Monday, December 30, 2013

Tenkara Magazine is LIVE!

“Slipping my wading boot into the crystal clear, calm water of the pool, I know I am exactly where I want to be.  I have a collapsed twelve-foot tenkara rod in my right hand, a pack on my back, and a day full of possibilities…”

Paul Vertrees
“A Homecoming”
Tenkara Magazine, Volume 1

Although I’m no Kirk Deeter, I do know a good fly fishing magazine when I read one.  Enter Tenkara Magazine, Volume One. 

I know, I know…I’m biased.  Several months ago Tenkara USA founder and magazine creator Daniel Galhardo asked me to write a couple of articles for his then work-in-progress.  After hammering them out, they were sent to Tenkara Magazine editor Anthony Naples, and I began the long wait for the magazine to go to press.

At the time my articles were written, I had no idea who my fellow writers were or what sort of pieces they would submit for publication.  I had some pretty good guesses on who might have been asked to write, but nothing more.

In late November my copy of the magazine arrived!  I was humbled to join the ranks of Daniel Galhardo, Anthony Naples, Dave Dirks, Jason Klass, Rob Worthing, John Vetterli, Kirby Wilson, and others.   I feel very much a rank amateur compared to the rest of these folks. 

Many of the contributing writers and artists are friends and acquaintances, and it was especially good to read their articles and see their craftsmanship.  My magazine arrived on a Wednesday, and I spent the next two days reading it cover to cover.

If you really want to get your finger on the pulse of modern tenkara, get a copy of  Tenkara Magazine!  It covers a wide range of how-to's, tenkara experiences, destinations (both American and beyond), and writing styles.  Many thanks go out to Daniel, Anthony, and the rest of the team who put this project together.  I’m looking forward to what Volume 2 will bring! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Of Bullets and Bleached Elk Hair

I don't have a "man cave".  I have a big bedroom.

I long ago converted my office/man cave to a bedroom for our oldest daughter, who greatly deserved her own space in this world as a budding pre-teen.  I don't regret giving her that four-hundred square feet as her own one bit.  These days, I have a corner in our bedroom that serves as the nuts-and-bolts visceral bullseye of my world on the home front.  The dialed-in epicenter of the epicenter is this finely-crafted piece of furniture - THE BENCH.  Here's it's story…

First, I must tell you about Don Wedow.  Don built The Bench, with his own two hands, nearly a decade ago.  Don is also one of the people I've known the longest in this world.  You see, when I was a skinny little kid riding the school bus, through ten miles of mountain roads, to West Jefferson Elementary School in Conifer, Colorado, Don was one of the "big kids" on the back of the bus.  I was absolutely terrified of him, both because he was one of "The Cowboys" (a bunch of rodeo-ing junior high kids who sat in the back of the bus), and because he was the big brother of one of the most beautiful little red-headed girls in the world, Pattie, with whom I attended school. 

 My friend, the consummate cowboy, Don Wedow.

Nearly 30 years after I last saw him, Don resurfaced in 2004 at a backcountry rendezvous in central Colorado, sponsored by my good friend and sensei, Patrick Smith, founder of Mountainsmith, and present-day owner of Kifaru, International.  Don showed up at the remote campout in fine form, complete with a hypoxic rattlesnake he'd shoved into a huge glass pickle jar for all to see in the center of the huge tipi we'd all gathered in.  Typical Don.

Don is one of a tight knot of friends who have my back 24/7.  He's also someone who would do anything for a friend, and he did just that when he built The Bench for me a number of years ago.  He built it for me, no questions asked.  Once he had it built, we moved it to my dad's barn, 30 miles north, for finishing.

The Bench, unfinished and waiting in my dad's barn.

Once my dad and I had put the stain and varnish on it, I moved it to my "man cave" and eventually to the corner of my bedroom.  It's still here today, ten feet from the foot of my bed, with the antlers of a big 5X5 mulie buck hanging over it, a fly vise on the countertop, my trusty reloading press bolted on, and my Army retirement sculpture on the top shelf. 

The epicenter of the epicenter.

The Bench serves as both my reloading bench and my fly-tying station.  Hundreds of centerfire cartridges and tenkara flies are produced each year from its oak countertop.  Hundreds of maps are stored in the bottom compartment.  Maps that take me to what writer Tom Reed calls "blue lines" - places in the high alpine boonies where I meet up with brookies, browns, and cuts.  Maps that take me to elk, mule deer, and antelope.  Maps that take me to the backcountry.

From bullets to bleached elk hair, The Bench is always there.  Always there for the planning, tying, loading, weighing, scheming, and dreaming.  Without it I would be incomplete.  With it I have the heart and soul of the home front.  

Thanks, Don.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Time Well Spent

Glacier Creek, below Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

 It’s mid-October and I’m spent.  It’s only two months into the school year, yet for some reason the cumulative effect of daily behavior management of 100-plus teenagers, the busy-ness of a rip roaring competitive marksmanship season I’m coaching, and a daily routine that seems way too routine, is catching up with me.  It’s time to rally our family and check out.

That’s exactly what we did last weekend.  We rented a cabin at YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park (a familiar haunt), loaded up our SUV (complete with a cargo platform riding caboose), and headed north.  I could feel the mental baggage falling away as we drove into the fading light.

Along with some long overdue family relaxation at the cabin and some sightseeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was able to sneak out for most of a day of tenkara in the park itself.  In light of the recent government shutdown, we really lucked out.  We had planned this trip for a couple of months, and were worried that we wouldn't be able to visit the park.  However, just in time, the park reopened at noon on the Saturday of our our trip!  This time of year the park isn’t nearly as occupied by people as it is during the summer.  Most folks are there to watch and listen to the elk, and much to my surprise, none of those folks seem to be interested in all in trout.
A snowstorm rolling down onto the upper Big Thompson River in Moraine Park

Because of the recent flooding in the Estes Park area earlier this fall, I was curious as to the fishability of the eastern watersheds of Rocky Mountain National Park.  I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of both Glacier Creek and the upper Big Thompson River.  I fished both with my 12’ Iwana by Tenkara USA, and had good luck catching browns and greenbacks with my self-tied Killer Kebari, a wonderful pattern from Chris Stewart, aka, the Tenkara Bum.  I was also testing a new product we’ve developed at RIGS Fly Shop, and I was pleased with the results.  I’ll be posting much more information on this later this fall, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what we’ve put together.
It was cold and snowy on Glacier Creek, but the fishing was great!
Big Thompson River, Rocky Mountain National Park
All in all, our family had a wonderful extended weekend.  We got to spend some quality time together as a family, we had time to relax for a change, and I was able to get into the park to enjoy some water that’s absolutely ideal for tenkara.  Catching trout with bull elk bugling over your shoulder in the middle of a wide mountain valley while snow falls gently on your head is something to be treasured!  It’s time well spent!

YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park Center

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Coming Home


Coming home.  A good feeling and one I’ll be writing about soon.  After a two full months of living in my boss’s attic and guiding tenkara fly fishing trips for RIGS Fly Shop and Guide Service in Ridgway, Colorado, I’m finally back at my home in the foothills north of Cañon City.  Back within minutes of Bighorn Sheep Canyon or any number of smaller semi-arid cracks in the Earth that hold those familiar browns.  The two things I missed the most over the summer…my family and those canyons.

I have a lot of writing to do now, and much to write about.  I’m sure it’s enough writing to take me right up to Christmas, with some pauses for elk hunting in October and November, and my annual early October Surf ‘N Turf Weekend with the usual suspects, deep in Front Range wilderness.  It's writing I didn’t have time to do all summer, but there’s a time and season for everything.

So, for now it’s back to the keyboard, canyons, and taking what I learned and discovered over the summer and giving it to you here.  My backcountry tenkara experience continues to stack up, and I have quite a bit to share.  Stay tuned for links to the tenkara blog on RIGS’ website, where I have several posts to make about innovative products the RIGS team has developed.  Stay tuned for a trip report from the 2013 Surf ‘N Turf Weekend coming up the first weekend in October.  In a nutshell, STAY TUNED!   

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer's in Full Swing!

My second busy summer is well underway, guiding tenkara fly fishing trips for RIGS Fly Shop & Guide Service in Ridgway, Colorado!  I've had some great clients so far, and the highlight thus far was taking a fourteen-year-old boy out today, teaching him how to fly fish, and helping him catch his first-ever rainbow trout.

Part of my work this summer has also been to document on video several of the backcountry locations for which we offer guided tenkara trips.  I've put together an ongoing series of short video clips featuring small high country streams, some of which are inside designated wilderness.  It's been fun to share these places, and we're looking forward to putting together some trips in the future.

Here are the first two video clips.  There will be more to come soon!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hey, I've Got You Covered! least your backcountry hatchet or 'hawk, that is! 

I know good work when I see it, and I appreciate all those who have carved out a niche with a little cottage business on the side.  Enter Adam Choate and his homemade Kydex sheaths for small hatchets and tomahawks.

I have two favorite edged tools for backcountry (read, backpacking) use.  One is my Gransfors-Bruks mini hatchet, a gift from my good friend, Pilgrim, a few years ago.  The second one is my self-customized Cold Steel Trail Hawk.  Both are worthy tools in deep wilderness, giving me a way to process stove wood for my Kifaru stoves or an outdoor campfire, pound tent pegs, and dismember elk, mule deer, pronghorns, or any other ungulate that I am fortunate enough to harvest.  One of the only beefs I had with Gransfors-Bruks was with the anemic leather sheath they put on the mini hatchets.  Cold Steel doesn't even provide one with the Trail Hawk, and given the bargain price of $35.00, I don't blame them.  However, I have always needed bombproof, weatherproof, and safe covers for my tools.  I dug deep with an Internet search, and through a long and winding road, found Adam on the Bushcraft USA forums

Adam does high quality work, has reasonable prices, and his service is second to none.  Like I said, I know good work when I see it, and Adam does good work!  He has several different colors of Kydex, and my choice was easy...coyote brown.  Adam likes bladed tools, and so he can accomodate various popular tools for molding.  It just so happens that he had both the tools I needed sheaths for, so I didn't have to send him my tools for molding.  You'll find that Adam's Kydex moldings fit your tools like a glove, and have excellent fit and finish.

What's this got to do with tenkara or lightweight backpacking?  Well, those trout have got to have a good fire for cooking.  You can set them over an open fire using Daniel Galhardo's kotsuzake method, but that will only last as long at it takes for the next summer thunderstorm to soak the fire.  In the event that happens, if you have a collapsable wood stove, you can move your fish cooking inside your shelter.  Either way, you will enjoy having a tool that will split up lots of stove or campfire wood in a hurry.  That's why I always carry one of my two bladed splitters.

Here's my Gransfors-Bruks Mini Hatchet with Adam Choate's coyote brown sheath.
My Cold Steel Trail Hawk with its own sheath.
The Gransfors-Bruks Mini Hatchet and the Cold Steel Trail Hawk together for size comparison.
If you'd like to contact Adam, you may email him at, or you can visit some of his postings on the Bushcraft USA forums...he goes by "stratocumulus".   Adam also frequents Bladeforums as "snakedoc".  Great work, Adam!  Stay tuned, I may have more Gransfors-Bruks tools in need of some Kydex!  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Time Keeps On Slippin', Slippin', Slippin'...

It's been far too long since I've had the time or energy to write!  I've been caught up in the whirlwind of family and my "real" job.  Well, one of those (The Job) is coming to its annual two-and-a-half month hibernation, and it couldn't come soon enough! 

I've spent the past few days preparing for a summer's worth of work guiding tenkara trips for RIGS Fly Shop and Guide Service, my second fledgling career, and my second season at RIGS.  There's much to do.  Gear to be packed, food to be dehydrated, last-minute household chores to complete, equipment to be mended, and new pieces of kit to eyeball for testing.

Ah, gear testing!  One of the little tasks that's always in the background.  I have a laundry list of gear that I'll be testing over the summer.  Gear that fits into backpacking and backpack angling, tenkara style.  Lightweight, compact stuff.  Purpose-driven, no-nonsense stuff.

First up is my new fixed-blade knife, an ESEE Izula II.  I've owned a Becker Necker (model BK11) for a few years, and it's been a great little neck knife.  However, even after adding a pair of really nice canvas micarta scales, it still was a little short in the handle and had a bit too much belly for easily slipping the blade into the smooth, wet bowels of a trout.

Enter the ESSEE Izula II.  This won't be the full-on review, but I just want to say that this little knife will receive a full summer's worth of testing in the backcountry.  It has already impressed me with the size and fit of the handle, which is longer and fits my hand better than the BK11.  Last night I started testing it in my kitchen, cutting up all the ingredients for a batch of Patrick Smith's Wild Casserole.  That was only the beginning, so stay tuned!  I have kindling to shave, trout to clean, fires to spark into life, snowshoe hares to dismember, and perhaps a cow elk to field dress.  The Izula II will be put to the task on all of that and more.

My new ESEE Izula II after cutting up two pounds of venison.
The Izula II sliced through veggies like butter.  Just right.
ESEE Izula II (bottom) alongside my Becker Necker (top) for comparison.

So, summer is starting, and so is my time guiding tenkara trips and living in the backcountry for a couple of months.  I have much to do, high country to explore, and quality gear to wring out.  Yahoo!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

BHA North American Rendezvous!

I'm sitting in the Boise airport, waiting for a flight south to Colorado Springs, reflecting on my weekend at the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers North American Rendezvous.  This won't be a lengthy post, but I do want to let you know what a solid, hunter-angler conservation organization BHA is.

I've been a member for a number of years, and I've been able to watch BHA drow and develop.  Our own Colorado group, the largest state chapter, has grown from just a few members, including one of BHA's founders, author and hunting ethicist David Petersen, to a membership of over 200 in just a few short years.  Our state chapter now has every national forest in Colorado covered with a representative, and I am honored to represent Pike National Forest for BHA.

Last night I sat listening to Jason Hairston, founder of both Sitka and KUIU, speak at our banquet.  I was struck by both the diversity and depth of experience of our members.  Seated next to me was Carter Niemeyer, renowned wolf management specialist, and on the other side was master bowyer and traditional archery legend, Dick Robertson.  To sit in such company is both inspiring and humbling.

BHA's mission statement goes like this..."Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to ensure America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters."  The underlying principle is big country for big game and wild fish.  Protection of habitat.  Quiet use.  Boots-on-the ground activism.  That's good enough for me.

Yesterday I was honored to provide a seminar at our national rendezvous, focused on using tenkara on backcountry water.  I always enjoy sharing something as special as tenkara with folks, and I cannot thank Tenkara USA and BHA enough for providing this for the attendees in Boise.

To cap off the weekend, as if all of this wasn't enough, I got to spend a kick-ass lunch with my friend, TJ Conrads, editor/publisher/founder of Traditional Bowhunter magazine.  I think he knows at least half of Boise!  You rock, TJ!

Lastly...good news!  There's some discussion on next year's national rendezvous being held in Denver!

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Can Smell Spring

I sincerely hope I’m wrong, because we need way more snow in the southern Colorado foothills than we’ve gotten so far this winter, but I don’t really think I am.  I can smell spring.

Actually, I can smell the Arkansas River.  I smelled it yesterday.  You see, I do very few things in life, but the ones I do mean a lot to me.  Family, hunting, backpacking, backcountry skiing, tenkara, and…running.  I run often, mostly on trails, to keep my nearly 50-year-old body from getting big and soft.  I run to connect with the paleolithic past when folks had to run to survive.  I run because it makes me a much better hunter and angler.  I run to clear my head and think. 
One of my favorite places to run is along the Riverwalk in Cañon City.  I ran there two days ago while the sun sank in the western sky and the shadows grew longer.  I smelled spring.  Nothing in this world smells like that trail along the Arkansas River just before spring comes.  It smells slightly fishy, it smells like rotting cottonwood and water birch leaves, it smells like the thawing of riverside mud.  When I run along that trail I get to look at the water that holds those wonderful brown trout, and I get to breathe deeply while my heart, lungs, and legs do the work.
Spring isn’t here yet.  There are still patches of snow in the shady places and a skim of slushy ice or two across the Riverwalk.  It'll still snow a few more times.  But I can smell it, and it’s not far off.   I think I’ll go fishing tomorrow.    

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Winter Tying and Getting Back to Basics

It's a little past the middle of winter in the Rocky Mountain foothills.  We've had way less snow than we should, and the only way I've been able to get in touch with it is to drive 90 miles north to Summit County for some winter camping.  However, it's high time I spent some evenings at my vise tying flies in preparation for next season.  It's also a time that I can reflect on how I spend what little free time I have, and the need to get back to the basics.

Over the years I've spent a considerable amount of time on Internet forums focusesd on hunting, fishing, and backcountry.  And while those years have been enlightening, educational, and have forged lasting friendships with like-minded men, I find myself craving more time spent outdoors and more time spent with my family.  There are only so many hours in each day, and once those hours are gone they will never come back.  I think it's time to get back to basics.

The basics...backpacking, hiking, hunting, backcountry skiing, tenkara fly fishing, self-reliance, taking my wife and daughters on long walks.  That's where it's at.  That's where my priorities need to be.  Less time online, more time outside.

What does this mean?  It means I will not go looking for more online forums.  It means I may not post as often as I have on the forums I have frequented in the past.  It means that I will continue to write meaningful posts to my own blog.  It means I can spend more time developing and testing new ideas for lightweight backpacking and tenkara fly fishing.  It means peace and time invested in my own family.

So, today I spent a lot less time online and more time at my vise in total silence.  I tied a dozen of a new pattern I designed recently that I haven't named or completely defined yet.  Time will take care of that.