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Sunday, December 7, 2008

How Soon They Forget


Joe Kernen

For some years now I've been having an ongoing email debate with CNBC anchor Joe Kernen with respect to oil prices and oil supply and demand. Being a believer that worldwide supply will simply not keep up with worldwide demand, I have been a strong proponent of US energy diversification away from oil. Joe has strongly disagreed and said that the high price of oil was mere speculation. Back when oil topped $90/barrel and I told him it would go much much higher; he said poppycock and suggested that we should get two barrels of oil for $90.

Friday I got an email from Kernen declaring victory. Oil hit $45/barrel and that was his "two-for". He implied that "Einstein" (me) was wrong and that peak oil believers were badly mistaken. I wrote back and told him that after four years it was about time he was right on something as even a clock is correct twice a day. Didn't get a reply to that one.

Kernen conveniently forgets some facts. First of all, I've always said we'd never see low prices on oil again unless we suffered a severe worldwide recession or depression. Hello. That said, even I am surprised by the precipitous drop in oil demand and prices. I never in my wildest dreams expected the extent of the current "financial crisis". More importantly though - the peak oil crowd was absolutely right. Oil was up 500% in a very few short years due to strong worldwide demand from emerging economies in China, India, Russia, and the Middle East. Even with oil prices at $145/barrel, worldwide oil supply never got much over 86 million barrels a day, and it took digging in the dirt (oil sands) to keep us at those numbers. So, yes Joe, you were right on your two-for $90 call, but on the bigger picture you were wrong for so many years. In other words, oil prices have declined not because of new supply (or adoption of a sane energy policy), but due to huge demand destruction caused by the economic policies that Kernen and his fellow CNBC "goldilocks economists" have been supporting these many years.

Unfortunately, politicians, the media, and investors are making the same mistake as Joe. You would think the oil crisis that hit us this year (after all, it was only 6 months ago that oil was over $100 and gasoline over $4/gallon) would have taught even the Washington crowd something. However, in all the talk of auto bailouts there are some glaring omissions:

1) the CEO's of GM and Ford should resign in return for bailout money. They have proven their incompetence over-and-over again with respect to fuel-efficient vehicles. Not to mention they come to Congress asking for $25 billion without so much as a plan or presentation? (I remember once giving a 2 hour powerpoint slide presentation just to beg my bosses for $45,000 in engineering software!). If this isn't incompetence, what is?
2) Chrysler should be allowed to fail. Cerberus, the privately held investment group which owns Chrysler, has lots of money - why don't they pony-up?? Private investors are now going to be bailed out with my tax-payer money? This is an abomination. Of course, the $700/billion going to Citi, AIG, Bear...etc. etc. amounts to the same thing I suppose.
3) why aren't natural gas powered cars and trucks being discussed?
4) why doesn't Obama's "infrastructure stimulus plan" provide funds for building natural gas refueling stations along the interstate highway system?

The good news on this front is that the American driver has definitely got the message and won't be fooled again by lower short-term oil prices. Any car or truck that is not fuel efficient will have a shrinking pool of folks willing (able?) to shell out cash for them.

Despite an S&P 500 that is negative over the past 10 years (taking into account inflation and US dollar decline) Joe Kernen, the rest of the goldilocks economists on CNBC, and American policy makers still don't seem to "get it". Any country that imports 70% of their oil (can you spell U-S-A?) must adopt a strategic long-term comprehensive energy policy:

http://thefitzman.blogspot.com/2008/08/strategic-long-term-comprehensive-us.html

Low short-term oil and gasoline prices are a obviously a direct threat to implementation of such a plan. However, now is exactly the time to begin filling the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) to the brim and to enact a graduated gasoline tax ($0.02/gallon in 2009 increasing to $0.20/ gallon over 10 years) with this revenue going directly to fund alternatives to gasoline powered transportation (only).

The US economy, has two broad problems: oil and the destruction of the middle class. I have already addressed oil with the energy policy. Equally disturbing for investors (not to mention he middle class itself) is that war has been declared on the middle class. During the 8 Clinton years (while, I might add, the fiscal budget was balanced) 23.7 million new jobs were created and median family incomes gained by $7,500. During the 8 Bush years (while the fiscal deficit doubled from $5 trillion to over $10 trillion, and that was *before* the bailouts...) there were only 2.3 million new jobs created and median family income actually declined. During the Bush years, this income decline was felt even more severely as the value of the US dollar dropped while gasoline and inflation rose. Is it any wonder the S&P500 is down for the last 10 years? Given recent economic policies, are mutual fund management companies like Fidelity and Vanguard really so sure of their advertisements about investing for "the long term"? They certainly are having a much harder case to make...

No country can be economically sound if the middle class is weak. History is a great predictor of what happens to countries when wealth is concentrated in the hand of a very few people. Yet, that's exactly what is happening in the US today with our unregulated financial markets and a tax-and-spend policy that favors multi-millionaires, billionaires, and the well-connected over the hard working middle class. Some people have called me a socialist or worse yet a communist. I am certainly not a communist. However given a choice between say Canadian of Scandinavian style socialism or the "socialism for the wealthy" (fascism?) as implemented by the Bush crowd in the US, I would certainly favor the prior over the latter. All that said, what we really need is fair government that implements capitalistic policies for the benefit of the many, not of the few. Only with a strong middle class will equity markets in the US be a place to invest for the long term. Otherwise, the destruction of wealth, investment, and the middle class will continue in the US accompanied with a corresponding decline in everyone's standard of living. If the US does not adopt a strategic long-term comprehensive energy policy, all of this will happen (and is happening now) regardless of any other economic policy regardless of it being socialist, capitalist, or fascist. Ironically, it is the most wealthy that have the most to lose. Americans, especially wealthy Americans, appear to be in as much denial about Bush political realities as they are about their addiction to foreign oil. More accurately I suppose is their denial about the consequences of these realities. One only has to look at history to see how the wealthy faired in countries that dived into huge debt to back unwise militaristic policies. History shows economic decline is inevitably followed by a reduction in civil liberties as the government begins to exert more control in an effort to position itself for civil unrest. These reductions in civil liberties have already taken a huge leap forward under the current Bush administration.

The headline in the Economist magazine last week asked "Where have all your
savings gone?". The answer is "bye-bye". The same place where all our money goes for foreign oil. And if they don't get the auto bailout terms correct, we'll be sending all our money to Japan and Korea for purchasing fuel-efficient cars and trucks too. Of course that assumes we have a surviving middle class to purchase such vehicles. That appears to be a big "if". Now at least we have Obama up to bat as opposed to a continuation of the policies that got us here to begin with. We may have a fighting chance assuming he stays healthy. That said, he is the biggest threat to the fascist military industrial complex since Kennedy and we know how that ended.

So what is an investor to do in these times? The lack of a US energy policy combined with the withdrawal of investment dollars in the oil patch and alternative energy market due to the current economic crisis means the next oil spike will be an even greater super-spike than this year's. Governments the world over are reducing interest rates and flooding the market with liquidity in hopes to jumpstart economies. Although the banks are currently hoarding this cash, one of two things are going to happen:

a) monetary and stimulus policy will succeed in bringing back the economy
b) monetary and stimulus policy will fail and the recession is long and deep.

In case a), you want to be invested in oil when the demand comes back. COP, XOM, BP, and CVX are all large, well capitalized oil companies that pay good dividends and are in great financial shape. In case b) you want to be in cash with some gold in case things really get bad. Stick with gold coins and take personal delivery of them. That is, if you can even find them! Kitco and AMPEX still seem to be having problems finding US gold eagle coins to sell. See my earlier SA article
on this issue:

http://seekingalpha.com/article/103817-gold-coins-are-in-short-supply-so-why-doesn-t-their-price-rise

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Georgia Tech Beats Georgia 45-42



Running Back Jonathon Dwyer

In Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech may finally have a coach to engineer a return to football glory. After years of suffering under former and habitually underachieving coach Chan Gailey, 2008 was a breakout year for the Jackets. Georgia Tech tied for 1st place in the ACC Coastal Division but more importantly beat the University of Georgia 45-42 for the first time in 8 years. The game being played in Athens,GA made the victory even sweeter. The Georgia Bulldog players and their fans appeared stunned losing to Tech. It certainly was a far cry from Georgia's expectations after beginning the season as the nation's #1 ranked team. As it is now, the Jackets are one spot ahead of Georgia in the BCS standings at #15.

First year coach Paul Johnson and his patented triple-option offense was surely the reason for the turnaround season and the victory over Georgia. The Jackets finished the regular season at 9-3 and today accepted an invitation to the Chick-fil-A Bowl to be played in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. The bowl is played between top ACC and SEC teams and has a combined payout of $6.01 million dollars (3rd highest payout after the BCS bowls).

Meanwhile, the awards keep coming. The ACC today named Paul Johnson the ACC Coach of the Year. In addition, CBSSports.com picked Johnson as the national Coach of the Year. The awards don't stop there. Jonathon Dwyer, Georgia Tech's running back and the main threat on their option, was named ACC Player of the Year. Defensive tackle Darryl Richard won the Jim Tatum award for being the outstanding student-athlete. Eight Jacket football players made the 2008 All-ACC honors.

Johnson's cerebral triple-option offense has potential to get much better. After all the attention, surely the other ACC coaches will be studying up on the Jackets' otion. However, the Jackets had a young team this year, and most of the key players will be coming back. If the Jackets can improve on their passing game, get more comfortable running the option, make better reads, and keep their solid defense, the YellowJackets could be serious contenders next season. Meantime, we'll get to watch the Jackets on New Year's Eve in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. welcome back Georgia Tech and Goooooooo Jackets!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Maher, Bush, and Obama (The Great White Hope)



Bill Maher had a couple great quotes the other night in his monologue:

"Yeah yeah, things have changed. Yes we can. But not for the Bush family. Once again they will call in a black guy to clean up a mess."

"Did you see the Obama's first news conference as president-elect? Wasn't it a great to see an adult at the podium?"

good stuff. the thing that struck me most about this US election (other than Obama's margin of victory was so great the normal republican election theft mechanisms weren't able to overcome the numbers) was the reaction around the world. from Europe, to Singapore, to the Middle East, to Sydney Australia and to Obama, Japan (Obama in Japanese means "little shore") the celebrations were on! i believe the joy shown round the world was based on three major themes:

1) that the worst US president in history, and his party, were thrown out of office
2) that the American people finally wised up and voted issues instead of stale (and hypocritical) ideology (perhaps they figured out that fascists are generally not good for the middle class)
3) that the powers that be actually allowed Obama to win

yet, Obama's challenges are vast. i don't envy him as he has been dealt quite possibly the worst hand of any President save Lincoln. speaking of Lincoln, i worry about Obama. note that in history it's always the good guys that get assasinated: Lincoln, JFK, MLK, Lennon, Ghandi, and Rabin ... one could go on and on. it's never the evil guys like Bush and Hitler. it's a sad fact of human history.

regardless, we are optimistic because we have a situation where Bush, the worst president in American history, has a chance to be succeeded by a man who has the potential to be one of the best president's in the history of the US: Obama. the big question is: has the US, under George W. Bush, travelled so far down the road to fascism that it cannot be turned around? what a burden for obama to shoulder...

i said earlier that Republican ideology was stale and hypocritical. when my family moved from upstate NY to Louisiana in the 1960's, i was the only Republican kid in my school as the "solid south" back then was Democratic through and through. the Republican Party was the party of intelligence, pro-business, and small government. Now the "solid south" is solidly Republican. wow did this happen. Hypocrisy, lies, double-talk and a big dose of good old religion and "family values". Not to mention racism in the form of payback to LBJ for passing civil rights legislation. Let's summarize the hypocrisy of the Bush "conservative Repuplicanism" and why I am no longer a supporter of that party:

- small government: Bush increased the Federal payroll to its largest ever after Clinton had reduced the size to JFK era levels

- fiscal responsibility: Bush double the fiscal deficit from under $5 trillion to over $10 trillion in 8 years. and this doesn't even count the current bailouts and future obligations due to war

- freedom: Bush gave us the "Patriot Act", torture, and wants to intrude on the bedroom. basically, the US Bill of Rights and the US constitution were thrown out the window.

- military policy: the US invasion of Iraq turned back the page on 50 years of US military and foreign policy

- sepration of church and state: McCain once said that "religious influence on the US government was an abomination". then he morphed into mini-Bush and appointed an ignorant Pentecostal far right "conservative" religious whacko as his running mate. He got that solid south vote, but he lost most of the Clinton women voters that he was trying to scoop up.

- prudent government: the justice department judges scandal, the outing of a CIA agent whose husband didn't agree with Bush on Iraq, the lack of follow through on the 9/11 investigation of those who placed large short positions on Wall Street in the days prior to the attack, organizing an escape plane for the Saudi Arabians in the US (with ties to the 9/11 group) during the air-space lockdown after the attacks, lack of action on climate change, and most seriously lack of action on a strategic, long-term, comprehensive...i could go on and on. Bush should have been impeached in his first term. Congress (including the Democrats...) didn't do their job and now here we are.

i was watching TV the other day and they were playing re-runs of Tina Fey's impersonation of Sarah Palin. what a panic. i left the room for a few minutes to make some coffee and came back to the TV where I continued to watch Sarah. i was laughing to hard i almost spilled my coffee and thought Tina Fey was great. ust then, I realized, they had switched back and i was laughing at the real Sarah Palin. How far indeed the grand old Republican party has fallen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

George W. Bush and the End of Capitalism: or, Osama bin Laden Wins



Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin predicted the eventual downfall of capitalism. In the words of Marx, "if you give a capitalist enough rope, eventually he will hang himself." This week, their predictions came true. So too did Osama bin Laden's prediction that US capitalism would fail. Osama bin Laden has won. George Bush and his "new world order" cronies have achieved their objectives as well. The big losers are the American people. In order to substantiate these opinions, one has to prove a) that "free market capitalism" is indeed dead and b) that George Bush's policies were responsible.

The US stock market has crashed before. This is nothing new. What is different this time is the reshaping of the entire US financial landscape as a result of the financial "crisis". Recently, the US government has taken over Bear Stearns (a publicly traded investment firm), nationalized the nation's mortgage system, and is now in the process of taking over the entire banking system. AIG is now owned by The Federal Reserve (which, by the way, has no juristiction over insurance companies - but after you throw out the Constitution, I suppose anything goes). In addition, the Fed has unilaterally endowed itself the power to acquire equities through its "special new liquidity facility". United States Secretary of Treasury Paulsen has demanded middle class taxpayers purchase ill-liquid open-ended securities from the likes of his former employer - and these securities are so toxic that "free markets" cannot even price them.

It is logical to ask "how did we get to this point?" How on earth did socialism (albeit socialism for the rich, or, as I prefer to label it - fascism) take firm root in the US during George W. Bush's (a self-proclaimed "conservative republican") reign in office? (Note: "reign" as in King).

The problem is hypocrisy: George W. Bush is NOT a "conservative republican" from Texas. I should know this, I am a REAL conservative repubican. George W. Bush, has been, and is, a blue-blood skull-and-bones Yankee from Connecticut and the most radical president in the over 200 year history of the United States. He, like his father, are British subjects whose first allegience is to the crown of England, the powerful European Oligarchs and the Illuminati. Consider:

Conservative republicans are supposed to believe in small government. Yet, after President Clinton trimmed the size of the federal payroll back to the size of the Kennedy years, Bush has ballooned the size of the US government payroll to its largest size ever. Doing so, Bush doubled the US fiscal debt in just 8 years from $5 trillion to over $10 trillion. What is "conservative" about big government?

Conservative republicans are supposed to believe in a strong currency. The US dollar has dropped close to 40% since George Bush took office. If devaluing the currency was the road to financial success, Weimar Germany would still be around today. Instead, Germans in those time burned the currency to keep warm in winter. What is "conservative" about massive currency devaluation?

Conservative republicans are supposed to believe in the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and in protecting individual freedom (as opposed to just giving speeches about "freedom"). Yet, in supposed knee-jerk reaction (i say supposed, because it was planned years prior) to the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration crams the "Patriot Act" through a republican controlled House and Senate. Nothing in the history of the United States has submarined the US Constitution and Bill of Rights more than the "Patriot" Act. John Adams and George Washington must have rolled over in their graves. What is "conservative" about taking away freedom and individual rights?

Conservative republicans are supposed to believe in military action as a last resort. Yet, in another wrong-headed supposed knee-jerk reaction (again I say supposed, because it too was planned prior) to the attacks on 9/11, George Bush declared war on Australia. Errr, I mean Iraq. Might as well have been Australia for all the sense it made. The hijackers of 9/11 were mostly Saudi Arabians with a few Egyptians thrown in. Why attack Iraq? One reason: skull & bones wants American troops on top of high quality easy to produce and refine Iraqi oil. Yet, for the money spent in Iraq, the US could have had a world-class health care system for all Americans and a real energy policy to prepare us for the post cheap oil world. Instead the US is piling on yet more debt building schools, roads, hospitals and infrastructure in Iraq while its own citizens back home go without these same improvements. Meanwhile, Iraq sells its oil and has $90 billion dollars in the bank. What is "conservative" about irresponsible militantism and oil empire building?

Conservative republicans are supposed to respect the US military and intelligence agencies. Yet, after 9/11 Bush's first priority was to organize an airplane to fly his Saudi Arabian buddies out of Florida back to Saudi during the supposed airspace lockdown. These Saudis were known to have had contact with the hi-jackers, yet they were not vetted by the FBI or CIA before being airlifted out of the country. Further, when the media questioned Bush on this issue, he first *lied* and said no such flight took place. At a press conference the following day, Bush admitted the flight indeed did take place, but admitted this fact only after evidence was presented by reporters that proved it had. Bush then explained that he was worried about the safety of these people (!?). Can you say treason? Can you say impeachment? What is "conservative" about these actions? What is "conservative" about outing a CIA agent because her husband warned about the administration's wrong-headed policy of attacking Iraqover the excuse of WMD's? What is "conservative" about allowing torture? What is "conservative" about paid contractors like Blackwater carrying automatic weapons, flying military style aircraft, and killing Iraqi people with no direct reporting structure into the US military command? Isn't this similar to the British "Black and Tan" thugs that terrorized the Irish people for years? These are not "conservative policies"! This is a most *radical* departure from previous US presidents and from any moral obligation to uphold the US Constitution.

Conservative republicans are supposed to be for fiscal prudence and balanced budgets. Yet, the Bush economic plan cut taxes for the ultra-rich, while effectively raising taxes on the middle class. The result has been a concentration of wealth at the upper end, the erosion of the middle class, and further fiscal deficits. What is "conservative" about massive fiscal irresponsibility? Even Warren Buffet, a man who benefited more than any other from these idiotic policies, adamantly spoke out against them.

Conservative republicans are supposed to be for less government red-tape and regulation. On this issue, George W. Bush gets an A+. However, what has been the result of the Bush administration's particular implementation of the de-regulation of the financial industry? Although both political parties deserve their fair share of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debacles, two very simple mechanism have led to the downfall of the these two government agencies and the current financial turmoil: the non-regulation of hedge funds, and the "AAA" debt ratings of repackaged sub-prime loans by the 3 major ratings agencies (Moodys, S&P, and Fitch). To non-regulate financial entities with the size and power of the hedge funds was simply ludicrous. Lay on the tax breaks which most of them operated under (basically, the hedge funds paid no taxes) as well as the lack of any leverage limits, and we had a situation ripe for abuse. But, they needed a free source of funds. That's where the three ratings agencies (Moodys, S&P, and Fitch) stepped in to provide the gunpowder. Some financial genius figured out, hey, if we take 10 sub-prime loans and repackage them, the chances of default are much reduced and therefore we can slap a "AAA" rating on them. Well, now we have "legal" way to make sub-prime loans, collect fees, and *trade* them to bond funds and foreign investors to remove the liability from the loan originators. Worse yet, the hedge funds were able to pile leverage on the higher interest rates these "AAA" rated securities yielded. If you don't believe this statement, consider the numbers being thrown around for the "bailout", and divide it by the total numbers of homes in the United States. The math doesn't work out. Now, was the Bush administration aware of this fraud and its consequences? Yes, absolutely. Bill Gross of PIMCO said on CNBC that he personally went to the Bush administration, and both Greenspan and Bernanke, as early as 2004 and 2005 and explained his concerns. Bush and his cronies knew all right. This was the mechanism that allowed Bush and his buddies to rape the wealth of the US Treasury, put it on the backs of the middle class taxpayer, and use the "crisis" to allow implementation of the "new world order" his father first spoke of years ago: consolidation of the US financial system by the US government, develope tighter financial links with other major foreign countries, and therefore move ever closer to the "new world order" in which, you guessed it, the skull and bones crew that turns the financial control knobs are in complete and total control of the financial system, energy, and food production and distribution. Welcome to 1984 in 2008. What in the world is "conservative" about this? Meanwhile, as Bush and his buddies implement socialism for the rich, or fascism, paid lackeys like Limbaugh and the talking heads on TV tell us we should be worried about Obama getting elected because he would turn the US into socialists!? Hello!! It is happening right before you eyes today under Bush!

Despite the wonderful work of paid hacks like Rush Limbaugh and the talking heads on CNBC, George W. Bush is not a "conservative" republican. Bush is the most radical president the US in the over 200 year history of the United States. His administration will be remembered for putting the final nails in the coffin US capitalism and transforming the United States from democratic (well, semi-democratic....) capitalism to dictorial fascism.

Osama bin Laden proves correct. Osama wins. Bush and his cronies achieve their objectives and win. America, its Constitution, and the world lose.

We face a future in which the fascist leadership of America will bump heads with Communist China in the final show-down for world domination. This will happen in a post peak-oil world. I hate to say it, but I put my money on China. Why? First, China has better long-term strategic thinkers and planners running their show. China is run by engineers instead of professional (and greedy) politicians who simply sell their souls to lobbyists with short term profit motives rather than what is best for the country. Secondly, China owns huge mounds of US debt. China can crater the US any time it wants by simply selling all the US Treasury notes it holds all at one time. This would cripple the US currency and the US government. China won't do this now, because currently it would hurt China as much as the US. But in the future? Don't count out this scenario. I predict China will use its US dollar holdings as a threatening lever to obtain oil from OPEC and Russia by devaluing the US dollar, and thereby making it more advantageous for the oil producers to sell to China instead of the US. The biggest downside China faces is environmental. That said, the US has pretty much destroyed it's waters and much of its air, so I don't think the US has any particular advantage on the environment. In fact, the majority of American states don't have one single lake, river, or stream in which fish can be eaten safely due to the high mercury levels after years of burning coal in the most dirty way possible (that is, cheaply) despite technology being available to do so relatively cleanly. But, we must make sure the utility executives get as big a bonus as possible. You see, it's all about money in America. Money and greed.

In the words of Star Trek's Mr. Spock "The good of the many out weigh the good of the few. Or the one". Not in America. Not any more. For me, I'd rather have socialism in the way of Canada or Scandanavia than the Bush style socialism for the rich. That is simply FASCISM.

Meanwhile, the drop in oil prices due to short-term demand destruction brought on by the financial crisis will be bad news for the US if it get seduced by lower gasoline prices (again) and stop making progress on the transition away from oil based transportation. (Don't count on GM's Volt as it appears GM will be going bankrupt...)As I said a few paragraphs ago, China holds alot of US debt instruments, and will use these to their advantage when push comes to shove on who will get the oil each country will so badly need. Unfortunately, the legacy of financial devastation left behind by the Bush administration will put the good ole USA behind the black oil 8-ball.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Strategic Long-Term Comprehensive Energy Policy


A Natural Gas/Electric Hybrid Vehicle


Updated on 9/12/2009 The energy policy below is updated from time-to-time and includes my thoughts, feedback from my blog readers and from SeekingAlpha.com readers. Significant revisions were made after reading Robert Hefner III's book The GET: Grand Energy Transition. Hefner's book is required reading for anyone interested in energy and 21st century energy policy. You can get more information on ordering The GET here:

http://www.the-get.com/

STEP 1: Acknowledge the Problem

· Acknowledge the problem. No difficult problem can be solved until it is first acknowledged. US government and media need to honestly inform and educate the American people and policy makers at every level about the threat worldwide oil supply/demand realities pose to the US. The US uses 25% of worldwide oil supply, yet owns only 3% of the world's proven reserves. The US imports 70% of its oil, enriching unfriendlies such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran. We are going bankrupt in the process not to mention funding both sides of the "war on terror". Our currency is weak. Our addiction to oil and coal have led to three intolerable consequences: economic contraction, environmental destruction, and geostrategic tensions. These are the basics of the energy challenge facing America. The energy crisis needs to be attacked with realistic information and wise policy decisions. A strategic, long-term, comprehensive energy policy must be adopted, publicized, and executed. The basic components of such an energy policy are listed below.

· The basic top-level energy strategy can be summarized as: we need to use less dirty and expensive solid and liquids based energy (coal, imported oil) and more cleaner and cheaper US domestic gas energy (natural gas, wind, solar, and hydrogen).

· Create a National Energy Council to develop and speed the implementation of the top-level energy strategy stated above. The director of the NEC should report directly to the President as a member of the Cabinet.

· US energy policy must recognize the fact that natural gas is the only domestic fuel supply capable of being scaled-up within the next decade to meaningfully reduce American's foreign oil imports and CO2 emissions. America should become the world leader in CNG vehicles.

STEP 2: Conservation and Energy Efficiency

· Increase fuel-efficiency standards substantially and immediately.

· Increase gas guzzler green taxes and encourage non-gasoline powered vehicles via increased tax rebates.

· Impose a top speed limit of 60 mph nationwide.

· Adopt four-day workweeks wherever and whenever it makes sense.

· Conservation and efficiency guidelines should be issued by federal, state, and local governments.

STEP 3: Transportation Initiatives

· Have at least half of all American cars and trucks running on CNG by the year 2015.
This will be done by retrofitting existing vehicles to run on natural gas, and by increased production of CNG vehicles. Tax credits should cover conversion costs.

· Encourage and adopt natural gas/electric hybrid vehicles as the single best solution to reducing foreign oil imports and emissions. See the Toyota concept car above.


The "Phill" Home Garage Nat Gas Refueling Appliance


· We should focus on natural gas home refueling appliances like the "Phill" to enable home garage refueling of NGVs in the 130 million vehicles already residing in homes on the existing natural gas pipeline grid. Tax credits should cover the installation costs of a CNG home refueling appliance.

· Tax credits should be given to all gas stations on or near the existing natural gas grid so that these stations are required to provide natural gas refueling. Tax credits should also be available to businesses such that their employees can refuel with natural gas while at work.

· Substantial government assistance for US automakers to tool-up CNG and CNG/electric hybrid vehicle production. This government assistance will extend to the production of home refueling appliances in order to bring their costs down.

· Tax credits to build out natural gas refueling stations along the nation's interstate highway system.

· All government vehicle fleets should switch to NGV’s. Encourage local municipal use of natural gas (refuse pickup, buses, mass transit, etc). Develop the natural gas conversion kit market to convert existing gasoline powered vehicles to cleaner cheaper natural gas.

· Develop electric and natural gas powered mass transit for people and goods.

· Place a green tax on all imported oil and all coal usage. The revenue generated will go *only* toward building the natural gas, wind, solar, and electrical infrastructures needed to move toward a gas based energy society. The taxes should be ramped up over a 5 year period to allow for economic planning and adjustment.

STEP 4: Prioritize and Invest Sustainable and Green Energy Sources

· Abolish federal subsidies for the oil and coal industries.

· Abolish biofuel and ethanol mandates. They cause major distortions in the food chain, inflation, and impeed development of other more economic alternative energy sources.

· Eliminate the construction of any new coal power plants. Replace existing coal plants with more distributed natural gas electrical generation.

· Construct a trans-Canadian natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower-48.

· Begin a government sponsored “battery technology” program (similar to the successful Sematech organization for semi-conductor technology) in order to insure that the US is not only the leader (we are way behind now…) in battery research and design, but also in battery *manufacturing*.

· Invest in wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and tidal energy generation to power non-gasoline powered transportation solutions described in STEP 3 above.

· In order to use the power generated from the above non-oil sources to power automobile solutions, the natural gas & electric grid infrastructures must be updated and its capacity increased dramatically.

· The government must deem electric transmission lines a matter of national security and thereby invoke eminent domain in order to construct them as needed to deliver solar and wind energy from source to consumption.

· Wind and solar power generation of hydrogen via electrolysis as a storage mechanism for calm and cloudy days. Hydrogen power generation needs encouragement.

· Streamline the permitting and construction of LNG terminals on both US coasts.

· Streamline the permitting and construction of latest generation nuclear power plants.

· Open the continental shelf and Alaska to natural gas drilling. The royalties on these resources will help fund other components of this energy plan.

· Abolish import taxes on Brazilian ethanol.

· Increase funding for hydrogen fusion research and development.

STEP 5: Social Iniatives

· Encourage local sustainability in energy generation, food production, and transportation.

· Encourage population control through education.

· Encourage green power education, business, and industry.

· The US voting public should demand energy accountability by its political leadership.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Irishman Padraig Harrington Wins the PGA!



Irishman Padraig Harrington won back-to-back majors by taking the 2008 PGA Championship by closing out the tournament with a pair of weekend 66's. Harrington's putter was simply too much for Sergio Garcia, who once again failed to make the best of a major opportunity. Garcia gave his Ryder Cup teammate the cold shoulder when shaking hands on the 18th green.

Harrington has now won 3 of the last 6 majors. He is the first European to win the PGA Championship since Tommy Armour did so in 1930 and is the first European to win the British Open and the PGA in the same year.

Harrington is the first European to ever win two consecutive major tournaments.

The tri-colour was waving proudly in Ireland and no doubt the Guinness flowed freely. Cheers to Paddy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Opinion the Wall Street Journal Refuses to Print: A Strategic Long-Term Comprehensive Energy Policy

Despite $120/barrel oil, an S&P500 that has returned 2.8% over the last 10 years, an annual inflation rate somewhere in the neighborhood of 8%, a financial system that is being nationalized by the so-call "conservative" Republican administration, an economy that could be described as anemic (at best) and a US currency that has dropped by 50% since Bush got elected, the US political leadership and media remain in "oil-denial". The Wall Street Journal, while publishing an article on the "Opinions" page critical of Boone Pickens' wind and natural gas energy strategy, refuses to print the following "opinion", which I have sent to the editors 3 times now. Why?

The US Must Adopt a Strategic, Long-Term Comprehensive Energy Policy

The debate is not about peak oil theory, or global warming, or the role of speculators in the price of oil. The debate should not be about windfall profits taxes on big oil or suing the oil producing nations. For a country that consumes 20% of worldwide oil production and imports 60% of it, has seen oil double in the past year and quadruple over the past 5 years, the question is a very simple one: what rational policies can the US adopt to prepare and protect US national security and its economy from an environment where worldwide oil supply cannot keep up with worldwide oil demand? It's a simple question. A common sense question.
The energy crisis of the 1970's was marked by soaring energy prices, runaway inflation, rising unemployment, and economic uncertainty. Yet the energy challenge facing the US and the world today will make the 1970's look like a walk in the park. Then, the energy crisis was a political crisis based on US Israeli policy and an Arab oil embargo. It ended when the embargo was lifted and Saudi turned on the "spigot". Today, there is no "spigot" and worldwide oil supply will not be able to keep up with demand. There will be no "end" to this energy crisis. Despite the skeptics, it truly IS different this time.
The only solution is a comprehensive long-term energy policy. This is extremely urgent, and we need to get it right the first time. The energy challenge confronting the US and the world is so daunting every economically viable source of non-oil based energy will be needed. Here are the basic features of such an energy policy:

· Acknowledge the problem. No difficult problem can be solved until it is first acknowledged. US government and media need to honestly inform and educate the American people and policy makers at every level about the threat worldwide oil supply/demand realties pose to the US. This is the root of the energy challenge. The energy crisis needs to be attacked with information and wise decisions.

· The nature of the energy challenge is so immense the US government will have to play an important and central role.

· Increase gas guzzler tax penalties and encourage gas sippers via increased tax rebates.

· Increase CAFE standards. "Open fuel standards" autos should be incentivized.

· Conservation guidelines should be issued by federal, state, and local governments.

· Impose a top speed limit of 60 mph nationwide

· Adopt four-day workweeks wherever and whenever it makes sense.

· Government encouragement and tax incentives for development of non-gasoline powered transportation.

· Huge investments are needed in wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear energy to power non-gasoline powered automobile solutions.

· Wind and solar power generation of hydrogen via electrolysis as a storage mechanism for calm and cloudy days. Hydrogen power generation needs encouragement.

· In order to use the power generated from the above non-oil sources to power automobile solutions, the electric grid infrastructure must be updated and its capacity increased dramatically.

· Construction of a trans-Canadian natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower-48.

· Permit and construct LNG terminals on both coasts. Now.

· Open the continental shelf and Alaska to oil and gas drilling. Now.

· Research and development of clean coal-to-liquids and coal gasification.

· Increase the federal gasoline sales tax gradually over time.

· Develop electric mass transit for people and goods.

· Biofuels should be encouraged by not at the expense of runaway food inflation.

· Abolish Ethanol mandates. They cause major distortions in the food chain.

· Abolish import taxes on Brazilian ethanol.

· Food production and transportation methods in a non-oil based world should be investigated and results published.

· Encourage local sustainability in energy, food production, and transportation.

· Encourage population control through education.

· The US voting public should demand energy accountability by its political leadership. We need policy by engineers and scientists, not Rush Limbaugh and Larry Kudlow.


In conclusion, the economic and social implications of remaining on our present oil-based economy will be very unpleasant. We need to take action now. The US is capable of successfully confronting the energy challenges but can only do so by rationally acknowledging the problems and solutions. We can usher in a new age of economic prosperity based on non-oil based energy solutions but we must begin the transition now. We are running out of time and should begin a massive build out of a non-oil based energy sources, transportation solutions, and infrastructure today. The only way to achieve solutions to the economic challenges posed by the energy crisis is adoption of a well crafted, long-term, comprehensive energy policy as shown above. Failure to do so will mean continued US currency devaluation, equity investment destruction, reduction in the US standard of living, and eventually social unrest and huge economic and social dislocations.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bye Bye Colorado


Last Day Fishing - A Pretty Little Arkansas River Cut-Bow


After 9 magical days on the Conejos River I returned to the Sugarbush campground in Salida for a much needed hot shower and a taste of civilization. I was also looking forward to some easy dry-fly fishing on the Arkansas River. The hot shower was grand, but it turns out the wind popped up on the river along with the afternoon monsoon activity. Fishing was hard, and I soon realized how tired and worn out I was after my Conejos River adventures. I was suddenly yearning for the comforts of home ... making coffee without boiling water on a Coleman stove...enjoying ice from the refrigerator...hot showers...the British Open golf tournament and the Tour de France on TV. All that said, I also remembered last year driving back to TN, being there one week, and then wishing I was back in CO. So, I went out fishing one last time to see if I could work myself out of the tired rut I was in. Well, it was another windy morning and the fly-fishing was tough - hard to land a dry fly lightly when the wind is blowing like hell. I did find a nice bend in the river and tucked in out of the wind. I caught a few fish including a pretty little cut-bow (see picture above) which, out of perhaps 150 Arkansas River fish, was one of only two non-brown trout (the other being a rainbow). I fished awhile longer and eventually found alot of trout in a shallow grassy bottomed stretch of river and had some fun. Eventually I lost my fly on a fish (too lazy to re-tie the fly after catching 10 or 12 fish with it), the wind came whipping up again and I decided that was it. I was done. Finished! I was tired of fly-fishing and camping. Yes, it IS possible, especially after 5 weeks, much of it in wilderness areas.
As I was about toexit the river and climb up onto the bank out of the waste high water, I reached up to grab a rock to help pull me out. Suddenly I had a premonition that I shouldn't grab the rock. I have no idea why I had that feeling...I just did. I paused, glanced down, and there about a foot from my arm, was a coiled rattlesnake which was absolutely motionless except for its tongue darting in and out of its mouth. Yikes! I have no idea why he didn't strike as I was about to grab the rock right above him. I backed off slowly and waded downstream a bit. I took a couple pictures. Click on them to make the pics larger as the snake is kinda hard to see. Anyhow, that was it. I took it as I sign that my trip was over and I would head home the next morning. A great summer for sure, but as the saying goes, all good things come to an end, and this summer trip to Colorado was over. . Time to jump into my old reliable truck and grunt it back to TN.



Click to enlarge these pictures. THe rattlesnake is hard to see.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mount Conejos


Although not a "14'er", and not in the top 100 peaks in the state of Colorado, at 13,172 ft Mount Conejos is higher than any mountain in Montana or New Mexico. It's a relatively easy climb since forest road 105 can take you to within an hours hike of Tabacco Lake, and it's only another hour to the Conejos peak from the lake. Well, it was an hour for me on that day...but could easily be 2 hours for some hikers due to the altitude and steepness of the peak's slope. By this time, I had been in Colorado for over a month and was acclimated to the altitude.

Tobacco Lake is a moderate hike from the trailhead. For the third time, I was not able to catch a fish in Tobacco Lake even though I could see the nice, big, fat cutthroat trolling the shoreline. One of these days I'll figure it out. I got some light strikes on a wooly bugger, nymphs, and an emerger - but no takes and I still wonder how those fish get so big and fat feeding on the small black knats they appear to prefer over anything else. Perhaps next year.

Since I wasn't catching any fish, I figured the day wouldn't be a total loss if I climbed Conejos Peak, which I did not do last year because of my knee injury. It was a great hike, with minimal snow crossings due to it being mid-July. It was the first time ever I was on Conejos Peak and the wind wasn't blowing. Completely calm and beautiful on the peak.

The jelly-jar that was put on the peak years ago with a note inside is now almost completely full of notes and various writings. I was going to leave a root-beer barrel in the jar, but decided a critter might sniff it out and break the jar or roll it down the mountain, so I just ate it instead.

On the way down, I stopped at Tobacco Lake to try fishing again, and then the afternoon storm blew up, it began to rain, the temperature drops very quickly, and I froze my ass off before I got back to the truck. Overall however it was a great day and a beautiful hike. There is something very spiritual about Conejos Peak.

Tobacco Lake with Conejos Peak in the background:


Gaining on her...the peak is upper right.


Ahhhhhh, the Mt. Conejos peak!


View from the peak.


Much easier on the way down!


The ultimate skid mark:

Harrington Defends British Open Title



Padraig Harrington joined an elite group of golfers including Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Arnold, Lee Trevino and Bobby Jones by defending his British Open title and winning back-to-back Open championships. He did so in style, by eagling the 17th hole with an unbelievable second shot with his favorite club, the 5-wood, from 249 yards away to within 4 feet of the hole. He sank the putt and the tournament was effectively over there at #17. Harrington went on to win by a convincing 4 shots proving that last year was indeed no fluke victory.
Celebrations broke out across the Republic of Ireland as the Irish tri-colour flag was seen on the 18th green of the British Open for the second year in a row.
Harrington is now rated #3 in the world rankings, highest ever for him. The big question now is: can Harrington win a major golf championship other than the British Open links style which he grew up playing in Ireland? He was 5th at the Masters this year, and 36th in the US Open. Could 2009 be the year Harrington breaks through and wins a major in the US?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Upper Conejos River


Golden Brown Trout from the Upper Conejos River

Get ready for MAJOR RANT: Three years ago a man camped next to me at the Lake Fork campground. Seemed to be a nice guy - Berkley computer engineer from Colorado Springs. Said he'd never been to the upper Conejos River and would I mind showing him around. I talked with him some about barbless hooks, catch and release, etc. etc. and he seemed like a good guy. So, I spent the better part of two days showing him some good places to fish in my little "nature hideway" that I prize so highly. BIG mistake. After three days, he packs up and says, "thanks alot Mike, I can't wait to tell all my buddies back at the "Pike's Peak Flyfishing Club" about what a great river this is". (!) My worse fears have come true.
Last year, as I made the turn to go up the Platoro road off of highway 17, there was a big sign by the side of the road "Pike's Peak FlyFishing Club" and an arrow pointing up the road (no where else to point, it's a single road for 26 miles!). There were a half dozen more signs on the dirt road and by the time I got to the Lake Fork campground, I felt like I was in downtown NYC (or Denver)! Worse still, they had reserved about 10 campsites over the internet and they were un-occupied for some days, leaving me (and others) having to camp in unshaded campsite while perfectly good campsite remained empty?! As if all that isn't bad enough, apparently the ENTIRE club finally did come up and those guys put 20 or 30 fisherman on roughly 5 miles of upper Conejos River for a week. Those of you who aren't familiar with the Conejos, or flyfishing, probably don't understand the effect such a massive number of hard core fly-fisherman can do to a river like this. Simply put - they stress the hell out of the fish.
It was a repeat performance this year - the difference being I stayed at the lower Conejos (Mogote) campground until they left and the sign at the HWY 17 junction was taken down. I swear had I gone up there and seen my "friend", I bet I would have punched his lights out. Somethings are worth fighting about, and this is one of them. They have pretty much ruined the upper Conejos compared to what is was before their arrival. Now, every fish you catch has hook marks in their mouth, they're nervous, skiddish, and simply not as wild. There's footmarks all over every conceiveable spot. It's now like most any other river in Colorado. Man, do I ever regret spending time with that "traitor".
Don't get me wrong, they have every right to fish the river and should do so. But why are all the signs necessary? Show me one fly-fisherman who cannot find a campground on a 26 mile single dirtroad and I'll show you an idiot. Why does everyone in the fly-fishing club have to fish the river AT THE SAME TIME? I have even read articles in Colorado magazine about how fly-fishing clubs in the state are managing their time on the water (apparently not Pike's Peak). Why do they have to make so many campsite reservations that are unfilled? These guys are just bad news and NOT representative of fly-fisherman at all. They are the antithesis of the fly-fisherman I know in Colorado, most of whom are very much individualist and prefer to fish alone as I do.
Anyhow, RANT over and I will contact DOW and make my complaints official. It is not only I that am bothered about all this, I heard several other fly-fisherman around the campground and in Horca complaining about these bozos. I only hope DOW can actually do something about these guys and appeal to their sense of duty to the river and its trout. What a damn shame.
All that said, I still caught lots of fish in the upper Conejos despite these bungholes. I had two 20 fish days out of three. I hated to see that the majority of them had hook marks in their jaws already. This very rarely happened before. Regardless, the water was fast and high this year, but a good drift in a good patch of water almost always produced either a fish or a strike. Some pictures are attached below.
Also different this year was the weather. For the first time I can remember since the drought years, it rained every afternoon and turned cold. I froze my ass off one evening when I got wet at dark on the river. It's great to see all this moisture falling on the South San Juan Wilderness after all the drought, dead trees, low water, and fires of the last 8 years or so.
It is still one of the most beautiful parts of Colorado I know of.


A Cut-bow Trout



I love the orange on this Cutthroat Trout



Just your average ordinary upper Conejos Brown Trout

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Where the Hell is Duck Lake Anyway??


Duck Lake

A few years ago, I remember some dude at the Ponderosa campground catching a 5 lb brook trout at Duck Lake. So, having an itch to take a hike to new territory, I decidied to give it a go. I had passed the trailhead sign many times on my hikes into Elk Creek and had seen the trail on my map of the South San Juan Wilderness so many times I feel as if I knew the way blindfolded.
Well, it turned out to be the most amateurish effort I have ever made. First off, they moved the trailhead from where I remembered it being. Undaunted, I thought how hard can it be to find that...well, pretty hard when ATV tracks are all over the place and a new road was bulldozed in the "move". Long story short, I wasted the first 40 minutes "lost" and ended up on the wrong side of La Manga creek near highway 17. What an idiot. At this point I had used half my bottle of water already, but was determined to find Duck Lake. So, back I go where I ask an elderly couple where the trailhead was moved to and finally got on the right trail. My next mistake was not even taking the map since I felt like it would be a straight forward hike. Wrong. Beaver ponds and another lake were enought to complicate the situation and I ended up taking a wrong turn. Luckily, I figured this out soon enough and was back on the trail to Duck Lake, looking at various beaver ponds and wondering, hmm....is THAT Duck Lake? Finally, I scale a rise and there is a nice lake, with, you guessed it, ducks! Big ducks, small ducks, baby duck quacking at my arrival. Ahh, this must be the place. Knowing that it dumps into South Elk Creek and makes a waterfall visable from the Elk Creek trail, I followed it around to see the waterfall, but like an idiot forgot to take a picture of it.
So, I go back to Duck Lake and rig up the old Winston 4wt fly-rod. The lake is deceiving...it looks about 1 or 2 feet deep at the most (and may well be), full of algae or moss or what have you, and swear there was not a fish in it except for an explosion or two sighted every once in awhile. I tied on a olive and black wooly bugger and cast it out. Before I could even grab the line to start strippin, something was pulling on it - a 12" brookie. Cast again - bam! 6 casts and 4 fish. The lake is simply loaded with hungry brook trout! Then, over the mountain, comes a lightening storm and after all my efforts and travails of the day, I had to put away the "lightening rod" and head for lower ground, careful not to step on the lil duckies whose broken eggshells and bodies were all over the marshy area next to the water. Only fitted that after such an amateurish effort I got very wet and cold before the hike was over. Hard for me to give exact times for the hike with all the wrong turns and false starts, but I figure it's about 1.5 hours from the trailhead(8,900 ft). The first part of the trail, as can be seen from the map contour lines, is a grunt uphill. Then, there is a nice meadow with leisurely walking, followed by a final grunt or two up to the lake, which is at 10,040 ft.
Some pictures are below.



Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Beautiful Conejos River


well, the coffee shop in alamosa (milagros) is closed today as is the chinese restaurant where i get my "three meat" special (chicken, beef, and shrimp). mental note: don't come into town on Sundays! so, i find myself at the local library for free wi-fi and i am amazed it is open on sunday and quite busy.
the last few days on the Conejos River have been fantastic. the river is flowing perfectly and clear as gin. the fish have been cooperating too (somewhat). one never knows about the Conejos...you can catch 20 rainbows and browns...or, just as easily, get skunked and swear there aren't ANY fish in the river.
two days ago, i was fishing over at the Hamilton Ranch (where the daughter is building a nice new cabin over-looking one of my favorite runs), and i hadn't caught anything all morning. just as i made the bend of the river, an older man on the opposite bank put up his hand and gave me the STOP signal. learning a long time ago the wisdom of elderly fly-fisherman, i stopped and shrugged my shoulders as if to say "ok old-timer, what now?" he pointed to the river in a few yards in front of me, and sure enough, there was a huge brown drake hatch going on (which i would have had to of been blind not to spot it on my own, but hey, i liked the help). the flies bubbling up from the river were the size of quarters and the trout were just bangin the shit out of em! i didn't have a brown drake, but i have been known to use an orange stimulator with a green head in such cases - so i tied on a #12, and cast to the nearest rise. bam! hooked a nice brown. bam-bam!! another one. long story short, i caught 5 or 6 real nice, fat, Conejos browns - the smallest being 16" and the largest about 21". the latter took me downstream about 40 yards where i was able to land him before the white water started. i talked to the man later, from Solana Beach, and he was 65 and fished this river since he was 8 years old. man, did we have a time there for awhile. it lasted about 45 minutes, and when it was over, it was over. some pics are attached. cindy - the hat is special for you ;) not sure if any of the photos show it, but these browns had a slightly bluish tint right above the gills. never seen that before - but all all the hamilton ranch browns had it. click on the picture with Steve in the background to enlarge it..i think you can see the colouring in that one - beautiful.
also fished "Sander's Bridge", another of my favorite sections of the river, and did well there too. no rainbows yet though.. i miss em!
is there any place in the world as beautiful as the Conejos River the second week of July? answer: nope. ok, so, that's it for the lower river...time to head to the high country and Mount Conejos itself. we get away from all the people now...and i like the peace and solitude of the high country during the middle of the week. good for the soul, and i cherish these times alone on the upper Conejos. more when i get back ... which, good Lord willin and the creeks don't rise, will be in 4 or 5 days. peace.






Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Fitzman is Back!!



After "suffering" through days of blown out rivers, downtime in Salida, and fishing with #20 midges for finicky trout, the Fitzman finally got back to what he is good at - thowing big dry flies to hungry trout! I knew yesterday would be a stellar day when I got out of the truck to look over a stretch of the Arkansas River and grasshoppers were *everywhere*. So, it being windy, I strung up my trusty 6 wt rod, tied on an orange stimulator, and headed down the embankment to fishing heaven. I landed 17 browns and 1 rainbow, and had at least that many hooked but lost in the current or whatever. It was a blast. The highlight of yesterday was a cast I made where my fly drifted behind a rock where I just knew a fish was laying in wait. I counted one..two...set the hook and low and behold there was a trout on. I just busted out laughing...and I just know these people floating down the river thought I had a bolt or two lose. The strikes were sometimes explosive and the trout would rise out of the water on the hit. Then again, the bigger trout just seemed to sip or suck the fly in. Either way, it was some "good action!"



Today was another good day albeit started slow and it seemed like I didn't know what the hell I was doing for the first hour or so. Then things got hot and the fish were turned on. Didn't keep a fish count today, but it was as good as yesterday. The river at wellsville was flowing at 3,800 a few days ago, and now it's at 3,000 or probably below by now. The Arkansas River will be perfect for fishing in just a few days.
The browns in the river average on the small side, but nice gold bellies - and they fight like hell! Didn't take many pictures cause it's much more fun to catch em, but here's a few. The white cross was not there last year, god bless whoever. Good spot though - I caught two trout just below the cross (knock-on-wood).



Had the first "disaster" of the trip when a pack of shoestring potatos I bought to make easy hash browns broke open in the cooler. The 4-wheeling does that every time. Remember what cherrios look like when left in milk too long? Needless to say, the cooler had to be broke down and completely washed. The lil blonde customer service chick at Safeway gave me a new bag free saying "nobody could make that story up". Speaking of customer service, the guy I met at Mama D's actually did come through with the Grateful Dead concert CD's of the show at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta in 1977 that a friend of mine at Georgia Tech bought me a ticket for but I didn't go (calculus test and I didn't really know what the GD were all about). Anyhow, it will be interesting to finally hear the show I missed, although it's an MP3 CD and my truck doesn't play it :(
Leaving for the Conejos in the morning and won't be back in internet range for a week or so. Took my last warm shower for awhile tonite, and I am sure looking forward to being back in my Conejos home waters in the second week in July - what is better than that eh? Sad to say goodbye to my Sugarbush camping neighbors from Kansas - the Shandy's, Tim (leader of the band), Lynn (the fire-builder), Colin (the fart-meister), and baby Zada (hope I spelled that right, the chipmunk attractor). They were a good time, funny, and nice folks - so I included a picture. Tim - maybe next year we find Stout Creek Lake using your GPS eh? Regardless, thanks for all the Coors beers and bein a good camper neighbor!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Jaws

I almost didn't make this post, but what the heck. Sometimes fisherman are a bit ashamed at their catch, and that is the case with this Fryingpan rainbow, the largest bow I have ever caught. I was with my buddy Matt from Aspen. He likes to fish the Pan with "ham and eggs", that is, with a salmon egg and a San Juan worm dropper. Chris from Denver calls this setup "spaghetti and meatballs". Regardless, I wasn't having any luck with this menu, so I went to a dry/dropper combo after seeing some surface activity. Sure enough, I missed a strike on the dry, but foul hooked the fish with my midge dropper. After a bit of a battle, I landed the fish. Not only was I embarassed to have foul hooked the fish, the kicker was that he had been caught before (like most all large rainbows in the catch-n-release Pan have been), and his lower Jaw had been severely injured and basically detached in a very abnormal fashion. The fish looks more like a shark than it does a rainbow. The pictures are posted below, and this guy might have gone 6 lbs or so. Oh, and to top it off, I asked an older gentlemen who just entered the river if he would mind taking a picture...and he said "I can't help you with that son" (!) I almost fell over as the fly-fishing community is just not like that. I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode when George is at the airport and asks a man wearing a watch what time it was. The man said there was a clock on the wall over there. George says why don't you just look at your watch? The man says again, very irritably, there is a clock on the wall OVER THERE. Exasperated, George says "You know we're living in a SOCIETY!" Thus, the poor pictures. However, I was fairly proud of the picture I took after sweeping the net out away from around the fish and clicking before Jaws swam away. If you can get by the freakish jaw hanging off, you get some idea of the size and beauty of big Fryingpan River rainbows.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Time off the Water in Salida, CO



The Arkansas River here in the Salida area is blown out. This is great for the kayakers and white water rafters, but not so much for the fly-fisherman. So, I've taken a hot shower (the first in almost 3 weeks) and cleaned off the inch or so of mud that had built up on the Teardrop after Beth said "boy, that thing is muddy!" Two nights ago, I awoke out of a deep sleep to the sound of a big thud and the the trailer was shaking a bit. I knew this wasn't normal and as I swung around to close one of the doors which were open to capture the cool breeze I saw about a two year old black bear float by from three feet away. I say float because the bear was so quiet as it was walking away you could barely hear it. Anyhow, all I had in the "kitchen" was a banana I had left out to ripen and a kiwi which didn't smell at all (at least not to me). Both were still under the hatch mind you. But, I guess that was all the bait it took to attract the bear. Not sure if they can be seen in the picture below, but the bear left a couple paw prints on the back of the newly cleaned trailer.



Later that day I was doing laundry and had to fetch Beth to help with the coin-fed dryer which was acting up. As she's walking into the laundry room I busted out laughing and she said "what's your problem?" I said, well Beth, for someone who says she's scared of snakes, you damn near stepped on that big bull snake. Well, she lets out a shreak when she finally sees it. Tom came to the rescue, picked up the snake, and threw it over to the other side of the creek. Apparently there have been two big bull snakes in the campground this year, and they have been seen curling around and climbing pine trees. They must be after bird eggs, as I have seen some broken shells laying around. One camper on the back lot saw the big one (8 feet long he says) just after eating a rabbit which he could not fit all the way down its mouth, at least not at the time of the siting.




I headed into town for the 4th of July celebration and decided to take my camera as boy, have I been meeting some characters this year. Well, I ended up at a place called Benson's where they had Guinness on tap. I soon met locals Angie and Tony who had come in for the BBQ ribs and "to celebrate the 4th". Boy did we. Everytime I turned around I had a shot or another Guinness in front of me. Hadn't drank like that since last summer here in Salida. Isn't Tony the spittin image of that guy in the movie Braveheart who was William Wallace's best friend? Tony is Scottish as well. Anyhow, the two of them and a bunch of other locals and I just got tore down. Tony has his finger in the Moose's nostril. Classy touch huh? Also, check out the "head" on the Guinness...it's, of course, supposed to be a 3 leaf clover, but we thought it looked like something else (use your imagination). I told the bartender "Nutter" she had better stick with 4-leaf clovers in the future so there would be no controversy.




The guys in charge of the fireworks must have been partying as well. They started at least 2 fires on the mountain side and got so busy putting them out they decided it might be best not to set off the "grand finale". Heh heh heh, cracked me up but most others seemed dissapointed.
Today was the brewfest, but I was so hungover I didn't feel like going. First Salida brewfest I have missed in many years. Oh well, at least I didn't drop another $100 in town...
Colorado is a place of coincidences. I've mentioned the Grateful Dead coincidences in the past. Today, the guys I met up at the Fryingpan River with the blind labrador showed up here at Sugarbush. You should see this dog get around. The guy couldn't figure out why the dog wouldn't leave my campsite, so I told him about the bear and then he understood. Later, when I went into town, some guy at the gas station asked me to open his gas flap. I said something like "huh?" in my hungover state as I couldn't understand why he couldn't do it himself. He said the spring is busted so when he pulls the gas-flap latch by the steering wheel, the damn thing doesn't pop out like it's supposed to. I laughed and helped him out. Two hours later, I decided to see if I could work off my hangover by going four-wheeling up Kerr Gulch to see if I can find Stout Creek Lake, which is rumoured to have nice cutthroat trout since it is so hard to get to. So, I am winding my way up the mountain and I think I am all alone when I run up on the back of another Toyota - a Land Cruiser. I think boy that looks familiar. Well, we get to talking at a particularly rough patch of the road. It's a couple and two love-bird youngsters. I say to the guy, you look familiar. He says so do you. Long story short it was the guy with the busted gas latch from the Conoco station. So, we partnered up the two Toyotas and head up the mountain side on this half lane road. This guy is serious too and his woman and the two kids were really into the adventure. We pull up to two big pine trees down across the road and I think, well, this is as far as we go. Next thing I know, the guy's out winching trees and we are soon off again - a real pathfinder kinda guy. I assume he's trying to fish the lakes too. We finally get to the point where the road was unpassable, and I say, well, we're gonna have to hike to the lake from here. He says "what lake"? "Aren't you trying to get to Stout Creek Lake to catch some trout?" I ask. He says "hell no, we just thought we'd follow this road up the mountain as far as it would go!" What a panic. Anyhow, at this point I popped open a Moosehead, and sure as the hair of the dog, my hangover finally subsided. We never made it to the lake, but boy I wish I hadn't left my camera in the trailer as this guy, Brodie, was a real character. He got real tickled when we evidently took a wrong turn somewhere and came upon a sign that said "If you moroons (sic) made it this far, just turn around and go back now before you get shot". His woman took a picture of the sign and I wish I had had my camera too. What I really needed on this adventure was a GPS unit. I might have to get myself one for Christmas.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Trappers Lake


well, here i am in colorado. most of the rivers are blown out due to the heavy snowfall this year, so i have been fishing in some of the high country lakes. not my favorite way to fish (i prefer dry-fly fishing on rives and streams), but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. luckily for me, i ended up at beaufiful and pristine trappers lake. google it - the carhart history is interesting. anyhow, the lake and its surroundings are absolutely beautiful despite the big fire of a few years back. spooky hiking through forests of burned trees, and when the wind blows hard, like it does every afternoon, watch out if you hear a creak or a *crack*!

the cutthroat trout in trappers lake are simply stunning. i took a couple pictures, but the most beautiful trout eluded my grasp just as i was about to click it. anyhow, these cutthroat trout are used as the brood stock for stocking in all of the other lakes in colorado. i caught most of them on, of all things, the #20 zebra midge that i tied for fishing on the caney fork back in tennessee. the fish were feeding on emergers of some sort, but we never figured out exactly what the matching pattern was. i only caught 12-15 cutthroats in 2 1/2 days, but they are real fighters and real pretty fish. you cannot keep them unless they are 10" or smaller (pan size), which is good for the fishery.

saw two bald eagles courting in the sky, my first bald eagle siting in over 20 years (the last time i saw a bald eagle was at lake shasta, CA in the early 80's). these birds seemed well at home at trappers lake.

another lake that fished wonderfully was meadow lake, which i stumbled on while driving the backroad from new castle, CO to buford (south fork of the white river). on this lake, i busted some trout where the two small creeks empty into the lake. in 15 minutes, i caught a brookie, a rainbow, and a lake trout. i call that a "triple play" and if i could have caught a brown it would have been a "grand slam". the fish at meadow lake were just hammering a olive wooly bugger.

below are some pics of trappers (remember the fire). speaking of which, i had another grateful dead "moment", when, after 3 days of no music, i sat in my truck one nite and hit PLAY on the CD player...on came "fire on the mountain", and jerry's guitar and the bands grove seemed to be the perfect vibe for the fire burned country that i was camping in. the solo at the end of the song seemed to underscore the power and fury of what the trapper's lake fire must have been like.

to the young couple that delivered me beer in their canoe - i thank you. hope your "16 week anniversary" continued to be as much fun as it appeared to be. earl and doug, i hope you guys finally figured out what the fish were feeding on!



Sunday, June 1, 2008

Clinch River Fly-fishing

so i made another trip over to the clinch river a week or so ago hoping to profit on another sulphur hatch. it was not to be. no hatch, and no dry fly action. i also bombed out with the pheasant tail nymph i had had some luck with on the earlier trip. in desparation i tied on the zebra midge which worked so well on the caney fork but not so much here. well, times had changed and now the zebra midge was generating some action. unfortunately, i discovered this later in the morning and for awhile all i could catch was small bows (i am talking 4-6 inch!), but i finally caught a couple nice fish - a 16" and a 14". eventually it got to hot, the sun too bright, and the fitzman just wanted a cold beer and some shade. the heron in the picture, however, continued to catch fish at a nice clip. at least i got some pictures this time...although, i must admit the rainbow wasn't from this trip - just added it for some colour.