Obsessions….. I have one. It happens to be tying full dress atlantic salmon flies. This obsession enters into every part of my life. If it wasn’t for the obsession, I wouldn’t be writing this. It affects my spare time, time spent with family and friends, my work and even how I spend my money. That’s what obsessions do, they rule your life.
That’s why I was drawn to these books. “An Obsession Called Pheasant”, by Jolan Durrah is about a man with an obsession. The main character of the book is Dan, who even from a young age was captivated with pheasants. They became part of who he is, and Dan was driven to all parts of the country to be with them. The book is about his personal odyssey , and how they became an obsession for him. Sprinkled with good doses of humor, it explains who Dan is, how he became obsessed with pheasants, and especially one breed of them. It is an easy read, and anyone that ties these flies should be able to relate to Dan’s desire to learn as much as he can about these amazing birds. The book gives you the background information about Dan before his big adventure. It deals with the “why?” that causes Dan to leave everything he knows and travel to Borneo in search of the Bornean Peacock Pheasant.
“Adventure in Borneo” also by Jolan Durrah, takes off where “Obsession” leaves you. Dan has a burning desire to travel to Borneo to see if his beloved peacock pheasant exists in the wild. He decides to leave all of his worldly possessions and travel to Borneo on a shoestring. He gets more than he bargains for traveling through a strange land that was the recent jungle home of headhunters, giant hornets and questionable water quality. This book is also filled with adventure, humor and a story that really defines who Dan is, and shows the depth of his desire to learn more about these birds. If you are the kind of person that can’t wait until Christmas to open your presents, or would rather eat dessert before your main course, then get “Adventure in Borneo” first, and find out about what really drives Dan in “Obsession Called Pheasant” afterword. If you like logical procession, then read “Obsession” first and “Adventure” next. I feel that after you read both of these books you will have a greater appreciation for the feathers that we are so fortunate to have available for “our” obsession. If not for the dedicated breeders and people like Dan we’d be left tying some awfully dull flies, and the future of these birds in the wild would be even more dire. These books would also make great Christmas gifts for your fellow tier, bird lover or traveler. You can buy them on my website here http://www.aaronmostojfeathers.com/books-tools-etc.html
That’s been a motto of mine for quite a while now. If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve no doubt heard me talk about the pie that is my free time, and how thin the slices get while trying to accomplish all of my goals. Well, along with the “time” pie, there is an equally important pie, the “money” pie. It too gets divided into a lot of slices, and like my outdoor recreation time, my outdoor recreation money slices are the thinnest of all.
When my wife was pregnant, we decided that she would be a stay at home mom. (strike one against the budget) This has required quite a bit of diligence on our part, and making the budget stretch has been a bit of an art form. The one thing that didn’t change after my wife had our daughter was my vast interest in all things outdoors (strike two on the budget). Keeping all of the gear in working order that is necessary for these activities has been a challenge to say the least. Most challenging of all, was being a full dress salmon fly tier (strike three. You’re out!) . If you tie these flies you know the volume of material required to do it. Piles and piles of sometimes rare, often expensive, materials for flies that you are never going to fish. Trying to explain that to a spouse on a tight budget is almost impossible.
So, enter this website and my materials business. It allows me to skim off a few materials here and there for my own tying. But, the ironic thing about this business is, that I rarely get to tie anymore, because I am so busy keeping the materials in stock to keep the business going! The other activities I enjoy are a little bit easier to keep going. Shotgun shells are fairly inexpensive. Canoes are expensive, but once bought, you’re set. Backpacking gear wears out, and I replace it while I can. Hunting clothes….. Read on.
Mountain quail prints in the snow
This fall I was getting ready to grouse hunt. Not having been as active as I normally am in the fall (too much non-physical work filling my free time), it seems that my favorite upland hunting pants had shrunk. ( Actually, I had grown! ) I sucked in, got them buttoned, and realized I could hardly walk to my car, let alone miles in the woods, they were so tight. Crap! These were no ordinary pants, these were a pair of Filson tin pants that I’d had for a decade. They were bulletproof, waterproof and expensive. Too expensive to replace at this time.
As I was storming around my garage, I noticed my worn out breathable waders from last year. The neoprene booties had been aquasealed multiple times, and a seam failure in the heel finally did them in. The light bulb in my head went off. I rummaged around my workbench and finally found my shears. I cut the neoprene booties off of each leg. I now had a pair of improvised upland hunting bibs. I put them on over a pair of light wool pants, loaded up my gun and setter and hit the grouse woods. They worked great, in fact they worked well enough that I don’t think I’ll replace them with another pair of Filson pants. Plus, I’ve got enough room to grow into them (Hopefully that doesn’t happen!).
Steep odds, high stakes, big risks….
I’m not talking Vegas here. Just my normal outdoor activities these days. I don’t gamble with my money, but when it comes to my free time….Let em’ roll. Every once and a while I win. And when I win, It’s usually big (at least to me).
Let me explain. Every person that engages in fishing or hunting usually goes through the same process. Just the mere act of catching a fish or actually hitting your intended quarry gets you pumped. You are so excited you can’t wait to do it again. As you become more proficient, the task becomes easier. So easy, in fact that it is no longer exciting. It takes harder and more difficult tasks to bring the same amount of excitement you originally had. You’re like a junky. It takes more and more dope to get the same high. You’re always chasing that elusive euphoria of the first hit……
I’ve experienced it myself. Just catching fish was such a rush when I was young. Specie did not matter. Method did not matter. Just getting that wriggling, slimy finny prey under my control was the objective. As that started to grow old, I learned to tie files and fly fish. That added a whole new level of complexity to the task and it became exciting again. When that became easy, I started specializing in species. That made things a bit more difficult, and again….exciting.
Lately, I’ve taken it a step further. I’ve started chasing ghosts…
You know..spooks. Things that are so elusive, that even seeing them is questionable. And if you did, who would believe you? One of my ghosts have been native winter steelhead on the fly rod. Lets face it, steelhead fishing on the fly is a numbers game. The more casts you make, the better your odds of catching a fish. There just aren’t a lot of them , and to catch them requires covering a lot of water. Add in high water, cold water, poor ocean survival, logging, poaching, etc., etc…..and you get the point. They become a bit “ghost like” . Sometimes days, even weeks, can pass without a single strike. I’ve even learned to tell myself that as every day passes without success, my odds are getting BETTER! Yes, how perverted is that? The longer I go fishless, the luckier I am getting? “You catch anything today, Aaron?”
“Nope, but you wouldn’t believe how lucky I’m getting.” Ha!
I wish that thought process worked in other aspects of life. Maybe I can convince my wife that the less money we make, the richer we are getting!
I'm not sure I should even post this......
I'm donning my flack jacket as I type this. I'm clearing out my inbox, preparing for the flood of feedback to come. I may have to lock the "comment" button on this blog.
I've got a dirty secret to tell. But first, a little disclaimer.
I sell feathers. Mostly feathers for full dress salmon flies. Flies that require alot of time and dedication to tie well. I love tying those flies. But, I've come to a crossroads of sorts with my spare time. Do I pursue the tying, and neglect the research, and development of new product for my website? Do I tie fine classic flies to fish with and offer less colors of pigs wool? Arrrgggh!!!
These thoughts actually DO go through my head. You see, with a full time job, a family (currently expanding), and a website business, spare time is a precious thing. I'd rather fish when I've got spare time than tie pretty flies. I've found that the PIE that represents time in my life has got an awful lot of slices out of it. The biggest slice is my "real job", next is my family, then my website, then I have a whole bunch of little bitty slices that represent fly tying, fishing, hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, hunting, lawn mowing, gutter cleaning (thankfully those last two are really skinny slices),etc.
So what does that have to do with the secret? I guess it's my way of justifying my crummy fishing flies. I like to catch fish, and I've found that simple flies catch fish. An old friend of mine proved that to me one day while I went fishless casting my superior (in my mind) "pretty" flies, and he just killed the fish with his ugly chenille and roadkill bugs. The light kinda went off in my head. "Hey, maybe I don't need pretty flies to catch fish?" . I resisted. I still had an abundance of free time at that point in my life. I tied some sweet flies, and fished them. I even caught fish on them. Fast forward a decade, and you find me sitting at the kitchen table cranking out some ugly crap at 10:00 pm the night before a fishing trip. "Good enough" will have to do. I even use alot of chenille (a material I hate) because it's fast, and still buggy. I'll omit fancy things like tips, tags and cheeks. I even use what I'd call "dirty" materials like crystal flash, rubber legs, beads, you name it. I'm not gonna preach purity here. When it comes to fishing flies my boxes are about as far away from being "pure as the wind driven snow" as you can get. In fact, I'd liken them to a smiley face pee'd in a snowbank by some drunk teenager.
"Why?" you might ask. Why would someone with access to some of the finest materials available tie such cruddy fishing flies? Well, if I had a choice, I'd probably still tie and fish my dirty flies. The reason why.....They work! Simple flies with flashy bits catch fish. I like to catch fish. That's why I fish. I'm not one who will ever stand on my soapbox and proclaim that I'm doing something special when I catch a fish. I just fish, and sometimes I catch. I don't care what anyone else does to catch their fish. As long as you feel good about what you are doing, then do it. I can appreciate a steelhead caught on a dry fly and enjoy fishing that way on the swing. I can appreciate the guy deep drifting a prince nymph under a thing-a-ma-bobber, and I do that sometimes too. I like to chuck spoons on drift gear for winter steelhead (talk about a "grab"). I really enjoy bait fishing for spring chinook too. It's all fishing and it's all good.
So as you make your way to your favorite water this winter and you see the guy chucking roe, and the boat pulling plugs, and the guy with a spey rod throwing an indicator in "your" run, embrace them. They're your fellow anglers. They're guys with little itty bits of pie called fishing time. They're guys not sitting in front of the TV on the couch, they all love to fish, and one of them might be me. I've got a dirty secret, and if your nice to me, I might share it with you.
I really couldn't think of much to write today. Instead, my mind kept wandering back to days spent canoeing this summer. So, I guess if a picture is worth a thousand words, here's about 11,000 words worth:
Paddles, we don't need no stinking paddles!
So there you go....A healthy dose of all things canoe. And even better, all things canoe made of wood. Until next time.............
Aaron M. Ostoj
Feather pusher, hook tweeker, boat builder, fisherman, husband, dad.....