Saturday, July 24, 2010


Since receiving my medical clearance, things have happened pretty quick. Tuesday morning I checked my application status online, discovered that my placement review was complete, and that an invitation packet was in the mail, awesome! It arrived Thursday afternoon, and I have 7 calendar days to accept. So come Monday morning, I'll officially be bound for Ukraine on September 24th!

I hadn't initially thought of Ukraine as a place I'd like to go, but after doing more research, and reading about the experiences of other volunteers, I have to admit I'm getting excited. Ukraine is a big country, and I won't find out where I'll be assigned until after the three-month pre-service training; there are lot of possibilities with a country the size of Texas. In any case, I think the Ukraine will offer exactly the kind of experience I'm looking for. I'll likely have some wild experiences, challenges, frustrations, and hopefully a lot of fun too. I'll doubtlessly learn a lot.

I'm pretty amazed that this whole thing has finally come to fruition. I'm still amazed I made it through the application and interview for that matter. After 6 months this is no longer hypothetical, I've been accepted to the Peace Corps, and I am going to Ukraine.

Now I have about two months to start learning Russian, get my financial affairs in order, pack, and say good-bye to my friends and family.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Peace Corps Medical Clearance

As many of you probably know from reading my profile I graduated from college this spring, and am currently applying to serve as a volunteer in the Peace Corps. This has been a long process. Way back in March I submitted my initial application, interviewed in Boston, and secured a nomination for a position teaching English in Eastern Europe, for which I'd depart in September, 2010. Little did I know at the time that that was really only the beginning of the application process. Since April I've been working toward my medical clearance. And today, after over two months of doctors visits, paperwork, and waiting, I found out that the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services has finally granted my clearance!

I'm a healthy 23 year old, so there was never much doubt that I would eventually be cleared. Yet, I have to say that I've never been through such a thorough evaluation of my health. All the paper work, and nerve wracking snafus (especially over the last two weeks), have really kept me on the edge of my seat. Gotta say I'm very relieved. Now I'm on to the final step - placement, which, like the initial application and interview, is also a competitive process.

So hopefully within the next few weeks I'll be able to tell you all whether or not I'll be serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and where I'm going!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Little Fishing & Some More Time at the Vise

Unfortunately I haven't had many opportunities to fish lately. I did get a chance to go fishing on the Swift today, as always, the river was beautiful, but crowded. But unfortunately, I remembered the camera, but not the battery that I'd left charging on the wall the night before. I was kicking myself for that since I missed some dramatic shots of a foggy, steaming river in the early morning sun. It really was a beautiful morning on the water.

I didn't fish all that hard, and spent a lot of time watching fish from the bank. I observed some very active sub-surface feeding by the big rainbows, it was fun just watching them flicking around in the current snatching tiny morsels. As far as fishing went, I didn't get any interest on the sakasa kebari, but had a few strikes that should have hooked up on a size 18 CDC biot comparadun when I borrowed my friends 3-weight fly rod for some casting practice. I was happy to find that my form is still there! Although I do have to consciously think about mending and line control.

Thanks to the generosity of a friend, I've been experimenting with some different hackles this past week. Mostly I've been tying with partridge, which I'm finding is great stuff. Here are a few examples of what I've been tying lately:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Morning on the Swift

With all the heat we've been having these last few weeks, a Saturday morning trip to the ice-cold Swift River in Belchertown, MA was in order. The Swift is a nicely maintained tail-water fishery; big, healthy rainbows and browns are usually easy to find, but not always easy to catch.

A discharge rate of 38fps was a good sign, but my friend and I only managed one fish between the two of us. Although that one fish could certainly be "fish of the year;" my friend had his work cut out bringing in what turned out to be a heavily muscled, hard fighting rainbow of around 16-18 inches on his 3-weight.

As far as catching more fish, the fly-fishing-only (FFO) section upstream might have been a better bet. Problem was there were at least 10 cars parked at the trailhead, quite a crowd for less than a mile of river! I can imagine the famous Y-Pool was getting fished pretty hard. As it turned out we had this little section of the river to ourselves, which was just fine by me, it's prettier than the FFO section anyway:

The remains of a timber dam built on a stone foundation

Slack water above the old dam

Some company streamside

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pheasant Tail Sakasa Kebari

Here's another "just for the heck of it" variation on the sakasa kebari blending some elements of Frank Sawyer's Pheasant Tail Nymph with the Japanese reverse hackle tradition. The idea of using pheasant tail fibers for the body of a sakasa kebari struck me the other day when I found my long unused pheasant tail in my drawer of tying stuff - why not give it a shot? As a fly pattern Frank Sawyer's original PT nymph has seen so many variations already, I can't imagine mine is too much of a corruption! I think I've even seen a western soft-hackle version tied with partridge at the local fly shop, come to think of it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

TenkaraBum Horsehair Line

Horsehair has a long history as a material for fishing line in the West, and I presume in Japan as well. I think I might have first heard about horsehair tenkara lines when I read Yvon Chouinard's article in Fly Rod & Reel titled "Simple Gifts" in which he describes fishing with a tenkara rod and horsehair line, or maybe it was when I found Michael Hackney's blog, In any case, there has been a fair bit of quiet hype around horsehair in American tenkara since the sport was introduced to the US on a large scale by TenkaraUSA last spring.

There were a few reasons why I wanted to try a horsehair line, for one thing, I wanted to try it out for myself and see why some folks like it so much. I also saw it as a way to get closer to fly fishing's origins, both in the West and in Japan, since I'm somewhat of a history buff. So when Chris Stewart began offering horsehair lines through, I jumped at the chance. For $25 plus shipping, Chris made me an 11' 2" furled and tapered horsehair line customized for my rod.

Chris has been working with horsehair for quite sometime, I don't know for exactly how long, but at least since he got into tenkara, and likely before then given his interest in western angling history, and British loop-rod fishing in particular. He knows what he's doing; I've tried to replicate his results furling my own snoods (the furled segments which are knotted together to build the line), but Chris' line has a consistent furl that I haven't yet been able to match.

Overall the line is very nicely put together, and the taper is well designed -- the line turns over like a rocket without being too heavy. Besides the tapered design, this is because horsehair is dense. It is denser than nylon mono, and even fluorocarbon. Thus for the same weight of line horsehair has a narrower cross section, and so experiences much less aerodynamic drag. I really noticed this when I switched back to my furled nylon-mono line from TenkaraUSA (this is not a bad line either!). The two lines are of roughly the same weight, but one can really feel the extra drag with the furled mono line, the turnover is slower, and the line loses impetus in the cast much faster and one has to load the rod more heavily. Chris' horsehair line on the other hand only needs a gentle flick to completely unroll all the way to the fly. I found roll-casting in tight spaces to be fantastically easy, and normal tenkara casting to be a real pleasure.

However, there are a couple things you should know before you fish horsehair. Like many materials, horsehair is fantastic within it's limits. If you exceed those limits, it will break. It's not that horsehair isn't tough or durable, it just doesn't have as much tensile strength as modern line materials. This is made problematic by another property of horsehair, namely that individual horsehair strands will stretch at different rates. So, if you try to yank your fly out of the bushes, you could break your line, or break a strand in one of the segments. If you hook a really big fish, you could also break something. I'd recommend using a light tippet (at least 6x) to protect your line. Lucky for us, Chris will repair broken lines for a reasonable price ($5 per broken or missing segment, $1 shipping). I'd recommend taking advantage of this offer. I was fortunate that I live less than an hour from Michael Hackney, who makes furled western fly-lines out of horsehair. So thanks to Michael, when I broke my TenkaraBum line I was able to get it fixed, and learn a furling method just in time for my backpacking trip in the Pemigewasset. Based on my experience furling so far, the reason I'd recommend having Chris repair your line (at least the first time) is that furling horsehair snoods takes practice and a little skill to get really good results, so wait till you know what you're doing!

The whole line coiled up.

Chris' attachment of the loop

The tippet ring is a nice touch. This is the section Michael Hackney and I replaced, Chris' original furl was a bit tighter.

The line is composed of furled snoods neatly knotted together.