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Mark Stangeland - NUFlyGuide
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Spring Training

Posted by Mark Friday, April 15, 2016 0 comments

Interesting winter and early spring on the river. The curve balls and change ups were pretty hard to hit this year. Maybe I need to choke up.....

There was a mean fastball pitcher in there most all of February, the reliever in March was a knuckle baller. Wicked stuff I tell you, almost un-hitable. I struck out more than usual but I had a notable 9th inning Grand Slam and one inside the park homer that made it worthwhile. RBI's were down overall on the year. Hard to reach base consistently on many occasions. I took a walk when I could, anything to get on base.

I bunted, I stole second, I slid into the short stop upending him. I was hurt and on the DL, stood in as a designated hitter. I pinch hit and pinch ran. I played all positions. I was hit by a pitch after hearing chin music the pitch before. I was in one bench clearing brawl. It was quite a season.

Enough with the baseball metaphors.

Another winter season is behind us. There was a lot of water, there were plenty of fish. There were fish caught and it was good.

Never easy, always good.

Now is the time I get antsy for summer. The weather is changing and we've seen some pretty warm days already this spring. I've been out casting a bit, thinking about changing to some new longer lines this summer. Constantly rethinking every aspect of my summer game. Looking at already full summer boxes and thinking about tying more.

But now it's spring training. Time to work out the kinks, blow the rats out, reset, re-adjust and re-work. Time to start the clock again for summer. Time for a clean slate. Time to work on the cast, work on the swing. Relax, take some time to be mellow before the game starts again.

What are you doing for your spring training?

 Waiting for one of these

1st Timothy 4:8-10 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

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Posted by Mark Monday, March 28, 2016 2 comments

If you've been out looking for winter fish this year, its there. Water and lots of it. This of course is a good thing for all the reasons. And you know, its actually normal for a good snow pack year.

Many have been lured into a false reality as far as winter fishing goes the last few years. Especially on the North Umpqua.

People have been dancing around in almost summer low conditions for the last 5-6 years thinking that's the way its supposed to be. Easy access to runs, easy wading in low flows,  early and predictable returns due to low water, much easier to locate fish because they have been much more concentrated in the runs etc etc.

In reality, what is perceived by many to be a year with continuous high water is really pretty normal. And the fishing was tougher for it, a fact I am glad of.

Its never an easy game but this year tested all the skills in everyone's toolbox. When you have your back to the brush and under the trees in every run, waded in to the top of your waders just to try and get a small D loop off your shoulder, it separates the men from the boys. Doing it day after day can drive one insane, but that's why we love it. It ain't easy.

Those that consistently found fish did so working their tails off in often unpredictable conditions. Those that found fish, found fish in places they would not normally have fished. Marginal conditions push you to explore new water.

That run that looks bad at 3000cfs might fish great at 5,000cfs. Trust me we had plenty of water to explore to our hearts content. I found some new high water spots that I have never fished before in 30 years. They worked. It was cool. These fish gotta go somewhere, find them.

Winter fishing can, and I think more importantly, should be hard.

This year reminded me that you have to be in it for the long haul. Keep doing what you know will work and eventually it does. Patience and perseverance always prevail. This year was a great example of what winter steelheading can be (HARD) and how it pays to stick it out even when its tough.

James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

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Walk By Faith Not By Sight

Posted by Mark Thursday, February 11, 2016 6 comments

Its been awhile, haven't felt much like writing lately. A little cloudy upstairs, no real direction or clarity in ideas. It happens.

But now there is some focus, finally something is coming together in my mind for the first time in a long time........ 

The vision in my right eye was still slightly blurry as I walked from the truck down a well worn path to the river. However, none of the trails in winter are really very good as the storms and winds have left branches, trees and other debris across the paths. Alder and fir limbs as well as a downed cedar blocked the trail in spots. Blackberry vines, dormant poison oak,hazel brush and Oregon Grape encroach in other places along the trail. My depth perception was still lacking and I had to concentrate to keep from losing my balance and falling down. Judging distances and where to put my foot next was a bit harder, especially on the hills. After I crossed the worst of the debris and just for fun, I closed my eyes. Feeling the groove of the trail under my feet I settle in, that's better I think to myself, I know this trail well.  The sound of the river pulls me forward and I continued cautiously, trusting my instincts, walking by faith.........

You see,in the last month, I have had cataracts removed from both eyes. Pretty routine surgery anymore and mine went very well. Its still surgery on two of the most amazing gifts we as humans possess and it was still a big deal for me especially at my age.

As I walked, I recalled the story one of the nurses told me in my most recent eye surgery about a 9 year old girl that had been almost blind by cataracts. Very rare at such a young age. When the surgery was over and they were wheeling her into the recovery room she was crying. The nurse was a little worried as the surgery is almost pain free. She asked the little girl if she was OK and why she was crying. The little girl looked up at the nurse with tears streaming down her face and said,     


I gotta say I got a little choked up as the nurse relayed this story. Now, granted my eyes were not nearly as bad as hers and my experience not nearly as dramatic, but as I looked out at the world after that first eye surgery I felt a certain kinship with that little girl. I CAN SEE!

Now, one day after the second eye surgery I was wondering if the eye would respond as well as the first. I struggled with the idea that the doctors may not have gotten the lens choice right, My right eye may not be as strong as the left but either way my overall eyesight was 95 percent better. I could live with that.

I pondered how my life had flown by so far. I am facing the mid century mark this year and the eyes were the first sign that I will not live forever, things are starting to wear out. I am not invincible,  I am merely a fleeting mist in the early morning dawn soon to be gone with the first rays of sun.

The river was in beautiful shape and at flows that I like to fish. Things were definitely different. I stood in awe as I surveyed the river bank trees. I could see the detail in the deeply furrowed bark of a fir tree. I could see woodpecker holes on another tree 80 feet up. I could see things way on the far ridge that I never noticed. I saw a hawk soaring a half mile above me. I could see seam lines and currents like never before. My eyes penetrated the jade green river easily seeing rocks well below the surface. Even with one eye not completely healed yet, my distance vision was again,outstanding.

I needed to change flies for the run as it has some shallow ledge rock throughout that required a completely unweighted offering. From about two feet in front of my face and beyond I have 20/15 vision with the left and I'll probably have 20/20 with the right when the eye heals up in another week or so. I have no close vision now and need readers to see in close. I fumbled around for the glasses trying to tie on a fly, feeling awkward and out of sorts. Glad no one was with me because I broke no records getting things tied on.

I started in close and watched the fly swing through the emerald water, the light tip coming under tension and swinging the fly just subsurface. As I lengthened the line and the fly went beyond my line of sight I started to cast a bit more straight across the river. I mended the line and freed it up for several seconds to probe the trench at mid river. Then, as the line tightened after the first third of the swing, it rose from its deepest point just in time to sweep the inside shelf without touching rock. I could visualize the tip and fly sinking without tension, swinging with light tension and then rising in the water column as tension increased towards the end of the swing. Right where I wanted it to. Leading the fly slightly I could find that balance of depth and speed and that hot knife through butter, positive/negative swing. The fly and tip I was using was working perfectly. I know I was getting the perfect swing. I had a bunch of line out and it was feeling very fishy. This is not a run that gets fished much in the winter although people are driving all over and fishing above and below it all the time. I just had that feeling there was one in there. The fly sliced through the run and just as it reached the outside edge of the rock I feel the slow tightening and typical feel of a cold water take. I wait and do nothing, the line continued to tighten almost as if it had caught the shelf. Then I feel the weight of the fish and he pulls off 8 feet of line then the line goes slack.  Perfect! All I could hope or ask for in a couple sessions this early........

The whole eye thing got me thinking, we fish for steelhead by faith and not by sight. Sure we may fish to a visible or spotted fish every now and again, but mostly we are fishing to unseen fish. We fish with proven methods and flies, just like that old path to the river. We don't need to see everything all the time. We have faith that we are doing the right thing in the right place because experience has told us it works.

As it is in life. As I get older and my faith gets stronger, I feel confident knowing the maker of heaven and earth holds it all together in his hands. I want to be doing the right thing in the right place at the right time for Him. I don't always know whats ahead on my path but I have seen God work powerfully in my life and many others and I know he will continue to do so as long as I trust in and put my faith in Jesus Christ. If you know Jesus you know the Father.

Do I stumble and fall sometimes? You bet I do, and will continue to. I'm not perfect but thankfully I'm forgiven if I ask. He always picks me up and sets my feet back on the path.

As I age, my body breaks down and I ponder my own mortality someday, I am not afraid. I know where I am going and have confidence and assurance of that fact. My confidence is not in anything I do, it is in what Jesus has done for me. He died on the cross for you and for me. He paid the price for my sin and yours. It has taken me awhile to figure it out but my purpose in this world is to know God and make him known. You know, that's your purpose too. That's why we're here people!

It's that simple. Know God and make Him known. How are you doing with that? Knowing God is about knowing Jesus. Its never too late to make a change in your life.Trust Jesus

If any one of my 12 readers ever wants to talk more about it email me.

I'm happy to answer any questions and always ready to give an answer for the hope I have found.

2Cor 5:6-8 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

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Taking Lies for Steelhead

Posted by Mark Thursday, September 24, 2015 0 comments

Have you ever noticed that when you fish your favorite waters you catch fish consistently in certain, specific areas of that run? I certainly have and have become interested in the how and why of it all.

The last few days I have been in sitting in continuing education classes for work and I had a chance to day dream a little while listening to the various speakers drone on about a host of tree related topics on the agenda.

The thoughts that came to mind more often than any was the idea of holding water, holding lies and taking lies for steelhead.

Lets get a few definitions out of the way

  • Holding water-  resting water that often holds steelhead due to the water speed, structure and orientation in the run(head, middle,tail out)
  • Holding lies- specific places within the holding water that may vary in depth from quite shallow to depths in excess of 6 feet. Generally found around some sort of structure or seam that breaks current speed and does not require the fish to expend much energy.
  • Taking lies- even more specific places in a run where fish are holding and are exposed enough to visualize and actively move to a properly presented fly. These are places where fish consistently seem to come from.
 Now these are general observations and steelhead being what they are, can and will blow any of these theories away at any time so bear that in mind. That's the fun part of all this, we try to figure things out, we analyze, we obsess but at the end of the day the mystery remains and we still know so little about these fish and why they do what they do. This is my feeble attempt to make some sort of sense out of it, if for no other reason than writing it down and working it out in my own mind.

After many years fishing the same waters, I have gathered some very valuable feedback on both holding water, holding lies and the actual specific taking lies in dozens of runs.

Holding water and holding lies can be taking lies for fish but not all holding water and holding lies are necessarily taking lies. Let me explain further.....

When I look at a good piece of water on the river I fish, I know there can be fish holding in many parts of the run at any given time. I am fishing the run because it is good holding water and may have many holding lies but only a few taking lies.

I have spotted fish in several key areas in, on, and around structure and have noted their location when I fish through the run. These fish are in what I would call holding lies. Sure I have hooked fish in almost every location where fish sit in many of these runs but it is more the exception than the rule. 90 percent of the fish I hook come out of specific areas of these runs, what I would call the taking lies.

What is it about these taking lies that seem to bring fish to the fly?

Is it only structure,water depth and water speed that make these taking lies produce?

There are many factor involved I would say, some known and many unknown. The known factors are things such as water levels, water temps, time of year, number of returning fish in the river, angler pressure, type and size of fly, the fishes feeling of exposure or comfort due to the depth at which they hold.

I know of runs where the consistent taking lie is heavily structured, fast moving water and over ten feet deep. Conversely I fish many runs that the taking lie is in 3 feet of water or less, slow moving with very little structure. The depth at which fish hold does not always determine their willingness to move to a fly or limit the fish as a taking fish. Fish can consistently come out of any depth of water at key taking lies. 

I believe one of the most important things that separates the taking lies from just a mere holding lie is the anglers ability to slow the fly down and show it to the fish by covering the lie properly.  The fishes ability to see the fly is obviously a key to getting a take. If the fish cant see it he cant eat it. There is a reason that fish consistently hold and then take flies from a given spot in the run. They can see it and are in a position to take a swipe at it.

I fish runs on the NU that I can spot the fish before I fish it. When looking into these runs, if I see a fish in the taking spot I am confident that I will get the fish to move to the fly. As an angler I fish much more precisely when I get into that taking zone knowing the fish is there. This fish eats the fly a lot. There might be 3 other fish in the run but this fish that sits in 2 feet of water in the tail out is a day in day out taker when he's home.

I have various thoughts on why I think the taking lies consistently hold aggressive fish to the fly. On many occasions I believe the taking lie holds the most rested fish. This would relate back to the idea of holding lies. These taking lies are often the best holding lies as well, but not always.

These taking lies can be the first places to hold fish in the early season. I look into a lot of runs and watch diligently when fish start to enter the river. I look at runs day after day and make keen observations when I see the first fish in the run. There are no other fish in the run and many great holding lies but the early fish on one particular run always seems to gravitate into the tail out position and the key taking lie.

Lets talk about short and long term holding lies and preferential spots in the run as they relate to taking lies. .  

Some more definitions...
  • Long Term Parking- holding water that fish will stay in for longer periods of time
  • Short Term Parking- moving water, choke points, pockets etc
  • High Rent District- the best holding lie in a given run, the preferred holding spot if there are fish around.
  • Low Rent District- secondary holding lies that will be filed as fish are pushed into these spots by fish already holding in the High Rent spots 

 There are many runs on the NU that I consider "moving" water. These are places that fish move through quickly as run timing,weather patterns and water levels change. These are places that also fall into the short term parking category. When I know fish are moving due to one of the above mentioned factors I fish these runs looking for a taking fish that is going to be aggressive to the fly. The fish will move into the run and hold briefly maybe as little as minutes sometimes. If they settle and hold for even a brief time these are taking fish. They are already in moving mode and have little trouble striking a fly that comes through. These are active mobile fish. They come into the high rent taking lies in these short term parking spots and can light you up if you are in the right place when they are there.

Generally speaking again, long term parking holding water has many holding lies but fewer taking lies. Long term spots will generally have some deeper water and deep structure that will hold fish for longer periods or through periods of warmer or colder water. Many of the high rent spots in long term holding water are not easy to get a fly to. taking lies can be fewer. Just because there are more fish holding in these runs does not always mean that you will get fish from where the majority of those fish hold. That's when the low rent spots come into play. These are secondary holding places that may bring the fish closer to the surface and put the fish into a more conducive taking lie.

Secondary holding areas can also be places where fish can be seen,sometimes better seen than fish in the primary lies. Fish can be pushed into the shallows or up off the bottom onto side shelf's and ledges exposing them to the angler who can now get a presentation to them.

This is a very basic look at some of this stuff and there are a hundred different approaches and thoughts on this. This is all based on my observations over the last thirty years in the game.  I would like to think I know a few things about these fish but they constantly challenge and humble me and that's OK. I wouldnt have it any other way.

The point of all this is to make you aware of these factors when you are out there fishing. Ask yourself Where is the best holding water? Where are the best holding lies in that holding water and where are the taking spots within those holding lies?  Keep track of where you are hooking fish and make notes on those specific areas. Fishing more diligently through key and consistent taking lies will increase your success. Knowing where key taking lies are helps you edit water and focus on getting a fish to grab your fly more often.

Get out there and pay attention to some of these things, its fascinating to observe this behavior and may make you a better angler.

Speaking of holding, thankful to know the one who holds all things together.......

Isaiah 41:13 

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

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Posted by Mark Monday, August 31, 2015 9 comments

There are many milestones along life's way, we recently hit one that will be forever in all our memories......

 It was a gorgeous late summer day. I was with the family and we were having a great time camping,fishing and spending quality time.

My wife is becoming quite the fisher woman and after many steelhead on a single hand rod on the North Umpqua, she has taken up the two handed rod and has started to master it. She knows the runs and the technique and needs little hand holding ( just ask her). Sometimes I get a little too vocal when I see her miss an anchor placement or stop her rod too low. She does best when I shut up and leave her alone! I'm slowly learning! I knew she did not need me to show her anything about the run so I concentrated on my son and made sure he was set up in a spot he could cast in without being swept away,and might have a chance at a fish.

I put him up in the head of the run and showed him where the fish usually lay and what he needed to do to get a good swing through the bucket. He listened intently and I could see the wheels turning hard in his head. Once I knew he was in a safe spot, I wanted to leave him on his own.

As I was walking away he said "Hey Dad!" He then flips his hat around backwards on his head, flashes me the shaka brah "hang loose" hand sign and says "Old School Baby!" I laughed hard and walked away shaking my head, what a crack up!

I turn and leave him on his own and walk down to where my wife was swinging through the lower part of the run, admiring her left handed Snap T and probably firing comments about rod position and anchor placement and giving her "casting pointers" which, as I noted above, never works out well for me. Maybe its my delivery.......

Then the silence is broken

My wife and I were fishing down lower in the run and we heard the cries of  a very excited boy into his first steelhead. Sweeter words have not hit my ears in a very long time......

"I got one, I got one!"

He's yelling, we are yelling, the dog is barking, the reel is screaming and we are all on instant high alert. I run from the lower end of the pool upriver towards him as I yell "keep the rod up, keep it tight, let um run if he wants!" and other unintelligible gibberish as my mind is blown that he has actually hooked a fish.

"He's pulling hard Dad!"

The reel pays out line fast and bucks hard as the fish dogs around on the ledge on the far side of the run. I can tell by the way its fighting its a big buck. We never see the fish as it stays deep and swims where it wants, barely aware of the hook in it's mouth. It would swim upstream as my boy continues pulling as hard as he dare on the 10lb Maxima. We scramble down stream and I have a hand on the back of his waders ensuring he doesn't go down in the swift water.

"You are doing great son, lets move down a little and get an angle on him and see if we can land him"

We move down stream, straight across from the fish and all the while he is pulling hard on it trying to move it off the ledge on the far side. He gains line onto the reel a little then looses it in the deep, rod bending slow run of a large fish. Its been a few minutes now and we are in a stand off.

Every one is yelling and the excitement is high. Mom makes it up where we are and shouts encouragement as I spy a tear of joy in her eye as she is hit with the overwhelming weight of the river tradition that is being transferred from father to son at this very moment.

My daughter joins in shouting and screaming at her bro as he fights his first fish. " Don't jack it up" she yells ribbing him mercilessly. We all are still amazed at what has happened and time stands still as we all realize, Wow dude, you are really hooked up!

The dog is going bananas as he knows what each of my reels sound like, the Daiwa 812 purrs and functions flawlessly. as K2 fights the fish hard and perfectly, never giving slack to the line and always having a good rod position.

This fish wont move!

I fight every bone in my body not to grab the rod away and try to budge it off the ledge. I think to myself, this is a big fish and may need some old tricks to get him landed, I know I can get him in if I...........

I am snapped back to reality knowing I can't do that. It was HIS cast, HIS drift and HIS hookup, it's HIS fish, lay off you knuckle head DON'T TOUCH THE ROD! I resist the urge knowing what ever happens will happen. I continue to try and relay information on how to fight this fish, telling him about rod position and side pressure, trying to get the fish to roll or turn by pulling on him at different angles.

He pulls the fish away from the ledge, the fish swims right back over and hunkers down. Again and again this game is played out until..........the hook comes out and the fish is gone.

Now we all wanted to see this fish but it was not to be this time. I tell K2 that almost no one lands their first steelhead. He understands and is ready to catch another one almost immediately.

The awesomeness factor on this experience was off the chart, landed or not this was a big deal for everyone. His whole family got to witness his first fish on the North Umpqua. To say I am proud at his accomplishments thus far in his young career are an understatement.

This river can make a grown man cry and a young 8 year old boy can become a man just like that. The torch has passed and he is running hard with it............

Continue to grow and learn and above all teach well my friends

2 Timothy 3:14 

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

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Showplace for Wild Fish

Posted by Mark Saturday, August 15, 2015 0 comments

Next Generation Skating a Dry Fly

The North Umpqua should be held up as a showplace for good management practices. Common sense regulations favoring wild fish are important, and they are in place and working on the North Umpqua. Thanks to some of the early conservation minded pioneers of the river like Frank Moore and later the Steamboaters and others, the fishery has maintained itself in a healthy way  Eliminating hatchery fish in the fly water was a major victory for wild fish and this river. The etiquette and history also still remain making it one remarkable place.

The protection of a deep water sanctuary for fish in summer by eliminating weighted flies and indicators was probably one of the most critical regulations for wild fish on the North Umpqua in the summer. The no kill rule for both winter and summer has obviously also done a lot for wild fish protection. These rules ensure no wild fish are killed and a lower percentage of fish are repeatedly hooked and a higher percentage will make it to spawn every year. 

The initial logging destruction in the early days did have negative effects for sure but since then, the river corridor and its tributaries have been managed fairly well. Logging regulations and required stream buffers have gotten better for the most part with regard to maintaining vegetation and stream side habitat. This along with the protection of the fish in Big Bend pool up Steamboat Creek and all its tributaries has been the key to this rivers success over the last 50 or so years. If we can get the Frank Moore Wilderness designated permanently it will be a huge win. Spawning habitat is key to these wild fish surviving for the future.

River closures were never part of the management practices and should not become the normal emotional reaction to having to “do something” for the fish. Especially on a river already so regulated. These fish are resilient and have adapted to the warmer water times of summer by staying down in the deeper pools where it’s cooler. When its hot they are hard to catch, period! I don't see any fish being saved right now by the ruling and closure. Yeah they are getting a break for sure but at what point do we just close the river altogether? 

Fishing is a blood sport people weather catch and release or not. We are predators when we fish and we always have the potential to kill a wild fish accidentally even with the best and most responsible practices.If the North Umpqua isn't a river that can show by the return numbers and the rules in place that these fish can handle pressure and still survive, even thrive than I don't know what river can.

If we are having that much impact on the fish, we should just close all rivers and not fish anywhere there are wild fish ever again. Think about that for a minute. Do we want to regulate ourselves right out of fishing? We need to be careful or it could happen. Look at the Skagit river. Yeah something needed to happen for sure but on the track that river is going with the ESA listing, it may end up being a wild fish sanctuary, forever closed to fishing. Sold down the road by groups that you thought had your best interests in mind. It can happen that fast......

Back to the NU. In fact it is my opinion that more fish are actually being hooked by people using sink tips in these low water conditions. A sink tip in these low water conditions is breaking into the deep water sanctuary ( hey, there isn't much deep water out there right now) that the no weighted fly in summer attempted to protect. I will say that instead of a 2 pm closure, a much better rule in the warmer water of summer is a no sink tip rule. Keep the river open all day and no sink tips, that will save some fish from being hooked for sure!

The NU can’t and shouldn’t be lumped in with other rivers struggling along trying to maintain a healthy fishery. 70 years of data shows that this river and its fish are special and are doing as well as any wild steelhead run in the world for its size. Its a world class fishery that has been maintained  and regulated for exactly that, FISHING! Its a healthy river for wild fish and the regulations are in place to see that trend continue.

We should hold the river up and show case it as an example of what good management for wild fish looks like. The North Umpqua is unique and should always be managed that way. It has worked well so far. I don't want to see the ODFW broad brush this gem in with other rivers with major problems. The North Umpqua has already addressed and many hurdles, it is standing the test of time as a strong and healthy river with a vibrant wild fish population.

That being said, as much as I disagree with the current closure I will always respect the fish, the fishery, the rules that are in place and the river and do my part to ensure that generations can enjoy this river in the future.  

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Passing the Torch

Posted by Mark Friday, July 24, 2015 0 comments

So fun watching my son fish one of the most famous runs on the river the other night. He crushed it and he's only 8. He was sending out off shoulder Snap T's with authority. He skated his fly as gracefully as anyone I have seen. A natural for sure. Very cool to see.

This river gets a hold of everyone, no matter the age. I have high hopes it will continue to be a place he can come to often, and then bring his kids. We need the next generation to fall in love with this place, to steward and love her as those that have gone before.

Grateful for my son.......

Psalm 127:3-5
Yes, sons are a gift from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Sons born during one’s youth 
are like arrows in a warrior’s hand. 
How blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!

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