Tuesday, September 9, 2014

7:06 PM. A Rainy Evening at the Home of a Fly Angler

   A gentle rain, an infrequent smattering of light wind, and it's warm enough for one to wear shorts but cool enough to comfortably wear rain gear; I'm yearning for another day like this & the opportunity to spend it on the water with a fly rod in hand.  Sitting here on my patio chair, tucked in between the bumper of the CR-V and the interior garage wall - toes resting on the driveway- I can almost completely sense the feelings to be born from such a day.  Calm and delightful, accented by moments of fishy excitement, with peace gently raining down on all.

Monday, September 8, 2014

When Your Fly Fishing Gear Stinks, Life is Good

   If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I wouldn't be upset if my house was a mess.  I am not neat. I'm only going to live once and my priorities are in order!  That being said, I still remember opening up a buddy's wader tote years ago & getting a whiff of the nasty, bacterial chemical cocktail that was brewing,  I was pretty grossed out.

   It's amazing how things (the same things you'd think would likely remain repulsive) change.

   Work, weather, timing... all sorts of things created a logjam to this year's warm water fishing opportunities.  Feeling that warm water time was swiftly winding down, I simply decided it was time to do some small river fishing, come low or high water.

   As it turned out I did have both water situations.  The Upper Iowa River was running a bit high to easily find the holding areas of smallmouth bass.  The Volga River was running too low to float any kind of watercraft.  A cold front had also come through.
   On Saturday, I floated the first 2/3 of the Upper Iowa River solo.  Much of this stretch flows right through Decorah, IA.  Other than one little smallie striking a topwater pattern at the first bend of the river, there were no fishy tugs on my line and the water remained undisturbed by fish.  After working through color, pattern, size, & retrieve changes, I switched to a couple "desperation flies" but continued fishless.  Around 4 pm I hooked up with a few friends, "T" and her son Ben, & T's DNR co-worker Chris.  The rest of the float included DNR smallie sampling to check for mercury so I'm happy to write we found a few smallies willing to make tissue donations!  I ended up with 2 in the net and lost 2 more.  Chris landed another 2-3 fish.  We also spotted a mink swimming in the water.  It was a beautiful day, we had fun, and I knew that during a particular stretch of my solo float, had the water been lower, I likely would have had to drag my pontoon a long way.  It was dusk when we left the river.

   I camped that night along a creek & on Sunday, I slept in.  Then, with a wet tent drying in the back of my CR-V,  I headed to the Volga River, near Fayette, IA.  I had debated visiting a trout stream, but I heard the tick, tick, ticking away of the warm water fishing season. After carefully bumping down a woodsy dirt road, I fished an unfamiliar stretch of the Volga and ended up with 6-7 smallies and likely lost the same amount.   Generally, I waded  from one hole to another, enjoying the weather, the scenery, wet wading, feisty fish, and simply being alive!  I still love the juxtaposition of feeling like I'm on a trout stream yet lifting smallmouth bass from my net.  While fishing, I was also treated to the sight of another beautiful mink meandering around the rocky bluffs tracing the river's edge.

   My longest fish of the day measured about 13 inches.  While tearing down my rod, the 3 guys who had been spin fishing for about an hour returned with 3 smallies that ran from 16-18" long.  Whoa!  I have my ideas on how they accomplished this, and am looking forward to returning to this stretch of river.

   After the nearly 3 hour drive home, I began unloading the CR-V of its contents.  While I got a stray whiff of something during the drive, it wasn't until I got the suv into the garage that I truly smelled the nasty, bacterial chemical cocktail brewing inside my vehicle!   I might have squinched up my nose, but I was smiling, too.  Heck, I'm smiling now!  That swampy odor was simply the left-over remains of a great weekend of fly fishing!

   While I promptly removed the smelly culprits, my net and fishing sandals, from the vehicle, I thought of my buddy's wader tote.  I hope his tote smells just as badly today as it did years ago.  After all, it's important to keep the priorities straight!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

'06 Honda CR-V: Is It Possible to Make a Better Fly Fishing and Car Camping Mobile?

   Why does your fishing mobile work for you?  How does it meet your outdoorsy needs?  What is so special about the interior?  Have you altered your mobile?  Did you discover something positively fishy about it after you had it for a while?  What is your ultimate, dream-fishing, 4-wheeled go-getter??

   I bought my ‘06 Honda CR-V in 2008 with 21,000 miles on it.  I wasn’t keen on the black interior and always thought this model of suv was a tad homely.  However, it was practical, had proven reliability, and the mpg wasn’t too bad.  At the time, the big plus was that I could flip the rear seat forward and roll my touring bike right in the back without even removing the bike’s front tire.  It was also suitable for my newly-growing habit: fly fishing.  I wasn’t thrilled with my purchase so I didn’t rust-proof it.  The Honda was simply the most practical purchase I could make.  (Tip: If you are going to keep any Honda for a while, rust-proof it!)

   Soon, fishing, fishing road trips and fishing friends eclipsed the time I spent on my bike saddle.  I learned that I had accidentally purchased the best available fly fisher’s road machine –despite that you just might disagree!

   I’ve heard some people refer to compact suvs as a girl’s vehicle (Smirk!).  This girl values 25 mpg vs. big suv 17 mpg on 6-hour road trips.  A shorter wheel base coupled with my moderate 8.1” of ground clearance has given me access to most gravel-rutted paths that lead to remote fishing holes.  Narrow, wooded DNR roads are best traversed by vehicles not as wide as my little house.  While my Honda’s AWD is best-suited for softroading, when I ditched the OEM tires for Cooper CS4s the Honda performed adequately on gravel and snow.  While I might want it to go offroad like a Jeep, it’s never been necessary. 

Reliable and Practical

   Other than normal wear & tear, a bout with a suicidal Wisco deer, and a couple of pesky recalls, after 133,000 miles my Honda has had no garage repair time.  I expect 300,000 out of this baby.  Maybe it will finally need some exhaust work by then…  I can’t say enough about the CR-Vs reliability.

   My machine has:  Decent mpg – although the newer, small suvs are better;  good ground clearance, esp compared to the newer, small suvs (what are car companies thinking?!;  excellent head room for my male fishing pals – weird, but all of them are tall.  If there is good head room, there is also better fly rod room!  Also, I can store my deflated pontoon, camping gear, fishing gear, & a medium cooler and still have room for 2 passengers.  There is also a hidden storage area for rods and other valuables (because the spare tire is not stored inside the suv).  It has good safety ratings.


  I now prefer the black cloth seats.  They don’t get very hot in the summer.  I don’t have to worry about dirt and water marks created by dirty, wet hands or wader butts.  I can’t grasp why anyone would want an AWD suv with a sand-colored interior – other than that it would be easier to see ticks crawling about.

   The seats are also great for car camping.  Some people prefer to sleep in the back of their trucks or suvs.  I’ve come to appreciate another set-up.  I slide my passenger seat completely forward and remove the headrest.  I recline the seat back flush with the rear seat and throw down my camping pad, etc.  With the ability to recline the rear seat backs, I can kick back and write, read, or plan for the next day’s fishing adventure with choices of light from a lamp set on my cooler, a light hanging from my roof hand grip, or from a headlamp.  Of course, the rear armrest has a cup holder to allow for choice of beverage.  When it’s time for fishing dreams, my 5’7” frame can almost completely stretch out for a pretty good night’s sleep.  The advantage to not sleeping in the rear of the vehicle is that when I wake on a cold winter’s morning, I can simply lean forward, turn the keys, and heat up the CR-V before worming out of my sleeping bag.  In case of emergency I can get quick access to the driver’s seat.

   My center console is actually a flip-down table that includes cupholders.  Space exists under the table and between the table and the seats.  My fly fishing travel binder always sits in one of those spaces.  There is an adequate amount of cubbies for storage.  Nothing beats a van for cool cubbie spaces but there is only 1 AWD van and it has a long wheel base and lower ground clearance.

   The interior roof is great!  I have 4 roof lights.  There are 3 nicely-sized, metal latches on the very rear, interior roof.   These were originally designed for use with child car seats but used by me as part of my interior rod holder system.  Rear above-door grab handles coupled with bungies also contribute to the rod holder system.  And, the roof liner is a felt-like material.  I discovered its benefits a few years ago.  I have a variety of flies poked in the liner.  Gifted flies, retired flies from memorable fishing days, and flies that needed to dry before being returned to the fly box hang from the liner.  Velcro fly patches adhere to the liner.  I use Velcro straps to secure my 7.5’-9’ rod bodies to the liner.  The rods then curve down and along the front windshield.  In case of hard braking, rod tips will not slam into the windshield.
   I’d day-dreamed of keeping my baby until it had 300,000 miles on it.  I know a guy who has 800,000 miles on an Accord & the only major work was done on the tranny.  However, my CR-V has hints of rust starting in the couple areas known for rust.  Once a vehicle starts to rust, something inside of me clicks:  Sell!

  I had a deal on a new ’14 Subie and private buyers for the CR-V.  The deal fell through so I put in an order on the next best thing, a ’15 Subaru Outback.  I am certain it won’t be the perfect fly fishing and camping machine the CR-V has been, but I’m going to rust-proof the Subie just in case.  Heck, I might even wash it once in a while, too!  And, do you know what the best thing is?  The folks who wanted to buy my CR-V are going to wait the 12 weeks until my Subie arrives to take possession of the Honda!  Oh, wait, do you know what is equal to this best thing?  The buyers are John and Cheryl, fellow fly fishing friends, and when we car pool to fly fishing events I will still get to enjoy the best fly fishing mobile around.