Monday, October 22, 2012

Tag Soup

Tag soup.  I can't eat elk meat this fall, so I'll just cook up my tag.

What in the world does elk hunting have to do with tenkara?  Well, the unsung other half of Tenkara Tracks is devoted to lightweight (bordering on ultralight) backpacking, and THAT has everything to do with how I hunt elk.

I headed out alone into the Stomping Grounds last Friday morning, knowing that eventually I might be joined by my good friend, Eric Lynn, and his son, Levi.  I carried my life, and my rifle, on my back in a prototype ultralight pack made for me a number of years ago by Patrick Smith, my rambling partner on many an adventure.

There's nothing flat about my elk hunting country.  It's either up or down.  It's uphill all the way in, from a trailhead at 9,200' up to the highest glassing perch at timberline, which at this latitude is nearly 12,000 feet above sea level.

I spent Friday burning my legs and lungs, reaching camp shortly before supper time.  On the way I bumped a cow moose, with her calf in tow, hidden in the willows. 

The sun drops quickly, and so does the mercury in the thermometer at this elevation.  It was pitch black when I heard Eric and Levi nearing my tiny camp.  An experienced mountain hunter, Eric had led his teenage son through four miles of off-trail alpine wilderness in the dark to find me.

The next day proved to be both beautiful and elkless.  We positioned ourselves high so we could glass, but there were no elk.  Taking of advantage of my time in the wilderness, I got caught up on writing.  This was actually the highlight of my weekend, as my field notes have been neglected for several weeks.

With an absence of elk, we concentrated on knocking down a couple of snowshoe hares in the vicinity of camp.  I connected in the dark timber northwest of camp, and then Eric and I teamed up for a short bunny hunt a bit later.  With two snowshoes in hand, we settled in for an evening of living off the land and fire watching.

Dining on snowshoe hare legs, deep in the Colorado wilderness.  Living life at its fullest!

The next morning was devoted to bushwhacking our way down off the high country, after a warm morning in camp.

Getting ready to head down the mountain...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why I Tie

It's been said by the best authority that you only need one fly...ever.  And it's also been said that to tie or fish anything more than that, you're likely doing it much more for yourself than you are for the trout.  Perhaps there's more truth in that than most of us would like to admit. 

However, I submit that there are other worthwhile reasons to tie, and to tie a bunch of patterns.  Sure, I tie (and fish) way more than one pattern.  And a lot of that is done for purely selfish reasons like my need for peace and quiet, the relaxation that only a fly vise or a reloading press can provide, or the fun that comes from adding funky twists to established fish-catchers.  But the one very rewarding thing that has come from my fly tying is that I also tie for my friends. 

I have a tight knot of friends who have been with me through thick and thin.  They've backpacked, skied, hunted, frozen, burned, fished, and rambled with me all over the Colorado Rockies. On occasion, I have entrusted them with with my own children in the backcountry. They would give me the shirts off their backs, and I would do the same for them.  So, until the time comes to do just that, I'll be content to send them a handful of my flies from time to time.