Monday, September 30, 2019

FISH XXVIII... Back to Wyoming!

The goal of this year's FISH trip was to fish the fantastic small streams that surround Cody, Wyoming including the North and South Forks of the Shoshone, the Clark's Fork and as many of the other streams that drain out of the west slope of Yellowstone Park as we could. We planned to headquarter at Monster Lake and head out each morning in groups of 2 or 4 to explore, fish and enjoy each other's company. We were a group of 26 with 12 guides. That was the plan... but in the days leading up to the trip we were thrown a few curves.
Monster Lake was under new management.

The first was the purchase of Monster Lake by Kanye West a few weeks before our arrival. After ironing out an agreement with the Kanye representatives, our group was "grandfathered" in... whew, that was dodged bullet Number 1.

The second bullet was a wet one. On the Saturday before our arrival, a monster fall storm dumped 18 inches of snow in parts of Yellowstone and a couple inches of rain down lower. This blew out the Clark's Fork and the north and South Forks of the Shoshone. 

These spikes are never a good thing when you're going fishing

After some creative thinking and explorations, we found fishable water for our first day, Sunday. Monday and Tuesday went very well as waters cleared up and the fishing turned on. As a result, Bullet Number 2 was also successfully dodged and FISH came to a very successful conclusion.

Thanks to all involved for going with the flow. Thanks to the guides for a great job. Thanks to all FISH members for your good humor and positivity and thanks to Ryan and Kayleigh for a job well done under somewhat difficult circumstances. And thanks to Kanye, we appreciate your willingness to host us and not ruin our trip at the last minute!

Here then are some of the photos from FISH XVIII:
More to follow soon!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Yesterday... My First Fifteen Minutes

Yesterday afternoon, I went fishing. 
After doing our best to help our friends in the Bahamas who are dealing with the horrors and devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian, I took a break.

Yesterday was beautiful. A light overcast shrouded the river. The air was warm and still. I slipped into neoprene socks, wading boots and a pair of quick-dry pants stiff with mud from my last outing. I secured my chest pack and nudged my backpack with water, lunch and camera into its familiar spot. I took off and quickly arrived at the first of three long glides on this section of river.

I always check this slick for rising fish. If I see one or two rises, I switch flies to the appropriate hatch and scoot down the bank to begin what is often a futile quest. The browns that prowl these slicks are big, usually more than 20 inches and they are very wary. 

I walked behind the dense curtain of streamside willows and Russian olives to a point where they parted.  Here I could get a good view of the slick. I immediately saw a few rises and then, as if by magic, a dozen or more fish began an intricate dance. Weaving in and out of each other they competed to pick small mayflies off the surface. As I watched, I could see some were eating emergers and only bulged the surface while others poked their snouts up and out to delicately slurp a floating dun. I watched transfixed. All these fish were 18-22 inches. I had never seen anything like this on this river. Every fish from a few hundred yards up and downstream had to have traveled to this spot to assemble at this breakfast bar.

Then, behind the last willow tight to the bank I saw him. This guy had a huge kyped jaw and was unenthusiastically nibbling on a few of the tiny duns. Were these small bugs not enough food for him to bother with? He seemed very disinterested. I had put a black chubby on at my vehicle and thought he might go for this big meal. I unclipped my fly and pulled on it slowly trying to clear a bit of line. As my arm moved, he immediately turned and moved downstream. Soon he was out of sight behind the willows and Russian olives. 

I froze. He was probably watching me.

If he came back to his original lie, I thought I had enough line out to make a 12-15 foot toss. I stood still for a few minutes and he slowly finned back upstream to slurp a few duns at my feet.  I was no more than 10 feet from him now. I tossed the fly with my wrist hoping for minimum motion. The fly hit the water and he outraced two 20 inch browns to inhale the back chubby. I struck and he headed down and into the Russian olive root ball. I dropped on my butt, slid down the bank, banged into the water and half fell, half ran to reach a point 15 feet from the bank. I pulled hard yanking him from the root ball. He jetted downstream leaping repeatedly. I worked him back upstream and was eventually able to land him. He was almost 24 inches... just a quarter under so I'm going to round him up. I kept him wet to get the photos, pulled the fly and released him. I was thrilled as I watched him glide vigorously away. I sat down on the bank.

"Wow, that was the coolest start to any day I've ever had."

I had been fishing for 15 minutes. I could have quit then and there and been totally happy. I did not.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Update on Little Abaco: Conversation with Sydney Thomas

Hello everyone,

We were able to speak with Sidney yesterday as he was over in Freeport trying to gather supplies and tools. Given the situation he sounded good and optimistic. It is still very much chaos there and securing supplies and tools has been difficult, as has been getting back and forth between Freeport and Crown Haven. There is no power or water yet at either location and most likely will not be for quite some time. Things are still very fresh and it's too early to have a grasp of the overall situation. The shock factor is real, but they seem to be doing well given what has happened to them. The magnitude of the work ahead is monumental, but Sidney is already making plans on how to upgrade and better the lodge.

The airport at Treasure Cay is open, but the bridge between Great Abaco and Little Abaco has been washed out.  When needed, Sid has been paying for the odd ferry or boat ride to get back and forth between the two islands .

Sidney said they feel lucky as it could have been much worse considering how badly things are all around them. Thankfully the lodge was built well and had a few feet of elevation under it which helped keep it standing. There is extensive roof damage and about 2+ feet of flooding throughout the lodge which will require a lot of work to fix this damage. All doors and a few windows need replacing. The boats survived and are accounted for, but the motors may have some damage, and the boats did receive some fiberglass damage. He was able to get his truck started, but not the van. So the silver lining is that all is fixable. But not without some major hurdles, one being sufficient funds

Some folks have asked about the mangroves and vegetation. Sid said that generally speaking the taller/upper vegetation is all stripped clean or snapped off, BUT the lower vegetation along the water's edge survived as it was under water from the storm surge for the most part and protected from the full brunt of the wind/storm.

He did confirm that given the recent move to Little Abaco and work they have needed to do to the lodge, they did NOT have insurance on the lodge or boats. It was just too expensive. Which is the case with most Bahamian owned businesses from what I have heard. So your contributions will make a truly major difference for them and their families.

Again he is optimistic that with some time and hard work he will be able to get things back up and running in the coming months. He figured even if you could get things in order for some later fall trips, he was unsure if guests would be able to get to the lodge conveniently, BUT this is an unknown as of now. If there is a will there is a way. Stay tuned on this front. I will be reaching out to everyone that had fall trips scheduled to discuss each trip accordingly.

Barring the conditions or unforeseen issues locally or regionally he felt confident to say that all late winter and spring trips would be a go! Which is great news!

So considering everything, we are feeling good and looking forward to rolling up our sleeves in the coming weeks/months to get things on track again. We do know that the fishing is going to be great when we can get back out there with them! This will all be achieved  thanks to YOU and your very gracious and generous contributions!

Thank you all so very much! Stay tuned for further updates.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Update and Photos of the Bahamas in the Aftermath of Dorian

We received a text from Ketta late last night. Sidney's sister was able to get over to Little Abaco yesterday for the day and she said Sidney is OK! She did not get to see or speak to him as he was out helping others in the community that were worse off than he and helping cleaning up. Sounds like the lodge is damaged, but standing and fixable. Still no photos or details as the phone services are still down and communication is tough. Good news nonetheless!!

It is still a long road ahead for Sidney, Ketta, and all their family and neighbors.

We are all extremely grateful for the outreach of concern and kind words along with the generous donations you all have made thus far. Let's keep it going! Every bit helps!
Go Fund Me page for Little Abaco Relief Fund is here

We will continue to keep everyone posted as news hopefully starts to become more readily available.

Thank you!

Go here
Photos Show Hurricane Dorian Damage In The Bahamas
September 4, 201911:53 AM ET

An aerial view shows devastation after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas on Tuesday.
Terran Knowles/Our News Bahamas via Reuters

Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas with high winds and rain for more than two days, and officials in the Bahamas say at least seven people died in the storm, including children. That toll is feared to rise as recovery efforts get underway.

Part of the Abaco Islands were damaged by Hurricane Dorian, as seen on Tuesday in the Bahamas. The storm hit the island late Sunday as a Category 5 hurricane and then stalled.
Head Knowles Foundation via Getty Images

A family is escorted to a safe zone after they were rescued as Hurricane Dorian continues to rain in Freeport, Bahamas.Ramon Espinosa/AP

As images from the island chains show, the slow-moving hurricane brought strong winds, heavy rain and a life-threatening storm surge to the Bahamas, inundating homes and entire villages with water.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says Dorian is "still hovering right off the shore" of Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Graham says that by early Thursday morning Dorian will be "right off the Georgia [and] South Carolina coast."

A woman was rescued with the help of U.S. Customs and Border Protection after being stranded by the hurricane in the Bahamas on Tuesday.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

An aerial view of Marsh Harbor's airport after the storm hit the Abaco Islands on Tuesday.
Terran Knowles/Our News Bahamas via Reuters

Chef José Andrés is interviewed by ABC News' Stephanie Wash before he leaves for his first mission to deliver food to stranded Bahamians who survived Hurricane Dorian.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

As the Bahamas tries to take stock of the damage and send aid, chef José Andrés is also present, having traveled to the islands to help feed storm victims and emergency workers.

"The destruction in Abaco and Grand Bahamas is huge," Andrés told NPR's Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition.

Alex Cepero cries while his friend Cassandra Shipp holds his two dogs upon their arrival from being rescued from Marsh Harbor on the Abaco Islands.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

Damage in the Abaco Islands.
Social Media/Terran Knowles/Our News Bahamas via Reuters

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis addresses the media and the country at the National Emergency Management Agency about damage caused by Hurricane Dorian on Tuesday.Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis describes a scene of devastation on the Abaco Islands, saying the airport runway is completely flooded. "In fact, the area around the airport now looks like a lake," Minnis said.

Of the magnitude of the damage, Minnis said, "It is going to require a massive coordinated effort to rebuild our communities."

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Hurricane Dorian Aftermath

Here is some info from CNN on Hurricane Dorian.
Please be aware we have set up a GoFundMe page for the staff and families of Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge. We now know from Ketta they will desperately need our help! We have set up this GoFundMe to support them and get them the aid they need – we hope you can contribute. We will keep everyone updated as we learn more.
On Great Abaco, high winds remained Tuesday night, but the rain had subsided as residents emerged to see at the incredible devastation. Huge piles of rubble were what remained of businesses and homes wrecked by the strongest storm ever to hit the islands.
To make a contribution, go here.
An aerial view of the devastation caused by Dorian on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas.
An aerial view of the devastation caused by Dorian on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas.
It's difficult to tell whether one scene shows a neighborhood or an industrial center. The ruin was immense; the area had been turned into what looked from above like a floating landfill. Shipping containers were tossed among the rubble. 
Brandon Clement, who was in a helicopter over the island, told CNN that even new homes constructed under more stringent building codes were destroyed by the storm. One older neighborhood is gone, he said.
"You can't tell that there are any homes there. It looks like a bunch of building materials were put in a big grinder and thrown on the ground," he said. 
The Prime Minister told reporters after returning from an aerial tour of Great Abaco that he estimated there was damage to 60% of the homes there. . 
"We have been attacked by a vicious, devastating storm (from which there was no defense)," Minnis told CNN. 
Minnis said additional police and security forces will be sent to the Abacos on Wednesday morning to prevent violence or looting.
Fortunately, New Providence Island and the capital of Nassau, which generate much of the Bahamas tourist revenue, had not been touched, the Prime Minister said.
The Category 5 hurricane hit Great Abaco Island with sustained winds of 180 mph.
The Category 5 hurricane hit Great Abaco Island with sustained winds of 180 mph.

Neighbors rescuing neighbors

On Grand Bahama Island, residents of Freeport fervently worked to rescue people in communities where the havoc wreaked by Dorian was much worse than expected.
With streets almost impassible due to high water and stranded vehicles and with pounding rain still falling and tropical storm force winds blowing, residents put together an ad hoc rescue group with boats and personal watercraft.
The rescue efforts are dangerous and harrowing, according to a CNN crew that watched rescued Bahamians brought to a bridge half-covered by water that was being used as a staging point.
Residents organized rescue teams Tuesday to save their neighbors.
Residents organized rescue teams Tuesday to save their neighbors.
The CNN crew tried to drive around Grand Bahama Island, but many streets are either flooded or are blocked by submerged cars. 
Dozens of people were going back and forth to help with the rescue. Some of the people rescued were utterly exhausted after spending all night clinging to their roofs or being stuck in their attics. 
Freeport resident Howard Armstrong described how his wife drowned in front of him after the storm surge from Hurricane Dorian swamped their home, leaving them with only their heads were above the water.
After hours of waiting in the flooded house for rescue, Armstrong's wife succumbed to hypothermia and slipped under the water.
"She was gone so quickly," Armstrong said as he waited for his wife's body to be recovered.
Another man said he found his brother clinging to a tree and the brother's wife was last seen grasping a piece of cardboard.
Info on Hurricane Dorian from CNN:

Storm slowly moved out

Dorian inched away from the northern Bahamas after lingering over the islands for days, leaving catastrophic damage and people stranded in flooded buildings.
Since it smashed into the Abaco Islands as a Category 5 storm on Sunday, it knocked homes to the ground and flooded streets in the northern Bahamas.
"Right now, (we're) taking a beating," Bahamian lawmaker Iram Lewis told CNN from Freeport late Tuesday morning. "We need wheelchairs, hospital beds, we need walkers." 
"Whatever you can send, we'll take it, because we are in trouble," he said.
Freeport resident Harold Williams said his son went out on a Jet Ski and heard people calling out. "Help! Help me, get out!" one said.
Williams said they went to get stranded relatives who had to wade out to the watercraft in chest-deep water.
"I don't think we've seen anything like this in our lifetime. Total destruction," Williams said.