Huckberry Explorer’s Grants

You may be a bit over the hipster thing, but hold on a minute. We owe a little thanks for this cultural moment. Why? Because hipsterism has at its core a feeling that alot of Gen Xers and Millennials dig – nostalgia. And that lust for a classic bygone era lifestyle (of which there are many) has emboldened a younger generation to start appreciating what boomers, and especially the greatest generation had access too – great music, great vibes, and unplugged experiences. And honestly, its not just an empty nostalgia. The Millennial and Gen X tendency to obsessively remix and co-create with previous subcultures is leading to some exciting new values that really distinguish this generation from recent ones. This is no more evident than in the return of the pioneering spirit of wanderlust that permeats Tumblr and Pinterest boards, retro-looking saloons and barbershops, throwback brands (and branding), and adventure media. Fueled by the explosion of access to digital archives, dead stock, and resurfaced brands and stories by niche bloggers who intimately obsess over vintage Levi’s and #Van-Life, the new spirit of adventure isn’t confined to mining the depths of the internet into the wee hours. Its coming to life as new adventurers foresake their day jobs or postpone weddings to hike the Appalachian trail or Continental Divide. The spirit is present when PhD economists apprentice for free for years to learn the art of butchery (like my brother). Its present when fishing bloggers get together to tour Alaska’s embattled Tongass wilderness to help protect it. And its present when new brands start sponsoring expeditions to help their fans make their next adventure a reality.

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The Huckberry team is introducing Explorer’s Grants to create an inspirational karma loop of adventures for its fan. A few lucky applicants will get a serious cash infusion – a thousand bucks! – for their planned expedition and a selection of gear from some very cool brands, including Poler, Nemo, Topo Designs, and Goal Zero. They want you to document the journey and make the whole story available to Huckberry of course, but its all in service of the karma loop. The judge of the grants is none other than the #microadventure inspiration himself, Alistair Humphreys, a National Geographic Explorer of the Year and professional adventurer.

For the details, check out Huckberry Explorer’s Grants page here. If you’ve got an adventure planned or have a dream microadventure in mind but just needed the kick in the pants to get started, you’d better get on the application now. The deadline to submit is March, 31.

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To get your juices going here’s  my own microadventure idea to steal for your own to get you started:

FLOAT THE POTOMAC – starting in West Virginia on the North branch of the Potomac above Jennings Lake in Western Maryland, float the Potomac in a kayak all the way to the mouth of the Cheasapeake Bay with stops at the Savage River, Harpers Ferry (Anglers Inn), Conococheague, Great Falls, and Occoquan. My goal would be target as many fish species as possible, trout, bass, gar, stripers, snakehead, etc.

When: Mid-summer or early fall

States: WVA, VA, MD, DC

What to take: My Orvis Hydros 5wt flyrod, a shit ton of crittermite flies, Poler napsack, lots of goretex, waterproof digital camera, Freedom Hawk kayak, Garmin, Goal Zero Lighthouse

Estimated travel: 2 Weeks. 450 miles.

Mr. Fugly Brown

The water temp was 40 degrees. I was after stockie rainbows I’d helped float-stock two weeks earlier. I knew they’d put some browns in the previous week, but I wasn’t expecting to tangle with Mr. Fugly Brown. He kept his nose down, was pretty sluggish due to the temps and probably because he was new to the whole thing. Not new perhaps to the idea of being fished out of a comfortable hole, but perhaps new to the idea of living free. I hoped that perhaps he was a holdover, and had been in this hole for at least a year or more, but I knew otherwise. Though the little tailwater I fished on had just received some serious love (a repair to create a bottom draw on the reservoir a mile upstream), up until very recently, this brown had spent probably four, maybe five years in a holding tank, probably as brood stock, endlessly swimming in circles. His pectoral and caudal fins were a misshapen mess, nubs or worn down. Though he had a nice kype, he certainly didn’t fight the way a wild trout could.

Patuxent Brown

 

I looked him in the eye, and took a picture. It was bittersweet. No, at first glance he wasn’t a very desirable kind of trophy. This was no bright and shining wild trout with clear-eyes, white-tipped fins, born free. He looked a bit world-weary. But as I held him I wondered…maybe he would live out his last days at least knowing the taste of caddis nymphs or a big juicing hopper instead of trout pellets. Maybe he’d enjoy the ability to wander, and swim down to the reservoir below and back upstream to cool water when the summer doldrums crept in. And maybe he’ll learn to chase sculpin and fall fish, to experience the hunt so long denied him. Maybe he’ll holdover now that the dam was working again. As I snapped one more picture and released him (and I may be reading into this a bit) he seemed to linger at this once-more encounter with man, and then dart away with some pep in his step.

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Putting in Some Time

Ok, I’ve been meaning to find a way to put some time in volunteering in 2014 and found a sweet opportunity to start. The other day I took a “voluteer” day off work (i.e. one of my vacay-days) to help my local TU chapter float stock a nearby river’s trout management area. They dropped the water-level at the dam, the weather was 50 degrees and sunny, and the company was outstanding!

I’ve put a lot of hours on this river so setting up other fly rodders to enjoy the fishing is a nice way to give back. 625 rainbows went in, and a mess of browns are next. If you’re a DC fly rodder, email Jay Sheppard at JMSheppar@AOL.com for time and location if you want to participate in a float stocking this Friday the 20th. Its a great way to meet folk who care about the water and trout as much as you do!

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TU veteran and stream champion Nick Weber after a release at “Nick’s Hole” on the river.

 

Of course it ain’t always about the fishing. The chapter has planted dozens of trees in key areas to stabilize the banks of this river, and recently worked with the MD DNR to conduct repairs on this tailwater’s reservoir dam to enable cold water releases to flow from the bottom of the dam to stabilize temperatures year-round. That’ll be good for the trout, and more holdovers mean more opportunities for anglers.

Too Bad

There is a #12 black winter stonefly hatch going on in Georgetown on the Potomac River right now in DC.

Too bad the ‘Mac has no trout.

Too bad the river is high, swollen and brown so doubt even the Smallies are active.

Too bad I can”t leave work early because I’m betting stones are popping off right now on the Patuxent and Gunpowder!

Potomac Black Stonefly
Potomac Black Stonefly

Blue Ridge Tour

Well the all along the South from Louisiana to Georgia, the South is getting a dose of the legend, myth, and quackery that some have called climate change. But seriously, I can only imagine how beautiful the Blue Ridge must look under a veil of snow. Fortunately I fished the most Southern tip of the Blue Ridge over the holidays in balmy 50 degree weather.

At the beginning of the Appalachian trail in the Hiwassee basin, I was able to touch a few native browns in the headwaters of the Noontootla river. I scouted the Toccoa delayed harvest section for next visit (it was blown out). I also found opportunity on the Smith and Amicalola creeks during my two weeks in Georgia with the in-laws. Put a nice dent in the No Nonsense Fly Fishing Georgia guidebook, but I’ve only just begun to explore all the coldwater fisheries here. Most Georgians don’t even know they have 4000 miles of trout streams in Northern GA. I keep thinking I should be taking more advantage of the TU website to find fishing companions when I travel. In fact, I hope in just a few years to be able to take my daughter to one of those spots I’ve come to know so well, that she’ll be guaranteed her first Georgia trout on her first cast at least.

Noontootla
Noontootla Creek
Noontootla Wild Rainbow
Noontootla Wild Rainbow
Toccoa River
Toccoa River

Toccoa River Sign

Toccoa River Flyfisher
Toccoa River Flyfisher
Amicalola Creek Brookie
Amicalola Creek Brookie
Tailwater stockie
Tailwater stockie
Smith Creek Brownie
Smith Creek Brownie
Feisty Bow
Feisty Smallstream Bow

New Obsession? Hope Not.

This is a Painted Redstart that I spotted in my yard this morning. I can’t begin to tell you how lush my backyard and neighborhood is in Spring and Summer, with mature trees hundreds of feet tall, full brush and surrounded by parkland with marsh and meadow. I think this attracts a wide variety of birds to our little “flyway.” As I’ve seen all the usual suspects over the past year, including the rare Baltimore Oriole in my yard at one point. Anyway, hope it doesn’t turn into an obsession. I’ve already got one, but now I’m wondering what I could do to our backyard to enhance our resident and migratory birds stay with us?

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Onward Reserve Drop-in

While visiting the in-laws in Atlanta over the holiday, I managed to sneak out for a short side visit to Athens with the wife and baby. The plan was to walk the downtown and grab lunch at one of Hugh Acheson’s places, either the National or Five and Ten. Being a Sunday though, things were slow or closed. Neither of Acheson’s places were still open for brunch by the time we got to town. Fortunately, we were able to hit Onward Reserve.  OR are among the few highly curated and high-quality modern but traditional menswear and lifestyle shops in the South. OR was born out of the online flash sale site 5 Mile Club, but now has two retail storefronts, one in Atlanta and the original in Athens.

Walking through the shop, I kinda wish I hit this place before my recent work trip to St. Simons Island… OR carries several hard to find top notch southern apparel brands, including their own-label brand. You can find Southern Marsh, Smathers & Branson, Cotton Bros, Social Primer, Martin Dingman for example. They also carry iconic brands like Barbour, Hudson Satler, J.W. Hulme & Co. Their Filson selection is pretty damn good and mixed in you’ll find Beretta, Wm Lamb & Sons, and even Yeti coolers.  I was just window shopping but couldn’t leave without a set of Smathers & Branson knit rainbow trout coasters for the man-cave.

They also have an immaculate and well-put together website. Their cracking website has a an extensive selection of “Made in America” goods, and a great blog with stories and recipes from the OR guy’s adventures. You can find guidance on many tasks in the OR man’s life from making Venison poppers to picking a hunting dog, and from tips on being a groomsman to how to stock your bar. Its short, to the point advice that can instantly improve a guy’s life. So, If you’re in Atlanta (Buckhead) or Athens, they are absolutely worth a stop in. They’ll make you a Makers and Ginger if you’re so inclined while you browse. Or hit the website or wait a just a little while because they’ve got expansion plans for Nashville, Houston, Charleston and DC.

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After our walk around downtown, we knew we needed to eat something, so we hit Mama’s Boy on the way out of town. It was a balmy 50 degrees so we sat outside and ate fried green tomatoes, biscuits and gravy, and short rib hash, while washing it down with some the best strawberry lemonade I’ve ever had.

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2013 Trout Wrap-up

So many things to be thankful for in 2013 its kind of unbelievable. Everything centered around the birth of our daughter of course. We bought and moved into a new home in Silver Spring, and soon after had our girl, Yunah Anne. Then I doubled down at work with conferences and business travel to Austin, LA, Boston, Nashville, Manchester, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Kansas City. Somewhere in there we celebrated the traditional 100-days thing and had family travel to NY, Atlanta, Grafton (VT), and the Shenandoah. We got the house in shape and enjoyed the bountiful garden though I must have raked several tons of leaves (thank you suburban living). Phew! I can’t believe how fast it goes. You have to pay attention every day or you miss things. The fishing was pretty successful despite being so busy at work. I dragged along the fly rod on my business trips, but it was only worth it once or twice really. I don’t like to fish rushed. I managed to fish the Gunpowder several times, the Rose River, the Chattahoochee, the Youghiogheny in Western Maryland for the first time, as well as the storied Battenkill in Vermont. I got skunked on the Savage River, Dukes Creek (GA), the bay in Assateague, Virginia (my only saltwater fishing), and on the Toccoa River (GA). And over Christmas holiday in Georgia I fished the Noontootla, Amicalola, Toccoa, and Smith Creek (but I’ll save that for a separate post). Here are some highlights…

Great Rose River rainbow
Great Rose River rainbow!
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My brother and I killed them on this Rose River trip.
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Chris with his Rose River bow!
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Spring bronzeback taken 5 min. from my house on hidden creek.
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Hidden Creek!
GP brown on a sulphur
This gleaming wild brown fell to a sulphur one sunny spring day.
Battenkill Brown Trout
This rising beautiful 20+” wild brown took some figuring out, but we finally got him on a black ant on the storied Battenkill River in Vermont.
North Fork Shenandoah
The beautiful North Fork valley in Shenandoah, home to some amazing smallmouth fly fishing.
Trophy Smallmouth Bass
This trophy smallie was at least 8 lb and 20+”. He took a black popper on the North Fork.
Shenandoah Fall Fish
The North Fork Fall Fish put up quite a fight too.
Youghiogheny River 6
The “Yough” didn’t disappoint with amazing natural surroundings and plenty of action.
Youghiogheny River 5
One of many good sized rainbows above the pump pool!
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My best underwater shot yet! On the Yough.
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My nicest trout from the Yough fell to a black stonefly pattern I tied myself.
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A late fall sunset over the Middle Patuxent river.
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A remarkable holdover brown from the Middle Patuxent.
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A true Gunpowder gem. If only they grew bigger on that river!