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February 5, 2007

Why Don't We Hear More About Tasmania?

I just finished four weeks touring around Tasmania and I've got to say I was impressed. Like most Americans I suspect, before I went to Tasmania I really had no idea what to expect. I didn't know if it was a desert or a rain forest, flat or mountainous, interesting or boring. Well trust me, it's not a desert, it's got all kinds of different terrains and it's anything but boring.

A quick geography lesson for those who might think Tasmania is in Eastern Europe or Africa. It is an island roughly the size of the state of Ohio a couple hundred miles south of Melbourne Australia. It is an Australian state and is very much Australian.

For years I've heard rumors about the fly fishing in Tasmania. Phrases like "trout fishing in lakes reminiscent of bonefishing the flats" kept popping up so I had knew I had to get myself down there. But when I asked fly fishing guides in New Zealand about the possibilities across the Tasman Sea, I got a lot of negative responses. "Totally fished out." "Nothing like it used to be." "Crowded as a street in Sydney." Those were the types of comments the Kiwis had for Tasmania. Even the employees at a fly shop in Melbourne discouraged me about the fishing, saying that because of the worst drought in history combined with a cold December the fishing was really bad and I'd probably be happier visiting wineries. Well let me say right now they were all wrong. Very wrong. But it took me a while to figure that out.

I took the 9 hour ferry from Melbourne over to Tasmania (be sure to take your Dramamine) and as soon as I got there I liked the place. You immediately discover as the ferry is coming into port that the island is surrounded by beautiful beaches. I spent my first night at Narawntapu National Park and had 2 wombats, 14 kangaroos and over 20 wallabies visit my campsite. The next day I visited the Jansz Winery and discovered they made world-class Pinot Noir and sparkling wines. A day or two later I ate at Maggie McGee's restaurant in Coles Bay and had some of the best seafood of my life. And that's how I spent the first 3 weeks of my time in Tasmania - I figured the fishing must be bad so I walked gorgeous white sand beaches, tasted some really good wines and discovered little fishing villages with fantastic mom & pop restaurants. And I loved it.

Eventually I worked my way south of Hobart (Extremely beautiful coast down there) and started seeing some streams and rivers that looked might fishy. But I really wanted to visit the AirWalk (600m long walk through an old growth forest 40m up in the air - cool) and some caves down there (also really nice) so I tried to ignore the fishy looking water.

Then when I was visiting more caves in the central part of the island I stumbled on a really nice looking small river where I could spot trout feeding from a bridge on a tiny country rode. I parked, rigged up, and headed to the water. What I thought from the bridge was a trout rising ended up being a platypus, but still in about 90 minutes I caught 9 brown trout 12-18 inches long. That got my attention and I immediately got on the phone and made reservations with some guides that I had heard about who sounded good.

Unfortunately I was getting short on time so I was only able to go out with the guides two days. The first day I went out with Daniel Hackett who runs the RiverFly Lodge and we fished a small stream in the north-eastern corner of the island. It was great fun and I got the impression that the water only saw a few rods a year. Daniel was a great guide and I'd be happy to go out with him again. The second day I lake fished with Christopher Bassano who guides with the Rainbow Lodge and was very impressed. Christopher taught me a trick or two on how to fish for trout in windy conditions, and a whole new way to rig flies. It was great day and I definitely want to fish with Christopher again in Tasmania's Western Lakes Region.

Unfortunately, at this point it was almost time for me to return to the mainland. I got another day of fishing in on my own and amazingly I spent it lake fishing. It truly was stalking for big browns in relatively shallow water and I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed it.

Tasmania's a great place - great beaches, great food, great wine, great fishing, and great people. I'll be back.

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 2:55 AM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2006

Back in New Zealand

I'm happy to say I'm back in New Zealand. I flew into Christchurch this afternoon and it was a beautiful spring day. The grass has that spring green color, the fruit trees and tulips are in bloom, and there's a warm breeze blowing off the Tasman Sea.

I was very happy to find my campervan in great shape. It started on the first try without needing a jumpstart or anything. The van might not be luxo, but it's dependable.

Unfortunately the fishing gear I left here isn't in such great shape. The waders, boots, and sandals must have been damp when I left because they have about an inch of mold growing all over them. The smell is much worse than the usual used wader stench.

I'm going to get the license up to date on the van, shop up for a few supplies and hit the road. I hope to be fishing within a day or two.

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 3:20 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2006

A Quick Stop in Hong Kong and a Tony Bourdain Experience

I'm flying to Australia on Cathay Pacific (great airlines) so I had an opportunity to make a layover in Hong Kong. I've done this now 3 times and I've always enjoyed it, this time was no exception.

I arrived on Sunday and headed to my hotel. In the past I've stayed at The Peninsula, a really great institution, but they had no special deals available and their normal room rate is pretty outrageous. So I checked with my favorite travel website TripAdvisor.com and decided to give the Langham Place Hotel a try. The place was nice. I fell in love with it when I was greeted with a cool damp cloth at the registration desk - the perfect welcome for a hot muggy day. The room was a bit on the small side but was very nicely appointed with a huge big-screen TV, about a dozen different pillows, uber chic bathroom fixtures and a great view.

After cleaning up after the long flight I got down to the reason for coming - finding great food. But I was a bit early so I went to a food market in the neighborhood. For all you wimpy Americans out there like me, take my advice and don't go to a Hong Kong food market right before lunch. I felt like Tony Bourdain walking through stalls of live doves ducks and chickens (avian flu's from around here isn't it?), frightening nasty bits (there's a liver, a heart, sweetbreads, there are some lungs, what's that? Oh, ugh), fish flopping around, etc. You really don't want to know where your food comes from in Hong Kong.

But lunch was great. Based on a review in New Zealand's Cuisine magazine, the first place I went was a noodle joint for their Don Don Noodle Soup. It was yummy as expected (though my favorite is still at the noodle place on Castro Street in Mt. View California).

Other food highlights of the trip: Dim sum at Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel (the bird's nest soup was fantastic), Pineapple cream buns at a little bakery near the flower market, a fresh mango slushy at a little stall near Mangcock gardens, breakfast at the Langam.

One other note - I was planning on buying a Plantronics BlueTooth headset to use with my cell phone and computer. I searched far and wide, including at the Mangcock Computer Market (amazing place) but couldn't find one cheaper than I can get it from Amazon.com back home in the States. Maybe it's the exchange rate, but electronics aren't the great deal in Hong Kong they used to be. Hard disk drives seemed to be very cheap, but I don't need one of those.

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 3:20 PM | Comments (1)

October 5, 2006

On the Road Again

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 3:49 PM | Comments (1)

August 9, 2006

Up the Coast from San Francisco to Seattle

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I just completed a road trip from San Francisco up the coast to California. It's been a while since I've been in that neck of the woods and I'd forgotten just how nice it is. Highlights: Fireworks over San Francisco Bay, The Mendocino coast, the Redwood Parks, rafting on the Klamath River, exploring Oregon Caverns, flying kites around Canon Beach. I made the trip with my 15 year old nephew from Ohio who reveled in the new experiences, new foods, and new places.
I had never visited the western edge of Oregon before and I had a lot of fun. If you're with kids, or just enjoy the ocean yourself there are some beautiful areas along the Oregon Coast. There are fantastic tide pools around Strawberry Hill State Park, you can have way too much fun riding the dune-buggy riding at Oregon Dunes, and don't miss the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy spending 20 days with a 15 year old teenager and not a day went by that we didn't enjoy what California, Oregon and Washington had to offer us.

Travel | Posted by bjones at 6:39 AM | Comments (0)

April 3, 2006

Visiting Lindbergh's Grave

I'm visiting Maui and spending a couple days in Hana on the far eastern edge of the island. It's really surprising how remote this area is. The beautiful 40 mile road to Hana is a twisty, windy, often single lane affair where the 15 mph speed limit might seem crazy, but works out to be about right. And the road past Hana is nothing short of an adventure - driving as it must have been 75 years ago.

Anyway, while driving a few miles past Hana I stopped to visit Charles Lindbergh's grave. Considering that he was probably the biggest American hero of the first half of the 20th Century, I expected a monument fitting for an almost mythological man. I was shocked to see a very plain and simple grave close to a bluff overlooking the beautiful Maui coast. There was no sign of his wife or his son.

I don't understand why, but I found this to be a very emotional experience. This man was not of my generation, but to see somebody so great burried so humbly, and almost forgotten really touched me.

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 4:24 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2006

Skiing Utah


Skiing The Canyons

I returned to the Wasatch Mountains for the first time since the Salt Lake City Olympics last week and wow have things changed. I was invited by an old friend to join him at the Epic Ski annual Gathering. Epic Ski is an interesting phenomenon - it's a group of skiers from all over the world who regularly interact on a web forum and ski together informally throughout the year. Once a year they have an official ski week together, this year it was in Park City.

We stayed in the town of Park City and skied at Snow Basin, Deer Valley, The Canyons, Park City, and Solitude.

This was my first time visiting Snow Basin and I was impressed. The resort is owned by the same outfit that runs Sun Valley and the base facilities reflect that - they're posh. The mountain looked extremely interesting with plenty of tree runs and inviting terrain. Unfortunately I had a very bad case of high altitude sickness and ended up sitting out part of the day then skiing just on the lower part of the mountain. The resort tops out at about 9,400' - not the highest resort in the Wasatch, but it's up there.

Deer Valley continues to deliver on to its target market of upscale skiers. What was clear on this trip though was that most of these skies leave the more "interesting" parts of the mountain alone and stick to the big wide corduroy groomers. Runs like Judge off Empire Canyon and Morning Star off Bald Mountain were pretty much deserted. Fresh snow wasn't that hard to find.

The biggest surprise of the trip was The Canyons, previously known as Park West and Wolf Creek. A huge base village has sprung up at the resort and the skiing terrain on the mountain has easily quadrupled since I was last there 10 years ago. And a lot of that new terrain is great tree skiing and interesting pitches. I really loved the mountain. But I really hated the base facilities; mountain management couldn't do much more to discourage day visitors. You start out by parking about a half mile from the resort and riding a cold open stand-up gondola to the village. From there you have to walk another quarter mile to wait in a long line at the one and only gondola up the mountain. As you're waiting 20 minutes in line you notice all of empty lines dedicated to people staying at the various on-mountain lodging. Ugh. And god forbid you want a locker or need to rent equipment. You'll be forced to ask several times for directions and you'll end up walking all over the base village, destroying your boots on the hard concrete. I don't think I've ever been to a ski resort with a base facility that sucked this much before.

Skiing at Park City Mountain Resort and Solitude was like returning to visit old friends. These are solid mountains and offer fun terrain for everyone. I was especially happy to see that Solitude's intimate atmosphere wasn't ruined by Olympic development.

Thank you Spindrift for the great trip!

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

March 4, 2005

Selling my Campervan

For the last several months I've lived out of a Toyota campervan while traveling around the South Island of New Zealand. It's coming up on time for me to go home, so I'm putting the camper up for sale. More info can be found here.

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 4:06 PM | Comments (0)

January 5, 2005

NYE in SYD

I got to Sydney in time for the big New Years Eve festivities and the city was hopping. After spending the morning wandering around Darlington Harbour and the waterfront, I noticed that crowds were starting to form in some of the better locations to view the Harbour fireworks. So about 2pm I starting heading over to the Opera House and was surprised to find on my arrival that there were already thousands of people there. In fact, the Circular Quay area was full of people and closed off and the Botanical Gardens above the Opera House were closed for a private party. I was able to find some open space in a grassy area with a good view of the Harbour so I sat down to wait for 10 hours.

If I would have know

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 5:57 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2004

On the Road Again

Today I begin a 3-month long trip to Australia and New Zealand. The next week is a whirlwind of travel activity. I fly from Seattle to Los Angeles, to Hong Kong where I have a 12 hour layover then on to Melbourne. I spend one night in Melbourne then fly to Sydney to celebrate New Years with my friend Simon Holmes a Court and his family. Sydney likes to think of itself as throwing the best New Years Eve party on the planet. Click here to see Sydney's New Year's Eve site.

After partying in 2005 in Sydney, I'm driving down the East Coast of Australia to Melbourne where I'll be spending a week exploring that corner of Australia. Then on January 9th I fly to Christchurch, New Zealand where I'll be fishing, hiking, and exploring until the end of March. I return home to the states (with a 2 day layover in Hong Kong) April 1st. It's going to be a great way to start 2005.

Details of my travels can always be found in my online calendar.

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 4:52 PM | Comments (0)

August 4, 2004

Backpacking the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone

On this trip, my dad and I hiked from the Hellroaring trailhead near Roosevelt to the town of Gardiner Montana. The variety of geology, flora, and fauna was fantastic, and the fishing on the Yellowstone was at its prime.

On the first day we started in mid afternoon and hiked down the Hellroaring trail to the Yellowstone. We crossed the river on the old suspension bridge and were impressed by the amount of work it must have taken to build the bridge. We had hoped to have an easy first day of hiking since our campsite, 2H1, was right at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Hellroaring, but because the creek was running very high, we had to make a 2.5 mile detour upstream to a bridge. This was two and a half miles that neither of us really felt like hiking.

Along the detour, we stopped at the Patrol Cabin on Hellroaring creek and chatted with several biologists who were staying there while studying mountain lions in the area. When asked if they'd seen many cats, they responded with "well, none today."

After hiking much further than expected to the campsite (the side trail to the site is about a half mile lone) we finally got to a beautiful point with Hellroaring flowing on one side and the Yellowstone on another. The 2H1 site was pretty good with a good cooking spot, plenty of shade, and easy access to water. It was a bit difficult to find a flat spot for a tent, the best area being about 20 yards from the still-hairy remains of a dead deer. It made me a little bit nervous about animals coming in the night to gnaw on the bones. We did have a visit from a very pesky fox which obviously smelled and wanted our food.

Speaking of bones, throughout this entire hike there were animal bones and antlers everywhere. This canyon is a wintering area for wildlife and it was obvious that plenty of those animals die each winter down there.

Fishing on the Yellowstone in this area is limited unless you want to do some major hiking so I fished Hellroaring creek. The stream was high, but fairly productive for 6" to 14" cutthroats.

The second leg of our trip led us though an area that obviously received more moisture and was lush with wildflowers. The displays of flowers were absolutely beautiful. I found this the most enjoyable section of the canyon to hike.

Our second campsite 1Y9, was right on the Yellowstone river and was excellent. It had everything you'd want in a campsite plus great fishing. This was the most productive section of the river I fished (and the furthest from any trailhead) and I caught plenty of trout. One slightly worrisome thing: I caught a 16" brook trout in here. That fish should not have been in that water, and a brookie that big will eat a lot of cutthroat fry. Yellowstone Park has so many problems with non-native species.

The third leg of our trip took us past the intersection with the Blacktail Trail and past Crevice Lake. We also passed Cottonwood creek, which is very small (2-5 feet across) but contained plenty of beautiful pure 6" to 12" wild cutthroat in each hole. They may have been spawning. We also encountered a buffalo which was walking up the trail towards us. We took a wide detour around the critter and watched our backs for a while afterwards.

If you want a campsite with your own sandy beach on the Yellowstone, 1Y1 is for you. This site had beautiful views, and a great swimming area but was short on flat places for a tent. There was also a LOT of buffalo and elk dung throughout the site. The fishing immediately around this site is more limited than around 1Y9, but still fairly good.

The last 4.7 miles of this trip were the most difficult. You climb several grades, but you are out of the wooded areas and out in bare rocky and alkaline areas. The temperatures by noon were reaching into the mid 90s. The geology here is very different and interesting (reminds you of badlands) and some of the trails cut into the canyon walls made my dad (who isn't fond of heights) a bit nervous. The rattlesnake I almost stepped on made me more than a bit nervous. The best part of this section was Bear Creek. It's a plunge pool creek with beautiful cool clear water and a couple of 16" cutthroat in each pool. It was like an oasis in a desert and a lot of fun to fish.

Getting back to Gardiner was a bit of a culture shock. The first thing we noticed was the smell of exhaust and hot asphalt. But we also enjoyed modern plumbing and food cooked to order. For anyone thinking about doing this trip, there is no parking at the trailhead in Gardiner. We parked in the parking area across the street from the Xantera buildings on the side road into the Park entrance and had no problems.

Travel | Posted by bjones at 1:39 AM | Comments (1)

July 29, 2004

Up the Lamar Valley

This was the last long backpacking trip of the summer in Yellowstone and it was an interesting one. The fishing wasn't as good as I expected, but the geology was much more interesting than I had anticipated.

July 21: Hiked into campground 3L1 at the junction of Cache Creek and the Lamar River. This is a good campsite with plenty of flat spots for tents and access to clean water. I had hoped to fish Cache, but it was very muddy from rain two days before so the fishing was impossible except during a very short caddis hatch right after the sun set where the Cutthroats poked their heads out of the chocolate milk to take some bugs.

July 22: The morning started with a buffalo wandering through camp.

It didn't bother us, but since I've been run up a tree by a bison before, we were a bit nervous. Spent the day hiking up to Wahb Springs about 1.5 miles up Cache Creek.

Wahb looks fairly dead, but it still smells very strongly of sulfur. Supposedly it sometimes releases enough poisonous gasses to kill animals in the area. There were very interesting sulfuric formations everywhere, a lot of petrified wood, and small springs releasing ink-black water. Perhaps most interesting were the huge bubbles erupting from the bottom of the Creek -- I'm not sure if that was boiling water or just gasses escaping. I suspect the later. We spent the night again at 3L1.

July 23: Today was a healthy hike up to campsite 3L7. Despite following the Lamar River, the trail was constantly rolling up and down, and I'd guess we climbed about a thousand feet. We forded Calfe and Miller creeks without any problems though I did drop a sock in Calfe and was unable to find it. Miller Creek looked very fishable and there was petrified wood scattered everywhere along the creek bed and quartz and amethyst crystals were occasionally found as well. The 3L7 campsite is in a beautiful meadow tucked in a bend of the Lamar.

There were several cut logs there to be used as a table which was great for cooking and enough flat spots for a tent. The only source of water at the site was the Lamar, which because it was still a bit muddy clogged up our filter pretty quickly.

July 24: Fished around the camp. Unfortunately there was a horse pack-trip camping across the creek from us and the 8 anglers who came in on that trip were all over the place. Somehow after you've hiked in 17 miles, it seems like cheating when a big group just appears on "your" river. About a mile east of the camp, there was a beautiful wide open meadow filled section of the valley. There was some fun fishing in this area, especially along the deadfalls of wood.

July 25: We started hiking out, camped at 3L4.

This is nice campsite, right along the river, but the spots for setting up a tent are very limited. The area is fairly open and we had beautiful views of the sunset and starry night. I fished upstream from camp a ways, and the fishing was slow, but I did find some amazing petrified wood logs.

July 26: Hiked back, doing a bit of fishing in the Lamar along the way. Thankfully my truck was still where I left it, totally undisturbed.

Travel | Posted by bjones at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

July 7, 2004

Slough and Pebble Creeks via Bliss Pass

I just completed a 6 day backpacking trip in northeastern Yellowstone, hiking up Slough Creek, crossing Bliss Pass, and hiking up Pebble Creek. In short it was a great trip. More pictures of this adventure are in the photo gallery section of the website.

The first day my dad and I hiked up the Slough Creek trail to the second meadow and set up camp at site 2S2.

This site was about a 1/4 mile hike from the creek proper and was a good campsite with easy access to fresh water, a nice cooking area, and flat spots for a tent. We spent two nights here and in my free time I fished Slough. The quality of the fishing here just can't be beat. I readily caught plenty of Yellowstone Cutthroats ranging from little 8 inchers up to the occasional 18" fish. Very enjoyable. I did see a few other anglers during the day and all of the campsites in the area were occupied.

On the third day we made an easy hike further up the Slough Creek valley to campsite 2S6 in the "third meadow."

This was a great site, sitting on a low shoulder above the valley with panoramic views for miles up and down the valley. The site again had easy access to water, a very nice flat area for tents and a terrific cooking area. Although I've read that fishing in the third meadow is supposed to produce smaller fish, I didn't find that to be true. Yes, there may have been a few 6 inch fish around (which I didn't see further downstream) but there we still plenty of nice big fat 16"-18" pure wild cutthroats. Again, the fishing was fantastic. We saw fewer people up here, but there were still a few other fisherman in the area.

Our fourth day started out with questionable weather which wasn't welcome since we planned to hike over Bliss Pass. We waited a while for rain to stop, but decided to go ahead and start over anyway. Hiking over Bliss is quite a hike, gaining about 2000 feet over four miles. Fortunately, the weather opened up for most of the afternoon and we were able to enjoy absolutely amazing views of mountainsides covered with wildflowers flowing off into magnificent panoramas. It was a world-class alpine experience. A big surprise was also to view from the top of the pass to the east overlooking Pebble Creek. The valley below was a quilted with beautiful meadows while the surrounding mountains were jagged and snow-covered. It's worth the hike up Bliss just for that view.

The fourth night we spent at campsite 3P3 which while perfectly acceptable was the least desirable of all our sites. The cook area was OK, and a trickle of drinking water was close by, but there were no flat spots in the area for a tent. Then night of the fourth was pretty exciting - there was a short lightening storm with incredibly loud thunder echoing back and forth in the tight valley, seemingly getting louder with each bounce off the mountainsides. We then had hail which for a while had me worried about damaging the tent.

On the fifth day of the trip I did some fishing around 3P3 (nothing too great, plenty of little 8"-10" cutthroat) and we hiked up Pebble Creek to 3P5. This was a very pleasant hike and we ended up at a very nice campsite. This site has beautiful views of the valley, is close to Pebble Creek, and has everything you'd want in a nice site. Since I'm always a bit nervous about lightening in the Pebble Creek valley, it was nice that the tent area was in a low area in a large stand of trees.

On the final day we hiked up the rest of the Pebble Creek trail, over the small pass to Warm Creek. After Bliss Pass, this hike was a piece of cake. I tried some fishing in the upper waters of Pebble, but found nothing. I don't know if the water was running too high, or if the fish in the creek migrate around, getting to the headwaters later after the snow melts and the high waters have subsided. Since I've found nice 16" fish in this section before, I'll go with that theory.

This was a great trip. The hike over Bliss was strenuous, but very beautiful. The two valleys were world-class gorgeous. And although we had very changeable weather, except for a few hours Sunday morning and evening, we had great weather.

Travel | Posted by bjones at 8:28 AM | Comments (1)

June 29, 2004

In Yellowstone for a Month

I'll be spending most of July backpacking in Yellowstone. It's been a very wet spring and early summer here in northern Wyoming and southern Montana so I hope I'll be able to make all of the trips I have planned. Here's what's on the agenda:

June 30 - July 6: Slough & Pebble Creeks, crossing Bliss Pass

July 9 - 14: Hike the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone

July 21 - 26: Travel up the Lamar River valley

Between trips I'll be staying in a cabin in Silvergate at the Northeast entrance to the park. Stay tuned for reports from each of these trips.

Home Page | Posted by bjones at 8:21 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2004

On the Road Again

I'm back on the road again, off to Montana and Wyoming for fishing and fun. First I'll be doing some fishing on my own on the Kootenai and in the Bozeman area, then I meet my parents in Yellowstone where my dad and I will be backpacking for most of July.

If you're trying to contact me, shoot me e-mail or try me on my cell.

Travel | Posted by bjones at 9:32 PM | Comments (0)