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Sunday, May 1, 2016

No Chance in Hell

A story of Statistics, Fine Bourbon, and Divine Intervention


    This blog has four characters:

  • David Nickum, E.D. 
  • Colorado Trout Unlimited. 
    • Ken Neubecker,
    •  A.D. American Rivers.
    • Paula Fothergill, 
    • Casting for Recovery
    •  Instructor & Volunteer




  • The Pope




     David lured me to the table displaying 10 bottles of Boathouse Colorado Bourbon and whispered under his breath, "John, if you buy now, you'll have a one in one chance of winning the Scott 9 weight fly rod."
    I demurred. Too good to be true. $75 for a great tasting bottle of local bourbon and a fly rod. There must be a catch.
    Ten minutes later I wandered by again.
   "John, now you have one chance in five at the bourbon and fly rod," David said. Still, not bad odds. I decided to think about it and sampled another tumbler of the bourbon. It really was good.
    As the bourbon warmed my mid-section and clouded my mind with images of tarpon leaping, it became crystal clear that this was a good deal.I turned over my credit card to David who said, "OK, John, you're now at one chance in seven, but still that's pretty good odds."
    I had a good feeling about this as I checked my silent auction bids for a trip on the Fraser with Kirk Kancke, a pair of Smith Sunglasses, and an original watercolor of Chimney Rock. I passed on my optimism to Ken Neubecker.
    "I bought a bottle also," he said. "But I put Paula's name on it. She wins everything."
Unlikely, I thought. Random chance is random chance.
The tension built as David declared the silent auction closed and he opened bottle #8 for more sampling. I can only guess the liquor cabinet where bottles 9 and 10 were going. A hush grew over the nervous crowd of Colorado Trout Unlimited Chapter leaders as they waited for the drawing of the winner of the $795 Scott Fly Rod.
     A young fly caster from the CTU Youth Camp stuck his hand into the antique rattan creel and pulled out .....
"Paula Fothergill!!"
    Wait a minute, wait a minute. She always wins.
     I rushed over to Ken. "OK Ken. Something must be done. I'm calling the Pope. This is just not right." Paula, who was standing next to Ken, gave me that patented sly smile of hers and said, "Well it probably won't help. One time when I was in Argentina fishing and got really ill, my friend convinced me to come down to dinner and I was seated next to the Archbishop of Argentina. He's in Rome now and we really don't keep in close touch."

    The moral of this story is that if Paula is in the room and you are going to enter the drawing, you better make a deal with her or you chances are no chance in hell.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fly Fishing in Ecuador - 2/2016 - Trout on the Equator?

     I thought it would be easy and I could be wrong about this but Google never lies. Hours of searching failed to reveal guides, regulations, fishing reports, fly shops, stream flows, or fishing lodges near Quito in Ecuador. Once there it appeared that "Pesca Deportiva" meant a concrete tank filled with rainbow trout, a piece of broom stick, a hook attached to a piece of string, and a ball of bread dough. You hook a fish, cough up $3 and then eat it grilled.
     Like many countries, Morocco for example, Ecuador is focused on ocean fishing at present and fresh water fishing is not yet on the radar. From facebook post, none within 2 years, I guessed that you could take a bus from Quito to Papallacta and fish the streams in the high Andes coming out of the Cayambe-coca Ecological Reserve.
     Brenda and I booked a night at the hot springs resort Termes del Papallacta. It looked to be about 2 hours away on an iffy road well up in the Andes on the way to the jungle. We were just finishing a tour of Machu Picchu and the Galapagos so I asked our tour leader to help me get a reliable taxi. He hooked us up with the transit company for the tour. It seemed a little salty at $75 but at least I had recourse if things fell apart. This is the vehicle that showed up to take us and only us to the resort. The road turned out to be new highway with little traffic and not nearly a scary as the 8 hour trip from Santiago, Chile to Mendosa, Argentina over the same mountain range.

 The road turned out to be new highway with little traffic and not nearly a scary as the 8 hour trip from Santiago, Chile to Mendosa, Argentina over the same mountain range.
Crossing over the highest pass. Note the latitude. 0 degrees, of course,  means almost on the equator.

Termas de Papallacta also turned out to be exactly what I'd hoped for except, when I asked the front desk about guides or maps for fishing she said, "Oh no. There's no fishing here. We are in the middle of an ecological preserve." Well damn. 


Luckily, as is the usually the case with the front desk around the world, no one really knows anything about fly fishing. Only 100 yards from the front desk I encountered this sign at the entrance to the ecological reserve.
The fifth line reads,
 I always "only fish under normal regulations," so I got out my Tenkara and hiked up the trail.  I'm more than happy to buy a license if only there is a way to do it. I've had the same problem in France, Morocco, Turks and Caicos, China, Fiji, and India. I give it three honest tries and then tie on a parachute adams, or in this case a tenkara fly.




There was plenty of fishing looking water similar to the small streams in Colorado and Pennsylvania. Elevation was about 9,000 feet. Stream temperature was about 50F. 




Aha. A rainbow on the equator. Apparently rainbow trout were brought to Ecuador in the 1970's, probably to be farmed for "Pesca Desportiva." This little stream was loaded with their descendants. They were healthy and hungry and not that large as you would expect at this elevation. I hooked and released about 20 in two hours. There were decent hatches of mayflies and midges taking place. 



Overall a very satisfying fly fishing for trout on the equator experience. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Food Critic of the NYT, Peter Wells has lost his way.


Peter Wells, NYT Food Critic, has lost his way. Food critics have always been tempted to exaggeration and food foppery to build a following but Mr. Wells’ focus on the food has blurred beyond the visible range. But does it really matter to the diner? No. There are better ways to find a restaurant we will enjoy. Does it matter to the those earning a living there? Unfortunately, yes. The critic wields the power to ruin a restaurant and the livelihoods of those working there with just a few irrelevant nasty words. 

Popular Western chefs (Michel Richard, Thomas Keller, Guy Fiere) have provided targets for his idiotic similes and unrighteous indignation. He makes me ill. 






Here are some quotes from his reviews that illustrate why I will probably not read a word of what he writes on restaurants or any topic in the future.

“When I asked to see the truffle being shaved over somebody else’s plate, it was whisked under my eyes for a nanosecond, as if the server were afraid I was going to sneeze. I know what truffles look like; what I wanted was to smell it.”   OH THE HORROR.  “May I smell the truffle?" would have worked.

“Once, the table was set for dessert so haphazardly that my spoon ended up next to my water glass instead of my plate.”  OMG. I just can’t eat a dessert with a spoon near my water glass. I always pick a restaurant based on whether I see them using a ruler like they do at Downton Abbey.

 “When my server asked, ‘Would you like the foie gras’— $40 more — ‘or the salad?,’ the question had an air of menace.” When foie gras and salad is a menace, walking from the cab to the restaurant must be truly terrifying. No wonder he doesn’t believe anyone should eat out.

“This unidentifiable paste coats your mouth until you can’t perceive textures or flavors. It is like edible Novocain.” Here Peter Wells reveals why he has no taste. He apparently knows what edible Novocain tastes like. We must assume it is what he snacks on in the cab on the way to his reviews.

“If soldiers had killed Escoffier’s family in front of him and then forced him to make dinner, this is what he would have cooked.” His worst characterization. Unfortunately one of Escoffier’s sons was indeed killed by a soldier. I’m sure karma will some day extract its due for this nasty comment. 

Fortunately, the days when we had no choice but to follow Peter Wells are over. With careful reading, we the people can read what we the people have found during recent real dining experiences. Facebook, TripAdvisor, and Opentable, among others, give restaurants a chance to improve and diners a chance to see if the improvements have been made. It is not just the stars that fall when a single authority has lost his way and fallen onto the dark path of a nasty troll; the diners lose, the chef loses, and most important the lives of many workers are unfairly trashed.