The Lochsa, Again.

April 21, 2014

And Alan, whose muscles are not yet really strong enough to handle a fly rod, perched on a rock with the landing net. Little boy in summer, I thought, watching the ripples of water all about him and the dense screen of leaves on the trees behind him. But he was more than that, a creature of choice, putting a deliberate trust in me to hook a fish and make work for the net that he still finds the most exciting part of going fishing.

Roderick Haig-Brown, Measure of the Year: Reflections on Home, Family, and a Life Fully Lived (1950).


I drove with my daughter to Missoula the other day, so that we could spend some time with her grandfather on Easter weekend. I asked her if she would like to fish a bit on the return trip, and she said she would.  Instead of returning over Lookout Pass, then, we went over Lolo Pass and drove along the Lochsa River.  As I’ve indicated before, the Lochsa has a lot of significance to me.  Perhaps it will for my daughter some day, as well.

After finding a spot on the river that was accessible to a four-year-old, we fished.  I had not thought to bring her own, short rod. The 8.5 foot one I had with me was a bit much for her.  So, we tied a fly and leader to a long branch, still green and flexible.  She carefully cast the fly into the water, again and again, for a good while before getting anxious to leave.  Not surprisingly, she didn’t catch a fish.  I was happy to see how enthusiastic she was, though.  While on the river, she was a “creature of choice,” to borrow the words with which Roderick Haig-Brown describes his son in the epigraph above.  My daughter and I have summer just ahead of us, and she’ll have many more opportunities to catch a fish with her father during the coming months..

Recommended Reading

April 7, 2014

Fly Fish Journal


When I was looking through The Flyfish Journal that arrived in the mail last week, I came across a pleasant surprise. As I neared the end of the magazine, thinking how I really needed to be in bed, I came across a piece written by a friend, Mike Sepelak. The next day, I realized there were two more pieces by him in the same issue.

Until recently, Mike and I were nearly neighbors (by semi-rural/small town standards, at least). We have fly fished together quite a bit, in saltwater, warmwater, and coldwater. All along, I have followed his writing. You can, too, by looking at his website, Mike’s Gone Fishin’ … Again. There, you will find some great essays. I know Mike has put a lot of work into them, but I also know that choice words come easier to him than they do to many.

It’s very gratifying to see Mike’s writing in print. I have urged him to put together a collection of essays for publication as a book someday, and I continue to hope he does so. Read an essay such as “Shattered,” and  you will understand why. Few people can write something so emotional, yet so well crafted at the same time.

Meanwhile, pick up Volume Five, Issue Three of The Flyfish Journal. It’s a great publication, and it’s all the better with Mike’s work in it.


Burkheimer, Peak, and Gingrich

March 25, 2014

Filson recently released a promotional video featuring graphite rod maker Kerry Burkheimer. Filson sells C. F. Burkheimer fly rods, and Burkheimer wears Filson’s gear in the video.

I love my Filson “strap vest,” but I have never handled a Burkheimer rod. His rods are popular around here, and I have spoken to people who love them and to people who do not. One thing that interests me, personally, about Burkheimer rods is their pedigree. Burkheimer was mentored by Russ Peak — probably the most revered maker of fiberglass rods. His rods thus have an interesting connection to the past.

My favorite angling author, Arnold Gingrich, wrote of Peak that, “I regard his glass rods, and  the best makers’ bamboos, as fully equal examples of the rodmaker’s craft” (The Joys of Trout, 1973). This is high praise. Gingrich, the founding editor of Esquire magazine, had the money, intelligence, and experience to be a true connoisseur of bamboo rods.

Posted below is Filson’s video. No matter whether your are interested in Filson gear and Burkheimer rods or not, the video is worth watching.  It allows one to imagine what stepping back into  Peak’s workshop might have been like, though Burkheimer is no doubt his own man.

The Lochsa

March 18, 2014

Friend AJ casting a four-weight bamboo rod on the Lochsa.

I cannot claim to know the Lochsa River, of north central Idaho, well. It has had a place in my life, and in the lives of my family and friends, for many years, though.  I fished it this last weekend with a new friend.  Now that I live in Idaho, I look forward to visiting many times and giving it the intimate attention I should have, long ago.

It was years ago that I was last on the Lochsa.  My wife and I had not yet moved East, and we were traveling from my sister’s house in Boise to visit my family in Missoula.  I remember the drive well because it was Christmas Even, and it was snowing hard.  For those who have not been there, narrow Highway 12 borders the river for many miles before climbing over Lolo Pass and down into Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.  I wanted to put chains on the car — a late 80′s Subaru wagon — but I was afraid to stop.  In the blizzard, we could not see the side of the road, nor could we see approaching traffic. Fearing that we might be knocked into the river if we stopped, we kept inching along.

Wariness while driving along the Lochsa in wintertime is warranted.  One of my brother-in-laws once slipped partially off the highway, with his wife and two sons in the car.  As my sister described it to me, they were left teetering on the edge of the road, very close to falling in the river.  I think the incident affected my brother-in-law greatly, and understandably so.  I had another friend whose car actually did slide all the way into the water.  Miraculously, he and his family were alright.

I have more positive memories involving the Lochsa too.  During my college years and shortly after, several friends and I would often snowshoe in that river drainage, visiting some of the hot springs in the area. At the time, I often thought of my troubled, but beautiful uncle.  He spent a summer manning a fire lookout tower near the Lochsa, in the 1950′s.  My uncle has passed away since I made those visits to the area on snowshoes, but I found myself thinking of him this last weekend, as well.  As in the past, I wondered if the summer he spent on that lookout tower was a happy one — if it was free from some of the problems that made his life so much more difficult  than it should have been.


Looking downstream.

I am like my uncle was in many ways. My life is a happier one, though.  This is especially the case, now that I live, once again, close to family and friends in Idaho and Montana … and closer to rivers such as the Lochsa, as well.

River Crampon Sale

February 21, 2014

While I certainly enjoy my tackle, I really dislike the commercialized aspects of fly fishing, and I don’t normally plug gear. I have to make a quick exception today, however. I’m one of those people who will go almost anywhere to find a trout stream, and I will go almost anywhere on the stream to find the trout. This leads to a lot of climbing, scrambling, and all too often, falling.  Thus, I have become a fan of Patagonia’s River Crampons.  In my experience, they are easy to take on and off, very secure and light when attached.  Most important, I find them very effective in clinging to rock. Like a lot of quality outdoor products, however, the River Crampons are not realistically priced for those who would use them most; people who are addicted to fly fishing and other outdoor pursuits are not typically big earners — earning, after all, can cut into fishing. Currently, though, Patagonia is clearing out their first generation of River Crampons to make room for a new, “ultralight” version.  The original Crampons are nearly half off at the Patagonia website.


Presidents’ Day

February 17, 2014

January can be cold and dry, but it can also be a very wet month, a month of heavy rain or quick thaw and freshet-guarded rivers. February is more dependable…. And February is likely to have splendid days of bright sun after frost, with the first faint feelings of spring in the them, for the sap is rising in the maples again and the willow shoots are scarlet with it and the alders and fruit trees budded with it.

February is a good month too because Washington was born on the twenty-second, and that means that my brother-in-law Buck Elmore will probably be able to take time out and come up to try for a fish.

Roderick Haig-Brown, A River Never Sleeps, 1946.

Unlike Haig-Brown’s brother-in-law, I had to work on what is now Presidents’ Day.   However, I  did some exploring with my wife and daughter yesterday– a sort of Sunday drive–and I surely agree with Haig-Brown’s

assessment of February.  It is a solidly winter month; the evidence of this is everywhere.  Yet, the month is also pregnant with the feeling that spring is just around the corner.


IMG-20140202-00440   IMG-20140216-00467

Burns Night, 2014

January 26, 2014

My Grandfather’s Burns book, a bottle of Scotch from a Wheatley fly box I purchased in Peebles, Scotland, and a few Clyde style flies tied by Andy Gunderson.

Once again, it is that time of year when fans of Robert Burns celebrate Scotland’s most famous bard. My love of his writing springs not only from his writing talent, but from his ability to speak as one close to the land, the people who toil upon it, that animals, and even the plants.

In “Nature’s Law,” Burns acknowledges the inspiration that the world-less-cultivated provides him. More directly, though, he honors life. Specifically, he honors life (with no small amount of pride) as it is shared with and manifested in his twins, just born to him and his future wife, Jean Armour.

“Nature’s Law. A Poem Humbly Inscribed to G.H. Esq., ” 1786.

Let other heroes boast their scars,
The marks of sturt and strife:
And other poets sing of wars,
The plagues of human life;
Shame fa’ the fun; wi’ sword and gun
To slap mankind like lumber!
I sing his name, and nobler fame,
Wha multiplies our number.

Great Nature spoke, with air benign,
‘Go on, ye human race!
‘This lower world I you resign;
‘Be fruitful and increase.
‘The liquid fire of strong desire
‘I’ve pour’d it in each bosom;
‘Here, on this hand, does Mankind stand,
‘And there, is Beauty’s blossom.’

The Hero of these artless strains,
A lowly bard was he,
Who sung his rhymes in Coila’s plains,
With meikle mirth an’ glee;
Kind Nature’s care had given his share
Large, of the flaming current;
And, all devout, he never sought
To stem the sacred torrent.

He felt the powerful, high behest
Thrill, vital, thro’ and thro’;
And sought a correspondent breast,
To give obedience due;
Propitious Powers screen’d the young flow’rs,
From mildews of abortion;
And lo! the Bard – a great reward -
Has got a double portion!

Auld cantie Coil may count the day,
As annual it returns,
The third of Libra’s equal sway,
That gave another Burns,
With future rhymes, an’ other times,
To emulate his sire;
To sing auld Coil in nobler style,
With more poetic fire.

Ye Powers of peace, and peaceful song,
Look down with gracious eyes;
And bless auld Coila, large and long,
With multiplying joys.
Lang may she stand to prop the land,
The flow’r of ancient nations;
And Burnses spring, her fame to sing,
To endless generations!

Getting Settled

January 20, 2014

Having relocated to the area where the Palouse and Rocky Mountains meet in Idaho, my mind has been as filled with fish and fly fishing as ever. But even with my thoughts wandering toward the rivers, I have been unpacking boxes and getting acquainted with a new university. This week, as time allows, I’ll get to know the angling collections housed among Washington State University’s Rare Books and Special Collections. And soon enough, I’ll reacquaint myself with Idaho’s fish. Eventually, I’ll even write a few posts about it.


The flagstones in our mid-century modern house were reportedly taken from the Clearwater River.

Happy Holidays

December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays to my Brothers and Sisters of the Angle


Mark Browning on Martin Buber

December 5, 2013


Fishing, of course, can be described in terms of Buber’s worldview. Those who focus on the catch as the ultimate goal and who see the fish or the river as something to be mastered would be described in I-It terms; however, the mainstream of American fly fishing writers subscribe to a completely different perception: I-Thou. Fly fishing, for these practitioners, is a method for creating connections of various sorts.

Mark Browning, in Haunted by Water: Fly Fishing in North American Literature (1998). Browning refers to philosopher Martin Buber’s (pictured) brilliant Ich und Du (1923) or, in translation,  I and Thou (1937).


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