same water. I returned to the village, I’d seen enough of that; it was a different ride back than my normal euphoric frame of mind.
The next day, while walking through the village I ran into the three men I saw the day previous. They apologized, and told me they did not know who I was, and that they had heard that white outfitters were starting to fish the upper river, they thought I was scouting the river. They all turned out to be good guys, they just wanted to protect what they had, and nobody can blame them for that. What the people in the village really did not want, was the same scenario that had taken place on the Kenectok, and Togiak Rivers, with out of state outfitters running up and down their river with wealthy clients, and the people of the village getting nothing, or at least they use to get nothing. I have heard from some of the outfitters today that things have changed, and the outfitters do work with the villages in a positive way.
I have not been back to fish Southwest Alaska for over 25 years, after this school year ended, I took a year of from teaching and traveled and fished in Australia, and New Zealand. It was 1986, the year of the oil embargo, upon my return, I found that there were many cut backs within the schools in Alaska.The schools receive funds from the oil profits generated within the state. There were cut backs for teachers all over Alaska,  I decided to head back to Montana and teach and coach there. Instead , I started guiding fly fishermen  year round, guiding the summers in Montana, that winter, I was hired as a consultant helping a man start a fishing lodge in the lake district of Chile. This was my introduction to the place and frame of mind they call Patagonia.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

(High Water) Missouri River June 9th 2011

Most of the rivers in the Great Falls area are in Flood stage. This is a photo of the lower "Great Falls". For scale you can see a huge boom crane at the top of the photo.
This is the Great Falls, due to so much water , it does not appear to even be a "Fall".
Throughout the City of Great Falls you can see whole large trees floating in the river.
Despite all the rivers in flood stage, below Holter Dam 40 miles to the south of Great Falls , the Trout and Walleye fishing remain of good quality. The river at Holter Dam today is 13, 500 cfps, this is high , but still very fishable. There is even some dry fly fishing to be experienced limited as it may be until the water temps get to a higher level, and become stable.This should start in a couple of weeks, at this time we will start to see PMD's, Caddis , and the start of the Trico's.
State wide the rivers are going through "run-off", this is one of those special years where the rivers are cleaned by the scouring of all the water charging down stream. This is needed to take out mud and sand that deposit on the bottom of the rivers which inhibit the growth of aquatic insects. In addition , the flooding water erodes many worms of all kinds ( aquatic and terrestrial ) into a free floating stage that makes easy pickings for the fish to gorge and grow quite fast in a short time frame.
Bottom line, yes we have pretty good quality fishing despite all the flooding your reading about , and seeing on the news. The Missouri River is a very special river environment, that resist droughts or flooding, it is one of the most consistent rivers for Trout fishing found anywhere on the planet.
If you have not fished the Missouri, come out and see what all the fuss is about, big, hard fighting, rainbow and brown trout, very fun! 



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wormology



Now, I'm not one to jump on the "worm band wagon" , so to speak, but , State wide we are looking at some record run-off. One of the few rivers that is even fish-able is the Missouri River below Holter Dam . Because of the unusually high water , we are seeing outfitters from across the entire State of Montana  descend on towns such as Cascade, Wolf Creek and Craig. Some days due to either rain , or even the warmer sunny days when the snow will melt off from the Rocky Mountain front, one of the Missouri Rivers tributaries the Dearborn River, will expand it's size and flow the color of chocolate milk. Thus entering the main stem and discoloring the river all the way to Great Falls. This puts most of the fishermen floating from Holter Dam to just above where the Dearborn river enters the Missouri, around 12-13 miles of river to fish. Doesn't see so bad, but wait, there is another tributary, Little Prickly Pear which enters the river just below the Wolf Creek bridge, it is 2.5 miles from Holter Dam. This little stream can also throw some real brown mud into the main stem, nothing like the Dearborn, but, the river can be quite discolored making most fly fishing situations difficult at best.
Now the good news, with all this flooding  comes erosion, and with the erosion comes Worms, lots of Worms. Earthworms, Aquatic worms, big worms , small worms, skinny worms , fat worms, long worms , short worms, just worms dude!( You thought I was going to River City..anyway...) The trout love worms, they are gorging on worms, even in the high water, high dirty water, trout will eat worms. Are people catching trout on the Missouri River, yes they are, and most people are catching the trout on worms of all kinds... Lets take a look at some of the Worm patterns that seem to produce;

Here are some different types of worms, all of these are tied on different #8 sized hooks, some weighted , some not, but if you notice , they all have tails, making this group # 2 worms. The #1 worms are tailess, thus making tying on another fly attached to the bend of the hook more practical, and the second fly does not spin around as much when being fished, less tangles etc...
These worms are #1 worms, generally pretty heavy, tail-less, bright colored for attraction, and good sized, these are tied on #6 's. With the very high water,and the water being off colored, these flies will produce.The red bead is a large Tungsten bead, very heavy, enabling the fly to get down to the proper levels even with the very high water. In addition to this weight, two additional split shots will be needed usually 4-6 inches from the # 1 worm. When tying on the second fly, I like to use around 12 inches of flourocarbon from the #1 to the #2 fly. The #2 fly can be anything from a zebra midge , Baetis nymph, to another lightly or un-weighted worm. The idea being that the split shots will be on the bottom, along with the #1 fly, the lighter #2 fly will float above in another zone, fishing two different levels can be very important when the water is off color.
Here are some worms that are producing for me, I'm sure other people have their favorites patterns;
Earthworm, #6, Tung bead
Wire worm # 6
The Fat-Tay #6
Hot Bead # 8
Purple Power worm #8
Slim Jim # 8
 Eyes got it #8
These are just a few, I'm sure the worms you are using work great. Please do not use hooks larger than #6, the very large hooks can kill the trout, plus most times the smaller worms are the better producers!
It looks like we may have another month of nymphing, so Worm On!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fly Fishing Alone in Alaska (Part 7)


The plane landed in the Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, we taxied to the end of the runway that was closest to the river, I un-loaded my gear and started with the assembly of the boat and motor, fishing gear, gas cans etc…It was the first time in months that my inflatable boat had been rolled up and re assembled. I had brought the hand pump so it did not take long to be back in the water and heading up–stream ready for a new adventure. The Kenektok River is a medium sized river, larger than the Igushik, but smaller than most of the well know rivers in the area such as the Nushagak, or the Togiak. It  runs with a good flow of current that form nice runs, riffle’s, and seams along small back eddies, and has quite a few Islands with side Channels. The river in the lower and middle stretches is pretty good sized, and thus I preferred to fish in the side channels where the water was smaller and more personnel.
As I started up stream I noticed signs of fishermen, just up stream from the airport there were colorful camping tents mish–mashed on an Island, there was a sign that read “Gone Fishing”. I would find out later that these were new Outfitters just getting started, further upstream were the camps of their competition. The first camp I came upon was the very organized, Dave Duncan & Sons. It was an impressive vision, the camp itself was extremely clean, and had an almost military look to it. There was a row of tan colored Wall tents that were perfectly assembled and displayed, along with the jet boats parked in a perfect angle just in front .There was no question that this group was nothing but professional on all levels, it was what one would expect to find in a first Class fishing camp in Alaska. The camp my friends were working in was the Alaska West Fishing, a very solid Outfit that had a very nice camp with large white wall tents, in a little more relaxed setting, none of the military organization, but first class as well. There was another camp that also ran jet boats just further up stream, but it was small outfit that had a lodge in another area, this was a satellite camp for them.
I was impressed with just how many salmon were in this river, on my assent up stream I was moving huge schools of Kings, Red’s, and Chums. It did not take long to run into a Jet boat (Jon boat with a jet unit); it turned out to be one of my buddies from Montana, “Stew meat”. I’d written to my other buddy there “Clam” and told him I was going to be coming over to check out the fishing, so they knew I might show up. Stew pulled in to have a look at this new guy on the river running in a Boston Whaler inflatable. “Ha, Daly is that you?” “Clam said you might show up, when did you get here?” Stew said that they would be working until about 7:00 or 8:00, and to stop by and get a meal, he said the camp was just a mile or so upstream on the right and I couldn’t miss it.
I fished for salmon for a few hours and was surprised how good of quality the fishing was, hooking all three species and landing a few Char. The kings I landed were smaller, 15-18 lbs., one was bright, and the other was dark red. This was true for the Chums and sockeye as well, a mixed bag of bright and dark fish.
Later that evening I made my way to the camp, it was a nice camp, great food, good atmosphere, well located on the river. Clam, and Stew had just gotten through guiding for the day, so, they were both worn out. We ate some wonderful food, drank some beers and shared fishing stories, until the lights went out. The following day, Clam had a day off and we fished a channel that was well known for the rainbows to eat mice, and thus we fished with mouse patterns. It was a blast, just a down and across dragging a mouse fly, and the wakes would follow until, boom, hooked up. Some of the takes were just sips, but most of the rainbows would really whack the imitation. I had a great time, it was so different from the Igushik, there were so many more rainbows, and the action was pretty steady. I was surprised that fish of this size would eat a mouse, I thought the fish would be larger, most of the fish were between 17-23 inches, good trout, but, when you think of trout eating mice, at least I do, I think of larger sized trout.
Clam showed me places to try while Stew and he were working, for they had to work almost everyday, I was lucky that Clam got a day off while I was there.  The following day I was on my own once again, and was ready to explore. I entered a channel that looked excellent, deeper, slower water that ran along a cut bank, with native fish cleaning tables about half way down. This looked fishy; I was just getting into position, when one of the Duncan boats entered the channel, and I pulled up my anchor and floated down to meet him. They were friendly but were curious to who I was , we made quick introductions , and I told him to stay and fish with his clients, I was just out fishing and could go anywhere. Later I ran into the Duncan guide again, he was one of the sons, very nice guy, he had come to thank me, he gave me a black label beer, and we spoke a bit about the fishing, then, we parted ways.
That evening I decided to camp on a gravel bar that had less mosquitoes than places near the alders. I had brought just a two man Eureka tent, green, without the rainfly,  just a place to get out away from the bugs, and be able to sleep. It was really small, my feet and head both touched the walls, and there just wasn’t a lot of extra room. One of the things I always had with me while camping out was either a 12 gauge, or, this trip I brought the 45-70, a lever action rifle that also had 500 gr bullets. I preferred this rifle rather than the shotgun, the bullets are faster, more accurate,  just more deadly.
I was worn out from fishing, and after eating crawled into my little, green sleeping habitation. I remember sleeping really well, until this horrible smell woke me from the dead. It was such a powerful stench, that even trying to ignore it, I couldn’t, it was so powerful, and I thought maybe I’d been sprayed by a skunk. I was laying in my sleeping bag when I heard this heavy breathing, then something touched my top of my head, there was a sniffing sound, I was frozen for a second, I couldn’t move, it was a bear. It was sniffing my head, its breath was rotten salmon smell, and it was respiring just inches from my head, the only thing between this bear and my head was a very thin piece of nylon. I knew I’d better act fast, I quietly as possible reach over and took the safety off the 45-70, and placed the end of the barrel right up to where the bear was sniffing, I then cocked the hammer. The bear smelling the rifle, and hearing the hammer being cocked jumped back around five to six feet, but he did not leave, I could hear him outside pacing back and forth. I said “Bear, move on, or I’ll kill you, move on, get out, get out! I could hear him running away, so I unzipped the door and peeked outside. I would have thought it would have been a small bear, a young one coming around to investigate this green, nylon, rectangle on this rocky beach. But, the size of the tracks that were all around my tent in the sand told a different story, one of a full grown adult grizzly who was well fed from eating salmon, but, looking for easy human food. It surprised me to find a grizzly so close to a native village, on a river with jet boats running up and down making so much noise. But these bears will feed in the very small creeks, easy pickings for getting salmon, and humans cannot go with their boats.
Needless to say that I did not sleep the rest of the night, I didn’t want to be inside the tent, but the mosquitoes were so bad, I had no choice. My adrenaline was on overtime mode; I just laid in the undersized tent with the 45-70 by my side and waited for the sun to rise and adventures of another day.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fly Fishing Alone In Alaska (Part 6)


It was now the end of July and a few folks from the Village were starting to return back home after spending the last two months at camp. Everyday a few more people seemed to trickle back; the village was about ¼ occupied. Stella and Leroy had both retuned for good, the post office was open everyday, along with the co-op store and gas. Most of the returning folks were elders, the younger crowd stayed in camp until just a few days before school started. Then, it was off to Anchorage or some just went to Dillingham to buy clothes for winter, and supplies for school.
The river was much lower in the upper part, I knew how to navigate to about the middle section without any difficulties, but there was no way I could make it back up to the Lake or even close without a jet unit on my Yamaha. By now the big Kings were pretty red in color, the red salmon (sockeye), were just that, very red in color with green heads, and there was another salmon that recently showed, the Chum. This was an excellent fighting fish when caught fresh, silver in color, but it did not take but a week or two before the Chum salmon started changing shape and color. Another name for the Chum is dog salmon, for it changes from bright silver to a calico color, and has large protruding teeth that resemble a dog when growling. The other salmon I did not mention before was the Pink salmon; this is a small salmon that on this year did not show in any great numbers. It is not a great fighter, and changes very fast once it enters fresh water, it becomes flat like a pancake. It is usually canned and sold in stores near the tuna; it is not common to be sold in restaurants for it is not of great quality to consume. Compared to the other salmon, it ranks on the bottom of the scale, the best eating salmon are the red salmon, (Sockeye), or the Kings. The kings have 17% or so that have white meat, restaurants advertise when they have the white colored meat as something special, I have eaten the white king meat on several occasions, and could not differentiate from pink or white meat of the kings, both tasted great to me. A close third would be the silvers, which also have a deep reddish color in their meat, but they usually don’t have the firm flesh as do the kings and sockeye.
I had some friends from Montana that were guiding in a fly fishing camp  just over a few Mountain ranges away on a well know river , the Kenektok. I decided to take my boat and motor and spend a few days fishing on a different river, visit with some friends, camp, and fish for the famous Leopard rainbow. The rainbows in this drainage were well know for eating mice, or red backed voles, which were found in great numbers all over the west coast of Alaska. Disney had a famous film I saw about Alaska which they showed hundred’s  of what they called lemmings jumping off a cliff, migrating to another area due to over population. Disney took liberties in making such claims, and the creatures in the film were actually voles, a cousin to the lemmings. Nobody has ever seen hundreds of neither voles nor lemmings jumping off of cliffs, but, these mice like mammals do move about when faced with over population, even swimming across rivers to get to new areas. Thus, rainbow trout eat the sometimes weary traveler’s when they do decide to cross the river, and try to find new areas to populate.
I met natives who did not like to eat the rainbow trout, because when they cleaned the trout they would have a mouse or two in their stomachs. With so many other types of fish to eat, some of them thought this was disgusting and would feed the trout to their dogs. I met a native man later in the year during a basketball tournament in the town of New Stuyahok which is located on the upper Nushagak river who told me that he’d caught a 12 pound rainbow that had three mice in it’s stomach when he was cleaning it. He said he would never eat a fish that eat mice, that he thought it was just for the dogs to eat such a fish. It seemed like this man was looking for a reaction from me , and I did not give him the pleasure. It may have been true that he did not like to eat the trout when they had mice in them, but, the dogs eat well, salmon, moose, trout what ever they had the most of at that time.
I had a pilot pick me up and fly me to the village of Quinhagak that is just north of the Village of Togiak. It was a short flight, and the pilot was a fisherman, so he showed me all the great fishing creeks and rivers on our flight, even flying up the Kenektok River to point out channels that fished well with mouse patterns.
It was a very different scene than what I was use to, remember, it was 1984, but here on this river there was a number of fishing camps , and they were run by whites from the lower 48, outsiders, running up and down the river in jet boats. This was my first exposure to this scene, all the other rivers I’d fished up until now were very quiet, no outfitters running back and forth in jet boats. Here I would not be Fly Fishing alone by any means, but rather trying not to get into the way of the outfitters taking their clients fishing who were paying big money to be there.

Welcome To Montana, or Cliff Jumper



                               
When I was attending the U OF M in Missoula Montana in the late 1970’s, I decided to go for a soak in Jerry Johnsons hot springs; it was in the middle of winter. In those days I drove an old powder blue Toyota Land Cruiser with a white soft top. The night before, it had snowed all night and left around two feet of heavy, wet snow on the pass at Lolo. That morning was spectacular, there was not a cloud in the sky, and it was a "Big Blue Sky" winter day, all the trees completely covered in their finest "whites".
From the top of Lolo pass , the view was endless on this crisp, sunny, cloudless January morning, looking down on the Lochsa River valley and into Idaho from the Montana side .The only creature's stirring were the long tailed black and white magpies, flying in small flocks scavenging for food. I was thinking how the road had not been a problem, and how just maybe, it would be in good condition all the way to the hot springs. The road had been plowed on the Montana section, but, I soon found out on my descent, that was not the case on the Idaho side. There were two tracks breaking through the fresh snow showing signs of other life. But, these turned off at the Forrest Service station , about two miles down the steep, "long and winding road", now I was the trail blazer , heading straight into the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states.
I was tentatively meeting up with some friends at the hot springs, I thought, wow, great; we will have the hot springs to ourselves. And, in the back of my mind, I had the Calvary coming in case I got stuck, or something happened. I was moving through the snow, slowly, but, under control, and thought the road was not in that bad of condition, despite breaking through two feet of fresh wet, snow. From the top of Lolo pass to the hot springs, it is all down hill, the first part of the descent is quite steep, then in levels somewhat , and then,  there is a section where the road is very steep once again, and  curvy, until, there is just a gradual slope all the way down to the hot springs. By the time I reached the second steep part of the decline, I'd felt like I'd been through the worst, and it would be smooth sailing the rest of the way. About that time my Land Cruiser started sliding, I was of course going down hill, due to the curves in the road, the sun had not penetrated this section, and there was "black ice" below the two feet of fresh snow. I had not seen one other car since I'd entered Idaho, behind me, nor in the other lane going to Montana. So, I knew I had both lanes to slide, and try and slow to a point where I could gain control. It was steep; I was not slowing, but felt like I was gaining speed, countering every slide, I was literally "all over the road". It was a completely helpless feeling, my mind was reeling, and trying to figure a way to slow down and gain control, when I noticed this section had no "guard rails". Shit, I thought, stay on the right side at all cost, because on the left side of the road was a drop-off of at least 1000 ft. straight down to the Lochsa River. I tried to use the brakes, pumping them, not wanting to "lock them" and be completely out of control, this wasn't working, and it was pure black ice below the snow. If I could ram alongside something, that would slow me down I thought, but being out of control, it was hard to choose a tree, or hillside to ram alongside. Funny, when you’re going uphill, you can accelerate to straighten out, just taking your foot of the gas will slow you down; it is not the case when you’re going downhill on ice. I tried to spin the Land Cruiser around, accelerating, so I could face uphill and maybe drive up hill and gain control. The acceleration spun me in a 360*, and increased my speed, I was really helpless , thinking the worst case scenario, I was alone in the middle of nowhere, it was cold, January, I had not seen another person in the last 40 minutes, chances were that I was going to have to wreck the Land Cruiser to have some kind of a chance to survive, I did not want to go over that cliff on the left side of the road, that was death for sure, nobody could survive a 1000 ft. drop. I kept with the counter steering, pumping the brakes and thinking. I'd gone over a mile down hill sliding out of control, I had to do something, so, I decided to try and slide near the right side edge of the road, the snow was thicker there and maybe the friction would slow me. It worked, I was starting to slow down, aah  what a relief, now I had a chance, I thought, when I hit another patch of ice, I was sliding sideways on the edge of the highway right toward the drop off, another cliff. My decision was swift, I knew I did not want to "roll off" the cliff, death was imminent; I knew I'd have to steer the soft topped vehicle straight down the hill and hope for the best. It was not a cliff like on the left side of the road, but it was very steep and treed. I steered the 4-wheeler nose first down the cliff, the best I could and kept the Land Cruiser straight until I hit the extra large bumper, smashing against a Tamarack tree with around a 20 inch diameter. I can still remember sitting in my rig, thinking, I'm in one piece, alive, what a ride that was! My vehicle wasn't that bad, I'd torn holes through the top in three or four places, my windshield was cracked, but not all broken, it could have been much worst! And, I wasn't hurt, I felt OK, no blood, no broken bones, that was lucky!
 I got out, and looked up to see the path, it was around 200 feet to the road, and there were many smaller trees I'd driven over, some where not that small. In the path I'd driven over trees with diameters of two to four inches, not exactly twigs. I was walking uphill  toward the road when I heard a voice " Are you alright?", it was a Idaho State Trooper, he was bent over and had his hands around his mouth, " stay there, don't move" , "I'm coming down" he said. I'm fine, I said, really lucky! He was moving fast sliding in the snow until he reached me. The trooper was only a few years older than me, I'd guess 25 or so. He had a buzz cut, tall, lanky fellow that appeared nervous. I reassured him that I was OK, you sure? He asked again, yaw, I'm fine; I think I had to say this around ten more times before he believed me.  We then had to discuss what had happened; this all took place down where the Land Cruiser was pinned against the tree. He then asked, how would you like to get this rig out of here? I said, what do you think a tow truck? The trooper asked me if I did not mind paying $ 500 to get a tow truck. Shit, I said, that’s a lot of $. That is when the trooper suggested that I could drive it back up the cliff. I was shocked, drive it up the cliff? I don't think it will make it, it's pretty steep. The trooper said he had four sets of chains that would fit on my tires, "we can give it a try”, "I think it will go up this cliff with all tires chained up and in low gear" said the trooper. And so we did, Not only did I drive off a cliff that day, but, I drove up a cliff the same morning. After hours of cutting trees, and clearing rocks, some how the taggered Land Cruiser rumbled its way back to the top of the hill and back on the highway.
I was pretty shook up after all this, and knew I still had to drive back to Missoula, but, felt I was very lucky to be driving back. I couldn't thank the Trooper enough, Man; thank you so much for all your help, that was great, thank you, thank you, just then the young law man turned and said, "Your welcome, but this is for you". It was a ticket for reckless driving, I was shocked, what, a ticket? Are you kidding? I hit black ice, I skidded for over a mile down hill, I was only going 40 mph, and I kept from going over on the left side and dying! There are no guard rails! I could have died! Now you’re giving me a ticket? You have to be joking? The trooper said, "I'm just doing my job, write to the judge if you have a problem" .
I did indeed write to the Judge and explained the dangers of Idaho wilderness roads with the lack of "Guard Rails", and just what could happen. Today, you will see guard rails in this part of the road, and, the judge through out the case against my "ticket".
 I drove back to Missoula that afternoon very slow and cautious, I was never more glad to see the big blue sign on top of Lolo pass that says "WELCOME TO MONTANA".

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Driving on the Other Side (Part 16)

Kelly awoke early (6:00am) to a stunning day; the sun was penetrating into her room, even at this early hour in New Zealand after a big rain storm the entire landscape seems to sparkle like it is saturated in diamonds. After having a restful night, she was ready to continue on her journey south, Kelly and Jane both agreed they would make it all the way south to Stewart Island, New Zealand's third Island. Then, upon their return to Denver they could say they saw New Zealand from tip to tip.
It had been two weeks since the final settlement came in from Kelly’s divorce, Kelly felt like she had come out of this dreadful process in pretty good shape. Her ex was more than willing to give Kelly all what he had left of his Stock portfolio, since it had tanked more than 65%. Kelly knew these were all Blue Chip stocks, and what ever happened with the world economy, these giants would rise from the rubble, and once again take their place in the world’s landscape. Kelly was also rewarded one million dollars in cash, for this her ex was able to keep their homes in Denver and Aspen, both worth a fraction of their value a few years prior. All their belongings, art, cars, jewelry etc… was split 50/50, both agreed, and it was done. All Kelly wanted was to get away, forget about the past eight months, and just disappear.
 Since the Real estate market was so slow at this time of the year in Denver, Kelly asked Jane to join her, everything paid for by Kelly, she just wanted a friend to join her on a getaway to paradise, some place very far away, someplace where it would be summer. The travel agent suggested New Zealand, “hiking, river trips, fishing, and she said the seafood and wines were to die for, perfect place to clear your head”, she said. Kelly thought having Jane along would also be helpful in the men department. Jane was one of those women who from an early age was noticed by the opposite sex, gawked at really, men just starred at her to be frank about it. Men just seem to appear from no where when Jane was there, she never had to open a door, or carry her luggage, or even pull her own chair to be seated, out of nowhere a guy would appear, ready to help her, push her chair in for her. Kelly had never seen anything like it, Jane Greenfield is like “honey to bees, light to a moth,” she is a man magnet. Kelly was ready for being a little wild after all the stress from the divorce, and with the constant on slaught of men coming forth to try a seduce Jane, there were always a few “left overs”, and Kelly wasn’t complaining, she was far from home and Kelly was ready for some fun.  But, what are the odds of Jane running into her “love of her life”,  all the way down here in New Zealand, on my getaway thought Kelly. What would happen now, are the three of us going to travel together, or, are they planning to go off together, I‘d better get to the bottom of this Kelly thought to herself. She dressed and headed down stairs to get some coffee,  and find out just what transpired last night between Billy and Jane, I’d  find out where we stand, thought Kelly. For Kelly had heard plenty about Billy Bender for the last five years from Jane. All of the attention that Jane received from men in general meant nothing to Jane, she cared for one man , and that man, was who she was in bed with exactly this moment.
Kelly took the map down stairs to plot the route that her and Jane would take south on their way to the bottom on New Zealand. They had discussed hiking the Able –Tasman trail, and they both wanted to hike the Milford Track, which the travel agent said was a must. They both had read and seen photos about the hike through the New Zealand Alps, and just how spectacular it was suppose to be, both agreed, it was in fact a must. Kelly’s mind was on about mile 22 on the Milford track when she was brought back to reality with the sound of “good morning”, Jane and Billy were just joining Kelly for breakfast, and they both looked famished…


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Driving on the other side .. Part (15)

                                          Wellington , New zealand


In the bar the drinks came in groups of three, all martini’s, Jane was indulging in the colorful Cosmo, Kelly's poison was the Apple martini, and Billy went traditional, with a dirty martini with four olives. Billy found out that Jane and Kelly worked together at Century 21 selling Real estate in Denver Colorado, and that they both started the same week five years earlier. Jane said ,“The market is at an all time low, things are just not moving unless you count the foreclosed homes, and they are selling for pennies on the dollar, it is a horrible time to be in Real estate, tough times”. Bender put his head down with a look of distress on his face and said,” I know, I know, I’m still working at DA Davidson’s main branch in Great Falls, or , I think I am, I’ll find out in a couple of weeks.” Jane asks “why, what’s going on?” Bender replies, “We can talk later, I’ll get through it”. So, Kelly what made the two of you end up all the way down here in New Zealand, (trying to include her in conversation). Kelly half laughs and says, “Well, I just got divorced, and thank god, I got half of the son of a bitch’s money”. Bender, “oh, I see, sorry to hear that”. Kelly asks, “ You mean about the money, or the divorce, Oh I’m sorry, I need to get to bed and leave you two at it, I feel like such a third wheel”.
After Kelly says good night and heads up stairs to her room, Billy and Jane decide to go to Billy’s room, as Jane says, “To talk, nothing more, right buster?” Bender smiles and says, “Of course, nothing more, it has been ages since I’ve seen you, we need to catch up”.  Jane turns to Billy as she put her coat on, “Billy Bender you will never change, I really did love you, I really wanted to be Mrs. Bender, but here you are 38 and still single, I don’t think I ever had a chance”. Bender smiles and say, “ You’ll never know just how close you came  that summer in 1995 when all of us were up staying on Flathead lake. Remember, all the tents, sprawled everywhere, all over the lawn, beach, and the backyard of the Hollister’s property. Thank god Jacks parents didn’t come up that weekend, that would have been a mess, can you imagine?” Jane’s mood softens, she smiles and puts her arms around Billy’s neck, the cosmos are kicking in, Jane looks Billy directly in the eyes and says, “Kiss me Billy, quit talking and kiss me”. The two of them left the bar not saying a word , Billy pulled the key from his pocket, it was room 223, Bender hadn’t even un packed, and the couple stumbled their way upstairs, to talk , nothing more…

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Driving on the Other Side...(Part 14)


Driving on the Other Side… (Part 14)

By the time Tom and Billy returned to his home near the bridge that crossed the mighty Rangitikei, Bender was ready to move on further south. Being alone for two nights, and indulging in the “red bud” did not help Billy in forgetting about Ann Hunter. Bender knew he needed to make some head way and get much further south, and maybe not even fish until he reached the Northern part of the South Island.  Bender thanked Tom for everything, for allowing him to experience such a wonderful part of New Zealand, and to be part of  fishing an area that few people would ever know. Bender told Tom he would see him upon his return in a few weeks, and maybe then the two of them might be able to float and fish the Rangitikei. Billy in his haste forgot to call Ann that evening, and instead drove for hours to reach the Capital, Wellington. When Billy arrived it was hard to see the road due to the sheets of rain pounding the black top, Billy was having a difficult time staying on the road.
The capital is a clean, organized, for a city, but lacks the old charm that you find in Auckland. Wellington is all about government, and has a military presence, ship shape, mate! Billy wanted nothing more than to get over the South Island, but, the ferry was delayed until the storm would pass. Some of the heaviest seas found on the planet are found at times between the North and South Islands in New Zealand, the ferries are huge ocean going ships, nothing small about them.
Bender decided to spend the night and travel in the morning, so he checked into a hotel close to the ferry terminal. Upon checking in, he noticed a couple of attractive women who appeared to be Americans. They were smartly dressed, and Bender thought they were around their mid-thirties, no older. When one of the beauties flashed a huge, warm, inviting smile at Billy, and then across the room yelled, “ Billy Bender, is that you?” As soon as Bender heard the voice he knew who the Buxom Blonde was in an instant, it was Jane Greenfield, from Billings Montana. Jane and Billy went to MSU together, and dated off and on for two years, Bender starting thinking of all the fun they had together during those two “off and on” years, and Billy mainly thought of the “on” periods. As Billy walked across the lobby of the hotel to become re-acquainted with Jane, he could remember her in detail, completely naked, for Jane Greenfield in Billys mind was a sexual goddess, he could not think of one physical flaw on this women’s torso, she was stunning. Jane was 5ft 7; she has dark honey colored straight and long hair that reaches the middle of her perfectly arched back. Big blue eyes, that seem to sparkle when she smiles, her teeth are naturally white, but so white they take on a hue of light blue. Jane had an unforgettable figure, once you saw her, you would never forget her, for she had a remarkable 40 DD chest, a tiny waist and again a good sized trunk, that was firm and well rounded. Barbie Dolls wish they looked this good, and Jane was very nice, she was thoughtful, kind, a good friend, people liked Jane, she was well thought of by many who Billy knew from College.
The problem with Jane and Billy was, that Jane wanted to marry Billy while they were in school, she insisted on it, not wanting to loose Billy, Jane figured marriage was the only solution. Billy Bender in college was not going to get married, period. Even for this wonderful woman, he just wasn’t ready; it was not in the cards.
Billy’s mind raced as he reached out to hug Jane; it had been ten years since the two of then ran into each other in Great Falls at dinner one night. “Oh Billy, it is amazing to run into you here in Wellington New Zealand of all places”, came from a very excited Jane Greenfield. “Jane so wonderful to see you, here or anyplace “, said the all too happy Bender. “ Billy, let me introduce to you, to my partner Kelly McGrath”, came from the mouth of Jane, Kelly is a redhead , who is tall , thin, and seemed somewhat the quiet type and  she had her arm was inter- locked with Jane's. Bender was stunned, Billy felt like someone just sucker punched him in the stomach, he felt light headed, and then he remembered he must keep smiling no matter what.  Judy and Kelly stood looking at Bender just smiling to see his reaction;  Billy was really trying, but was floundering like a fresh caught halibut flopping on the bottom of the boat. Finally, Jane said, “just kidding, ha, you should have seen your face” and both Jane and Kelly had a good laugh.  After, the three of them headed to the bar, two of the three to catch up on times they had both missed, the other, Kelly, would retire early and get a good nights rest.