The Patagonia Stormfront Pack, the Freewheeler Max and some clothing items made their way through our back door a few days ago. It’s always fun to get some new gear for a big trip. Tying materials are also showing up for big streamers, but I made the mistake of leaving out a brand new badger hackle and Stella plucked most of the feathers from the skin……at least she didn’t chew’em up.
Molly made a good point the other evening with regards to bird dogs and hackles, “Just how is a hunting dog supposed to differentiate between birds and bird feathers?”
My answer was, “cause they are, dammit”.
I think Stella knows that I am leaving……with out her and is secretly pissed off.
Ever since I was a wee youngster, down garments have been a staple of my wardrobe. My down fascination started out with an old school, western style down vest, worn around the age six or seven, in the back yard bagging leaves. At some point, while hunting waterfowl at Cow’s Head Slough with my Dad and Uncles, a down jacket hung on a sixteen penny nail in our duck blind. It was tan, probably made back in 1970’s and warm as pie. On really cold days, this jacket was my blanket, as I would wrap up in it and fall dead asleep on a cot in the back of blind. I acquired another vintage down jacket (that my folks bought on a trip to San Fransisco in 1969) in my college days. Molly has tried to take this to Second Wind on several occasions, but I narrowly averted disaster and rescued it. And then, there is that zero degree 1970’s Sierra Designs down mummy bag, belonging to my Dad, which still has two fee of loft. If there is one common theme here, besides down feathers, and it’s the fact that down will last a lifetime, if properly taken care of.
The full zip down hoody from Patagonia is one of finest pieces of gear I own. Why? Well, read on……
Wearable – yea, this seems like a no-brainer, but some down jackets give the impression of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The down sweater or down hoody, wear quite well underneath waders and one doesn’t feel restricted at all when rowing or casting. This jacket was designed for the mountain climber, but the versatility of Patagonia clothing allows it to double or triple for use. I often wonder if college kids in Bozeman are given this jacket by MSU once they enroll in the four year plan to becoming a better outdoorsman/woman.
The hood – this is my favorite part of jacket. Hoods, especially down hoods, keep your neck warm and the wind out. When fishing, spring or fall, I wear the hood up or tight around my neck. Cold, windy days are even colder when your neckline is exposed. The draw cord can be cinched up for better visibility when the hood is up – a great feature for when wearing underneath the SST Jacket.
Packable – when stuffed away, using the interior stretch mesh pocket, this warm layer packs anywhere you want it. And, weighing in at under a pound (15.2 oz.), you’ll never know it’s even there. While backpacking into Wyoming’s Alaska Basin, the down hoody was stowed away in my pack all day long, until nightfall.
Suppa, duppa warm – this past fall, while backpacking with Molly throughout the Colorado Plateau, we both carried our Patagonia down jackets. Morning, evening and from time to time as a pillow, down works like nothing else. Note: when rowing, this jacket can be too warm, unless of course it’s blowing snow and cold as January in West Yellowstone. On ski trips in Yellowstone National Park, the down hoody never leaves my pack, it’s my safety net for warmth and I pull it out each time we stop to enjoy an erupting geyser. On guide trips, this jacket never leaves my drift boat and has been worn by multiple clients on cold days.
The price – okay, this jacket is expensive. At $250 for the hoody and $200 for the sweater, not everyone can afford it right away…..save your pennies and buy it, as there is no substitute for good gear and good gear is not cheap. I plan on getting at least ten years out of my hoody (I have two thus far), so that works out to $20-25 per year to stay warm. The Ironclad Guarantee will help to extend the use of your gear. My goal is too use a piece of equipment until it falls apart and can’t be fixed, thus reducing my impact on the environment and making the jacket cheaper over time.
Some of you were able to fish Freestone flyrods this past season while on guided trips with Big Sky Anglers. A few folks pulled the trigger, others are still on the fence. Currently, I have the 905 and 906 graphite models and there is a slight chance of getting a 907 prior to my trip to Argentina in March – yes, I am headed down south for the first time ever. More on this later.
If you can get your hands on one of these rods, you must cast it.
If you can fish with it, even better.
Once the angler feels the rod load and also plays a fish – he/she will be overcome with pleasure and the money will fall out of your hands. You may actually beg Bernard to take your hard earned dollars, somewhat like a heroin fiend, just so you can feel that sensation again and again.
Watch out, these rods are addictive…..
Many of you think I spend my free time ironing Joe’s fishing shirts and making guide lunches. Hardly. My home is the home of Big Sky Anglers, and its stuffed to capacity with rods, reels, flies, a shop’s worth of fly tying materials, boots, waders, hunting gear, and bird dogs. My worldly goods consist of a tiny, tiny closet, one coffee mug, and shelf of books. Can’t live without my books. I spend my mornings reading, mug in hand, with a variety of titles, from classics to contemporary fiction.
Recently, my good friend and West Yellowstone librarian Steve encouraged me to try a new release, The Royal Wulff Murders, by Montana author Keith McCafferty. Skeptical of reading a book about fly fishing (seems like I experience lots of it firsthand), I found myself quickly immersed in this book. Centered around the lower Madison, from Quake Lake to Ennis, McCafferty’s murder mystery is cast with fisherman. Main character Sean Stranahan is a divorced artist, avid angler, and semi-private investigator who gets involved with a dead body found just above Lyon’s Bridge. Sheriff Martha Ettinger determines this man died of foul play, partially because his eyeball is impaled on a stick downstream of the body, and a Royal Wulff is stuck in his lip. Stranahan and Ettinger are joined by a motley crew of Montana’s best locals: Rainbow Sam, a smelly fishing guide famous for exploits on and off the river; Vareda, a hot Southern redhead who literally tangles with Stranahan; and Doris, the sassy manager of the local bar. Locals will recognize lots of places, including the Grizzly Bar, the Sheep Creek trailhead, Ennis Cafe, and the Gallatin Gateway Inn. Stranahan even takes a jaunt up to the Missouri and catches a twenty-five inch brown near the Wolf Creek bridge. The plot thickens with details like whirling disease, cranky nonresident landowners, and of course, just a bit of sexual tension. Stranahan is quite a player.
I know just enough about fly fishing to get my line tangled, yet still found this book quite readable. He imparts a true sense of the conservation and profound love of the environment I see from so many in the angling community. A few lines stuck with me, like “Trout are the ghosts of moving waters, gone like the dreams one longs to remember.” I like the investment McCafferty makes in each character, detailing just enough about the personalities and physical appearances. Vareda’s sultry southern belle-ness grew a little tiresome after awhile, but what crusty old fisherman isn’t a sucker for deep cleavage and impractical female fishing attire (both scenarios do appear in the book). I laughed in a few spots as well, such as Stranahan and Rainbow Sam’s favorite drive-thru espresso stand, staffed by ladies in bikinis and lingerie, called “Lattes & Lookers.” Can’t wait until that place shows up at Four Corners.
So, give this book a few afternoons in the hammock. I bet you will like it.
YNP continues take up most of my time these days. Running around Yellowstone in a vintage Bombardier is a fabulous way to get a paycheck, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The shot above didn’t turn out as good as the real thing. If you tilt your screen the shot gets better……
My folks are in town visiting for a week. They spent some time in Missoula with my sister and are now here in West Yellowstone for a trip through YNP, some fishing, skiing and a litte quality time with the family. Dad and I took a few hours yesterday and fished the Madison…….yes it was good. I wore the Rock Grippers once again and continue to be surprised at just how bad ass they are.
Awhile back I saw a pair of crampons with metal bars screwed into them. They were being tested for wade fishing, as an alternative to felt, as states like Alaska and Missouri don’t allow felt anymore. One look at these new wading boots from Patagonia made me think……really?
Screwed into the soles?
Not in my boat was my first thought……or on the wood floor at home….or to the grocery store……these are for wading rivers. Now, Patagonia will say they are fine in the boat, but I haven’t tried it yet and it doesn’t sound like a good idea. Maybe a carpeted deck in a jet boat, but a fiberglass driftboat? The jury is still out……
So, a few days ago, I laced them up and took off walking upstream over the snow and down to the Madison. There was some slickness of the sole in the snow, but overall, that was not a big problem. When I got in the river, I expected to slip right away. The bars tripped me up a couple times, but once I got used to it, I could wade anywhere and wasn’t slipping. No shit, I didn’t slip and the grip was as good as felt. Waste deep in the river, shallow fast riffles……no slippin’. The bars do mark the rocks, but all spiked wading boots will do that. These work and are the first none felt boots to do so.
Patagonia is on to something with these new boots. A set of bars should last 80-100 days. The true test will be to see if they hold up over time to hiking and fishing. All in all, I am impressed thus far after one day of wade fishing.