Roughly five years ago, Insane and I were young professionals fresh out of college, and we had it bad for fly fishing. We’d been making regular trips for trout in any even remotely marginal trout water within our driving range. If we had a long weekend, we’d head up to East Tennessee to fish the mountains or the Hiwassee tailwater. During those days we virtually ignored the small local warmwater streams. You see, when the trout bug bites you, nothing else will do, not even the truly worthy smallmouth bass. Even today I find myself longing for abundant, clear, cool, accessible trout water. Something you won’t find in Alabama. Nowadays I try to fight the longing, be content with what we have here, explore remote local streams, etc. Back then I didn’t even try. I wanted trout and mountains and big, high, lonely wilderness. Reading every book I could find on fly fishing, most of which focused on the streams and mountains of the West, didn’t help much. John Gierach, I hate you.
A plan began to take shape. Neither of us had enough annual leave built up to take a long trip, but we could just manage a week. Counting the bookending weekends, that would be nine days. We couldn’t afford plane tickets, so we’d have to drive. Yes, if we left on a Friday evening after work, we could be in the Rockies by Sunday, Saturday night if we really pushed it! Thus was born the plan for the first Great TVangler Annual Road Trip. Originally, fishing was to be the highest priority. Personal hygeine, rest, food, shelter, reality TV, sight-seeing and any other of the minor concerns of life would be ignored. As long as we were back for the beginning of the Alabama football season. After much study, we decided on Yellowstone as the location for our first trip out West. No other place has that much great fishing in such a compact area. We wouldn’t have to backpack. We could drive right to several legendary rivers. We’d invite our brothers Justin and Drake since we could trust them to sacrifice themselves in the pursuit of trout. They’d been tested and proven worthy (Deep Creek death march…). It’d be great.
made the mistake came up with the sweet idea of inviting significant others and friends. You know, heck, they might like seeing Old Faithful and a bison. They could find something to do while we were out fishing. What followed was the Yellowstone 2006 trip. I’ll never forget it. It truly was one of the greatest events in my life, and I’ll always remember it that way. But the fishing, as it turned out, took a somewhat lower priority than planned. Justin backed out. Personal hygiene, shopping, sight-seeing and dining all played greater roles than I’d hoped. Still, we did get in some fishing, I developed a lifelong love for the cutthroat trout, and it whetted our appetite for more.
Since then, we’ve gone back west once more, to Yellowstone again. And once again, the trip evolved from a planned fly fishing nirvana into something more like a family vacation with a bit of fishing thrown in. Don’t get me wrong, I fished a lot, more than enough to suit everyone else on the trip. But I didn’t get enough. In fact, the more I get, the more I seem to crave. Now more than ever I find myself craving the freedom of an entire summer (or a lifetime) in the Rockies to fish until I tire of it, and once again I find myself with only a short time to get in a little fishing as part of a family vacation. This year’s trip is to Glacier National Park, not a place known for excellent fly fishing, but I’ve scouted out a few worthwhile waters which will remain unnamed no matter how I find the fishing. So don’t expect much on the site for a few weeks. Certainly I’ll have some (hopefully good) stuff to post upon our return.
I know I haven’t exactly filled the site with much material lately. There’s a good reason. I haven’t done any fishing. It’s been over two months since my last significant fishing trip. No one thing is to blame. My job’s been hectic. Lots of stuff around home needed tending to. Several family gatherings were scheduled recently. I’ve been helping build an addition to our church. Sometimes life just gets busy. I’m not qualified to diagnose clinical depression, but it must be something like this. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if our mental hospitals were loaded exclusively with people who didn’t manage to get in enough fishing. So, I’m excited about the trip. No, that’s not quite right. I should say I NEED this trip. Jobs, bills, politics, reality TV, Rascal Flatts songs and all the other crap can be dealt with as long as you get in a healthy amount of fishing.
So, what have I been doing with my sparse free time these days? What has helped fend off the darkness? I’ve been reading a good bit. I’m a big fan of single malt scotches from the island of Islay (pronouned eye-lah), known for their distinctive peatiness. The good ones taste and smell smoky. Truly wonderful stuff! In general, I don’t like whisky. A few bourbons are okay. I don’t like generic blended scotch or even most single malts, but these Islay whiskies are so different from anything else! If you’re a fan of whisky or you’re interested in whiskies for reasons other than getting drunk, and you’ve never had an Islay scotch, I highly recommend them. Go straight for the most robust of the lot, Laphroaig. If you absolutely love vodka, any vodka, then don’t bother. You’ll be overwhelmed. There are eight distilleries on the island, and I’ve tried around five of them so far. My favorites to date are the aforementioned Laphroaig and Caol Ila. I’m in the middle of a wonderful book on the island and it’s whiskies entitled Peat Smoke and Spirit by Andrew Jefford, recommended by a good friend with whom I work (and who, by the way, visited Islay last year). I like to sip an Islay scotch while reading the book which, coincidentally, also helps me forget the time since my last fishing trip (though I’m by no means encouraging the use of alcohol to fight depression!).
I’m also a fan of fantasy novels, and I’ve been reading the last of the Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb entitled Renegade’s Magic. I loved Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies, and the Soldier Son books are right up there with them. C.S. Lewis and Tolkein got me hooked on fantasy novels. If you’re a fan of their books, you’ll probably like Hobb’s, although the Christian themes are missing (and missed, in my case). Believe it or not, I’m also a fan of the Harry Potter books, which I just read last year. I’m considering re-reading them. I’m always reading fishing books of one type or another. Lately I’ve been poring over destination guides for Montana and the Glacier area in particular, but I’m itching for some real fly fishing literature. Maybe I’ll take an old Gierach (I still hate you) favorite on the trip with me.
I hope to renew my photographic efforts during the trip. I’ve been inspired recently by some nice photography. There’s some great work being done out there. One photographer newly brought to my attention is Adam Barker. The man shoots really sweet scenic and fly fishing photos. I’m going to drag myself out of bed to catch the golden light in the mornings if it kills me.
Finally, good music can help salve the fishing-deprived soul. I was recently sentenced to a business trip to south Alabama, and was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of most excellent country music stations. Although I can’t recall the specific stations, both played an incredible mix of the best country and western songs from the 60s through today. Our local stations here in Huntsville rely far too much on the new stuff, most of it unbearable. If I hear that *&^%$ Rascal Flatts summertime song again, I’m going to scream! Those south Alabama stations really have a knack for picking out only the best new songs while playing an abundance of the classic stuff from Hank Williams Sr to Johnny Cash to George Strait and everyone in between. Heck, the hotel even played classic country over their intercom for the entire week. It was great! Well, at least the music was great.
Farewell TVangler readers! I’ll get back with you after the trip!