Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Looking ahead to the next season

My wife and I had a pretty low key Christmas.  We both dealt with some health issues this past year that cost us a lot of money, so we reigned things in a bit for the holidays.  If we were 15 years older, these health issues would be less of a surprise, but I think we just had some bad luck, and I hope it's behind us, for the most part.

I ordered some fly tying materials in December, mostly to re-tie my collection of woolly buggers, which I lost late last season somehow.  That was my Christmas present, and I waited until Christmas day to do any tying.  I got enough material (150 hooks, lots of marabou, hackle, chenille, and beads) to tie at least 150 buggers, split between the tried and true colors of white, olive and black.  I spent Christmas afternoon sipping a very tasty Madeira and tying flies.

After I get caught up on woolly buggers, my next targets will be the classic nymphs - PT, prince, hare's ear, and zug bugs.  Normally, I'd include RS2's in that list, but I tied a lot of them a year ago and didn't use them a whole lot.  Oh yeah, I will need some small hooks to tie one of my new favorite flies from this past season - the ju ju baetis, which supplanted the RS2 for me quite a bit.  Fished in a small size, it is deadly effective as a dropper off a dry fly.

My sister-in-law got me an Orvis gift certificate for Christmas.  I turned that into a chest pack for my time on the water.  I've been meaning to move away from a vest for the past couple years, and the gift certificate plus a nice post-Christmas sale at Orvis made the pack a good deal.  I just hope I end up liking it more than my vest.

Lastly, I'm teaching skiing every weekend right now.  I enjoy the winters and summers here in VT.  I miss skiing in the summer and I miss fly fishing in the winter, but I'm lucky to live somewhere that I can participate in at least one of these sports year round, and there are brief periods where they even overlap for me.

Teaching skiing really isn't a money-making proposition for me.  By the time I count my gas money, food bills at the mountain, beer money, clothing, and ski equipment costs (skiing and fly fishing really do have a lot in common, at least in terms of how much money you can spend for such a specialized endeavor), I am lucky to break even.  Typically, I save my paychecks from skiing and use them to pay for my clothing and equipment.  But, this year, my equipment bill was small compared to most years, so I'm just putting the paychecks in the bank.

If I can avoid touching that money for the entire winter, I'm hoping to buy an Outcast pontoon boat in the spring.  Ideally, I'd love to get the PAC 1400, but I think that boat is really overkill for me here in VT.  I would rarely have three people in the boat, and if I was going to spend that much money, I'd probably look for a used Hyde drift boat instead.  So, I'm targeting the PAC 1200, which can be a 1 or 2 person boat.  The idea of being able to float the White, Connecticut or Winooski without paying a guide is very appealing.  And, I have enough fishing friends (plus my wife and son) that I'm sure I'd have company most of the time I was on the water.

I probably won't know if I can pull this off until the spring, but it's a dream that I'll keep thinking about as I tie flies all winter and spend my days shivering on the mountain.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Off Season

I know that many of my acquaintances are still out there fishing, despite the foot of snow we got last Wednesday into Thursday.  I saw lots of photos of people fishing the Salmon River out near Pulaski over the weekend.  I saw some photos of nice rainbows and chromes from Lake Champlain tributaries.  I spent the long holiday weekend cooking and stacking firewood and skiing.  I'm pretty sure I'm done with the fly rods for the season with ski season now firmly underway.

I have returned to the last couple spots I fished this season, and my box of woolly buggers appears to be permanently gone.  Perhaps I'll stumble across that box upstream on Ayers Brook next season, and I'll ask a local friend who also fishes that brook to keep his eyes open next spring.

But, for now, I'm assuming those flies are gone.  And, they are hugely important flies to have with me at almost all times.

I mentioned in another post that Orvis had very kindly refunded my purchase price for some wading boots that fell apart earlier this season.  I had fished those boots for 2.5 seasons and they gave me a full refund.  I bought a different brand of boots, but I was determined to give that money back to Orvis.

So, over the weekend, I ordered some hooks, maribou, hackle for woolly buggers, chenille, and beads - enough material to tie at least 150 woolly buggers in white, olive and black/grizzly.  I paid Orvis back for the boots and then some.  But, these are easy flies to tie, they are important to carry in all but the lowest and clearest water conditions, and I now have better hackle material for them than I've been using.

So, I probably won't fish much for a while.  But, I'll be tying flies and dreaming of the next opening day.  I also intend to tie some big, bright streamers that will be useful on Opening Day, in the Otter Creek Classic tournament.  I have a nice selection of big heavy streamers from Montana Fly Company, but many of them are colors too dark for the early season "chocolate milk" water colors.  So, I'll work on some big, brightly colored flies for those conditions over the winter.

Plus, I need to tie some hare's ears, zug bugs, prince nymphs of various flavors, pheasant tails, RS2's, Ju Ju baetis, lots of stone fly variants, and a few other patterns that I use a lot.

So, my "off-season" should still be pretty busy.