Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Review: "End the Fed" by Ron Paul

Texas Congressman & American Patriot Ron Paul.

Gold is trading over $1200/oz. The Federal Reserve is holding Interest rates at 0% in an attempt to re-inflate the economy. President Obama is continuing and expanding the Bush administration’s policies of deficit spending, corporate bailouts, and war. What better time to review a book that explains it all and recommends a solution? Ron Paul’s book End the Fed does just that: abolish the Federal Reserve and go back to a hard money standard based on gold and silver.

Paul’s book begins by explaining why all Americans should care and why abolishing the Federal Reserve is a good idea:

· It would bring an end to dollar depreciation
· It would prevent the funding of continual unnecessary wars
· It would enable real freedom and protect our liberties
· It would stop the skyrocketing growth of debt
· It would force government to live within its means
· It would end the ability of the Fed (and the government) to control the
people through a monopoly on money and credit
· It would stop the Fed from serving the interest of the elite (executives of
AIG, Goldman Sachs, etc.) while enacting a sinister tax on the middle class
by diluting the value of the dollars they save.

Paul explains how Ben Bernanke and the Fed can print trillions of dollars and distribute them to its cronies with absolute no oversight by Congress. It is not only unconstitutional, it’s immoral.

Paul then gives a very interesting historical perspective on the history of the Federal Reserve and its record: a U.S. dollar today that is worth $0.05 compared to its value when the Federal Reserve was created. The Federal Reserve’s policies are a form of financial socialism for the rich and powerful.

A discussion follows about Paul’s childhood experiences with money, his main influences (Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard among others) and Austrian economics. Paul explains how the Fed’s ability to print money out of thin air has enabled wars and empire building. If the government had to pay for these wars by taxing its citizens and living within its means, Paul doubts the American people would be so willing to support unnecessary, unproductive, and economically corrosive wars.
Paul points out that after every major crisis, be it America’s many wars, 9-11, the dot-com bubble, or the meltdown in 2008, the response has always been more monetary expansion and more power to the Federal Reserve. He contends that it is impossible to solve the economic and political problems by turning to the unconstitutional institution that is most responsible for creating all the problems in the first place.
How ironic it is that a supposedly “free market capitalistic” country like the U.S. has a central bank setting interest rates? Paul contends this is a form of price-fixing and central economic planning. Only the Federal Reserve can create new money out of thin air, inflate the currency, in complete secrecy, and totally without oversight or supervision. Indeed, Karl Marx’s Fifth Plank of the Communist Manifesto states:

“Centralization of credit in the banks of the State, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.”

In other words, authoritarian rule is enabled by control of money by an institution like the Federal Reserve. Lenin was reported to have said the best way to destroy capitalism is to debauch the currency. Further, the Federal Reserve corrupts politicians by allowing them to substantiate themselves (and their egos) with unbridled spending, bribery, and immorality. Who can forget December 16, 2008 when Bush rationalized his bailout plan for corporations and their executives by proudly announcing “I have abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.” Paul says this is astounding and preposterous! I say we call it what it is: fascism. And the Federal Reserve enables it and supports it, all in complete secrecy and with no Congressional oversight and no transparency.

The U.S. Constitution is clear on the matter. Article I, Section 10: “No state shall …. make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts.” Paper money is therefore unconstitutional. Period. Further, the Constitution is quiet on the matter of a central bank. However, the Tenth Amendment states: if a power is not “delegated to the United States by the Constitution,” it doesn’t exist. Since the Federal Reserve is not mentioned, logically its existence and power is unconstitutional. Even if it was, it still could not legally repeal the legal mandate for gold and silver coins. There is nothing “Federal” about the “Federal Reserve”, and there is surely nothing in “Reserve”. The term “Federal Reserve” is an oxymoron. Paul also notes how the Supreme Court has consistently bowed to political and corporate pressure by misinterpreting the Constitution on this very straightforward and important issue. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and the Federal Reserve has absolute power. Is it any wonder that Greenspan and Bernanke are men with extraordinary egos? They are more powerful than the elected President.

Paul explains how and why gold was chosen by men (not governments) to be money because it possessed all the qualities desired to enable commerce and trade. Gold was naturally selected by the people and was used in trade exchange for more than 6,000 years. In 4000 B.C. the Egyptians were using gold bars as money. The Byzantine Empire thrived for six centuries on a gold standard. Then, Nicephorous III Botaniates reduced the amount of gold in then the world’s most used coin in order to fight a war with the Turks. The war was lost and so were the Byzantine Empire and its currency. Historically, fiat currencies (like the paper U.S. dollar) have always failed as money. Gold has always prevailed.

Paul then presents several cases to support a gold money standard:

· the philosophical case (morality and the moral hazard of the Fed)
· the constitutional case
· the economic case
· the libertarian case (why real money protects freedom and liberty)

Each case alone is very compelling. Taken together, how can one not agree that the Federal Reserve is simply a dysfunctional, unconstitutional, and dangerous entity which merely serves a small group of highly powerful, unsupervised, and very secretive select few at the expense of the middle class?

Unfortunately, the last chapter of the book, “The Way Out” is too short. To abolish the Federal Reserve in today’s world will be challenging. Since the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency (at least for now…), transitioning to a monetary standard backed by gold and silver will be a delicate maneuver, although it must be done to preserve American liberty and freedom and prevent authoritarian rule. Americans wealth must be fairly preserved during the transition and Paul is light on the details.

Paul may have also pointed how America’s addiction to foreign oil has exacerbated the problems of the Federal Reserve. The two major financial crises (now and in the late 70’s early 80’s) were preceded by high oil prices that strained the trade deficit and therefore required more money being printed, inflation, and U.S. dollar depreciation.

I’m also surprised Paul didn’t focus more on the major individual players in this fiat money fa├žade. Paul adequately explains how Greenspan and Bernanke are completely over their heads and incompetent. He also correctly identifies how promoting Geitner to Secretary of the Treasury after Geitner was wrong on everything for the previous15 years proves the system is totally corrupt. However, Paul doesn’t touch on an obvious coincidence: it seems a very small group of people are over represented not only in the making U.S. economic and monetary “policy”, but also appear to be over represented in benefitting greatly from these same policies. Greenspan, Bernanke, Milken, Madoff, Shapiro(head of the SEC and “dear friend” of Madoff), Greenberg(AIG), Benmosche (AIG), Lloyd “doing God’s work” Blankfein (CEO, Goldman Sachs), Gensler (CFTC), Feinberg (the so-called “pay czar”), and many others. Is this mere coincidence or is there something more sinister afoot here? How ironic that the fascist policies now dominating the U.S. economic landscape are apparently being developed by people who should be most familiar with Nazi fascism and its dire consequences? It’s very hard to understand.

In conclusion, Paul makes a clear and convincing case the U.S. must abolish the Federal Reserve and go back to money standards based on gold and silver. For those who agree, you must contact your elected officials and insist they support Paul’s legislation to audit the Federal Reserve. This is a first step toward the transparency so desperately needed: how much money is being created, who gets it, and why? Without this transparency, the great American democratic experience is doomed to failure. The time is ripe for change as the American people are sick and tired of a dysfunctional government, a dysfunctional economy, and seeing their hard earned dollars being devalued and eaten up by inflation. On the other hand, shinning a light on the Federal Reserve’s inner workings will bring about reform and a shift to real hard currency money. Paul and his supporters should work harder on explaining and publishing exactly how this transition should occur in order to insure a smooth transition. It will certainly be a challenge given today’s realities. However, if Paul is going to promote the cause of “Ending the Fed” (which I certainly agree with), he needs to do a better job of outlining and explaining exactly how to go about it without exacerbating the current economic turmoil. Regardless, this is a fascinating and very informative book. I highly suggest any patriotic American read Ron Paul’s End the Fed. He will certainly get my vote the next time he runs for President!

Update: Audit the Fed – HR 1207 and S 604 has
317 Co-sponsors in the House
30 Co-sponsors in the Senate

This is great news: House and Senate members are (finally) paying attention!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Making a Compost Box

Finally got around to building my compost box and thought I'd post it since there is a lack of decent plans (at least frugal plans...) available on the internet. This design worked out well for me: 3' wide, 3'tall, and 2'wide. This means all you need is:

2 2x4x6 (4 legs, 3' long)
8 1x6x8 (12 3' front and back, 12 2' sides)
1 small box screws

Be sure to use pressure treated wood rated for exterior applications. Also, screw the sides to the 2x4 legs (do not nail). Use double-dipped or galvanized screws or they'll rust in no time and you'll be re-building the box a second time. I made the front and back portions first (be sure to use a square). Look at the pictures closely wrt how the slats attach to the legs: be sure to leave an overhang on the ends of the front and back so the side slats will fit in snugly. No need for a cover since the box is deep enough to generate good heat without one, plus an open top gives ready access to rain and oxygen, both of which accelerate decomposition. Do not screw the bottom slat on the front because you'll want to shovel out the good schtank from that access point. Also, I left an inch or so around the bottom so that water can seep out.

After you load the box say a quarter full with leaves and whatknot, be sure to put a couple shovel fulls of good dirt in to add the healthy micro organisms which are necessary for proper decomposition. I put my box outside my back door and close to the garden. This allows me to easily recycle kitchen scraps as well as garden material. After I put the spent broccoli, cabbage, and squash plants in the box, I will fill the rest up with leaves, leaving a few inches on top for kitchen scraps. Decomposed leaves are basically potash, and there's not a better/cheaper way to keep your garden and plants well fed. The compost box should be turned occaisionally for uniform decomposition.

Total cost for the compost box was $24.70 - but I already had the screws. Still, the total cost should be under $30 for anyone.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Siding Job is Done, Broccoli Cometh

The good news is after playing hide and seek with the rain for the last 2 weeks I finally finished siding the section of the house which I've been toiling on. The bad news is less than 1/4 of the house is finished. Ever start a job and the idea sounds so good only to realize you're in for a whole helluva lot more work than you envisioned? I bet it takes me another 2-3 years to finish siding the entire house. I could probably finish it next summer if I didn't like fly-fishing so much, but that ain't gonna happen. This section was the worst in that it had six windows and framing the windows really slows you down. However, two of the other sections go two stories high and I still have not figured out how I am going to do those sections without building some sort of scaffolding. All that said, I am very happy with the way the siding looks and it is an air tight seal and ready for whatever winter throws at me this year. The combination of the siding and the insulation I laid down in the attic should mean I burn alot less wood in the ole wood stove this year. Let's hope so! By the way, the gutter in the picture looks screwy because i stuck a couple pieces of wood behind it so she wouldn't fall down when the rain came (and of course it was coming...). The brackets have since been installed.

All the rain we had a couple weeks ago plus the lack of any sun really put the ka-bash on my squash and output has fallen dramatically. However, the broccoli is thriving. We have a slight freeze coming this weekend, but my buddy tells me the brocolli will do ok and slight freezes actually make it sweeter. Him and his wife dip their garden broccoli in Ken's Sweet Vidilia Onion salad dressing. Any worms you may encounter are added protein ;) I still have hope for the cabbage, but unlike the broccoli, it seems to need a little more sun which is something we haven't had much of this year. I sure hope it's not a rainy dreary gray winter!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Simple Plan to Fix America

In this post I will lay out a campaign platform for anyone wishing to run for the House or Senate willing to fix our broken "capitalistic democracy". No country can be strong without a strong middle class and a strategic energy policy. So, the central theme in this strategy is to strengthen the middle class by:

1) Becoming less dependent on foreign oil.

2) Reindustrializing America by leveraging its abundant, clean, and cheap natural gas reserves in the transportation sector and implementing a strategic, long-term, comprehensive energy policy like this one:

3) Implementing a flat income tax. No loopholes, lawyers, or accountants. You make it, you pay it. You make a $25 million dollar reward bonus for bankrupting your company, you pay the tax man. You have 3 kids and make $50k, you don't.

4) A consumption based sales tax. You buy a $2 million dollar yacht, you pay. You buy a $300 canoe, you don't.

5) Pay down the debt by intelligently setting rates on items 3. and 4. such that the very wealthy pay their fair share, and the middle class are not overburdened.

6) Institute term limits in Congress.

7) Campaign Finance reform. Kick all lobbyists out of the halls of Congress when it is in session. We must keep corporate money out of legislation (or at least TRY to).

8) Abolish the Federal Reserve and go back to a gold and silver monetary standard.

9) Break up the NYC/Wall Street Financial "inner circle" that controls both regulation and regulation enforcement. Seek jail terms not only for those outside the government, but those inside as well.

10) Bring the troops home! Stop fighting oil wars and wasting the country's wealth abroad. Scale down defense expenditures abroad and instead strengthen our home borders, ports, and infrastructure.

That's it. That is all there is to it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Squash, Schrooms, and Siding

Only one month after planting the fall garden, I harvested it's initial offering on the first day of Fall: a fine yellow squash. By the looks of things, I will be swimming in squash. It's amazing how quickly these plants took off considering all the rainy and cloudy days we've had this fall.

The broccoli plants are large but there are crowns yet. The cabbage plants are also large and beginning to form the heads. Each cabbage plant yields only one head, which was news to me. Not sure the cauliflower plants will yield, but we'll see.

The Hardiplank siding work continues. Although glad to begin the job, I will be very happy when this job is complete and hope to get it all painted before winter sets in. I'd be done now if not forced to play hide-n-seek with the rain. However, with so many places on the planet suffering from heat and drought, I suppose one shouldn't complain. That said, I'd much rather be on the Caney Fork with a fly-rod in my hand.

The rain, clouds, and cool condition have caused a multitude of mushrooms to sprout int the yard, some of which I'd never seen here before.

My friend and master gardener Reid showed me his secret spot on the Obed River. We caught alot of smallish fish - sunfish, bream, small mouth bass, and Toosa bass. The river was very shallow (according to Reid, the shallowest he's ever seen it) which is amazing considering all the rain we've had this year. Perhaps it's the raising of the Holiday Hills dam? Perhaps dams in Fairfield Glade? Regardless, the water was low and very warm and the larger fish all seemed to be resting in the deep cool holes. Had a nice muskrat visit me when I waded a bit to close to its home. It's a beautiful small stream, and I cannot wait to fish it next spring.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bob Fitzsimmons Triva from West Texas

My buddy MikeK from frigid Austin, TX sent me this very interesting bit of trivia on about boxer Robert Fitzsimmons:

Click on the picture to enlarge and read the story.

Bob Fitzsimmons was one of the first boxers ever to appear on video:

From Wiki:

Robert James "Bob" Fitzsimmons (May 26, 1863 - October 22, 1917), an Irish boxer, made boxing history as the sport's first three-division world champion. He also achieved fame for beating Gentleman Jim Corbett, the man who beat the great John L. Sullivan. Nicknamed Ruby Robert or The Freckled Wonder, he took pride in his lack of scars, and appeared in the ring wearing heavy woollen underwear to conceal the disparity between his trunk and leg-development.

Irish Boxer Robert Fitzsimmons

Fitzsimmons (Jezu), the youngest of 12 children, was born in Helston, Cornwall in the UK. His father was James Fitzsimmons, born in County Armagh, Ireland and his mother was Jane Strongman born in St Clement, Cornwall. Bob emigrated to New Zealand at the age of nine along with his parents, brothers and sisters. His family settled in Timaru and Bob became a blacksmith in his brother Jarrett's smithy.

The birthplace of Bob Fitzsimmons in Helston, Cornwall

Between 1880 and 1881, Fitzsimmons reigned as champion of the Jem Mace tournament in New Zealand. Some say he officially began his career as a professional boxer in New Zealand later in 1881. Records remain unclear whether he received payment for a bout in which he knocked out Herbert Slade in two rounds.

Fitzsimmons had six fights there, two of them bare-knuckle events. He won one and lost five, it remains unclear whether any of those bouts involved payment.

Boxing record-books show that Fitzsimmons officially began boxing professionally in 1883, in Australia. He beat Jim Crawford there by getting a knockout in three rounds. Fitzsimmons had his first 28 definite professional fights in Australia, where he lost for the Australian Middleweight title (rumours spoke of a fixed bout), and where he also won a fight by knockout while on the floor: when Edward Starlight Robins dropped Fitzsimmons to the canvas in round nine of their fight, he also broke his hand and could not continue, therefore the referee declared Fitzsimmons the winner by a knockout.

By this stage Fitzsimmons had established his own style. He developed a certain movement and caginess from one of the greatest bare-knuckle fighters, Jem Mace. Mace had encouraged Bob to develop his punching technique and he revolutionised this, drawing on the enormous power he had gained from blacksmithing. Fitzsimmons delivered short, accurate and usually conclusive punches. He soon built up a reputation as by far the hardest puncher in boxing.

Winning the Middleweight Title

Moving on to the United States, Fitzsimmons fought four more times in 1890, winning three and drawing one.

Then, on January 14, 1891, in New Orleans, Fizsimmons won his first world title from Jack (Nonpareil) Dempsey. Fitzsimmons knocked out Dempsey (from whom the later Jack Dempsey would take his name) in the 13th round to become the world's Middleweight champion. Fitzsimmons knocked Dempsey down at least 13 times, and by the finish left him in such a pitiable condition that he begged him to quit. Dempsey would not do so, so Fitzsimmons knocked him out and then carried him to his corner. On July 22, police broke off his fight with Jim Hall after he had knocked Hall down several times.

Fitzsimmons spent the next two years fighting non-title bouts and exhibitions until giving Hall a chance at the title in 1893. He retained the crown by a knockout in round four. He spent the rest of that year doing exhibitions, and on June 2, he had scheduled a two-way exhibition where he would demonstrate in public how to hit the boxing bag and then how to box against a real opponent. Reportedly, two freak accidents happened that day: Fitzsimmons hit the bag so hard that it broke, and then his opponent of that day allegedly slipped, getting hit in the head and the boxing exhibition was cancelled.

After vacating the Middleweight crown, Fitzsimmons began campaigning among Heavyweights (the light-heavyweight division did not exist at that time). Wyatt Earp, the famous lawman, refereed one of his fights, against Tom Sharkey. Fitzsimmons battered Sharkey and had him on the verge of a knock-out, but when he hit him with a body-and-head punch-combination Earp declared him the loser on a disqualification because he had hit Sharkey while Sharkey was down. Earp, according to a widespread belief, had involvement with gamblers who had bet on Sharkey.

Winning the Light Heavyweight Title

Fitzsimmons challenged for the world's Heavyweight title in 1897. On March 17 of that year he became World Heavyweight champion, knocking out Jim Corbett in round 14. This constituted a remarkable achievement, as Corbett, a skilled boxer, weighed a stone (14 lb) more than Fitzsimmons. He out-boxed Fitzsimmons for several rounds, knocked him down in the sixth round, and badly damaged his face with his jab, left hook and right hand, but Fitzsimmons kept coming and Corbett began to tire. In the 14th round Fitzsimmons won the title with his "solar plexus" punch. Corbett collapsed in agony. Fitzsimmons' "solar plexus" punch became legendary, although he himself may never have used the phrase.

Fitzsimmons spent the rest of 1897 doing paper runs.

In 1899, Fitzsimmons and James J. Jeffries succeeded in boxing in New York without the police intervening, probably at an underground club. Most people gave Jeffries little chance, even though at 15 st (95 kg) he massively outweighed his opponent, but Jeffries lifted the world Heavyweight crown from Fitzsimmons with an 11th-round knockout.

In June 1901 Fitzsimmons took part in a wrestling match against Gus Ruhlin. He lost, and went back to boxing. He then enjoyed legitimate (boxing) knock-outs of both Ruhlin and Sharkey.

In 1901 he published a book Physical Culture and Self-Defense (Philadelphia: D. Biddle).

In 1902, he and Jeffries had a rematch, once again with the world Heavyweight crown at stake. Fitzsimmons battered Jeffries, who suffered horrible punishment. With his nose and cheek-bones broken, most would have sympathised with Jeffries had he quit, but he kept going until his enormous weight advantage told and Bob suffered a knockout in round eight.

Winning the Light-heavyweight Title

September 1903 proved a tragic month for Fitzsimmons, as his rival, Con Coughlin, died the day after suffering a one-round knockout at the hands of Fitzsimmons. But less than two months later, Fitzsimmons made history by defeating world Light-Heavyweight champion George Gardiner by a decision in 20 rounds, thus becoming the first boxer to win titles in three weight-divisions.

Soon after, he went back to the Heavyweights, where he kept fighting until 1914, with mixed results. He boxed Jack Johnson, and film historians believe that his fight with Bob KO Sweeney became the first boxing-fight captured on film.


Although Fitzsimmons became a world champion in each of the Middleweight, Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight divisions, historians do not consider him the first world Light-Heavyweight champion to become world Heavyweight champion, because he won the Heavyweight title before winning the Light Heavyweight belt. Michael Spinks counts as the first Light-Heavyweight world champion to win the Heavyweight belt as well. In 2003 Roy Jones Jr. joined Fitzsimmons, Michael Moorer and Spinks as the only men to have won world championships at both Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight.

Fitzsimmons's exact record remains unknown, as the boxing world often kept records poorly during his era, but Fitzsimmons said he had had more than 350 fights (which could have involved exaggeration on his part).

He died in Chicago of pneumonia in 1917, survived by his fourth wife. His grave lies in the Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. Having four wives, a gambling habit and a susceptibility to confidence tricksters, he did not hold on to the money he made.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame has made Bob Fitzsimmons a member in its "Old Timer" category.

In 2003 Ring Magazine named Fitzsimmons number eight of all time among boxing's best punchers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kudos to R.L. Winston Rod Co.!

Ever wonder what would happen if you broke your Winston fly-rod? Rest easy my friend. I mailed my 10 year old 8'9" 5-piece Winston LT-4wt fly-rod to the Twin Bridges, Montana company on July 31,2009 to repair a broken tip section. I felt like a young mother sending her first-born off to the first day of kindergarten! Anyhow, the rod came back yesterday August 24, 2009 via UPS. The new rod tip is absolutely flawless! Not only was the cool green color of the rod matched exactly but the tip fits the ferrule perfectly. The new tip has the rod's serial number on it and Winston even replaced the worn O-ring on the tube. I was charged a $50 shipping and handling fee.

Winston's rod repair service is a high quality operation worthy of the rods themselves. I am one happy camper! I can't wait to get back on the water with this rod and catch more trout like the one below. Thank you Winston!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Colorado Trip 2009 - Stats

June21-July26: 35 days
Total Miles Driven: 4300 miles
235 gallons of gasoline, 18.30 mpg
Total gas bill: $629.58 ($2.68/gallon average)
Total Camping Fees Paid: $579.00

Waters Fished:

MeadowCreek Lake
Trappers Lake
Beaver Ponds in Flat Tops
White River Tributaries
Arkansas River
Conejos River
Fryingpan River

Captured Booty:

Henckels Stainless 6" Serrated Knife (stuck in tree at MeadowCreek Lake CG)
Book on Colorado Wildflowers (found on Flat Tops hiking trail)
Golf practice whiffle ball (Arkansas River)
Fish Net (Fryingpan River - in the schtank)
Three flies: PMD and two nymphs (tree limb over Fryingpan River)
$0.38 (under park bench in Basalt)
$0.60 (paper machine change in Salida)

Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills,
One man gathers what another man spills.

Saint Stephen,Garcia/Lesh

Casualty List: Winston XL 5 piece 4 wt Fly-Rod

My Beloved Winston 6-piece Fly-rod (Used to be a 5-piece)

The R.L. Winston company was very quick to respond to my email inquiry regarding fixing this rod. I packaged it up and mailed it off (insured) last week. Can't wait to get this baby back!

I've had several emails about the flies I used on the upper Fryingpan River and why not mysis shrimp imitations. I have nothing against mysis shrimp flies - I just didn't have any and was too cheap to go buy some. I usually stick to dry flies and the lower Fryingpan River. However, I did have some orange attractor nymphs and some zebra midges that I tie for use in TN and ARK. I wanted to see how those would fair on the Pan tailwater. Samples are shown below.

Flies used on upper Fryingpan River (click photo to enlarge)

Orange Attractor: #18, gold head, bright orange body
Zebra Midge: #22, silver head, silver wrap, black thread body
Dry Fly: turns out this was not a PMD as I said earlier, but instead a #18 olive body with grey wings. This was the only dry fly I caught fish on on the Upper Pan.

The most productive setup was the orange attractor (5X), weighted, with about 16" of fluro-carbon tippet (6X) to the zebra midge, with another weight about halfway to the midge to let it drift more naturally. I had some larger midges, but the smaller the better. Also I had some midges with gold heads - no strikes, use the silver #20 or #22. I suspect most of the big fish (that I lost..grrrr) were hitting the zebra midge, as all fish I landed were on the midge except the one brown that very agressively hit the orange attractor. Alot of guys there were using 7X tippet.

I also suspect the dry fly would have done better had it been #20 or even #22.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July on the Fryingpan River - Part Two

Thursday July 23, 2009 : Adversity Strikes Again

For whatever reason I awoke before sunrise and big fish fever dragged me out of bed to boil water for coffee. Very chilly with some breeze, but the coffee was enough to motivate me to roll down the road to the upper Pan. On the river before 7am with dreams of grandeur. Not a strike, not a whirl - except for the wind which was blowing hard and constant down the canyon. It was not long before I could not feel my toes or my fingers - I was cold! Stuck it out for another half hour before I finally realized I was getting no action and freezing. So, went back to the truck with my tail between my legs and hit the thermos of coffee I brewed up earlier. While talking to new arrival, I tried to take my 5 piece Winston rod down but couldn't separate the pieces..any of them. This has happened before and all that is needed is some cold water on the ferrels which the man offered. I said, naw, that's ok, I'm gonna have a hot breakfast back at camp and fish the rod later downstream. So, I broke my RULE and put the rod in the truck sticking out the back window. You can guess what happened...on my way back to the camp, still cold as hell, I decided the cold breeze through the windows was too much and rolled the window up - breaking the tip on my Winston rod. What a friggin drag. First busted rod in over 10 years. I kinda got over it, figuring that's a long time without breaking a rod - especially considering the amount of fishing I do and my bushwhacking style. Oh well, at least I have 3 more rods in the truck to use. Get over it. Once back at the camp, I decided I needed a pick-me-up and figured I'd go back to the lower Pan and attempt to catch the large fish I missed back on Monday (see July 20 post). Worked my way up the same run just as before, catching nice bows and browns along the way. But I was always looking upstream toward the rock and wondering if the big fish was still hanging there.

When I finally got to "the rock", I checked my knots, my tippet, and tied on a new fly. "The rock" was a perfect place for a big fish to hang out. Fast and deep water on the right side with shallow and smooth water on the left to which many flies were landing and falling out of the willow bushes that also kept things a bit shady and cool. The hole behind the rock was about 4 feet deep. Perfect setup. When I hooked the fish on Monday, I made a nice cast to the hole, sweeping my line to the slow water on the left side in order to get a nice drift. The plan was the same, and though still a bit breezy, I was able to make a decent cast. Wham! Damn...a brown came up and agressively took the fly. I worked him downstream but was worried the action spooked the big bow if indeed he was still hanging out there. Released the brown, dried off the fly, and worked my way back up to the rock. Made a nice cast, the fly drifted perfectly over the hole...but no take yet..not yet...not yet..oooohhhh....I was just about to lose the drift when Wham! the big bow hit it. I was ready, got a solid hook set, and anticipated the jump I knew was coming. The fish did not dissapoint, and he jumped just as before. Somehow, I kept the line tight without snapping it and held the fish. He then headed straight for the fast water but I was ready for this too and I followed him downstream about 20 yards, falling over boulders and making a helluva racket. He was still on. He headed downstream another 20 or so yards, and I followed with my rod tip high. He finally stopped in a hole and just sat there. I was out of breath, and figured maybe he was tired after the big jump and the fast water fight. I know I was exhausted! I reeled in my line and got up next to the fish. He just sat there not moving an inch. I finally got an idea of the size of this fish because I could see where my line went into the water, and I could see his tail downstream. This guy was big, just as big as he looked when he jumped. I have learned in the past that fish always seem to look bigger when they jump - their gills are flared, mouth usually open and shaking, colors bright, and I dont know - in the past I have sometimes been surprised how much smaller the fish are once landed than I originally thought. Not this guy, he was as big as he looked. Released my net's clasp and I tentatively bent down in an attempt to net the fish. It finally dawned on me that this fish was roughly twice as long as the opening in my net, or somewhere in the 30" range. And this on the lower Pan! A shiver of excitement went through me, but suddenly I had a negative thought: is this monster really going to let me net him? Just as this thought sped through my synapses, the fish took off like a raped ape toward the fast water again. Having the rod in my left hand and the net in my right, I had to rely on my drag which had worked well up to that point. Anyhow, the fish hit the fast water, sped upstream and suddenly the line went slack as he switched directions and went downstream. At this point, with about a foot of slack in my line, the fish jumped completely out of the water, about two feet (not an exaggeration) and shook his head viciously. My fly came out, landed close to my knees, and assumed a perfect drift downstream. I was heartbroken. I still am.

I can't describe the depression that set in after missing this fish after breaking my Winston earlier in the day. I just couldn't shake these events, and like a life threatening accident, the fish scenario kept playing through my mind over-n-over in slow motion. It was agonizing. The only thing that made me feel better (for a short time) was calling my friend MikeK and learning that his wife "caught" him emailing a woman named Victoria (of all names...) in which he was found to say marriage was like "jail" to which his wife wanted a full explanation. Well, that got me to laughing but as soon as we hung up..well, my mind went back to the fish. I headed to the Roaring Fork around Woody Creek thinking new water would get my mind off my troubles. Caught 3 nice browns on a stonefly nymph, but couldn't shake my depression. I gave into the urge and pulled over at the Woody Creek Tavern and started drinking. The bartender there got another smile out of me when I could see he delighted in asking his female customers if they'd like a "doggy-style", which was a beer they were serving on tap. The look on the women's faces was priceless, but after once or twice even that novelty wore off and I was back to thinking about the fish. Jeez - will I *ever* friggin land one of these large fish that I seem to be able to hook on a fairly regular basis?? What good is a fisherman if he can't land big fish once he hooks them? Not much I guess.

Friday July 24, 2009

Skunked on the upper Pan, and decided to stop fishing and go to Central Market in El Jabel to get groceries and have some of their awesome sushi (no kidding, in El Jebel of all places). Sat under a tree next to the parking lot drinking a Guinness stout and eating sushi with chopsticks. People were looking at me, but all I could think about was that friggin fish. Drove back to the lower Pan and decided to take a hand bath in the river. The water felt great, and boy did I need to wash the ole bod, but I couldn't wash the fish off my mind. It was about that time I met "the sisters" two beautiful and very friendly girls from Ft. Collins 25 and 23 yrs old. One was fly-fishing, and showed good form but was fishing in a quite technical run with a dry. I suggested she come downstream to some smooth water where I noticed trout rising. Long story short, I got out in the water with her, she caught her first fish on a fly-rod (8" bow) and was totally stoked about it. She kept yelling at her sis, are you getting pictures? You better be getting pictures! It was great fun and took my mind off my troubles until I realized that I really wanted to take both of them to Woody Creek Tavern but was definitely old enough to be their dad. I didn't even ask, and went about my business after thoroughly enjoying my first good conversation with females in weeks. I definitely need to get out more. Anyhow, i got enthusiastic about fishing again after hanging with Britney for awhile, and decided to try dries on the upper Pan. Had no luck at all til just about sunset when I remembered the #20 PMD I had found in a tree limb a few days earlier. Tied that fly on and immediately caught two fish, both browns, right at last light. I set the hook on sound and the swirl as I could no longer see the fly. I love the way this brown is glaring at the camera.

Saturday July 25, 2009

Snapped off three flies on the upper Pan all on really nice fish. Sound familiar? Caught one fish this day, and if I come back next year he might be 8". Stupid man. Stupid stupid stupid little man.

Sunday July 26, 2009

After 6 weeks, the cooler's a mess, my body is tired and sore, and I am still not over the fish or the broken Winston. Also ran out of white gas for my Coleman stove. All signs are to go home. Decided to pack up, drive the Teardrop down the river road to "the rock" and try the big bastard one more time. Caught fish all along the way, just like the previous two times with my eye on "the rock". About 50 yards from the rock I got a big surprise when the big bastard stayed right where I left him last time, hit my fly, and caught me unprepared with slack in my line. Terrible hook set that did not survive the jump I knew was coming and that he made. That was it, I was done for 2009. I headed off the river and decided I didn't want it to end like that, and decided to catch one last fish. Fittingly, it was a cute little brown (last picture below). That was it. My Colorado 2009 trip was over. I'll never forget the big fish I missed, or how much fun I had this summer in my search for trout. Good luck in your searches - whatever they may be for. Cya, Fitzman.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

One of life's simple pleasures on the Fryingpan River is easy access to some of the best drinking water on earth. This spring (shown above, click to enlarge) are tested every season by the Forestry service when they test the campground waters. Normally, the water quality reports come back with parts-per-million (PPM) listings of impurities. Not so with this water, so I have been told by multiple sources. This water is 100% H2O, with 0 PPM of *anything* else. That's quite amazing when you think about it. Anyhow, I use this water for all coffee and drinking and of course to fill up the water bottle on my fly-fishing belt. Nothing better than getting off the river on a hot sunny afternoon than to stop by the springs and drink some of this cold and very tasty (as in no taste really) water. A delightful pleasure which filled every jug I had for the trip back home.

July on the Fryingpan River

Monday, July 20, 2009

After an "off day" at the Sugarbush campground in which I did laundry, took a shower, attached new leaders to all my water logged fly lines, and participated in the "pie-fest" by showing up with my fork in hand, I drove over Independence pass, through Aspen and down to Basalt where the Fryingpan River meets the Roaring Fork. As usual, I was so excited to be back on the "Pan" I could not even drive the 15 or so miles up the river road to the Little Maud campground at Ruedi Reservoir. So, I pulled over, Teardrop trailer and all, to fish a stretch of the lower Pan. Within minutes I quickly discovered why I hate store-bought leaders - they snap off real easy and I lost two fish and two flies until I broke down and did what I knew I had to do: cut off the last 3 or 4 feet of the leader and engineer it with my normal setup: 6lb, 5lb, 4lb, and 3lb Maxim tippet material (2x -> 5x). The 3 lb 5x tippet seems to work well with the dries I throw, and is way stronger than the supposed 3lb strength of the store bought leader. Of course the other factor involved here is hook setting: after leaving the Arkansas where I catch many smallish quick hitting brown trout, here on the Pan the fish are generally bigger and the first rise I had didn't even budge when I attempted a rather excitedly strong hook set. So, less coffee, no sugar, and more beer. Much more beer...

Anyhow, once the blood knots for my leader were completed I was soon hooking and landing what I came for: Fryingpan River rainbow trout. Here's my first Fryingpan Rainbow of 2009:

Not to be outdone, the brown trout wanted me to know they too would challenge the Rainbows for my dry fly:

Note the bright red spots on this brown. I challenge anyone to show me brown trout that have brighter red spots than those found on the lower Fryingpan River. Notice the red spots on the hind dorsal fin as well. Friggin gorgeous fish. Click the picture to enlarge and check out that awesome trout water! I miss the river already. Anyhow, my first outing on the Pan was a success (if one disregards losing the two rather large fish and associated flies due to the snapped off store bought leaders...) and I landed 11 fish total, all on dry flies, including 4 browns. Oh, the session ended with the hooking of a rather large rainbow which jumped out of the water 2 feet (no kidding), shook his mouth furiously, popping the "new and improved" leader. More on this fish later.

So, I headed off to Little Maud Campground to setup camp. Later that evening, I took out the 5 wt bamboo rod I made and tried my luck on the upper Pan, which I define as upstream of the bridge just below the Ruedi dam. I have not had much success on this stretch of the river in the past. My plan this year was to nymph my way to success and weight the nymphs so as to get them down to the fish - thus the 5 wt rod which I use for large dries, woolies, and weighted nymphs, as opposed to the Winston or Beasley bamboo (both 4 wts) which I use exclusively for smaller dry flies. Anyhow, one would think that the earlier experience would have taught me the need to retie the new store bought leader on the 5 wt fly line. But noooo, the Fitzman was in a hurry to get a spot on the river and too impatient to retie an entire leader with 3 or 4 blood knots. The result was quite predictable. I tried a new presentation (at least for me) on the upper Pan: an attractor nymph (in this case, bright orange with gold bead head), weighted, to which I then dropped off a #20 zebra midge which I have begun using on the Caney Fork River back in TN. I tied both flies myself and used about 16 inches of fluro-carbon tippet for the midge dropper, and set the weight about 8 inches above it allowing it to drift more freely. Considering my past performance on the upper Pan (using mostly dry flies being the dry fly bigot that I am), I was not prepared for what soon happened. I got an immediate and powerful strike which, quite predictably, snapped off. Both flies lost. Do you think I would retie the leader now? Of course not - several fisherman saw the strike and started edging toward "my" hole. You must understand the fly-fishermen of the Pan are not "normal"... they will horn in on "your" territory without thinking twice and to sit down for 10 minutes and retie a leader is to lose your position on the river. Standing and tying the knots is no longer an option for me can't I am losing my eyesight and need to take off my glasses to tie the damn knots. So, I tied on another attractor and midge and promptly lost those two flies as well, this time I at least saw the fish (a big bow) and played him for all of about 5 seconds before he popped off. At this point, it's getting dark, I finally retied the leader, and hooked a nice dark brown trout right as light was failing. I had the net out but lost the fish when the fly simply popped out of his mouth. At least I got to see what fly he hit: it was the zebra midge. Overall, the action was encouraging (at least I am getting strikes on the upper Fryingpan), but overall it was an idiotic performance which cost me 4 nice flies and perhaps two really nice rainbow trout.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fished the upper Pan again right after sunrise and missed two strikes on the attractor/midge combo. Action slowed, so I went downstream to one of my favorite stretches of river for dry fly action. This is one of my favorite slots to fish because I wade across the river and fish under the shade of some trees in full view of the road. The result is alot of action, and many car honks as passerby's (mostly fly-fisherman) acknowledge a bent rod. However, in this section the current is fast and even a 14" fish can give quite a battle which passerbys probably assume must be a larger fish. This particular day was, as often happens, frustrating for those on the opposite bank. "What fly are you using?" "What's your tippet?" they ask - the "they" being 4 guys all within about 25 yards of each other pounding the water over-n-over with casts while standing out in the hot midday sun. I converse politely but it is amazing they can't see the obvious: one, they are fishing water that gets alot of pressure. Two, they are standing in the sun. Three, I am fishing the other side of the river in the shade. Oh well, I must admit it's kinda fun to be watched like that and hearing things like "damn, he's hooked another!". Bar har har. Of course, I am sure these guys would get a similar kick out of watching me lose all the big fish I have been losing lately. Grrrrrr....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Started at the upper Pan again where I had developed the big fish fever affliction affecting so many Fryingpan River fisherman. It was an all too familiar story as the Fitzman hooked a nice rainbow (I would estimate 24" and a football figure) on his now new and improved leader. The Fitzman hung on and survived a vicious leap out of the water, and then began calmly walking toward the fish thinking, ah, now I've got you now you son-of-a-bitch. About this time the fish too recognized he was in trouble and did what every living thing does when distressed - he went home. Home happend to be under a rock which I had seen days earlier, but apparently had not studied closely enough. The rock was embedded on a ledge, and there was a large hole under it. Worse, the part of the rock toward the center of the river was overhanging and outcropping. All those are excuses for the fact that the fish dove under the rock, my line stopped moving (to my absolute dread...) and I soon found my attractor fly hooked on the rock and the midge was gone. I let out a scream that reverberated against the walls of the Fryingpan Canyon, soon to be followed by the knowing chuckles (and outright laughter!) of fly-fisherman up and down the river. I did manage to catch and land a respectable brown (on the midge). He was starting to grow some manly shoulders. However, apparently the earlier "battle" spooked the river, and action slowed. So, I headed downstream to fish dries for the afternoon and despite the nice brown, left the upper pan with a very empty feeling in the old gullet.

The highlight of the afternoon outing was getting hung up in a tree(seriously). Not wanting to lose my fly, I stood tall on a rock (at some physical risk I might add), grabbed a limb of the tree, and pulled in the section to which my fly was embedded. I soon found a number of lines and realized I would bust my ass if I didn't get off the rock, so I broke off the entire limb and headed to the safety of the bank where I found not only my fly, but a BWO and two nymphs. Not bad. Obviously someone else was trying to make the same tight cast to a rising fish - possible the same fish as I was. I did not manage to catch that fish nor to even get him to rise to my fly. I did catch 4 trout, and met a nice local named Norm. Norm gave me two green drakes tied by none other than A.K. Best himself. So, Norm, if you're out there bud, thanks! I gave Norm one of my zebra midges and told him the story of the big fish earlier in the day. He was sympathetic as only someone on the Pan who had lived a similar experience.

Gold Prospecting on the Arkansas River

This year saw a noticeable jump in gold prospectors on BLM land bordering the Arkansas River and of course in the river itself. I counted 6 miners along a stretch of river I used to fish and whose willows were home to the infamous super beaver story of a few years back. Some were just panning, others had gasoline pumps set up on the hillside for pumping river water uphill and then gravity feed their sluices. One elaborate rig was a self contained floating unit, complete with pump and sluice. Wish I had had my camera for that contraption - it was really something. Pictured above is a man from Missouri who travelled all the way to Oregon this year to prospect for gold. He is using the small creek at the Sugarbush campground to set up his sluice because he could not proper water current speed in the big river. Apparently the Sugarbush creek is flowing at just the right speed. So, he brought back two buckets of "gold dirt" and is pouring it into the sluice to be filtered out. Next he will take apart the sluice and pan the remaining minerals the old fashioned way. He is headed to Georgia next where apparently the purest gold in the US exists and the site of the first gold mint in the US (according to him).

While in Oregan, this man's wife learned a trick from an 84 year old woman: you use a turkey baster to suck out the dirt behind large rocks in which there is fast current on both sides and slow water behind. Then you pan that dirt for gold. Apparently, it works quite well.

It is still possible to stake claims on BLM land. From conversations I had, it is not required to post the land but I don't know if it is illegal to do so. Apparently, if you are prospecting, you had better know where you are and if there is an existing claim. Also, panning is free, but you need a permit for a gasoline powered pump as there are some use requirements. I think the permit is like $20 or and can be purchased in Salida.

With gold over $930 an ounce and a US economy on the rocks, it's not surprising more and more Americans are becoming interested in prospecting for gold. I am going to try my luck on the Arkansas next year.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Role Model

Meet Bob from Kansas, yet another interesting Kansan I have met at the Sugarbush campground this year. Bob and his girl Ruthie were out everyday either shooting the Arkansas river rapids or mountain biking all over the territory. Last year, they biked across the US. Ruthie is a bigtime Tour de France fan and knows more about the riders and teams than I do. She even signed up for cable just to get the Versus network so she could watch the stages. Bob on the other hand - you'd never guess he's a retired banker - owns no computer, no cell phone, and no cable TV. He says "I get along just fine without 'em!" Bob's Toyota Tacoma is only a year older than mine but he already has over 200k miles with no trouble at all (mine is pushing 100k miles).

I can only hope I am as spirited and full of adventure as Bob when I am 69 years old! I realize now that I have been limiting my biking to my immediate neighborhood (hill sprints) just due to my fear of a hit and run accident that could be financially devastating. Bob and Ruthie are motivational people and I realize now I need to buy a health care plan and get back on my roadbike and get my endurance and fitness in tip-top form once again!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Fly-Fisherman's Blues

The lower Conejos river (downstream of the Hwy 17 bridge) is noted for great fly-fishing...and it is also famous for lousy fly-fishing. Sometimes you'd swear ther are no trout in the river at all. I caught my first trout here nearly 15 years ago. It was a very plump 16" rainbow full of eggs. I greatly regret eating that fish now that I understand rainbows are having a hard time reproducing and competing with the browns. Anyhow, I stopped at the Mogote CG to fish my favorite spots for a couple days. Bad idea....

July 13, 2009

My morning attempt was to fish above Sanders bridge (the Coleman cabin property) where it was quickly apparent the 4th of July crowd had thoroughly fished the run. There were footprints everywhere, and few fish (only caught 3). For the evening session I decided to fish right there at the Mogote CG, which is famous for large browns. First the wind came up. Then the angle of the sun made it impossible to see my fly. Then a storm brewed up and I had to sit on the bank for 30 minutes waiting for the threat of lightening to subside. Then no strikes. Thinking they are feeding down low, I put on a dropper (prince nymph) and almost fell asleep waiting for some action. When my dry-fly indicator finally did go down, I was in somewhat of a daze and raised my rod to find a *big* brown on my line. I didn't get a good hook set, he turned sideways in the current, opened his mouth, glared at me, and the next thing I knew I not only lost the fish, but my dry fly/dropper combination was now 20 feet up in the pine tree behind me. I lost both flies. Even more painful were the 3 guys sitting under a shade tree drinking beer watching this display. One was taking pictures of me. They were laughing alot, no doubt some of the time (all of the time?) because of me. But I persisted in hopes a hatch would come off near sunset. It never did. The sun was now down, I could barely see, and just about the time I was going to call it quits I heard the old "toilet plunger" sound I last heard on the Fryingpan River last year while fishing blind after dark. It was a nice plump rainbow and I landed it. Of course, the guys taking pictures weren't around when I finally caught a trout.

July 14

My morning session was characterized by NO fish and by being run off the river by mosquitos. The mosquitos were so heavy you had to breath through your nose and even then the buggers would go up your nostrils. When I got back to the truck, they were swarming all over me. I broke down my rod into two pieces, through all the gear into the truck, and jumped in (waders and wading boots still on) and drove down the road at 60 mph with all the windows down. Whew! Found a turn off and pulled over to gear down put my fly-rod away properly. I no sooner got my boots off when the mosquitos found me again. I mean I had two coats of deet on and they still were eating me! I swear one got a needle in right through my 3mm neoprene waders. A guy back at the campground (where the bugs were just as bad) joked that Mogote was Spanish for mosquitos. It is not, a mogote is a geologic structure found in the area. The evening session was even worse. I again fished at the CG waiting for the infamous stonefly hatch to come off, thinking since it didn't last night, it must tonite. That part was correct - the stoneflys not only came off, they were friggin huge. When their wings were beating, they were about the same area as a golfball, with body centers the size of crickets. These flies were *big*. Not only that, there was also a caddis hatch and a mayfly hatch. The river was covered in bugs. But no rises. None. I finally caught a small brown, but turned in. The only thing good about this day was the 43 degree nightime temps and reading myself to sleep: "Heisenburg Probably Slept Here", a book profiling 10 of he world's greatest physicist, given to me by billm. Excellent book. You gotta love Feyman. After having an argument with some students that urination was a strictly gravitational driven event, he proved them wrong by standing on his head and taking a leak.

July 15

Screw it - left Mogote for Salida and the Arkansas river. Stopped at Milagros for coffee and to view the babeage.

July 16

I sucked. Wind was up. No risers. Will I ever catch another trout??

July 17

Good day. Caught over 20 trout, but missed the 5 big ones. Here's how:

1) lost the biggest one (brown) because I was on the bank and got my fly-line wrapped around my boot. The headed downstream in the fast current, and when I figured out what was going on, my rod tip went down into the water and I looked on with trepidation as the leader popped and my fly was gone (and so too the fish).

2) Lost another nice fish because I was watching my fly and it simply dissappeared. No swirl, no movement, no nothing - just vanished. By the time it took me to think "what the fuck Alice?" I set the hook but it was too late. I saw a big silver streak (rainbow) headed toward the fast water and I just knew the hook wasn't set well - and this guy was large. After a very brief fight, ping! He was gone. At least I got the fly back.

3-5) All large fish, all got off due to slack in the line because of the howling wind ripping through the canyon. There is a reason fly-fisherman say "tight lines bud!" instead of goodbye.

July 18

OK, the Fitzman is in a slump. Just like last year, the very windy conditions here on the Arkansas have given me the fly-fishing blues. Losing *all* the big fish yesterday has taken some of my spunk away. Today merely confirmed I am not having fun fighting the wind and the non-cooperating trout. To make matters worse, I hiked down into a gorge for the morning session only to find I had left my anti-glare glasses and my net back in the truck. Then I ran out of 3lb tippet. My left thumb has lost the top 4 layers of epidermis due to all the line stripping and fish de-hooking. It bleeds a little while I am fishing, but I never feel it while I am on the water. Later, it bothers me. As always, click to enlarge the picture and see a miserable looking thumb. Isn't this exciting reading?.

This is a replay of so many years: fly-fishing burnout on the Arkansas river. Hot, windy, hard to cast, water-lined fly-lines after so many days of continuous fishing. Why aren't I enjoying the British Open on TV? What happened in the Tour de France today and boy would I love to watch the Lance and Contador battle once they are in the Alps. And boy, do I miss a refrigerator... Last year after a day like today, I reached up to grab a rock to help me up out of the river and I had a premonition NOT to grab the rock. I subsconciously puled my hand back, looked down, and saw a rattlesnake coiled to strike just below the exact rock I was going to grab. I took a picture of the rattlesnake which you can see here:

That was my signal to leave and I headed back to TN the next day. Today, things were a bit different. I still suffered the mid-summer fly-fishing blues like last year, but in a more serene and accepting way. Today while releasing a small rainbow, I again had a premonition someone or something was watching me. I turned around to find a big-horn sheep staring at me from the opposite bank. He was a majestic beast and I waded over to the shore to get the camera out of the ziploc bag in my fly-fishing vest. I quickly took a picture in case he bolted, but decided I needed a closer shot, so I waded across the water toward him. He had alot of attitude. Hard to describe, but walking toward him took a few minutes, and he was like, yeah doode, I am a big-horn sheep and you are a human. But it isn't hunting season, and you are a fly-fishing nut, so you're not a threat. Then he'd eat a bit, or take a sip of water. Then he'd look at me as though, by-the-way, at the look of things, I can probably fly-fish better than you too. He was truly magnificent. Anyhow, I got pretty close before the water got too high and I was scared of going downstream with a wet camera.

Big-horn Sheep (Click to enlarge)

It's Called Dry-fly Fishing

As I said earlier, my biggest problem now is water logged and old fly-lines. After non-stop fishing for a month now, my lines are worn out and I am too thrifty (stupid? cheap??) to buy new ones. Water logged lines lead to heavy landings, which the trout "feel" and very quickly evacuate the vacinity. You can see big dart streaks taking off to the deeper fast current. Especially when the water is low like it is here now and was on the Conejos. Even if you are lucky enough to make a good cast, the fly itself usually lands with a "thud" and scares the hell out of any fish within the same zip-code. Plus, the flies themselves then retain more water because they are not floating as they should. All this is of course why they call the sport dry fly fishing. The objective is always to land the fly like a feather, have it float on the surface of the water like a real fly does, and keep as natural a drift on the current as possible. Old worn out fly lines prevent this. A bamboo rod is great, but if your line suck, so will your fishing. So, I string up the lines, dry them out, and dress them with Cortland XL cleaner. But old lines are old lines, and after 10 or 20 cast in fast water they are once again water-logged. So, my strategy then is to increase my leader length to 9 or 10 feet, adding much more 3 lb tippet at the end. This works pretty good...until it gets windy (like it is here now) in which case your problems are magnified by such a long leader.

Like I said, I have the mid-summer fly-fishing blues.

But, like 59 year old Tom Watson at the British Open, who faced adversity and Irish Sea wind on the front 9 at Turnberry and lost his lead, only to make two birdie puts (one 45 feet and one 60 feet!) on the back 9, the Fitzman is going to fight through this adversity. So, one more day here to do laundry (and perhaps try fishing once more) and it is on to the Fryingpan River, which is probably the hardest of all rivers to fly-fish from a technical perspective due to the amount of fishing pressure and the age and wisdom of the trout in the river (all catch and release for rainbows). However, I will enter the arena. I will participate and I will try to match wits with the trout on the Pan.

Solar Power for the San Luis Valley

The San Luis Valley in Colorado is the largest alpine valley in the world covering more than 8,000 sq miles at an average altitude of around 7.500 feet. I travel through the valley every summer on my way to the Conejos river and stop frequently in Alamosa for a cheap breakfast at the lil restaurant next to the Lamplighter motel, a visit to Milagros coffee shop (internet access), the bookstore, the Conoco station, and to buy groceries. Sometimes I'll lunch at the Adam's State campus or in the city park along the Rio Grande river. It's a cool little town and the people are very friendly.

Anyhow, solar power has come to the San Luis Valley. Just outside Alamosa off Hwy 17, SunEdison has constructed the largest solar PV plant (8.22 Megawatts) in the United States supporting substation loads for a major public utility. Xcel Energy will buy renewable energy credits and the solar power generated by the Alamosa plant for 20 years. There are plans to build an additional plant with a 16 MW capacity. Combined, the two solar plants will be able to power over 7,000 homes in the valley.

In addition, I read in a local rag that Tri-State (the local electrical co-op) plans to build a solar power plant in northeastern New Mexico with a half-million state of the art photovoltaic panels that will generate 30 MW - enough to power an additional 9,000 homes. They are also investing in a 51 MW wind farm in eastern Colorado. I have heard this farm will be in the La Junta area. Both of these facilities should be in operation by the end of 2010.

It's great to see alternative energy really taking root in this area. It's good news for the San Juan Wilderness and for the trout in the Conejos and Rio Grande rivers and tributaries.

Now, the San Luis Valley is noted for its UFO sitings. Several books have been written on the subject and there is even a UFO themed campground near the new solar plant. Now the locals are saying the new solar plants will invite yet more frequent visitations. I have personally shared breakfast with two older gentlemen who swear they saw a UFO in the upper Rio Grande area. They were camping (and drinking) and about 1am saw a small object that hovered over them and lit up the entire valley with beams of light. I asked if the alcohol may have had something to do with the encounter, and they both got very serious - they admitted to drinking alot, but the fact that both of them saw it at the same time means it really happened. Anyhow, while I was passing through town there was a rumour that a bald headed alien in some kind of silver looking vehicle was spotted in the Conejos river valley. Hey, don't laugh...when the aliens come down, they will look favorable on all the bald headed men first. "Take me to your leader"