All content © Robert Williamson

All content © Robert Williamson

Monday, November 16, 2009

Still Fighting For Utah Water Access

Here is a link to the current information on water right access in Utah. If you can help by donating, please do. Thank you to Bryan and Chris for all the time, money and energy they have sacrifised in this effort.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Instead of clogging this fly fishing blog up with non-fly fishing related outdoor adventures, I have started a new blog to write about "other" outdoor activities. will be a place for musings about hiking, mountain biking, running, and wandering and wondering about nature. It's in it's infancy; you are welcome to watch it grow.

A Nice Note about the Chain-stitched Mayflies

"I've finally had a chance to fish them now that fall is here. I used them on the south fork of the snake recently with good success. Couple notes: Being comparadun style, I had much better success in the run out of riffles where the water was calmer. They would sink in the rougher water of the riffles. In areas where they would float, however, fish took them willingly, sipping gently and not suspecting a thing. It was a lot of fun. The only thing I might do differently is the tails. I'd consider something stiffer, like microfibbetts. The tails on the fly (not sure what they were made of) tended to stick together when wet. All in all though, a great imitation and a lot of fun to fish. Thanks again." :)

-Mike Silver

Thanks for the report Mike. I sent patterns out to several individuals each year and rarely do I hear back. Nice to get a report. This pattern was created for smooth water. I was trying to get something that would imitate the silhouette of the naturals for picky trout. As for the tails, I have noticed the same thing. The tail fibers are made from the same material as the body. I have started to stiffen them up and make the split more distinct by running a little super glue up them. I use a small amount on the end of a bodkin so my fingers don't stick together.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saying Goodbye!

I peered through the willows that lined the bank of a small, clear creek and watched as a 12-inch cutthroat trout moved from side to side, picking small dark mayfly nymphs from the current.

I was rigged with a brown stonefly imitation which had proven effective on this creek for years. I found a small opening that provided enough room to cast and crawled hand and knees up next to a sizable tree. I slowly stood up keeping my left shoulder snug against the tree; blending into the setting as best I could. I lengthened my line with false casts to allow the fly to float down into the trouts feeding lane.

The cutthroat continued to sip nymphs as my stonefly landed about ten feet above him. The fly drifted down toward the trout as I mended line to keep a natural float. The fly was right on target and came directly into the trout's view. My arm became tense in anticipation of the fish's strike. The cutthroat did not move as the fly passed his snout. I let the fly continue to drift past the fish and began a slow hand-twist-retrieve so I could cast again.

I didn't want to disturb the water by a quick pick-up and risk spooking the cutthroat, so I slowly worked the line in and brought the fly up into the shallows on the creek edge. Suddenly, I noticed a flash of color a few feet below my fly and watched wide-eyed as a different trout raced toward the fly. The fish slammed into the fly with its back exposed, out of the water, producing a wake that sent the cutthroat trout racing upstream for cover.

I set the hook and stared with amazement at the 18-inch brown trout thrashing up and then down stream. This was a powerful fish and was not interested in giving up. Again, the fish tugged line as it tried to head down the creek putting pressure on my shoulder.

I held the brown for a second to admire its length and girth. It was a beautiful trout. I sat it in the shallows and watched as it caught its breath. I was doing the same. It moved toward the middle of the creek and deeper water. I thought I saw it roll its eyes back and pause for a second--maybe not. I waved goodbye anyway.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fly Fishing and Thoughts of Thoreau

"The lesson he (Thoreau) had taught himself, and to which he tried to teach others, was summed up in the one word "Simplify." That meant simplify your needs and your ambitions; learn to delight in the simple pleasures which the world of Nature affords. It means also, scorn public opinion, refuse to accept the common definitions of success, refuse to be moved by the judgement of others."
---Joseph Wood Krutch (part of the introduction to "Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau.")

When I started fly fishing as a young thirteen year old kid, I used a very simple way of angling. I was introduced to it by my father. He was a wet fly fisher who only used a couple of patterns and always fished them down and across. These patterns were hair flies (Fizzle and Rockworm) as tied by the late Franz B. Pott of Missoula, Montana. These flies were tied onto the end of a seven to nine foot tapered leader which was tied onto a floating fly line. The flies were cast down and across stream and them allowed to swing with the current. They were manipulated into the proper seams and runs and then slowly worked upstream with a hand-twist-retrieve. Trout would either hit the fly on the swing or grab it as it was worked upstream. It was an effective method and a very simple method. I used this method for thirteen years.

When I married and decided to take up fly tying as a hobby, I originally wanted to just tie the Pott flies, but as I subscribed to the popular fly fishing magazines and bought fly tying books, a whole new world of fly patterns and fly fishing techniques was opened to me. I tried all the techniques which were new to me, nymphing, streamers, emergers, and dry fly fishing. I spent time using all of these methods and would find myself switching from one method to another during my outings.

Several years ago, I decided to simplify my angling again. I grew fond of dry fly fishing and found that it was my preferred style. With experience I found that at almost every month of the year, I could catch fish on top if I understood the hatch and was on the water at the appropriate time of day.

I have not lived in the woods as Thoreau did, but as I look back on my life, I realize I have spent a great deal of time wandering in the woods. My fly rod has been, and is, a magic wand. I wave it and it carries me to beautiful places. Wave it again and the scenery changes. My favorite rod is a seven foot, six inch paint brush that helps me create the paintings of my mind. Sometimes, it is a pen that helps me write the beginning and ending of my life.

Life is full of rivers to cross. I have for a long time felt I crossed these rivers alone. I prided myself on doing this. I, as Thoreau, sought for solitude:

"I have never felt lonesome, or in the least oppressed by the sense of solitude, but once, and that was a few weeks after I came to the woods, when for an hour, I doubted if the near neighborhood of man was not essential to a serene and healthy life. To be alone was something unpleasant. But I was at the same time conscious of a slight insanity in my mood, and seemed to forsee my recovery. In the midst of a gentle rain while these thoughts prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattern of the drops, and in every sound and sight around my house, an infinite and unaccountable friendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining me, as made the fancied advantages of human neighborhood insignificant, and I have never thought of them since."

I wonder if Thoreau is right? He also said, "I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers."

For years, I believed and pointed out the above quotes as my justification for spending time on solo fly fishing trips. Like I said, I was proud of my ability to wander up streams and creeks alone, to cross rivers alone, and to spend time in the woods alone. I like Thoreau, felt I only needed "three chairs in my house; one for solitude, one for friendship, three for society."

I'm beginning of late to understand better things of solitude, but also of my need to have friends. But that is really another story. What I want to do is get back to my original thoughts on simplicity. I've decided that the pursuit of trout through fly fishing can be very simple, especially, if you are fishing waters that are not what I call technical waters. These are waters with shorter growing seasons, waters that are typically smaller, and where the type of water is more turbid, with lots of riffles, seams, pockets, and sometimes gradient.

In my neck of the woods, this is what I've discovered over the past 30 years (I know, that 30 years just keeps on finding its way into my writing).

December, January, February: Midges. Small nymphs and dries. Hatches occur the warmest part of the day.

March, April: Midges, Blue-winged Olives. BWO nymphs, emergers and dries. Usually between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM.

May, June: Pale Morning Duns, Caddis and Stoneflies. Evening fishing starts to warm up. PMD hatches most afternoons in June.

July, August, September: Hoppers and beetles. Afternoon and evening caddis

October, November: Still some hopper action, Blue-winged Olives are back. Swinging and stripping streamers.

Yes, there is the specific hatch of this or that, which you may have to figure out, but the above is a simplistic approach to most of the Intermountain areas regular hatches.

I wonder if Thoreau ever considered taking up fly fishing? Probably too busy writing about solitude and civil disobedience.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Natural Relationships

The meadow looks different in late Fall. Waist high grasses of green are now horizontal mixes of brown, tan, and yellow.

New structures are in place. Beaver at work shoring up dams and lodges against impending winter snows. It is beaver, I suspect, who muddied the water of this small creek. Above their dam, the water is clear. I have to have clear water. My mind is muddy. I can't think straight. I come to clear water to be cleansed.
It's early afternoon and hot. Ten degrees warmer than usual. It's been a dry summer and as mentioned, the grasses show it. I hear the crackle of dehydration with each step.
Low water produces skittish trout, yet I see shadows in the deeper water. Silhouettes rise, turn, then flash. Reflectance of sun and color spark towards my eyes before sinking to shadows again.
I stand still, a heron watching. Two small trout swim behind a larger one. If I cast a fly into the area chances are the smaller trout will rush to the fly and if hooked will scare the larger trout away. I wait. I need a curve cast with the line to the left of the trout. The leader and fly must curve to the right. The cast must be long enough to give the larger trout first chance at the offering. I cast. Another flash of fish; another flash of time. The large trout takes the fly quick. I pull back and watch my rod tip bend, then gaze out at disturbed water and spinning trout. The same joy and adrenaline is released to my heart and brain that has been released with this same scenerio for over thirty-five years. I wonder: why does the pursuit of trout never get old to me? Questions again!

I place my hand down to grasp the trout. It's skin is slick and moist. Gently, I remove the hook from its jaw and slide it head first back into the water. The trout bolts for its sanctuary of deeper water and over-hanging brush. Another circle is complete: stalk, cast, rise, lift, play, land, admire, release, breath again.

Natural Relationships Continued

Standing in the meadow, and thinking like I do, I realize there are relationships in my life that others would not understand. My relationship to nature through the vehicle of fly fishing is as hard to explain to others as the relationship of two kindred spirits lost for a season then connected again.

I look up from the water and see a coyote in the middle of the meadow. Our eyes meet. I look down for a place to sit. When I look up again, the coyote is gone. I look up the ridge for a glimpse of the coyotes departure but see nothing--no movement--the coyote has disappeared. A different type of catch and release. Friendships can sometimes be like that.
Time and friendship is sometimes measured in seasons. I sit here remembering. The thing that stands out in my mind right now, this very instant, is how short life is. What do I take and what do I give in my flash of time? What do I miss? Am I brave enough to think and feel? Am I brave enough to connect deeply with nature? Am I brave enough to connect deeply with those I call friends?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mountain Bike Ride Logan Canyon into Bear Lake Valley

This was my third time riding this dirt road on my bike. The two previous times, I had to dismount on the climb out of Egan Basin. Mentally, I vowed that I would conquer the climb the next time I attempted it. I started to refer to the trip this year as "The Ride." I started to train for it in the winter by doing some treadmill work after the holidays and then started some serious outdoor training in June. After the holiday season, I had put on a little extra weight and wanted to lose about twenty or thirty pounds for the ride. I figured that the hills would be a little easier if I wasn't lugging the extra pounds with me. In June, I started a running routine to cross train and help with the lung capacity. At 6:00 AM I was up and out for a morning run and actually got to the point where I could run 3.5 miles fairly easy. I even did an eight mile run one night to see how far I could push. When I was done and felt like I could still go farther, I felt I was getting ready. In the evenings I was putting power to the peddles doing some distance rides and hill work. I was able to drop the thirty pounds and look forward to the day of the ride. Labor day ended up as the day for the ride.

The actual road is not what hardcore mountain bikers would consider difficult, but for an older man it is somewhat of a challenge. The road is about 17 miles long and has a gradual climb right at the start that follows a tumbling, crystal clear creek.This section gets the blood circulating and the legs burning. About two miles into the ride it flattens out and winds through some neat meadows. The creek is backed up with numerous beaver dams and the water is mirror smooth. This part of the ride is very pleasant. About six miles into the ride, the road starts a gradual climb out of the meadows and up into the aspen and pines. Like I mentioned, it's not a major effort for the young and seasoned rider, but us older guys with aging bodies and eighteen year old brains--it can be a chore. The climb is gradual and just when you think it might level out around the corner, you hit a little stiffer climb to the summit. I tried to stand on the peddles at one point but found I lost traction with my rear wheel so I geared down and stayed in the saddle. I have to admit that at one point my mind was telling me to just dismount and walk up the hill--something about people would understand that a 50+ guy would get enough validation from friends for just being out doing such a ride. Just as this thought went through my brain and started to drain down into my legs, I thought of the training and the weight loss, and friends that knew I wanted to conquer the hills. Those thoughts made me stay with it and grind it out. As I came up the last incline, I spotted my wife (she was the support vehicle and photographer) up the hill. Her instruction was to park at the summit and wait for me to arrive. When I looked up and saw here, I knew I must be close and dug in for the final push. Finally, with a few more stern pushes on the peddles, I made it to the top.

Now the fun could begin! The last nine or ten miles of this road is downhill for the most part, right to the town of St. Charles, Idaho and the Bear Lake Valley. The first drop off the summit is steady and such a welcome relief to all the hard peddle pushing. I felt like I was flying as I looked at the speedometer and hit 18 mph. The second downhill area gets a little steep and I rode my brakes trying to stay in control. When I hit some of the downhill straight sections, I hit my top speed of 26 mph, which seemed fast as I flew through the aspen and pine lined roadway. I tried to be as safe as I could watching up ahead for any obstructions or change in conditions. I jumped over the three cattle guards and continued the descent. My only scary moment was hitting some looser gravel and sliding toward the trees. I had to brake and put a foot down to keep from mingling too close with mountain timber. The vibration from the rough road transfered from my hands, up my arms, and into the shoulder blades and neck. I could feel the muscles right between the shoulder blades starting to tighten from all the bouncing and rattling. It was okay. I had conquered the hills and I was almost to St. Charles. I was a little worried that being Labor Day weekend, I might run into the company of ATVs but I had the road almost to myself. I think I saw maybe five wheelers the whole day.

I rode alone with my thoughts and with the coolness of the shadows. I took in the green of the aspen leaves and the whiteness of their bark. I breathed in the mountain air and listened to the quiet. Every now and again I could hear the crunching of the gravel as my wheels turned and slid.
Back in one of the side canyons there used to be an old cabin and mine. My great uncles and grandpa built the cabin and worked the mine many years ago. The cabin was bulldozed and the opening to the mine closed by the Forest Service. My grandpa and great uncles traveled this road a lot. They travel it now as ghosts. "The Ride" was for them.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


When we're young, we live on passion. We think we are old. Someone told us that when we are eighteen or twenty-one we are adults. But we are young and dumb. Everything is seen in tunnel-vision. I saw only desire and it was physical. So, how do we come to know something? We jump in with both feet--we get them wet, right? Then we learn that is not the way. We learn to take our time. We think, we feel, we lift rocks and we watch.

River stones move with geologic speed. We don't have that luxury. Our time is a slap! It's quick and stings for a second then it's gone. In the speed of life, how do we live it to its fullest?

What part do we drink to quench thirst? What part do we spew from our mouths? How do we unravel a braided current? We can't keep on casting until a trout will rise. We move on.

This was a two day trip. The first day I went alone but in my mind a string provided a connection to others. The second day, my wife was my partner.

The river became moving art. I studied the painting. I wondered: where is the pallet that stores the colors? The colors melt and run over rocks and stones. Wetness creates the brilliance. Look at the grayness of the exposed rocks. It's the water that paints the picture.

Some creeks run dry. They are a waste of time. Someone once told me that to look at them can bring sadness. I agree. Rear tires slip and spin--another goose chase. It's time to head for the familiar--it's safe there like an old friend. There's a calmness in the sound of familiar water; a calmness in a friend's voice. The serenity of place is often measured by past experience there. The small subtle changes become apparent with familiarity. The big picture may not seem to change to the casual observer.
On these creeks fly lines are not often airborn in long flowing loops. There is no need. Control of the passion for length and the need for rhythm are haulted. Trees and brush stiffle the need for power. Flips, rolls, dapping, and mends shake off the end of the rod. Much of the time, the fly line is held high and out of the water as leader and tippet dance upon seams and eddies.
Rises are quick. No time to daydream. When the fly hits the water, the reaction is now! With little weight the trout is lifted from it's world. The release is just as quick and the trout darts away with much of its liveliness.
The small creeks are not hard to read. Almost every likely looking spot will hold a trout. Presentation can be difficult if you are not used to casting around trees, brush, and snags. The things they teach in casting classes or on the casting platforms at the sportsmen's shows will serve you no good here. The late Gary LaFontaine taught it right. Standing upon the casting paltform, he would stroke a line out about one-hundred feet to the cheers of the spectators. Then he would say, "let me show you how to catch a trout now." He would kneel down behind the platform and throw out a fifteen foot cast and then talk about stealth and pinpoint casting.
Familiar water feels good. After a long winter, spring, and sometimes summer, the fall season is the time to dance with the well-known. There's a small window of opportunity when it's possible to chat with nature. When things are still. The sky stays blue. Then, just at the right time the quakie leaves will shake, and whisper of cool nights and shorter days.
The colors from the river rock and trout will mix with the terrestrial landscape. It happens with a blink. This is the time to fish hard.

Common color names never do justice to what is really seen. Speckled trout eat there fill and fatten for the lethargic times of sparseness. When the leaves of Fall spin toward the water, the season ends. It's time to sleep.

Dreams of small rising trout and warm summer days permiate the night. On days of catching, reflex jerking of legs and arms to set the hook, keep awake the participants of the day.

The rewards for being in the secret spots are always more than just the catching of trout. But without the catching of trout the spots diminish. Go there to blend the colors. Throw all the hues skyward and let then land where they may. Then leave.

Friday, August 28, 2009

ASPEN MEN by Robert Williamson

Staring at water art
Peripheral vision knows they are there
I turn quick and look
White bodies with charcoal faces
Some smile, some frown
I slip on wet rock
I hear them laugh
They stand behind the willows
They move when I move
I stop, they stop
I came for solitude
Who invited the Aspen Men?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Innovative Fly Tier written by John Shewey

This piece first appeared in "Southwest Fly Fishing" January/February 2007. Written by John Shewey.

Robert Williamson's fly patterns provide a rather obvious insight into their originator's fundamental beliefs about dressing and designing flies: art matters.

Hailing from Utah, Williamson has gained regional--and with the release of his first book, more wide-spread--recognition for his creative, artistic approach to fly design. In Creative Flies, Innovative Tying Techniques (Frank Amato Publications, 2002), he refreshingly admits, "I make no claims that these patterns catch more fish than any other patterns. ...Some of the techniques are considered tedious and unnecessary by some fly tiers and fly fishers. To a degree, I concur with this feeling. However, if you like a well-constructed fly, with a neat appearance and durability, you will enjoy these patterns; being able to tie these flies will give you great satisfaction."

Indeed, that satisfaction and a sense of artistic accomplishment are the elements that Williamson finds most appealing about not only tying flies, but also, perhaps more significantly, in designing new and different patterns. "The need to express myself in some type of creative arena began at an early age," Williamson explains. "I have always dabbled in drawing, painting and calligraphy. Fly tying has given me a satisfaction to those artistic cravings. I feel that if you spend enough time, energy, and talent on both the fishing and the tying, they can become an expression of yourself."

His unique surface patterns borrow ideas from a wide range of other flies and tiers, but the key components of their construction are uniquely his own. For example, almost 20 years ago, Williamson devised a method of overhand knot weaving that allowed him to use this little-known tying technique to make extended bodies. His method relies on a series of hand and finger movements that are clearly described and graphically outlined in Creative Flies, and which is most spectacularly displayed on his Woven Stonefly Adult and Woven Hopper. Both patterns are dressed by weaving two different colors of polypropylene yarn over an extended underbody of corkboard trimmed to the appropriate shape. The result is not only artistic (and downright perplexing until you understand the tying techniques and materials involved), but also just about as buoyant as any large dry fly can hope to be. To further boost the buoyancy of these patterns, Williamson adds elk hair wings and bullet-style heads of deer hair. Rubber legs complement the design perfectly, and these are simply strapped in under the thread wraps used to tie down the bullet-head.

Williamson readily acknowledges his influences and appreciates the angling and tying history that has spawned many of his ideas. In Creative Flies,for example, he summarizes the history of the overhand knot weaving method, ultimately reporting, "It can be assumed that the weaving technique Hank's (Hank Roberts) wife came up with is the same one that Dan Vercelino came up with. Both are given credit for this technique."

Williamson uses this technique sans extended body--to dress stonefly nymphs patterns and his Woven Cicada. Imitating a terrestrial insect unfamiliar to many trout anglers--but certainly not those residing in the Rocky Mountain states--this fly also has an underbody of corkboard. Williamson dresses another cicada pattern using a twisted strip of black closed-cell foam for the body. Sometimes called "furling" (which usually involves polypropylene yarn or similar materials), this twisting method is very simple and widely applicable. Williamson writes that the technique "is nothing more than twisting strips of thin foam until it (the strips twisted together) doubles back on itself."

The Looped Foam Cicada displays a simple and logical construction: black twisted-foam body tied in only at the front and extending back over the hook shank, elk hair wing, red hi-vis foam formed like a bullet head over the front by simply poking the eye of the hook through the middle of the foam strip and then tying the strip down a bit back on the shank, rubber legs like a Madam X. The same basic construction, with a slight variation in materials and proportions, produces Williamson's Twisted Hopper, Twisted Stonefly Adult, Twisted Yellow Sally, and Twisted Adult Damsel.

Weaving and twisting are but two of numerous intriguing techniques put to good use by Williamson. He also ties "chain-stitched" patterns and flies featuring air-filled bodies. He says his creative urges cause him to see fly-tying potential in all kinds of materials, no matter whether those materials are intended for dressing flies. "Any material natural or synthetic is fair game for making a fly, in my opinion," he says. "I spend a lot of time experimenting with ideas and materials. Some ideas end up as fly patterns, while others end up as a pile of failed experiments in creativity."

Williamson began fly angling at age 13; his inaugural foray into fly tying occurred 13 years later when his father's favorite flies--the Franz Potts hair flies--were becoming scarce. Not willing to part with the hair flies, such as the Fizzle and Rock Worm, that he and his brother grew up fishing with, Williamson disassembled a few ti see how they were tied and thus launched his tying career. Combining his artistic bent with a fascination for the non-traditional methods of Western tiers like Potts, Norman Means, and George Grant, Williamson was soon "trying to realistically duplicate the size, shape, and color of the natural insects I was trying to imitate." Increasingly he did so, with unique methods and materials.

In addition to compiling many of his innovative patterns and techniques in Creative Flies, Williamson has also written for Utah Fishing, Utah Outdoors, Fly Fishing, and Fly fishing and Tying Journal. And though he admits that he originally wrote his book to seek some recognition for his innovative methods, he has since decided that such motivations are "quite selfish." That self-assessment, however, is too harsh because not only did writing the book provide yet another venue for Williamson to "quench creative urges," but doing so also resulted in a very useful guide for like-minded creative tiers who relish learning and advancing intriquing techniques.

In addition to bespeaking its author's insistence that art matters as much as function in fly patterns, Creative Flies also reveals Williamson's deep respect for the ability of the sport of fly angling to add meaning and mystery to life. He scatters short angling tales throughout the book, and "The Crossing" demonstrates his love of small, unheralded waters and wild trout. In fact, Williamson's favorite fisheries are pristine Utah streams populated by native Bonneville cutthroats.

"For me," he reflects, "the places where these natives are found are like the fountain of youth. They give me a sense that amid all the changes in life and in the world, some things can remain the same. I feel a sense of connection with the past and a hope that it can be passed down to those I love. In a way, I guess I am a romantic when it comes to fly fishing, I am very idealistic. Fly fishing and fly tying are passions that stretch my imagination and my emotions."

John Shewy is the managing editor of Northwest Fly Fishing, Southwest Fly Fishing and Eastern Fly Fishing magazines.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hoppertunity One Day Event

Let's make this a one day event. Saturday the 19th of September. Details to come in the next couple of weeks. Limit to eight people would work nice. Wait---Scott, brought up a good point on his blog---I may not have that many readers or friends. Hmmmm. I guess if we only get four folks, it would still work. :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I am inviting a few fly fishers to participate in an unique hoppertunity. Here's how it will work:

I have the 18th or 19th of September to spend fly fishing. I think it would be fun to get 6 or 8 people together in the Logan area and divide up into sets of two (twosomes). We will assign each twosome a specific section of river and they will fish a Twisted Hopper pattern exclusively ( provided by yours truly). The twosomes will have a notebook, a pencil or pen, and a way to quickly measure the fish. Catches will be documented (numbers, types of fish, and sizes), and then after a certain time period we meet at a designated place to compare notes and stories. A nice stream side dinner would be nice to top the outing off. We could assign people to bring items. Kick this around and post a comment on this site if you want to participate or have any other ideas that would make this fun. If one of those days do not work, throw some others out and we can narrow it down. Thank you great fly fishers of wisdom and trout.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


The television weather report the evening before our planned fishing day was discouraging: thirty mile an hour winds, sixty percent chance of rain, dropping temperatures of over twenty degrees, possible hail, and lightning! I can handle all of it except the wind and lightning. Casting a fly in wind is not something I have on my favorites list.
So, we changed to plan B. We already had a plan B figured out because we (my bro-in-law, nephew and me) are seasoned outdoors men. Plan B was to bag the two hour drive into Wyoming and hit the closer waters around Logan, Utah. Plan B found me sitting on a half submerged rock on the edge of the Logan River. I'm waiting for Jer (bro-in-law) and his son Matt (my nephew) to work their way upstream to my position. I move up river quick. I hit every spot that is likely to hold a trout and after a few drifts, I move on. It's part of my nature. I read the water like it's a children's book, it's a fast read most of the time, unless, of course, there is a good hatch going, and trout working the surface, then I move slower.
I placed my fly rod on my lap and bowed my head and closed my eyes. The water here is riffles and pockets. I can hear it as it bumps, turns and swirls around the uneven bottom and boulders. It's a nice sound; it's sound I have been around most of my life. It's a nice day. I'm glad to be here. It's good to be out. The sun has cleared the eastern peaks. I take off my cap and let the sun hit my head and face. It feels good.
I glance upstream and see Jer. He moves down to where I'm sitting. I stand and move toward him like two old friends who are meeting again after years of separation. It's only been a half-hour since we parted upstream. Smiles are exchanged and fishing reports shared. It hasn't been the best of mornings for catching. Matt soon arrives and we decide to drive into Logan for lunch and then drive over the border into Idaho to hit a stream.
After stopping to pick up an Idaho fishing license, we drive up Cub River canyon. The lower stretches of the Cub contain Bonneville Cutthroat and is similar looking water to the upper reaches of the Logan only smaller in size and volume of water. We decide to pass the lower stretches and see what trout we would find in the upper stretches near Willow Flat. It is a beautiful area bracketed by high mountain peaks and backdrops of thick forested slopes of shadow-hidden pines. The stream meanders through the flat and its flow interrupted by several beaver dams. It is clear with deep undercuts at every turn. Small jewels of brook trout are caught. The orange-rust bellies brilliant giving way to the crimson spots outlined in blue halos. The backs mottled with worm-like patterns of olive and brown. The tips and leading edge of the fins are outlined in pure white. They are handsome fish. They are small and wild; their only shortcoming is that they are not native to the area. Still, they are welcomed.
From Willow Flat over to highway 89 in Logan Canyon is about 16 miles of dirt road. We decide our course is to drive the dirt road, stop for one last fishing spot in Franklin Basin and then drive back to Bear Lake on 89. Jer is at the wheel. He starts the climb out of the flat and before we know it, we were on long straight run of dirt road heading toward the basin. Jer hits the gas and we are flying along at about 55 miles per hour. I've ridden dirt roads with Jer before, some with white knuckles and the fear of death in my soul, but I have to admit, he has mellowed with age just a bit.
Franklin Basin fishes well for us. Small cutthroat in the eight to ten inch range are plentiful with an occasional twelve or thirteen inch fish caught. I'm able to turn one that looked to be a spawn hold-over that might have gone sixteen inches. It is a fun area and Matt and me play a little game of fly fishing baseball. The rules are simple: first fisher casts into a likely spot. If he hooks up with a trout and brings it to hand, it's a home run and the next fisher is up. If you cast and miss a fish, it's a strike. If you get three strikes, you are out and it's the other person's turn. Matt wins the ballgame with more home runs and the biggest fish.
We finally meet up with Jer and end our fishing day. I have not had the opportunity to spend a whole day with Jer and Matt for some time. It was a real pleasure fly fishing with them and just hanging out. I'm blessed to have them in my life. I love them and would do anything for them.

Small, beautiful brook and cutthroat trout, the beauty of sparkle-clear water, stream bottom rocks, wild flowers, vistas, sun (especially with reports that it wouldn't be sunny) and the quiet sound of serenity found in the woods are the jewels of the trip. Spending time with those I love the treasures.

You would think all the fly fishing is the highlight of the day. But I learned a very good lesson on this trip. I have to learn to put things in perspective. That is hard for me. I am driven by passion for certain things and I have to sometimes slow down, take a step away, look at the situation, and then see the whole picture.
It's funny how the highlight of my weekend fly fishing trip turned out to be something other than catching a bunch of beautiful trout in an amazing setting. The most significant event happened somewhat unexpectedly. It is something I will remember. As we were getting ready to leave for home, I was able to take my sister in a full embrace (something I have never done) and tell her happy birthday. I then told her, "I love you." I fought back the tears that were welling---hers flowed a little more freely. I wonder if she was aware I noticed. What an awesome moment. The beautiful trout, the streams, the mountains are the small jewels. The relationships and expressions of love are the unexpected treasures. I sit here now wondering what is happening to my heart?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Whisper in the Wind

Dog days are here! Hot, stale air sitting on the valley floor. Rivers and streams down to lower flows. Trout skittish. Drips of sweat roll down the back. Drops like shower water run off the face and chin. Salt-eyes burn. You can taste the savor when you lick your lips or just open your mouth to breath. Colored line in tight loops cannot move enough air to create wind. At high noon there is no one else on the water. Others wait until the cool of evening and approach the water with the bats. They have learned that the largest trout hide in bright sun.

Walking through the tall grasses, hoppers leap like flushed game birds. You watch as some hoppers land in the water. Quick swirls and audible splashes and they disappear. Concentric rings migrate to nothing as a witness that water holds life. You wait and watch. You remember. It doesn't seem that long ago that you were young and you would run to the water. Now, you walk. You've learned to sneak.

You feel the breeze hit the wetness of your neck. Eighty degree chill brings bumps to the skin. You listen. What does the wind whisper when only a slight breeze? That is the secret. Not everyone gets to hear the secret. You have to earn what the soft wind can teach. No matter how old you get, you are always a student at the river's edge.

Friday, July 31, 2009

An Oldie But Goodie!

Testament of a Fisherman
I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant - and not nearly so much fun. -John Voelker (Robert Traver )

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thanks for the props Kevin!

The following was posted on the UTOF web site. I used to frequent that site as RAW or Wildnative. This post is about the air-filled stonefly adults I have been tying. Kevin bought a couple dozen from me to try this year. Looks like they were a success. What more could a fly tyer ask for than a complimentary post such as this:

"Sweet Flies
I have been really jonesing on the flies I have received from UTOF fly tyers this summer.First in late May I got my order of 02 Salmon flies from RAW (WildNative). They have been the bomb for both the HF and SF hatches. Something about the silhouette of this fly and the way it sits in the water drives the fish crazy. It has moved fish that have ignored other patterns. I picked up over 20 fish on dry salmon flies last week on the upper stretch of the SF all on the O2 fly...... and there were no real adults to be seen. The fish just key on this pattern, and it will not sink. The trapped air make the fly so buoyant. Both the gray and the orange 02 salmon flies have been a huge success."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sneak Attack!

Give me a 3-weight rod, an imitation grasshopper and a hot summer afternoon on just about any small creek, and I'm going to guarantee a fun and productive time on the water. I usually fish these waters in total solitude. Today was different. My wife, Phyllis, decided she wanted to hang with me today and volunteered to be the photographer. She claims I take too many shots of just trout, and that it would be nice to see the man who actually catches the trout. I'm not much for having my picture taken, but she convinced me that the camera does not remove my spirit from my body so here I am.

I love summer. Even though there was a slight overcast when we started, the grasses were tall and green, the cedars and junipers had a green-blue hue and the sage was powder-coated gray. It was a beautiful day. The sun would peak out from the clouds bringing beads of sweat dripping off my forehead and and off my nose. I usually wear a ballcap when fishing but forgot it today. When I was younger, I used to wear a bandanna around my forehead to act as a sweatband. I may go back to that practice as it was difficult keeping the salt from entering my eyes.

This small creek is loaded with brown and cutthroat trout. The ratio today was higher for the browns. I'm just a little disheartened at this. Last two years I was catching more cutthroat. This water should be cutthroat water. I hope the browns are not forcing the cutts to slowly disappear.

Today was bragger's day. With my wife as a witness, I was able to show off my prowess. This is something that a lone, solitary fly fisher doesn't get to do often. Luckily for me, the trout cooperated and I was lifted to rock star status in her eyes.

I ponder a lot while hanging out with my friends the trout. I thought about pain and hurt today. I am reminded of a quote from a Barry Lopez essay: "The living of life, any life, involves great and private pain, much of which we share with no one. In such places (I'm inserting my own place here) as quiet trout streams the pain trails away from us. It is not so quiet there or so removed that you can hear yourself think, that you would even wish to; that comes later. You can hear your heart beat. That comes first."

Today, I could hear my heart beat.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day on the Weber

I spent the afternoon with my nephew Matt Eves who snapped the photos in this post. It was a slow day on the Weber but we were able to land some whitefish and this nice cutthroat. I'm not sure why the brown trout were hiding. There was a nice yellow sally hatch happening but no rising fish. Matt is becoming a great fly fisher. He is a better nymph fisher than I am and I noticed that he has a nice, smooth casting stroke.
This fish was about all I could handle with the three-weight rod. Luckily, the faster water below the hole I hooked it in was shallow enough for me to move down stream and land the fish on a small island.
I noticed the cutthroat's side was a little scratched up and surmised that it was probably caused from the spawn somehow. I don't know if the pictures do it justice. It was a heavy fish with some girth to it.
The whitefish we caught were good-sized too.
It was good to spend a few hours on a river.

Today's Quote

"The landscape conveys an impression of absolute permanence. It is not hostile. It is simply there---untouched , silent and complete. It is very lonely, yet the absence of all human traces gives you the feeling you understand this land and can take your place in it."

---Edmund Carpenter

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Soul of Steams Successful Adventure

My Saturday hike and fish was a success. Finally a day without thunderstorms, wind and rain. I must admit that hiking in alone and bushwacking, wet wading, slipping on the rocks, and wondering about lions, tigers and bears is weighing on my mind more the older I get. Here I was, however, 3 miles in on a creek with perfect flows, clarity, and numbers of pan-sized trout.

I don't think it would matter what fly is used. These fish as far as I can tell don't see a lot of pressure. They are easily spooked, but are not particular about the food they eat. I used a cicada pattern: black foam body, elk hair wing, orange foam head, and black rubber legs, tied on a size 12 Tiemco 5212 hook.

As stated in a previous post, I went to not only get out of town and into some wild country, but to also bring home dinner. I also wanted to see what type of trout I would catch and if any of them were rainbow/cuthroat hybrids (cuttbows). All fish caught were rainbows with the exception of two. One was a pure cutthroat and one was a cuttbow. This surprised me to a degree. It seems like last year when I went into this area, I caught more cutthroat. I didn't keep an accurate count but in the three hours I was fishing, I brought about fifteen or twenty fish to hand and missed hooking about ten or so. Most of the fish were in the eight to ten inch range with four or five pushing twelve or thirteen inches. I had a small pack on my back which I carried a frozen water bottle. When I was ready to leave, I cleaned the fish and put them in a palstic bag and placed it in the pack with the frozen water. The fish were then taken home, cooked and eaten. They were fresh and good. I offered to share them with my family and they declined. My family usually loves fish so it was a bit of a shock when they didn't want to share in the feast.

When I hike into and out of these areas, my mind almost always wanders. I think about the history of the area. I wonder about the early inhabitants of the area. I dream about being more knowledgeable about the plants, trees, and wildlife. I listen to the birds sing and only recognize a couple of the songs. Again, I think to myself, that I need to learn more. The view coming out was nice. Looking out through the opening of the canyon I could see part of the small mountain valley below and the backdrop of tall peaks with just a few specks of snow left in the highest cirques. My last thought was that I probably will not return to this water again this year. I give it one trip a year. Time to move to other waters that seem to call to me---come here and seek my trout, soul of streams!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Take a Little Trip!

Tomorrow June 27, 2009 I will be hiking in to a small stream. I think the run-off is down just enough to make this little gem perfect for an afternoon of fly fishing. Native cutts with a few wild rainbows will, hopefully, be willing participants in this foray. I haven't had a good trout dinner for sometime--since my solo three day trip last fall so I will be harvesting four trout for a late evening dinner. On this water, I always let the Bonneville cutts go and keep the rainbows which are a remnant population from planting of about fifteen to twenty years ago. I haven't seen any cross-breeding between the natives and the rainbows but it most likely occurred. I'll look closely this trip. Still, I like to remove the rainbows when given the chance to help insure that the cutts remain as pure as possible. I'll try to get some pictures and share them in the future. Well, off to tie some nice fresh flies for tomorrows stream meanderings.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Trout Art I've Been Working on in my "Spare Time"

I've been working on some trout art. All are created with colored pencil. The cutthroat and brook trout are drawn on matt board. The rainbow is a cut out silhouette made of composite wood.
I'll be working on some pastel paintings in the future. I'm finding that late at night during my wind-down time, creating these pieces satisfies an urge to make something, and allows me to admire the beauty and color I find in trout.

Monday, April 27, 2009

BWO Offer

Those who are waiting for the BWO flies, hang in there! My regular job has my schedule all messed up and I've been putting in way too many hours. The flies are ready to go, I just haven't taken the time to package them and send them off. I'll throw in a bonus surprise fly(ies) for being so patient. I'll try to get them on their way this week. They should fish well even if the BWO's are not around.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Level of Respect?

One summer evening on the Ogden River, I sat halfway up the bank hidden in the brush watching the water. My evening of fishing was done. The sun can leave the canyon early and most of the time I will fish until I can't see. This night was different. I had caught enough trout. There was nothing to prove. It was dead still except for the moving water and even it seemed to slow down for a rest.

I noticed the first shadows move down from the mountain ridges and into a stand of firs. Once sunlit green, now turned black. Soon the shadows would hit the water. Caddis and mayfly spinners would be out. Those who know the Ogden would also know that small, cream cranefly adults would also dance in the coolness.

"We're gonna rip some lips!"
"Hell, yes!"
"Last time I fished this stretch, I killed 'em!"
"I'm gonna beat four of them over the head. I'll take your limit too."
"I'll put the death squeeze on my four best!"

The silence of the evening was shattered. Two fly fishers had entered the water downstream from my position. Their conversation loud and echoing off the boulder strewn river bottom. It was macho. Spawning season was still a month or two out, but testosterone was kicking in.

Since this experience a few summer ago, I have wondered about the language of angling and what it says about the level of respect we have for our quarry.

Before some misjudge, let me be perfectly clear--I have been through a time when the most important thing in my life was to catch more trout than the next guy and I have killed my fair share of trout over the years, but I don't remember using the verbiage that I hear from the throngs of fly fishers today.

I'm not saying what I hear is wrong, I just wonder what it says about our respect and admiration for the trout?

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chain-stitched Blue-winged Olive Mayfly Trial

The Blue-winged Olive mayflies are hatching. If you enjoy fishing imitations of the duns, you may qualify for 4 chain-stitched BWO patterns to try. The first 3 individuals who respond via comment to this post will receive the flies. You must then fish them over trout feeding on adult Baetis and report back through email your experience(s).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Search for Peace

What it is that brings peace and serenity to life? Most of you know the answer. Or do you?
Is it the catching of a few trout? Partly, I suppose. I've decided it goes beyond that. I'm to the age where I can look back over a period of years now. I've been at this fly angling for 37 years. I wouldn't consider myself an old geezer, but I'm starting to get closer to that end of the spectrum.

As I look back, I see a pattern for my attraction to fly fishing. Dad and mom took the family camping a lot, at least I remember it as a lot. We camped near the same stream for the most part. I remember that stream, and still return to it yearly. Sometimes, I don't even fish it; I just watch it. I look for the cutthroat trout and watch them. For some reason, just knowing they are still there is enough. I watch the current. I watch for aquatic insects. I listen.

Norman Maclean explains the listening part in his book A River Runs Through It when he tells of his dad reading the "good book" by the side of the river.

Preacher Maclean: "In the part I was reading it says the Word was in the beginning, and that's right. I used to think water was first, but if you listen carefully you will hear that the words are under the water."

Norman Maclean: "That's because you are a preacher first and then a fisherman. If you ask Paul, he will tell you that the words are formed out of the water."

Preacher Maclean: "No, you are not listening carefully. The water runs over the words. Paul will tell you the same thing."

Norman later goes on to explain that a river has so many things to say that it is hard to know what it says to each of us.

If you concentrate on the water, you will come to know what it says to you. Right now, it speaks peace to me. The current takes my cares and concerns and swirls them in a backwash for one last time and then sends them gracefully downstream. The focus then becomes the bottom rocks, the streamside foilage, the surrounding hills and mountains, the sun, the shadows, billowing clouds or clear, blue sky.

Then the sounds... (to be continued)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Working on Air-filled Stonefly Designs

Getting a little fancy! Working on some new stonefly designs. Imitating a regular "salmonfly" and a lighter yellow stonefly.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

On being Alone (This first appeared in "Utah Fishing" magazine April 1, 1988.)

Rare are the things people like to do alone.

I used to go fishing alone every week and when an acquaintance learned of my solitary expeditions he blurted out, "The only thing I like to do alone is use the bathroom."

It is a fact, however, that I used to leave every Tuesday night during the summer and head to my favorite trout stream to fish, camp, relax, and think. I remember the concerns of family and friends who felt that going alone was unwise because something might happen and I would be without help. They were also concerned because of my camping gear, which consisted of a fly rod, flies, and a sleeping bag. No food, no tent, no kitchen sink.

I would throw my fishing gear and sleeping bag into my vehicle every Tuesday morning so I would be ready to leave as soon as I got off work. I always carried matches and tinfoil so I could start a fire and cook fish. Utensils consisited of a knife and whittled stick.

I learned some important lessons on my lone fishing trips. I learned to enjoy my own company. I found that I didn't have to worry about anyone's pleasure but my own and though it may sound selfish, I was able to do exactly what I wanted--- and that was fish all day long.

Now, any true outdoorsman will tell you that in nature you are never really alone. If I was quiet, I had the company of squirrels, deer, woodchucks, mink, beaver, skunks and other animals. On occassion, I would stop fishing, look up and watch a hawk soar effortlessly across the sky, casting a shadow that would dance and spin upon the earth.

Other times, I would listen to the wind as it would weave through the pines, aspen and maples. The sudden breeze would cause a chill up my spine, not because it was cold, but because it would remind me of my aloneness. The smell of skunkberry and pine would awaken my senses and the sound of the water would penetrate deeply into my ears.

Sometimes I would stop to think about my great grandfather, my grandfather and my dad who passed to me the wonderful love for nature and the way to enjoy it through fly fishing. I would ponder about the stream, the trail, the cutthroat trout and wonder if I was standing in the spots they stood to cast a fly to eager, colorful trout. I felt they were here.

If you stop to think about it, the time spent fishing alone is not as it may seem. Although I never took anyone with me on those solitary trips, I had company. I had conversations with myself and with the trout and, maybe, in some unexplainable way, with other fishermen whose paths I was following. Fishermen who have long since gone, but who move up and down the stream in the wind.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Important to all Utah fisher(men & women). Please help!

I received this email from Bryan Gregson

Hey all,
Some recent news has been brought to my attention. I got word that there is at least (1) bill being pushed through to take away Utah's public right to access all Utah water. We will need to defeat any attempt to remove the existing law. This will need to be done at the grassroots level by calling, emailing or writing legislators in every district in order for them to be aware of the pending assault on the stream access ruling. This can only be achieved by contacting all of our friends and asking if they will make the small effort it takes to email their legislator. It's going to be an uphill battle but with a joint effort we can make this happen. So to curb any thoughts and to hit this head on before it gains momentum we need to contact our representatives and let them know we support The Utah Supreme Courts ruling, our right to access public water and will not accept anything less. EVERYONE needs to get involved. The more letters the legislators get from more sources, the better. All you need to do is identify where you live, who your area representative is and contact them… its easy! It takes less than 5 minutes. Our small voices can and will be heard! Please call everyone you know and ask them to send an email or letter to their representative asking them to protect our right to access public water and wildlife on public waters. "Utah Water Guardians" have provide simple steps with easy to follow information that will allow your voice to be heard.
Check it out --->
Follow the quick easy steps to locate your representatives and make your voice be heard.
Get on it, the time is now! Keep fighting,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Creative Flies

Out of print now. Can still be found with some on-line book dealers.

Laminate Trout (by Mikel Williamson)

My son Mikel has been doing some of the laminate trout for me. He actually does a better job at it than I do.

I decided some time ago, that the beauty of the trout, their form, their color, and the environment where they are found has become more important to me. This feeling for their elegance inhances my feelings of respect as I pursue them through fly fishing.

Making these replicas is adding to the joy I find in trout.

Orange Air-cicada

Air-hopper 1 and 2