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Newsletter Volume 3

October 1995

In 1995, Jeff and Cyndie set aside their careers to pursue personal interests: travel, flyfishing and adventure. They lived in a 5th wheel trailer that had been converted into a fishing cabin on wheels. Their Ford F350 pickup and custom designed inflatable boat took them to places where dreams are made. Rowdy, their Golden Retriever, came along for the adventure.

This newsletter was produced 6 times a year to chronicle and share the adventures. It was distributed to family, friends, business associates and folks they met along the way.

Mission Accomplished! It's been 4 months and over 12,000 miles and the first phase of our mid-life flyfishing adventure is complete. We've covered the Rocky Mountain states and fished some of the best rivers in the country.

November finds us back in Central Texas, visiting friends, getting our personal affairs in order and making plans for Phase II: The Journey to Alaska.

Culture Shock - A Return to Civilization. When we left you in our last issue, we had just pulled out from the Big Horn River, near the Custer battlefield, in eastern Montana. From the Big Horn we headed south towards Denver for the Fly Tackle Dealers Show.

This phase of the trip marked our first visit to a major population center in almost 3 months. Denver was our first stop. From there it was onto Albuquerque and then a trip to Las Vegas. In 10 days we saw more people, traffic and city lights than we had in 3 months.

Fly Tackle Dealers Show - Over the years, we've made a lot of friends in the flyfishing business. We are becoming increasingly interested in the flyfishing industry ourselves. So, for the past 2 years, we've attended the major industry trade show in Denver.

This year the show moved from the smaller exhibit hall of past years to the Denver Convention Center. There were almost twice as many exhibitors this year, a sign of the rapid growth in the sport of flyfishing.

Attending the show gave us a chance to see and try lots of things we don't ever see the local flyshops. A huge amount of ingenuity and entrepreneurism is being directed towards flyfishing.

A Las Vegas Wedding. Our good friends Terry Gunn and Wendy Hanvold picked a late September date for a Las Vegas wedding. So, we left Denver on Monday morning for the trek across Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and half of Nevada to make the Thursday night parties.

By Thursday afternoon we had completed the drive, making a quick stop in Albuquerque along the way. We hauled the truck and trailer right down the Las Vegas strip and checked into the Circus-Circus RV Park.

Neither of us had ever been to a Las Vegas wedding and this one more than lived up to our expectations. Thursday evening's activities included bachelor and bachelorette parties (as they can only be had in Las Vegas). Friday was set aside as a day to recover from the Thursday night ordeal. Saturday was the wedding.

The wedding was held in a beautiful garden room that was set up for weddings. Terry and Wendy planned a short, well orchestrated ceremony which was followed by a reception and party. They made a stunning pair. Everyone had a good time. Even Elvis made an appearance at the event.

We spent all summer working on our gift for the Gunn wedding. While fishing with Terry and Wendy in Colorado in July, we developed the concept for a quilted wall hanging that we felt properly celebrated the union of these two good friends. With a background based on the Vermillion cliffs above the Grand Canyon, where Terry and Wendy live, we appliquéd a rainbow trout from one of Cyndie's T shirts on the quilt and hand lettered it with "Terry and Wendy Gunn". This project was quite a challenge, as it had to be done in the backwoods campsites where we lived all summer. Best wishes to this professional flyfishing pair.

Navigating by Computer. Traveling around the country like we've been doing for the past 6 months, we've been able to really get some use out of the computerized map and travel programs that are on the market. Our notebook computer rides on Cyndie's lap while we travel. We use AutoMap 4.0 on CD ROM. This program provides us with highway maps of the entire US along with a number of tools that help us select the best route and even remind us when to get fuel.

To this basic program we've added two modules, the Campground Directory and the Streets module. The Campground Directory gives us a complete listing and ratings system for all of the campgrounds in the US. The Streets module has detailed street maps of every city in the US.

With these computerized tools, we can navigate without any need for paper maps. And, the information you get from these software tools far exceeds what you can get from conventional maps and books.

A Note about the Net. Our apologies to those of you who have tried to reach us at our Internet ID and have received no reply. We've discovered that, in this age of technological marvels, our ability to use thousands of dollars worth of portable hardware is controlled by our ability to access a $15 per month telephone line. Getting access to a plug-in telephone line in say, Yellowtail, Montana, has proven to be virtually impossible. An acoustic coupler on the mouthpiece of a pay phone connects at no faster than 2400 baud and only establishes a connection once in about 2400 tries.

When we asked the locals where we could get access to the Internet, they thought we were planning to net fish out of the river and didn't want anything to do with us.

While cellular modems will eventually be the technological solution to this problem for us, right now you have to be able to afford a weekend in Rio if you are going to stomach the costs of being online on the cell.

So, while camped in the backwoods, often 20 miles from the nearest payphone, we are isolated from our ability to check E-Mail. Some of it expires before we get back online, so you don't get a reply. We're working on getting better phone line access in most of the places we like to visit, so be patient and send us E-Mail anyway. We'll answer it when we get it.

I Have a Brother in Albuquerque. Well, actually, we both have brothers there. A total of four to be exact. Jeff's brother, Dan, lives there with his wife Chapel and our two little nieces Sarah and Kristin. Cyndie's brothers Ron, Barry and Rick, all live there too. That makes for lots of reasons to stop by and visit when we're "in the area".

We managed to find our way to Albuquerque twice during the summer and were able to visit with everybody there.

In September we got to see Dan, Chapel and niece Sarah when we stopped through. All we saw of niece Kristen was a large lump on Chapel's stomach, since she didn't show up in this world until October 30.

Over the course of our two stopovers we also saw Cyndie's three brothers. All three have migrated from Austin to Albuquerque over the past several years. We hadn't seen Barry and his wife BJ for quite a while, so it was really good to visit with them. Ron and Laurel had a new house. Rick and Bobbie were full of summer camping stories. Everyone was doing well and it was sure good visiting. We'll be back to Albuquerque again this spring and many more times on our break.

Alan Bray's New Mexico Fall Smorgasbord. As Alan puts it, "I live for New Mexico trout". So, Alan sponsors a first week of October fishing trip to New Mexico. You show up in his driveway at 3AM on the appointed date and your in the van for a tour of New Mexico trout water. You'll drive almost 2,000 miles in 6 days and see 3 to 5 of New Mexico's best trout rivers and small streams.

Well, we got out of the 2,000 mile drive by being up in this area of the country anyway. We met up with Alan and this years guests Walter Zoch, Larry ????, Fred Lockwood and Harold Lockwood when they got to the San Juan River. This years "stream menu" included the San Juan, Brazos and Rio Grande Rivers. We joined the guys for the first and last destination, skipping the Brazos to get a jump on the Rio Grande.

Alan knows his New Mexico fishing. He's covered quite a few of the well and not so well known waters of the state. Once he got to the San Juan, he knew exactly what to do with these tricky fish and gave us all a few tips that increased our catch rate. Alan and Walter had tied just the right flies for the San Juan and their sharing a few with us improved our experience. Thanks for showing us a good time Alan!

San Juan Trout. Ever since we starting flyfishing, people have been asked us if we've ever fished the San Juan River in Northern New Mexico. It seems to be the most popular trout fishing destination for people in Texas. Everybody tells us about the great number of large fish that can been seen all over this river. We've also heard about large numbers of people and a fishing etiquette that is less than friendly. The latter has helped sway us towards other destinations in the past but the former finally lured us into this area for some fall trout fishing.

The San Juan River is located in the northwest corner of New Mexico, up near Farmington and not far from Durango, Colorado. The part that everybody talks about for trophy trout fishing is just below Navajo Dam.

Right away we could see why people like to fish the San Juan. There are fish everywhere and you don't even have to look very hard to see them. And, they are big fish. Lots over 20". Even when the fish are not actively feeding on a bug hatch, you can still readily spot trout. There is no shortage of opportunities to catch trophy trout in the San Juan.

But, that is not to say that it is all fun and easy to catch these fish. These are some of the most educated fish we've found anywhere in the county. These 3 to 10 pound plus fish will not take any fly that is tied on with line that is any thicker than 2 pound test or that is any bigger than a pin head. Once you've strained your eyesight to tie this little speck of nothing fly onto a wisp of hair you call a fishing line then you have the challenge of throwing it out to a fish that is regularly feeding on thousands of real bugs that look just like your fly.

The biggest challenge to seeing these fish in this crystal clear water is remembering to look at your heels. Rather than sit out in front of you where you might actually be able to cast to them and catch them, they just swim up right behind you and eat the bugs you kick up with your footsteps. You could easily boot to death 10 fish for dinner, but you couldn't possibly cast to a fish that is that close to you.

In spite of all of this, we managed to hook up quite a few of these big fish. Most of them were good fighters. Small hooks and light line can make them quite challenging to land. What is really amazing is the number of people on the river, most of whom are catching these big fish. Yes, the crowds on the San Juan were large and detracted from the overall experience. But, you also had to be amazed at the number of people that were catching good numbers of fish. I guess that's what brings lots of people in.

We were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this area. Many previous descriptions of this area led us to believe its landscape would be barren and uninteresting. To the contrary, we found this to be very pretty territory. A morning hike up into Simon Canyon to an Indian fortress ruin proved to be a very beautiful way to see the sandstone carved canyons and feel the history of the area.

This Goose got Cooked and we got Steamed. We mentioned the San Juan River's reputation for poor fishing etiquette. This reputation has a good basis. We were amazed at how inconsiderate some people were on the river. Several times we had people walk right through the water we were fishing. If you hooked a fish and had to follow it downstream even a very short distance, people would move into the spot you were fishing. We tried to take the crowding in stride and not get worked up about it.

But, there was one incident that will color our feelings about the San Juan. One morning we hiked down to the river, entering through some thick bushes. As we emerged from the bush, a guy downstream yelled "Do you see a goose up there?". In fact, we did. There were several geese along the banks, peacefully co-existing with the fishermen. "Yes", we replied. "There's one right here next to us.

Next thing we know this guy is crashing up the river with a shotgun in his hand. He gets up about 20 foot from the goose, which is now swimming around in a creek channel not far from a group of fisherman, and shoots it. Since the shotgun doesn't kill the goose, he walks over, picks it up and rings its neck.

Now, there were about 20 fishermen in this area. All of us are fishing barb-less hooks and are carefully reviving and releasing every trout we catch in this river. It was pretty shocking to have somebody walk right up amongst you and blow away the wildlife you have been enjoying as company on the river. But, it was even more startling to find out that this was perfectly legal. They allow goose hunting right in the prime fishing areas of this river! We couldn't believe it.

No matter how big the fish and how many of them there are, this incident will definitely color our feelings about the San Juan. We think they are making a major resource management mistake by allowing waterfowl hunting and flyfishing in the same area. But, this is Indian Territory and lots of politics go into these decisions. For us, we're going fishin' where we don't have to dodge buckshot.

Rio Grande Finale. The last stop on our summer of '95 Fishing the West Tour was the Rio Grande River, in the Orilla Verde area not far from Taos, New Mexico. As the summer's dirty and warm water gives way to fall conditions of low, clear and cool water, rainbow and brown trout can be found in these waters. Some great, remote floating opportunities also exist in this area. Couple this with some spectacular fall colors and you have a great overall experience.

The Rio Grande was a nice contrast to the San Juan. No etiquette problems here. There was nobody else on the river with us on any of the days we fished it. The campground was virtually empty, even on the weekend.

We floated two sections of the river during the 3 days we stayed in this area. The rainbows we caught were not as big as some of the fish we have found elsewhere, but they were wild and powerful.

One morning, an Indian flute echoed through the canyon as we drifted our raft down the river. It was a magical experience. Our short introduction to the Rio Grande has provided us with a destination to which we will surely return.

Campground Recap. Our last newsletter left off at the Cottonwood Campground in Ft. Smith Montana. Since we pulled out of there, here's where we've stayed:

A&B Campground, Cheyenne, Wyoming - This was supposed to be just an overnight stopover on our way from the Big Horn to Denver but some problems with our trailer caused us to spend a bit more time (and money) here than we planned. Nothing fancy, just your basic campground.

Denver North Campground, Denver, CO - We got into Denver late one evening and used this campground as an overnight stopping point before we moved into town. They stuck us way in the back of the campground right along the interstate, so we don't have too many good memories of this place.

Delux RV Park, Downtown Denver - Since we were going to be at the Convention Center, we wanted to be downtown in Denver. The campground was really too small for our rig, but by pulling back and forth about a thousand times, we got our 10' wide rig into this 10'1" wide site.

Albuquerque North KOA, Albuquerque, New Mexico - We made the run from Denver to Albuquerque in one day and put up for a couple of days at this campground while we visited our brothers. They serve free pancakes for breakfast here, which are pretty good.

Blair Ranch RV Park, Kingman, Arizona - Our stopover point between Albuquerque and Vegas. Basically just a truck stop but it was a nice campsite for our needs.

Circus Circus RV Park, Las Vegas, Nevada - Yep, right next to the casino with shuttle buses every 15 minutes to deliver you to an opportunity to be separated from your money. A HUGE parking lot for thousands of rigs. They had a bungy jumping tower at one end of the campground.

Meteor Crater RV Park, near Flagstaff, Arizona - We weren't really sure it was wise to camp near where meteors were known to hit, but we stayed there anyway. Meteors sure pick some pretty desolate places, as this place was wide, flat and sandy. No impacts on our visit but there was a big hole out there indicating some had been around.

American RV, Albuquerque, New Mexico - We decided to try another campground in Albuquerque on our way back through. This one was a bit nicer, but no free pancakes.

Cottonwood Camp, about as close to Farmington, New Mexico as anywhere else - On the banks of the San Juan River, we found a nice site in this campground. They even had electricity here, but not water. Lucky we picked the site we did, as a river formed through the site next to us when it rained. And, when it rains here, your stranded in the campsite until the mud dries.

Orilla Verde Campground, Pilar, New Mexico - A very nice and deserted campground right on the banks of the Rio Grande. We had a big site with a covered patio and picnic table.

Best Western RV Park, Childress, Texas - Boy, when you've been in the mountains all summer, Childress, Texas, can look pretty bleak. Nothing to write home about here. A couple of slots to park your RV in back behind the motel was all we found here.

Pecan Grove RV Park, Austin, Texas - After almost 4 months living in our trailer, we found it easier to land in an RV Park, than in our house, when we got back to Austin. A great way to get back into the Austin spirit. Dinner at Chuy's with friends, a run on the hike and bike trail and a visit to Barton Springs, all within walking distance of "home".

Our own Backyard, Austin, Texas - Everything we need to live is now in the trailer, so we pulled in beside the house and live out of the trailer for about a week. Emily Kaitz does a song about "Her Own Backyard" that now has some special meaning for us.

Maricopa RV Park, Canyon Lake, Texas - We spent our first couple of nights on the Guadalupe River here. But, it wasn't long before we moved to a nicer spot.

River Valley Campground, Sattler, Texas. - We're basically living here for the winter. We have our trailer right on the banks of the Guadalupe River. We even have cable TV and a telephone here (210-964-4412). We love it here. It's an hour from south Austin and would be a great place to come visit us for a weekend campout. Give us a call.

What's Going on Right Now. Since we got back to Austin in mid October, we've stayed here in Central Texas.

Margana Nalley, a long time friend and coworker of Jeff's from Acoustic Systems is going to rent our house while we travel. Jeff has been working on getting our stuff packed up and the house ready for Margana to move into after the first of the new year.

Cyndie has been doing some consulting work for State Comptroller John Sharps' Texas Performance Review. She is able to do much of her work from the trailer down on the river.

We've put the trailer on a nice campsite on the Guadalupe River and are spending much of our time living in the small town of Sattler, Texas. Jeff does work for Trout Unlimited and manages to find quite a bit of time to fish for trout.

We plan to stay in Central Texas until mid-February. Then we plan to hit the road again. Our first stop will be the entrance of the Grand Canyon at Lees Ferry, where Jeff will do some guiding and Cyndie will work in the flyshop. By the first of June we plan to be on our way to Alaska, our next adventure.

A Merry Christmas to All. The newsletter that was supposed to go out in early November has now slipped to mid-December. Our change of lifestyle has taken us away from many of the good friends that have made our lives so rich.

Although we may not see you this holiday season, you are in our hearts and in our thoughts. A Merry Christmas to All and to All.......... A Good Days Fishing for whatever you hope to catch in life.


A Las Vegas Wedding

Albuquerque Visit

Alan Brays'
New Mexico
Fall Smorgasbord

Big Fish On The San Juan River

Rio Grande Finale!

Back Home To Austin We Go





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