Mira. I’m going to shut down this website, truchacabra.wordpress.com, in one week. SEE YOU AT TRUCHACABRA.COM AFTER THAT.
The following is how I would fish if I were anal retentive.
How Trout See
A trout’s vision is limited to a cone or window emanating at a 97 degree angle from its eyeballs. Objects outside of the cone and beneath its banked refraction in air are indistinct to trout, if not invisible. Objects within the cone are visible. The cone is more expansive the farther a trout is from the water surface and smaller if a fish is in shallow water. In other words, a deep-lying fish can see can see more above the water than a shallow one can. This is pertinent to the approach an angler must take and how on target a cast needs to be to present an imitation within a trout’s field of vision; a shallow-lying fish has a smaller field of vision, requiring a more accurate cast from the fly fisher.
Insects are near the bottom of the food chain and yet are some of nature’s most prolific survivors. They have accomplished this by unwittingly employing several strategies over the eons. One, insects produce huge numbers of offspring; they breed often and generate lots of progeny, which offsets extremely high mortality rates. Two, they migrate constantly towards more advantageous settings and frequently under optimal conditions. In a trout stream, insects engage in frequent searches for greener pastures, deliberately releasing themselves into the current so they will be brought to new habitat, hopefully habitat that can materially support them until they must move again. Since they are indeed so vulnerable to so many predators, insects stage much of this activity during low or no light conditions, when they are less likely to be seen. Ever wonder why the fishing is so good in the morning and evening? Or, in midday, how you see plenty of bugs on the bottoms of rocks but fish don’t seem to be eating them? Perhaps these bugs, being under rocks, are not so easily eaten.
Trout are ectotherms, cold-blooded creatures. Water temperature affects them greatly, especially at the extremes. You can run a fly right by the nose of a super cold or hot trout, it won’t eat, and there isn’t a dang thing you can do about it. Temperature causes trout to eat, not eat, eat certain things only, even migrate. Trout are happiest in water that is approximately 50 to 60 degrees. At least that’s the range they seem to eat the most. Over 70 degrees is approaching lethal; do not fish for trout when the water temperature is above this mark. Sharp temperature changes will trigger certain behaviors, especially in spring and fall, and in lakes.
You must know how to tie the improved clinch knot, the double surgeon’s knot, and the blood knot. You must know how to tie these knots well, very fast, and hopefully blind. If you aren’t comfortable with knots, you may subconsciously become unwilling to tie them. You will change flies less often and will be less likely to experiment with different rigs. Your creativity will suffer, and you will find you will catch fish only when conditions are just so. Your ability to adapt will be limited.
The reality of a cold blooded metabolism is that some or many fish will always be eating and, thus, will be caught and/or removed from a population. Nevertheless, some individual trout manage to reconcile their metabolic requirements with strong danger avoidance instincts. These fish are extremely cautious, and they’ll only eat when they are positive that doing so is a safe proposition. They are often large fish or, from habitual paranoia, are destined to be so. Anglers who dress, move, cast, or rig with careful intentions tend to catch lots of big fish.
Trout migrate large and short distances, on a seasonal or even daily basis, in response to certain environmental stimuli. Understanding trout migration is important, if only so the angler will place a reasonable amount of stock in theories about fish not being physically present at a certain location at a certain time (theories abound when fish aren’t being caught).
Mending and Casting
The difference between catching a fish or not can often be the six inches between where your fly lands and where it should have landed. It can be the drag that sets in right as your fly approaches your quarry. It is important to have control over your line while it’s in the air and on the water.
There Are No Rules
Period. Imposing rules on yourself can get in the way of your picking up on the lessons a day on the stream may be teaching you.
Low grade gold and copper deposit, colossal waste pit, probable pollution of an ecosystem, mining interests and state government not caring about such inconveniences, blah, blah, blah. The stakes on the Pebble Mine are extremely high. In one corner we’ve got Canadian mining jobs and profits, in the other, one of the wonders of the natural world. Before the bell, a few questions:
Can you recycle it?
Can it perform a technological function?
Can you tie flies with it?
Can you say Butte, Montana? How about Superfund?
Can you eat it?
Can you drink it?
Can you cook with it?
Can you heat your home with it?
Can it heal the sick?
Can you make jewelry out of it?
Can you poop in it?
Copper has a variety of uses and continues to contribute significantly to material human progress (whether these contributions justify the slightest chance of destroying the Bristol Bay watershed is the subject of another post). Gold, however, is becoming difficult to view as playing a positive role in anything, especially in these trying times.
“But Truchacabra, gold is the foundation of the global economy. Without it, the currencies of the world would have no value.”
I get it, but then again, I don’t. We’ve been getting it done for how long with currency made of paper. Then we had plastic, and now we have computer screens telling us how much we have to spend as well as what we just bought. Paper, plastic, and computer screens, and I’m supposed to believe that a shiny yellow metal backing whichever media of exchange is somehow less abstract?
“Silly Truchacabra, gold is solid. It’s permanent.”
Well, lots of things are permanent, plutonium for instance, or a 20 square mile lake filled with mine waste.
Here’s how I’m afraid it’s going to go. The powers will troll the villages near the proposed mine site. They’ll find a few suckers who, though not amounting to a majority, will look like one after the torches and pitchforks are handed out. This group will get really loud, enough to drown out even the greatest shouts of reason. From my masochistic perspective, it will be extremely fun to watch for maybe two minutes.
In my dreams, I see God eventually sending Saint Peter down to check on things. Having grown concerned about the state of his domain, the holiest of holies will want to know if the price of humanity’s soul really has no floor to it, if there’s anything we won’t do for a buck, basically, how deep is our gutter.
Peter will then describe a scene for us, taken from our not too distant future. The last drop of oil has been burned, our last war fought. We will have poisoned our last river, and the earth’s last topsoil will have been baked, flooded, and blown into oblivion. On stark, barren terrain stand a woman and a man. The woman holds a fat salmon, the man two bricks of gold.
“For a shot at eternity,” Saint Peter says, “tell me who’s your friend.”
I am new to fly fishing, and so I feel fortunate to have a good friend who can show me the ropes. The last time we went out, he caught a lot of fish while I caught nothing fishing the same water and using the same flies. When I asked him what was up, he said you catch more fish if you think like one. I think he means I’m overthinking things, but I’m not sure. What say you?
Philosopher Angler Pondering
Your friend was actually saying that you are underthinking things. Do you know that, from 50 feet away through water and air, a trout can detect a color change on an alder leaf, and that said change may be the reflection of the color of shirt you are wearing? That’s right, by that reflection, a trout is aware that you are approaching from behind, and if by triangulating between itself, the sun, and the leaf the trout comes up with a value of less than the square root of approximately 6 (Truchacabra, 2007), you’d best go find you another fish, because you aint catching that one. Trout can calculate water temp/photoperiod ratios out to 13 decimal places. This means nothing to you and me, just that trout are really smart.
But enough BS. Your friend is correct. Thinking like a trout, as far as it goes, is pretty easy if you remember the three things that are most important to them. They like to eat, not get eaten, and they like to not work too hard while doing both. In other words, where is the best access to food and safety, and does that spot provide good current relief? Chances are that the best trout in a stretch of river will be where each of these three criteria is met to the highest degree. Sometimes that spot is right under your nose. More often though, the truly spectacular fish are where you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of placing a fly in front of the fish.
It’s also good to account for other conditions that might be influencing a trout’s behavior and location, things like water temp, flow, and the smell of sweet love as spawning season approaches.
Remember: flies don’t catch trout. Fishermen do.
I fished the Perea Ranch yesterday, a gorgeous patch of earth on the lower Pecos River. The drought has put the hurt on the fishery this year, but recent monsoon rains have brought everything – grass, wildflowers, but sadly not a lot of trout – to full bloom. I’ve been doing stream and land rehab on the ranch with my friend Alex Perea for some time now, and it’s nice to see clover growing, some new cottonwoods and one young alder. For all the wildlife sign I’ve seen over the years, I had until last Friday never found evidence of a bear. Yesterday, was a cold one, and the lightning was pretty vicious, so when I started seeing bear piles around every juniper with berries on it, I finally got spooked enough to head home. On the way to my car though, I saw something that made me laugh. Most recently, there have been a few horses on the property that have gotten brazen enough to nudge my backpack if they smelled anything tasty coming from it. They pretty much run the place.
Until recently anyway. With the amount of bear caca around, it looks like there may be a new sheriff in town, one that intends to evict the previous officeholder, but not before dominating its poop. In my imagination, an exchange transpires thusly.
Bear: “Greetings equines! I am here to eat juniper berries, with which your pasture appears to be so abundantly blessed. Then I’m off to the high country for my winter sleep.”
Bear: “You misunderstand. I wasn’t asking.”
Bear: “Go ahead, poop yourself out. Two can play at that game.”
According to the tabloids, Kim Kardasian is a star. I stumbled upon her TV show once, fought down my dinner, then continued to watch to see what the big fuss was about. From pictures of her, I’d deduced that it was about certain aspects of her appearance, two in particular, but I wanted to be sure she wasn’t talented in other ways too.
In the show, Kim shares time with her equally vacuous sisters as well as her vacuous mother who is married to a vacuous Bruce Jenner. Yes, that Bruce Jenner. If you google him, a picture of the hero decathlete of the 1976 Montreal Olympics pops up, then a blend of photos of him in his role as Dad in the Kardasian household and what can go horribly wrong on the plastic surgery table.
As you may know, Kim Kardasian is an economy unto herself. Her show’s sponsors might include everything from big pharma to McDonalds. In the same indirect manner, Kardasian sells magazines (and the stuff they advertise), and, I would wager, trips to shrinks for young girls with ruined body images who might eventually replace therapy with a boob job from the type of doctor who took the sawzall to the face of her dad. People and companies, many of them respected, even paid to be included in Kim’s wedding, “earning” her about 17 million dollars. Rich young lady, yet as with Paris Hilton, nobody really knows what she does outside of emitting copious loads of greenhouse gasses.
Speaking of doorknobs…….
From the reality show “Jersey Shore”, this is Mike Sorrentino. He is better known as “The Situation” a name he gave himself in honor of his pet abs. As he will tell you, Sitch is skilled at working out his abs, tanning his abs, pulling up his shirt to show off his abs, and hot tubbing. I’ve seen the show once, or maybe half of once, and I can tell you with certainty that this guy is so thick that not only is he allergic to books, but books are allergic to him.
He will make an estimated 5 million dollars this year from his show, endorsements, and products. Another chunk of this sum is from Abercombie and Fitch, a company so impressed by this guy’s idiocy that they’re paying him to NOT wear their clothes. With all due respect to Sitch’s hollow skull, I think he’s brilliant for pulling this off. He or someone around him recognizes that his being a stone cold idiot has value enough to make him the kind of person Washington, D.C. is so afraid to tax. Brilliant!
To be more exact, of course, it’s tragic. It’s tragic that Sorrentino and Kardasian are not famous in spite of their shallowness, but precisely because of it. It’s tragic that they are but two replaceable saps in a very controlled “reality” wherein nothing is real, and what is real amounts to nothing.
This process is how – given what we definitively know about minerology, toxicology, seismology, hydrology, ecology, and sustainable economy – the Pebble Mine near Alaska’s Bristol Bay is even being contemplated in this day and age. The low grade of the ore deposit will demand that an unimaginably huge pit will have to be dug in order to make the mine profitable, and a 20 square mile lake behind the world’s largest earthen dam will have to be created to contain its tailings. Downstream is the largest run of salmon on earth, a bursting recreational industry, and one of mankind’s oldest subsistence economies . Dam failure, it’s over. Aquifer contamination, and it’s gone.
But it is being contemplated, by the kinds of untouchables who get aneurisms at the thought of not banking another billion by next Friday. Who cares if the jobs they create will not be Alaskan jobs? Who cares if the gold they dig up will go onto a Canadian balance sheet? And if the dam breaks? Really now. If they can condition society to get upset if Kardasian doesn’t have gold ding dongs on her bikini or the Sitch don’t have his neckbling, it’s not a big deal.
Salmon, grizzlies, moose, and rainbow trout are known in biological circles as “charismatic megafauna”, creatures that can arouse people to heights of civic enthusiasm and action. Baby seals, for example, spotted owls, and whales. Salmon also happen to be keystone species, which means they are the foundation upon which entire ecosystems are built. It is an incontrovertible fact that without healthy runs of salmon, Alaska as we know it dies.
Even though they appear satisfied with being charismatic megafauna, Kardasian and Sorrentino are unwittingly rocketing towards keystone status. We must not let this happen. Besides discovering a life strategy that involves far less consumption, we need to teach our animal friends how to draw more attention to themselves and to be serious a-holes about it. If you know a bear, tell him to get a posse and represent. Tell your salmon buddies to go shopping for handbags and tiny dogs, and by all means possible, to party harder. And even if the rainbows you’re catching can snap your rod in half, please suggest a little more gym time, maybe a few more crunches. We need the dollas up in here; the future of reality depends on it.
The fellows shivering in rainjackets on a tundra river should make it perfectly clear. It definitely should be a salmon, maybe a grayling, a dolly, or some big leopard bow, but it’s not. It’s only a FRICKING PIRANHA!
My friend Kris Kennedy, of The Fly Shop and a great guide whose photos you should stare at whenever you find them, found this thing on an Alaska river. Is it a release from an exotic hobby tank? Is is sabotage by Pebble Mine believers? Did it decide to swim from freshwater through an ocean, and then back again to fresh, or were there just not enough dead cows in the rivers down there for it to gang eat?
Or consider this. At the end of a long guide season, did Kris – wanting to have some innocent fun – just happen to have a dead piranha in his pocket? More diabolical than coincidence if you ask me.
Until the answer is revealed, let us comfort ourselves in the notion that the possibilities are at this point endless. I will keep you posted.