How to Win Through Chit Chat

In my capacity as someone who thinks our fishing resources are bound for the toilet hole if we just leave them as they are, I recently joined several concerned citizens for a boatride down the San Juan River with New Mexico state legislator Tom Taylor.  Mr. Taylor ran a bill in the 2010 legislative session that would have required anglers fishing the San Juan to purchase a stamp with their licenses.  The funds from stamp purchases would have been dedicated to conservation projects along the river, the exact nature and cost of these projects being unspecified enough to doom the bill.  That’s what I think anyway; if things were clearer, they would have been clearer.  There are poaching, sediment, flow, and stocking issues that could be tweaked to good effect. With Mr. Taylor (who is awesome by the way) still really interested in improving the watershed, we are going to take another whack at something productive, then another and another if need be.

San Juan bound sand, from Rex Smith Wash

Several days later, I and compadres from Trout Unlimited, New Mexico Wildlife Federation and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance visited the Valle Vidal, a high elevation elk park well-recovered from a history of rapacious overgrazing and logging.  Congressman Ben Ray Lujan was with us, and he allowed us to discuss with him how far we had to go until the future of Rio Grande Cutthroat trout was secure, to say nothing of the riparian habitat that ensures life not only for the trout, but for elk, and downstream alfalfa farmers whose supply of water in their irrigation ditches is always a concern.  Score another one for well-intentioned and hard-working legislators: Mr. Lujan and his staffer, Aaron Trujillo, were great fishing partners and were too kind in letting us bend their ears (pity they had to head home before about fifty head of cattle were seen wallowing in Comanche Creek in clear violation of their owner’s USFS grazing lease, but we’ll add that to the to do list).

The Honorable Ben Ray Lujan on the Rio Costilla

Then to El Vado dam, where concerned rafters, agency professionals from BLM and BOR, and fishermen discussed a “recreational hydrograph” which would give agencies a clearer idea of how to manage the timing of dam releases.  As I’ve learned from some friends at the Army Corps, water deliveries through the Rio Grande drainage are not immune to input from regular citizens.  It’s good to know, in other words, that we can influence how these agencies achieve the objectives that are required of them.  Acre feet can be delivered at once or piecemeal, just so long as they are delivered, and on time.

The lesson I learned over the last week is that so much is possible if we (conservation organizations, concerned citizens) take the engagement of our government seriously.  Stop playing the helpless victim, I say.  There is a NORAD, but it doesn’t include every branch of government or public servant.  I’m looking forward to getting to know my representatives on the Hill and the Roundhouse.  I hope I’ll resist the notion that the man in the agency uniform is “The Man” in uniform and not a person with a face, a work ethic, and body odor like many of the rest of us.

Honestly, I don’t think there is an alternative if we’re going to fluff up the Valle Vidal meadow, if we’re going to sustain the lunker brown fishery on the Chama, if we’re going to have any fishing on the San Juan at all as downstream water users develop their water rights.  Let’s develop our rights too, shall we?



Filed under Conservation

There Was No Skiing Last Year But……

I like to kill these things, because they eat trout.  I know I’m wrong, very wrong.  Anyway, it’s hard to get outdoors on a snowless winter sometimes.  The pike were very helpful in removing many potatoes from their couches.


Filed under Los Rios Mas Chingon

Notes From the Guest Coast

Please welcome one of fly fishing’s most exciting young personalities.  Like me, he’s a Yuba River slave, and no one, I mean no one, knows that river, its insects, or its fish better than Idylwilde flytier and high school teacher and baseball coach Hogan Brown.  To quote one of my favorite authors, “Where is Brown. There is Brown! Mr. Brown is out of town.” Thanks Hogan.

The owner and operator of this fine blog asked me to write a post and at first I was a little skeptical…what do I know about his home waters of New Mexico. I have only been to the O.G. Version of Mexico a few times and have lacked the motivation and money to travel out to see the one person I know who lives in the New Version of Mexico. That said from what I hear there is some decent trout fishing in the “New” Mexico and trout are pretty much the same, more or less, every where I have fished for them so here goes…
Being August here in Northern California we are in the middle of what we lovingly refer to as the summer doldrums or “waiting for fall” fishing. This usually entails some evening fishing for stripers, trout, or the few Chinook salmon that still enter our rivers.  Most anglers I know though are banking their time waiting for prime fall fishing before using those ever precious fishing days their significant others allow them to take off. Being a fly fishing guide and having a significant other that was made very aware of “the program” before she signed on for this life journey I spend a lot of time on the water no matter what season it is. I also, as the seasons begin to change, spend a lot of time at the vise tying up flies for the coming season. That way I don’t have to crank out flies every night or every morning just to fill my coffers for the next day.
Lately I have been filling my small mayfly boxes for the coming fall and winter season with Military Mayflies, S&M’s, Red headed Step Child’s, Indigo Child’s, and some new mayfly patterns I am working on along with various experiments. I usually tie a few of what I need or a scripted pattern then I get bored and start experimenting. Right now though I am laying off the experimenting as I need to stack some warriors for the coming season or I am going to be spending way to many early mornings throwing flies together for the coming trip.
Our trout, and trout everywhere, eat A LOT of small mayfly nymphs…PMD’s, PED’s, Baetis, BWO’s…call them what ever you want, bottom line is they are a #16-20 and trim in shades from dark brown to light rust and black to light olive. One thing I have found over the years as I have tied flies, created flies, and looked at commercially tied flies is that many mayfly nymph patterns are not tied sparse enough. Most mayfly nymphs are no thicker than the shank of a straight shank nymph hook, especially, the swimming variety of nymphs like the PMD’s, PED’s, and Baetis. Now there are the clinger variety of bug like march browns and the various drakes, but these for the most part are spring bugs and are not on my radar for another 6 months.
One way I keep my mayfly nymphs trim is use thread for the abdomen of my along with a small or extra small wire rib. Just like a thread and wire midge. One thing that is important when doing this is make sure that the wire is tied into the side of the hook shank not on top of, or on the bottom. This makes the abdomen wider and gives it a more realistic silhouette. One other tip is to use dry fly dubbing, NOT nymph dubbing, for the thorax. Dry fly dubbing is usually some mix of antron and can be used very sparsely with no stiff fibers poking out. One thing when dubbing the thorax, as the saying goes, less is more. Minimize the amount of dubbing and layer wraps to achieve bulk not dubbing on the thread.
Keep these tips in mind as you tie up your fall and winter mayfly nymphs or just skip that whole headache and go buy a few of my nymphs at The Reel Life in Santa Fe. I assure you I took my own tips to heart.

hogan brown

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Filed under Skills That Kill

My Life As A River

As a snowflake

I sit

As a raindrop

I wander

I meet my fellows, their fellows

Together, we become a ril

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Filed under Life Maintenance

Rio Brazos Es Muy Chingon!

Seems so long ago.


Filed under Los Rios Mas Chingon

My Favorite River On Earth


Check out this clip on the Yuba River.

Ravaged by hydraulic mining during the California gold rush, the channel of the Yuba near Marysville is rewritten every time central CA experiences heavy rains and flooding.  Throughout my life on this river, I’ve seen more versions of the Yuba than I can count.  Nevertheless, there are 11 inch rainbows in it that will rip your reel a new one, and you won’t be able to do anything about it.  And God help you if you get anything over 20 (there are plenty of those; I’ve come across a dead steelhead that I taped it at 36 inches, a lost fish from BC I assume).

What can I say, wonderful skwala, march brown, and fall caddis hatches, good mid winter wild steelie runs, lupines and orange poppies on the hills, blue oaks……God, but those fish.  One day they will hurt you, and I mean bad, and the next they’ll make you the king of the world.  I’ve had more days on the Yuba when I was proud of myself for a two fish day.


Filed under Los Rios Mas Chingon

Hey Kids, Want to Play a Game?

Remember “Would You Rather”, that game you started playing early in adolescence and probably have ever since.  Back then, it was something like “Would you rather kiss Becky Friedman or swim in the sewer?”  Perhaps you evolved from there, to questions of whether swinging a waking dry fly for steelhead might be better than stalking a flat for redfish.  It’s not really a game I guess, because there are no winners or losers, but there’s a challenge in it that smacks of competition.  “Would You Rather” seems more interesting when its participants possess talents such as honesty and depth of imagination.

There is a movement afoot in the American west to drastically reduce populations of predator animals, both for the impact they have on animals like elk that humans like to hunt and for – a claim being pulled from an increasing number of asses these days- the threat predators pose to humans and poodles.  To certain “conservation” groups, there is seemingly only one predator in the world, the wolf, and it most certainly should be eliminated.  As one would expect, literature produced by these groups is much more hyperbole than biology, makes me wonder if anti-predator folks aren’t simply a bunch of fraidy cats.

OK, back to the game.  You’re on a camping trip, wearing your Smoke a Pack a Day ball cap, just sitting around the fire.  The moon rises full, and the howling starts up.  So would you rather…………………?

Get attacked and killed by that pack of wolves in the woods or get lyme disease? I’ll go with lyme disease.  I’ve seen a few people who got it from tick bites, and boy does it suck.  Very high medical costs, considerable long term incapacitation, the kind of inconveniences that can badly damage families with children or those with elders under care.  Lyme disease isn’t often fatal, whereas a wolf attack probably is.

How about wolves or dying of cancer?  Put another way, would you rather die once in a matter of minutes or time and time again over the course of years?  There’s the medical expense thing again, as well as knowing that your family gets to watch you go down the drain in super slow motion.  I think I’d rather be wolf poop.

How about if that howling in the forest was from a werewolf? Who would you rather disemboweled you?  As much as it would scare the holy bejesus out of me to even see a werewolf, I think I’d rather it was he who ripped me limb from limb, if only because he wouldn’t waste any time.

Consider that the odds of getting lyme disease are higher than the chances of a wolf attack.  And growing.  Thanks to our rich tradition of predator eradication and our resistance to predator reintroduction, animals like elk are subject to population explosions and all that comes with them – overgrazing, destruction of riparian zones, epidemics spread by insects such as ticks, more ticks.  I don’t know what the odds are of getting cancer, but given recent efforts on Capitol Hill to gut the Clean Water Act and neuter the EPA, I can’t imagine they’re going in the right direction any time soon.  At least I’ll put my money on wolf attack over cancer as something I’m certain is not how I’m going to die.

I think I’d even get eaten by a werewolf before a wolf on four legs.  Maybe not a real deal werewolf, but at least a metaphorical parallel, climate change perhaps, or any of the guys on Jersey shore.  There’s always something to fear beyond reason, some werewolf or bogey man.  Some wolf.

So let’s hear it.  Would you rather be attacked by a wolf, or…………?

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Filed under Conservation