Photo Essay: Life Off The Grid

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live "off the grid?" Out on your own ... completely surrounded by nature ... making your own power ... hunting for meat ... tying flies ... even brewing your own beer. It's a calling most wild souls have heard at some point in their lives. But only the hardest of the hard-core actually answer. Dan Fink, a.k.a. Danbob (a fly-tying legend), did it 16 years ago. He now lives somewhere up in these Rocky Mountains, fending off the elements, building (not fighting) windmills, and churning out some of the wackiest fly creations on earth. We bummed around with Danbob for a glimpse into renaissance mountain man living, and here's what we learned:Field & Stream Online Editors
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Dan's home is the solar- and wind-powered house he calls "Buckville." It sits in a place he describes as "the canyon nobody knows about." Having taken a vow of secrecy, all we can say is that it isn't too distant in miles from the city grind of Denver.Field & Stream Online Editors
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Dan in his lair, spinning away on new fly creations. Note that the fly bench occupies a hallowed spot at the center of Dan's home. Not pictured are Dan's two cats and dog, who are hiding, as Dan considers them "fair game for fly tying materials." His award-winning "Danbob's Rat Dog Blueish-Gray Hairy Bug," is tied with dog hair dubbing, and a cat whisker tail. Recipe for Danbob's Rat Dog Bluish-Gray Hairy Bug:
Hook: #12 bait hook from K-Mart, rusty for better camouflage.
Thread: Gray cotton, from Sew-n-Vac Inc.
Tail: Packrat with 2 divided white cat whiskers.
Wing: White Borzoi, naturally curly.
Body: Dubbed black, gray and blue Husky mix, remove guard hairs.
Hackle: LGB (little gray bird).
Field & Stream Online Editors
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"Fly tying never had much humor before," says Fink, explaining his brainstorm to incorporate rattlesnake parts into flies with tinsel, chenille, and feathers. As if to say "stop taking yourselves so seriously," Fink's inventions are reminders to all of us that tricking trout with flies is, after all, a game. Believe it or not, Dan says his patterns actually catch fish.Field & Stream Online Editors
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Tying a cone-head-rattler-streamer -- "DanBob's Diamondback." "I caught one on the Poudre River the other day with this fly," he claims. It's as if the subtle vibrations of the rattle say to the trout, "Go ahead, I dare you." Sadly, the rattles tend to get waterlogged after a few casts, so this pattern is best used as an opportunistic sight-fishing fly.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

Rattlesnake skin, says Danbob, is also a darn fine fly-tying material. Those crazy trout cannot seem to get enough of the stuff. Mind you, harvesting snake backs and rattles for tying flies, can, at times be a fairly tricky endeavor. It's good to have a friend in the restaurant, boot, or hatband business willing to share remnants. In Dan's case, he gets his supplies on the highway. To properly condition rattlesnake skin for tying purposes, soak it in tap water or clear blue agave tequila for a few minutes, then work the skin between your fingers until you realize that desired level of flexibility. Discard water. Drink tequila.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

Danbob's Diamondback:
Hook: #6 streamer, 6x long
Weight: 0.015" lead-free wire
Tail: Western Diamondback rattle, at least 6 buttons
Rear Body: Sparkle chenille
Main Body: Tan mohair leech yarn
Hackle: Dark dun hen
Back: Rattlesnake skin, soak in water before tying on
Head: Brass cone head plus propeller.
Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

Powerful magnets hold various sizes of hooks near Fink's bench. The largest sizes are used for tying "naturals" including large bugs and small birds, which Dan locks in form and mounts to the hook with superglue, accelerant, and thread.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

In rural Colorado, blaze orange is a fashion standard, and an absolute off-season necessity for anything with antlers, especially when said animal is hanging on the wall. Safety matters. So to guard against the wayward 30.06 round whizzing through Buckville, Dan makes sure his wall trophies wear orange. No kidding.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

The authorities have a firm grasp on this mountain environment; apparently the local gun ordinance is paying dividends. This anonymous vandal's pattern, however, was less-than-impressive for the average mountain marksman.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

When you're through getting teased by old Walter (the brown trout) and are ready to play hardball, here is an extreme option ... .22 caliber, tied to a #10 hook with 6/0 floss and chenille. "Because I work with rimfire ammo, it's important to keep the chenille wrapped in the middle of the fly, or else it won't go off when the trout bites the rim," explains Fink, noting that one chomp in the right place at the right time might very well blow the trout's mind. "When tying bullet flies, you also need to use Kevlar thread; that's just playing it safe," he adds.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

Fire is no laughing matter in the Colorado high country, and like many mountain residents, Dan is a volunteer fireman. His gear is always within reach, so he's able to answer the alarm, jump in the pumper truck parked in his yard, and head out to battle wildfires.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

The ultimate do-it-yourselfer, Dan brews his own beer, which he pours through a built-in kitchen tap. Now that's really living the high life ...Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

Don Quixote fought windmills. Dan Fink has made friends with them. In fact, for part of his "day job," he builds windmills. His home is 100 percent powered by the wind and the sun -" two things there are definitely no shortage of in Colorado's high country.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

This region is a veritable "wind machine." When strong fronts pulse over the Rockies and sweep toward the plains, hurricane-level gusts are common. Fink, who generates part of his power from the wind, is unfazed by the periodic gales, having long ago made friends with the mountain elements that might drive lesser men mad.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

Fink created his soon-to-be-famous "Worm Ball" last winter, when Buckville looked like a scene from The Shining. This is what you get when you combine three weeks of chest-deep snow, a fly tying bench, and at least one bottle of Maker's Mark.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

A not-so-subtle political statement in Danbob's fly arsenal ... this "Presidential Greenback" a.k.a. the "Greedy George" is a proven producer that absolutely punishes freedom-hating high country trout.Field & Stream Online Editors
Off The Grid

Off The Grid

Heading back home, the power lines near Masonville, Colorado, signal a return to civilization. We left Danbob in the kingdom of Buckville, having been enlightened and entertained by his insights. We now have a new perspective on mountain life and flyfishing ... and flyboxes that rattle.Field & Stream Online Editors

The Back Story
Photographer Tim Romano first heard of Dan Fink when he saw two of the man's flies featured in Drake magazine. The flies were interesting, and maybe a little crazy, enough so that Tim decided to dig deeper into the background of the man who tied them. He turned to Google. Turns out Fink also builds windmills (otherpower.com) and custom flytying furniture and, by sheer luck, lives about 2 hours north of Boulder (Tim's home). Being interested in such things, Tim decided to pay Fink a visit with his camera. Here's what he found.

Story by Kirk Deeter