Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Outdoorsman's Conumdrum

I like to think of myself as an outdoorsman.  I have always considered myself to be an outdoor type of person, especially since I grew up on a farm.  As a kid we only had 4 television channels, and those only got reception occasionally.  At a young age my dad introduced me to fishing, then a little later to hunting.  He taught my brother and I how to take care of the land or water, and it will provide for you.  We cared for the farm and the animals that lived on it, and we always picked up trash alongside the lake while fishing.  We were just doing our part to try and keep things as natural as possible, and protect the resources we enjoyed.  In my mid to late teens I discovered fly fishing and fly tying, and it quickly consumed all of my attention I had previously devoted to other outdoor hobbies.  I found myself falling into the dilemma that is so common today, I enjoyed one hobby more than the others and thought I would not succeed at that one hobby if my attention was divided among multiple others.  I actually carried this philosophy along for easily 10 years.  As all of my hunting and high end bass fishing gear lay around collecting dust, I focused 100% of my attention on fly fishing - primarily for trout.

A good percentage of time fly fishing was spent in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP), where I chased wild brook, rainbow, and brown trout.  This also allowed me to soak in the beautiful scenery and enjoy catching fish simultaneously.  As I continued to explore fishing in GSMNP, I learned that the fishing seemed to be easier the farther one separated himself from civilization.  So, as a result I began to gain interest in hiking and backpacking.  It was inevitable, because many trips required a 4+ mile hike one way to prime fishing areas, and this hike was made easier by implementing the most recent innovations and gear used in the hiking community.  Eventually, this lead to me developing relationships with other people who enjoy hiking, and some of those also enjoyed fishing.  Occasionally, I would have a hiking buddy come along with me, and then they would just hang out at our destination while I fished for a couple hours before making the return hike to the car.  This past year I actually expanded my fishing routine into overnight fishing trips in the back-country where I once again utilized technology and gear developed for the backpacking crowd.  My gear and clothing selection seemed to now include as much Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear as it did Orvis and Fishpond.  Not a bad thing, as I do consider myself a gear junkie and these items were quite flexible.

Somewhere along the way I re-discovered my passion for hunting.  Not just deer hunting, but turkey hunting as well.  Additionally, I am now making plans for a future antelope hunt out west.  Unfortunately, all of my clothes were too small after sitting in storage for 10 years, so I had to restock my entire wardrobe.  This is the point where things began to start getting a little strange for me, and I noticed a significant division in the mentality of "Sportsmen".  I figured I would re-purpose some of my Patagonia and Mtn Hardwear clothing into my hunting wardrobe.  As, most of the high performance hunting clothing was quite expensive.  Especially considering I buy all of my clothing during end of year clearance sales for 50% off....  I found myself in a local hiking store one day looking at some items to purchase, and mentioned that the item I was looking at would work wonderfully for my fishing trips to GSMNP as it was breathable enough to hike in but also warm once I arrived.  The salesperson agreed with me.  However, next I mentioned that I could also use if for late season deer hunting, and you would have thought I had just strangled the person's puppy.  A look of shock and disgust came across his face.  He basically nodded his head, and excused himself to help somebody else.  I found it quite odd, but continued to browse through the store.  Later that night, I did a search of websites looking for reviews of the particular item I was searching for, and discovered that somebody else was being ridiculed on a hiking blog for mentioning hunting.  This peaked my interest, so my search then changed from a product review to something entirely different.

I discovered after reviewing various websites consisting of outdoor forums, backpacking forums, and hunting forums that there is vast discrepancy in philosophy and perception among outdoor groups.  I learned that hunters generally consider hikers and backpackers to be tree hugging, overly-sensitive, yuppies who want nothing more than to protect everything.  Conversely, hikers and backpackers view hunters as redneck trophy hunters who only want to kill an animal and stick the head on their wall.  Not only that, but they seemed to have moral objections to wearing clothing that is geared toward the other side of the divide.  For example, hunters for the most part disliked eco-friendly high performance clothing, and backpackers would rather go naked than to sport apparel from a company like Under Armour who has an extensive hunting line and minimal green practices.

I like to think of myself as an outdoors-man, because of all the activities I previously mentioned.  In my discussions with non-hunters I have learned that most are passionate about the land and animals that they like to enjoy in nature, but unfortunately most are uneducated about the role hunters play in animal population control.  Hunters are conservationists by nature (A tiny subset are just blood thirsty or trophy hunters), as it would defeat the purpose if we eliminated the population in a localized area.  Once I take the time to explain to non-hunters how I utilize almost all parts of the deer they begin to understand.  I eat all of the meat that I can possibly salvage (we even eat the heart and liver) and I use hair from various areas to tie flies with. My family can go all year on about 100 lbs of deer meat, so once I get that much meat I stop killing deer.  Regardless of when during deer season that is.

Unfortunately, I feel that in today's society groups are more divided than ever, and it carries through in so many areas of our lives.  Why can't I (or you) cross these self imposed boundaries and be an all around outdoorsman?  I have friends who insist that I cannot do all of this, as it is too complicated.  I enjoy camping and backpacking even if I am not on a fishing or hunting trip, and I am trying to teach my son how to enjoy nature these same ways while also protecting it for the future.  Now, don't misinterpret what I am saying.  I enjoy the outdoors and practice time proven practices, I am not advocating animal rights nor am I an environmentalist with a skewed view on US energy policies.  I just find it strange that it seems like these divisions seems to be growing increasingly larger every year.  Take a look around next time you are in your local sporting goods store, and see if you notice what I am talking about.  Remember though that next time you meet somebody who has a different viewpoint than you, take the time to talk to them about how and why you do what you do.  I think that we all will realize that we have a lot more in common that we think, and much of this divide has been created by media and industry to fuel emotions and drive market shares upward.  This is my opinion, and I may be way off course here, although I have a feeling there are quite a few others out there who see things the same way I do...

Click the link below for another story along these same lines...

Until next time, tight lines and God bless!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A little break from fishing

It is that time of year again when I begin to focus my outdoor attention on something other than fishing, it is deer season.  Actually this post is a little late, as it has been deer season for a couple of months now.  I wanted to try and get into archery hunting this year, so I figured the easiest way was to buy a crossbow.  Unfortunately, I was unable to connect during archery season, but gun season was just around the corner.

Opening day of gun season found the conditions perfect.  The rut was in full swing, a cold front had moved through the area, and temps were in the teens with a 15 mph breeze.  I was in the woods before daylight, and thankfully I had brought along some of my backpacking gear (Patagonia Down Sweater) as it proved essential in keeping me comfortable in these conditions.  I now fully understand why companies like Sitka, Kuiu, Kryptek, and others are gaining a foothold in the market.  For years now backpacking companies have used premium quality components to make their gear lightweight, compact, and warm.  While I do not own any of these products, I do have confidence that those products provide a superior level of comfort while hunting.  I have found that a combination of my Under Armour and Patagonia clothing provides me a superior level of comfort in cold weather when compared to when I used to wear only my Under Armour clothing alone.

Well, enough about the clothing... for now

A couple of hours into the morning, after I had been working my grunt call all morning long, I heard something coming up behind me quickly.  I was using the tree to block the wind, and my field of vision behind me was only about 20 yards.  Suddenly a good buck popped out directly behind me head held high searching for this intruder into his area.  Thankfully, he was so concerned with finding this other buck, that I had time to turn around a squeeze off a shot while he was in mid stride.  He was only about 20 yards away at this time, and he dropped right in his tracks.  I can't say enough about how well Hornady's Superformance SST ammunition has performed for me over the past three years.  I was quite pleased with this deer as his 8-point rack was the largest I have killed so far.  Also, his dressed weight of 134 lbs was the largest we have killed in this location.  I am still excited about this buck, although I didn't believe his rack was worthy of a full mount.  It was an interesting enough of a rack, that I am having a Euro mount done for it though.

Two sides nearly touch

My two little hunters
I feel blessed to have a place to hunt that has been in the family for over 100 years, and hopefully my two children will be able to enjoy it for years to come.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Christmas List Time...

Well, it is that time of year when my wife asks me to prepare a Christmas List so she has ideas to tell people what to get me.  I think I will employ this tactic with her this year so that I make sure to get her something she wants....

Throughout the year I buy myself whatever as the need arises.  For example, I recently bought a new 15 deg Mountain Hardwear sleeping bag since I needed a new colder weather sleeping bag.  I could have waited and had somebody get it for me for Christmas, but I expected to need it before then.  Therefore, there was a need and I bought it.  So, I sit here tonight brainstorming for ideas and thought I would open it up to others to tell what they would put on their list if asked to provide one...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

WestTrip 2013 - Part 5

Day 6 - October 10th

Although it had been a long week (physically) for the kids, it had gone by quickly.  Now it was Thursday, and time to start making our way back to the Denver Airport.  On the drive 6 days prior we stopped at a gold mine in Idaho Springs, CO that we wanted to stop at again to let Trey take the tour and pan for gold.  This turned out to be probably his favorite day of the trip, as he loves to pretend like he is mining for gold and gemstones.

The first 30 minutes or so was a classroom setting where we learned of all the various items that were mined for in the area.
Trey holding a real gold nugget
Trey volunteering to help with the demonstration
Next was a self guided tour of a small mine, followed by the old refinery.
First one off the bus and up the trail!
Posing for a photo at the mine

Next up was the big event, Trey got learn how to pan for gold.  While Trey was taking lessons, sis was more interested in riding the "wittle howsie".

Papaw and Trey panning

Sissy wanted to try

Trey analyzing his pan contents

Yep!  Looks like gold to me
Trey was excited about his gold find, and next we his gemstone attempt.

Anything in there?
I would say Yes!
A proud boy with his find
What a wonderful trip this was.  Our family likes to try and find unique vacation ideas every year, other than just going to be beach every year.  Not that there is anything wrong with beach trips, as we still try to take one every other year.  We have been blessed with jobs and opportunities to expand our children's experiences and knowledge via these vacations, kind of like "field trips".  I encourage other families to break out of the routine of "summer beach trip", you might just be surprised how much you will learn and enjoy.  

I also must mention how thankful I am that my dad was able to go on this trip with us.  He has wanted to visit the Rocky Mountains for years, and he thought his time and opportunities were drawing to a close.  So, we were more than happy to have him along.  This was a vacation our kids will remember for years, and even more importantly are the memories that they formed with their papaw during this time.

I hope you have enjoyed this recap of our adventure and photos.  Please check back often for other entries that may include fishing/camping/hunting trips, gear reviews, etc.  You never really know what you will see on The Fishing Fanatic!  

God Bless,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

WestTrip 2013 - Part 4

Day 4 - October 8th

Today we chose to take it easy around town.  We spent the morning shopping in town, with the intention of doing some fishing in the afternoon.  The morning was rather uneventful as we did some souvenir shopping, and had a quick lunch in town.  That afternoon, I started fishing a section of the Yampa River near the library in downtown.  I noticed quickly that the water clarity was very poor, and there was a surprising amount of junk in the river.  However, I didn't think too much of it and continued on into the river and fishing.  About 30 minutes later, a gentleman walking by stopped to talk with my dad on the bank.  He recommended that we move farther upstream as there was a bank stabilization effort going on just upstream of town, and it had the entire river bottom stirred up and muddy.
My Family Audience

So, we moved upstream to where the man recommended, and I quickly hooked into a stocker brown.

This wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but it was nice to have a tug on the line.  Things slowed down for a while after that, until around 3:00.  About that time, as I was fishing a little undercut bank, I started to notice some subtle rises.  Suddenly, a full on Baetis hatch was underway, and I was in the midst of a pod of large feeding browns.  I threw everything I had at them for over an hour, but had no takers.  It was getting closer to dinner time, and the kids were getting bored so I called it a day.  However, I make my best effort to come back tomorrow for another try.

Day 5 - October 9th

So far we had seen plenty of mule deer and antelope, as well of 2 moose.  Today we chose to get up early and go in search of some elk.  The previous day we met some locals who recommended some county roads over near Steamboat Lake State Park.  By today, the aspens were in full golden color phase.

Before long we were seeing lots of mule deer.

We drove up along the Elk River in Routt National Forest, and this is another destination I would love to return to sometime and fish the wonderful runs along its path.

Eventually we came across a large expanse of forest that had recently burned, and it was quite the sight to see some much charred land.

We stopped in to eat lunch in Clark, CO at a combination deli/grocery/post office/library, and it was one of the best burgers I have eaten in years.  Asbolutely a must stop for anyone passing through the area.  I snapped this pic of our rental after it had been through muddy roads, pasture fields, snow, etc.  Oh well, the AWD came in handy almost everyday of our trip, and I am thankful for upgrading from the minivan.

After lunch while everybody else napped, I ventured out to attempt to get my revenge on those feeding browns from the day before.  Unfortunately, when I arrived at my destination the water was once again muddy and full of debris as the ongoing river project was still underway.  So, my dad and I drove upstream a little more to get above the river work, and found the parking area here full of vehicles.  Apparently this is also where all the locals went as well avoid the floating junk coming downstream.  We walked upstream for a decent distance before finding a spot that we could jump in before reaching the public property limit.  This water was much better looking than anything I had seen downstream, and before long I saw the sign of feeding fish in the run in front of me.  I tried swinging soft hackles with no luck, before putting on a #18 baetis CDC comparadun.  A few drifts later I saw a big mouth open and inhale my dry fly.  I set the hook, and my rod immediately doubled over and my line ripped out of my hand.  I was into one of those pig browns I had been searching for.  Unfortunately, this was one wise old brown as the fight only lasted about 5 seconds as he quickly wrapped my 6X fluoro around something on the bottom and broke me off.  Quite frustrated at losing the fish, but excited at the possibility I reeled in and put on another CDC comparadun.  I swung this guy out in the run, and after a few attempts I saw another white vortex engulf my fly.  I set the hook, and once again my rod bent double as the line took off downstream.  All I can figured is that the state of Colorado must be installing line breakers in the river and teaching the trout how to use them, because this guy too made quick work of my tippet by snapping me off as well.  Unfortunately, that was the last of the CDC comparadun flies I had, and I tried everything else I had on me for another hour or so without even a glance.  Also, just as quickly as the action began, the hatch stopped.  Not just where I was fishing, but all the way downstream to the parking lot.  Where we could previously see dimples all along the surface of fish rising, there was nothing to be seen.  It was quite surreal to see things going from boiler frothy surface to completely mirror smooth with no sign of fish.  I called it a day afterward, and we went back to the room to begin to pack for the trip home the following day.

Thanks for reading these rambling reports, and I hope you have enjoyed.  Stay tuned for the report from the last day of WestTrip 2013.

Monday, October 14, 2013

WestTrip 2013 - Part 3

Day 3 - October 7th

Day 3 promised warmer weather, and with us now settled into the condo for the week we figured it was a good opportunity to make the drive over to North Park and State Forest State Park.  This is considered to be the "moose capital of Colorado", and with the snow hanging on in the higher elevations we figured it best to take advantage before the 60 degree weather melted it away.  On the drive over from Steamboat Springs, Clark Peak slowly grew larger as we made our approach until we were in the park with it as our backdrop.

North Michigan Creek cut the path through the park that we followed, and it was a beautiful stream.  One that I would love to return to with a rod in hand to fish the many stair stepped beaver ponds.

North Michigan River

The kids were desperately needing a break following the drive over, so we hopped out to walk up the road listening for elk and soaking in the sights.  We hadn't been out of the vehicle more than a couple of seconds before Amy noticed a group of mule deer walking through the woods about 150 yards from us.  Unfortunately, the cover was so thick I was unable to snap a decent photo.

Dad taking a little stroll along the road
A short distance upstream was a small dam and lake, when we crested the top we were greeted with a stunning view.

Here the kids ran and played for a while on some vacant campsites.  Occasionally they would stop for a photo...

Trey just wanted to sit down and look at the mountains

I even got my dad to stop running around and playing in the snow long enough for a photo.

It was nearing lunch time, so we kept on moving upstream beyond the lake.  I was really expecting to see some moose or elk upstream of the lake where the creek meandered around forming a kind of swampy area, perfect moose habitat.

Unfortunately no moose to be seen
Beyond this point the roads began to get a little sketchy as all of the snowfall had begun to melt and was creating some wonderfully sloppy mud roads.  Thankfully we had an AWD vehicle that eased the confidence driving back through the sloppy stuff.  Eventually, the kids started getting hungry so we chose to head to the little town of Clark nearby.  Shortly, after pulling out onto the main highway headed to town, dad did it again....  "MOOSE!", he yelled!  I looked over to see a large moose walking right through the middle of a pasture field, however this time there was a vehicle behind me and I couldn't stop.  So, I had to go up the road a little ways and pull a U-turn and come back.  I managed to snap a few long distance pictures before he disappeared into the creek bottom undergrowth.

Trey managed to be awake to see this one, which I was excited about.  He managed to sleep through the first moose of the trip, and he was bummed out that he missed it.  Then we continued on to our original destination for some lunch.  There is where I got to cross off another item from my must do/see list.  There I saw what I couldn't find on my previous trip to Colorado just three weeks earlier.... Rocky Mountain Oysters!  Oh yes, when oysters are on the menu, thou shalt consume!

They were quite tasty, and before long both my wife and son were giving them a try...  Those of you who know my son, understand that this is by far not the most exotic thing he has eaten.  My little mini-me has quite the adventurous taste.

After a very filling lunch it was time to return to the condo.  On the drive back, a herd of antelope presented too good of a photo opportunity for me to pass up.  

This nice buck actually peaked my interest in a return hunting trip, as a buddy of mine made a trip out here to kill one while I was in Boulder recently.  Very tempting prospect....  Maybe in a few more years on that "guys trip" Trey was asking for.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

WestTrip 2013 - Part 2

Day 2 - October 6th

The second day of our trip we awoke to a temperature of 18 degrees and a heavy fog all around.  Due to some issues with our lodging arrangements, we chose to stay near town since we would be carrying all of our luggage with us until our other room was ready.  So, we chose to head over to Stagecoach Lake State Park and do some elk spotting in hopes that they had already started their annual migration to lower elevation wintering grounds.

Very Elk-y Landscape

Unfortunately, our search for elk proved to be fruitless, although the scenery was still beautiful.  Somebody had recommended that we take a short hike in town to Fish Creek Falls.  This trail is located in the Routt National Forest, and we were met with a sign stating that the park was closed due to a lapse in federal government funding.  However, numerous people were venturing up the closed roadway, and we elected to follow suit.  The snow covered roadway was hard packed with snowmobile tracks and and footprints.  We didn't bring gear for snow hiking, but chose to give it a go anyway.

The scenery was beautiful along the way.

The trail
The baby girl was giving it her best shot.

When we got there the view was spectacular.  The picture doesn't really do it justice, but way in the back there is a 283 ft waterfall.

Dad was mesmerized by the view
After spending some time here just soaking in the view and warm sunshine it was time to head back to town for some lunch.  After lunch we wandered around town while thinking about what to do after lunch.  We chose to head north to another state park, Steamboat Lake State Park.

This was also a beautiful 30 minute drive to the park, where we spent some time wandering around the visitor center.  We elected to go for a little hike behind the visitor center after talking to the ranger, however this one was much more muddy than the one earlier in the day.  So mommy and sissy turned around and went back to the car while dad, Trey, and I hiked the 1.2 mile short trail.

Hahns Peak in the Elkhead Mountains (10,839 ft)
Hahns Peak Reflection in Steamboat Lake
That wraps up day 2, as these posts just seem to grow much longer than I originally expect them to be.  Stay tuned for days 3 through 5....


19" Clinch River Brown