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Frank D.


Winter winds whip the river, but the fish are rising!

It warmed up just enough to keep blocks of ice clunking down the river. Sarah, Ariell and I drove upriver, gazing at mountains and the icy stream, seemingly impossible to fish. After thirty or so miles of ice-blocks, we figured we might as well hit the hot springs. But after fourty miles, the canyon closed in keeping the valley colder -- and consequently fishable. After passing miles of shadowy banks, we found a stretch that looked promising.


Before we were able to wet, or rather ice our lines, Sarah made some offerings to Boreas (Greek god of the Winter Winds), in hopes that fish would appear. And they did! As we walked on river crystals, we soon saw the entire river bank lined with noses poking up for dipteran goodness. Sarah tied on a couple midge emerger patterns and set to work casting a two piece, six weight Sweetgrass stick. It was a bit windy from the North, too.


A plucky little silver creature soon came to Sarah's hands. The first fish of the day on a red midge emerger and Sweetgrass cane.

I figured I should maybe get to fishing, and followed the ice trail fifty or so yards upstream. Noses were everywhere, feeding diligently -- especially adjacent to the ice bank, where many midges collected to mate. I tied on a rather realistic dry pattern on point, followed by a favorite hatch-matcher that doesn't really look like anything -- the Royal Wulff. It took some precise casting to time the fly drift with the tip of a rising nose, but finally I got it.


A brief tug-o-war on my 5 weight, 3 piece pent., and I held my first fish of the day -- on a dry! Many more came throughout the day. But after a while I wondered if there might be a trout lurking on the edge of the feeding Whitefish frenzy.


Yep, mid December and a #18 Royal Wulff can catch fish!

I switched my bait to heavier nymphs to imitate a Stonefly nymph and freshwater shrimp. A dead freshwater shrimp that really looks more like eggs, but still, a shrimp pattern. First cast, and I hooked up to something a little more athletic!


I was pretty sure it wasn't a Whitefish, but not sure what was putting up such a fight...


A Rainbow! There is something wonderful when I'm on frozen knees, and holding a fat, healthy trout.

We still had time to enjoy the moonrise while sitting in hot springs and wash the fish slime off our hands. A wonderful winter day, despite the northerly Boreatric ice and winds.


In Wild Waters,

Zac Sexton

The Meandering Booboy
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Ice-fly-fishin'

My foot slid too furiously forward to keep perfect balance while crossing the ice-embanked river. I stumbled to, I stumbled fro, then spun a 90 degree turn rightly. I caught myself. Which was good, as I would have likely been dead had I fallen in. Dead, because Glenn and the Booboys would have killed me for breaking my rod.

Twenty-two degrees is my minimum temperature to fly-fish in. I set that rule about five years ago, after having a great time freezing on a river and catching nothing. It was difficult to catch anything, because my line froze stiff, making casting impossible. The temperature then was around five degrees. I figured I needed a few more degrees of warmth to have any possibility of actually fishing. Well, it was my minimum temperature.

While I was home deciding whether I should really hit the river or not, the thermometer outside the kitchen window hovered at 19 degrees. But the icicles hanging from the eve could not lock my desire to cast a Sweetgrass rod inside. I grabbed my 3 piece, pent. beauty, about five layers of clothing, toe warmers, a stocking cap-full of flies and Ariell and I hit the nearest river.


The river! Not real warm out, but sure beautiful. This side-channel offered the only ice-free place to fish. The main channel was a current of clunking ice chunks impossible to get a fly through.


Ariell was real happy to look for ducks dabbling stream-side.

I only had a few hours to fish before the sun set behind the valley walls, so I tried to be smart about where I fished. I simplify my ice-outings by tying on two flies that I likely will never change as I don't like to expose my hands to the  elements. If I loose them, it may be the day's end. I also try to cast as few times as possible, because then I spend most the time breaking ice out of guides. I found a promising drop where two currents met below a shallow shoal. One cast, and I was soon hooked to a fish! I figured it would be a Whitefish, as that is generally what I find in this section of river, and they are more active in colder temperatures than trout. However, I soon saw white-tipped fins, and a surging red stripe soon appeared downstream as I fought it closer to the bank. My Sweetgrass rod bowed double, and soon brought a nice surprise to hand.


A beautiful and very fat Rainbow trout! It was to be my only catch of the afternoon, but what a wonderful afternoon, it was. A while later, my hands and line were frozen. Every cast was locked tight to the pentagon rod's guides, making fishing rather problematic.


As my rod, dog and self were covered in ice, we decided to head home. I smiled a little as I slipped over still mossy boulders, and made it back to the car without filling my waders with ice water. I turned my car on to warm it up, and noticed the temperature on the display: 17.

In Wild Waters,

Zac Sexton

The Meandering Booboy
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My magic canyon

Thanksgiving is usually a week-long adventure for me -- only a couple exceptions in the last 15 years. This year was no exception. I fished two rivers; didn't catch anything in the big one, though Sarah, my girlfriend, had a fish bust off her 1x tippet... It was the tributary, hundreds of miles from the big river, where we managed to land fish with Sweetgrass rods and bare hands.


I fish this river just about every time I drive by. This hole has been a special place since I was 16, and insisted on fishing year-round. It never ices up completely (thanks to the steep riffle above), and always holds fish. They don't always bite, though it is a majestic place most certainly.

However, it was a bit downstream where I found my first feeding fish.

The deep bend in my Sweetgrass quad 4/5 weight rod was thrilling enough to keep my hands warm in the shaded, icy canyon. I finished building this rod off a Sweetgrass blank. It turned out to be a great small-stream rod that reacts in close with some power in the butt, that enables me to use heavier flies and/or weight if needed. And it has the characteristic punchiness and accuracy Glenn's quad rods are known for.


This native beauty came to hand after a bit of a tussle. I don't care what anyone says, Whitefish are a favorite quarry on ice-ridden rivers, as they are often more active in colder temperatures. They need more oxygen, and metabolize a bit better than trout do in frigid water.


I also like their reflective bodies as they dart between boulders.

OK, for those of you who would rather look at trout, I can help you out.

This beautiful and feisty Brown tosser eventually came to hand. She took a tan rubber-leg pattern, but my photograph was out of focus, so you'll just have to imagine the orange-haloed spots and buttery-yellow belly of this Eleven-incher of GoodnessSmile.

A little while later, and upstream a couple casts, I found a slightly smaller albeit just as energetic Brown. Took the same Rubber-leg fly. Hmmm... Need to tie more of those.

This little specimen needs to find some real stoneflies and midges to feast on. It is likely still trying to recover from spawning a month ago. This photo and the rest below are a bit soft in focus. I think my camera was getting a bit frozen and wet from use, as the sun set behind limestone canyon walls. I think you'll enjoy the next bit, anyway....

I had Sarah fish the majestic hole, and she had a couple takes, but didn't get the hook-set. She used a Sweetgrass 4/5 weight pent. rod -- one I love to use for dries, but it is equally at home being frozen and tossing nymphs. Sarah eventually moved upstream and found an interestingly-scaled individual.


Yep, the Common Carp! While she was using a Sweetgrass pent. at the time she caught this brute, she used her bare hands to take hold of this sickly guy. It was barely holding alongside a large boulder, and didn't move when Sarah approached from above. She picked it up and smiled brightly. The sudden cold-snap that iced the canyon must have shocked it a bit too much, and it was not able to get to a lower and warmer river section. It is now likely food for insects and other scavengers that will soon enough be food for trout.

Too soon, we had to leave and continue westward -- home to mountain ranges closer to the setting sun.

In Wild Waters,

Zac Sexton

The Meandering Booboy
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sometimes on some rivers

Sometimes in the cooling Fall days, bugs may appear in the surface of some rivers. And in special rivers (and some lakes), an angler can find beautiful trout rising to these emerging creatures. Then, every once in a while, a lucky angler can cast to these rising trout with a Sweetgrass fly rod. These few hours surrounded by water and rising insects will forever be remembered. If not recalled in an angler's mind, then in the steely memory of the rod cast that day. The rod most certainly remembers.



In Wild Waters,

Zac Sexton

The Meandering Booboy
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Sweetgrass and Snake River Cutties

I have been driving, fishing, hiking and wandering for the last three weeks. In five more days I'll be done for a brief stint, then on to wander more. While I have been taking a few photographs, I have yet to download them, and thus a bit behind on blogging. Most of the fishing action was recorded for Fish Whispering, my cable television show for Comcast Sportsnet Northwest. But, after my last trip fishing, I hope you find the wait worthwhile. Below, is a video I took of my most recent catch. It took several hours and many other fish-refusals, but I finally hooked this beauty just as the sun sunk to the top of the Tetons. The sound seems to taper away at the end, but I like the scenic shot. Hope you enjoy!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2SrUCzVICY&feature=feedu


Zac Sexton

The Meandering Booboy
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