WARNING: This blog contains fish porn.
When I was in my late twenties I got the bug to write an article or story on fly fishing, so I did. I had just read Nick Lyons’ book, The Seasonable Angler. I could identify with Lyons’ conundrum of balancing family, work, and fly fishing (and of course, I added serving My Lord to that equation). I never submitted the article to anyone, but it did light a smoldering fire. I’m sure this blog has its roots in that early effort.
It took about thirty years for me to decide to write another article, this time for Southwest Fly Fishing (now American Fly Fishing) after fishing Dacey Reservoir for the first time last September. I submitted the unsolicited manuscript and the editor liked it, surely not because of its quality but because they had never covered Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area before and the trout were respectably large. Their problem with my submission was my pictures; their composition might have been passable but their technical quality was not. But, editor John Shewey liked it enough to suggest pairing me with a professional photographer to supplement the article with the high quality pictures the magazine is known for. So, I spent the last two days of May fishing Kirch with Jeremy Allan (Jeremy Allan Photography) and his posse.
Shewey warned me this would feel like work. I have a pretty vivid imagination and I knew getting the elements of light and composition just right was not easy to do, and while an amateur would take hundreds of pictures hoping “the one” falls into place, the professional would take thousands. Throw in the “fish” element and you begin to realize that large fish don’t volunteer for the opportunity to appear in a magazine, let alone the front cover. It appears timing and luck reign on a fishing periodical photo shoot.
Getting a window in Jeremy’s schedule proved a little challenging, and when we settled on this weekend the weather forecast predicted wind. I told Jeremy that tubing Kirch without oars, or perhaps even an electric motor, in winds 20 mph and higher would be near impossible. He reached out to Ben Scribner, creator of the Flycraft USA Stealth boat for reinforcements. Check out the video on their website… these are killer boats for the serious angler, or anyone else that enjoys nature from the perspective of water. Jeremy also brought with him Brandon Collett, a northern Utah fly fishing guide, and Colter Day, an entrepreneur who is seeking his way into the angling industry by building some amazing graphite/fiberglass fly rods with wonderfully creative wrappings. Although never stated, I’m sure Jeremy brought these young bucks with him because he had no way of knowing for sure that I could catch a fish, and even more importantly they had worked with him enough to know how to announce the timing of their casts, how to hold and angle the fish to catch the light just the way Jeremy needed.
Imagination aside, I didn’t really know what to expect. In the outdoors I tend to be a loaner. I enjoy the solitude, and it allows me to fill my soul and recharge my batteries. There’s not often peace when you are raising six children and work a day job that requires constant interaction with all sorts of personalities and egos. Jeremy, Ben, Brandon, and Colter were absolutely great to hang around with, and the usual angler banter was quite amusing. They were extremely professional and knowledgeable about all aspects of fly fishing. Despite my penchant for outdoor solitude, I had a blast experiencing but a glimpse of the other side of anglers who also make their beloved hobby their profession. Lots of single-minded dedication going on with these guys. For a different perspective check out Ben’s video of our trip highlighting his Flycraft boats.
Speaking of those who like solitude, during this trip we ran into Ron, a retired school principal from Santa Barbara. Ron has been coming to Kirch for eight years, turning the one-to-two-week adventure into a somewhat religious experience. The most amazing thing about Ron is that he makes this solo journey at the age of 78. I believe he knows Kirch better than I do. We chatted for a while after he landed the largest trout I witnessed that day. He provided a few tips on fishing the Adams McGill Reservoir which I’ll try my next time out. He had a wonderful, cheery attitude about everything, and you could see how the love of teaching spilled over into his desire to share his fly fishing knowledge. When I mentioned sighting a duck with a blue bill his face lit up. He said it was a Ruddy Duck. Ron said the male’s bill is blue only during mating season. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that male Ruddy Ducks have blackish caps that contrast with bright white cheeks. In summer, they have rich chestnut bodies with bright blue bills. In winter, they are dull gray-brown above and paler below with dull gray bills. Females and first-year males are brownish, somewhat like winter males but with a blurry stripe across the pale cheek patch. Ron was as excited about the vast wildlife on Kirch as he was about his fishing.
Ron said it’s the solitude coupled with the fishery’s quality draws him to leave Santa Barbara for Kirch every year. Now there’s a testimony.