Monday, December 31, 2012

At the end

As I reflect upon this year of angling I can't recall a fish that made the year; most years are that way. I'm not at the point that I'm chasing trophies or exotic species. Most times it's enough just to be standing in running water with a hope for a tug. Catching a Greenback Cutthroat (later debunked as a hybrid), the first on a bamboo fly rod, does have a special place but mostly owing to the totality of the experience than the fish itself.

There are places that stand out during the past year: seeing the Front Range for the first time was more extraordinary that I thought it would be, struggling to breathe on a fourteen thousand foot peak while simultaneously being stunned by the views, hiking up along the Big Thompson at altitude and discovering it's not all that Big, up the Slough scrambling on boulders dodging bear, walking among Bison on the Lamar, sitting under a tree smoking a cigar with Bruce while a summer storm pelts the Gallatin.

Lily Lake
Beyond the angling and the locales, the people defined the year. Ann and the boys continue to conspire on new adventures. While I know my oldest seems to be gravitating toward urban landscapes both the boys still humor us with outdoor adventures that I hope are molding them into being something better than they might otherwise be. And Ann and I are having such fun. It is the life and partnership that I had hoped for and it is becoming so much more. It's a blessing.

I finally got to meet a few of my fellow bloggers. Unfortunately, a meeting with Jay and Erin was cut short by illness but I'm sure we'll reconnect before long. I met Marc out in Yellowstone and then again in Tennessee where Mike joined us for a day of angling on the Holston. In our sport, streams are the table upon which we break bread and Marc set a fine spread for us. That's another place to which I must return.

The Yellowstone Gang  (from left to right): Smithhammer,
Karen Kress (Yellowstone Park Foundation),
Deeter, Payne, Hunt, Garlock, Zakur
In Yellowstone I met a gaggle of extraordinary people. Chris was the ringleader and he put together an all-star team. Kirk, Bruce, Marc, Rebecca and Chris formed the core of a traveling band of writers that I am deeply humbled to be counted among. It was one of those rare moments where a group of strangers gathered and the mixture of personality, experiences and shared passion for craft and sport meshed in a way that I may not witness again if I live a hundred years.

Along our journey we also met with Rich, Brennan, Dave, Ken, K.C., Todd, and countless, dedicated National Park Service folks who are doing yeoman's work to keep the places that are worth saving, safe.

Locally, I fished with Kit, Jon, Don, Ross, Heather, James, Chris, Sam, Todd and Steve and probably a few others whom I've forgotten. I usually fish when I can which means I often fish alone. It's when I have the opportunity to fish with a friend that I recall what a joy it is to fish in good company. Looking upstream to see Kit working the tail of a pool, see Don methodically and effectively nymphing the Sand Hole and wrestling chrome to the beach with Jon are all satisfying memories of the season past.

And because I spend more time at the keyboard than I do on the water there are people here who have rounded out my angling year. Howard, Alan, Quill, Sanders, Brian, T.J., Tom, Nate, Emily, John, the other Mike, Matt, Jason and countless others whom I've now offended by leaving them off the list.

The next year is close by and for the first time I enter a new calendar confused and uncertain. The past year has marked some of the highest and lowest points of my life; never have they been compacted so temporally. I find myself revisiting long-held beliefs and looking at the path I'm following which has suddenly become unfamiliar and dark.

But I have strength. As Ann says, confidence bordering on arrogance. And I have family and friends upon which to lean for the support and comfort that make long, hard journeys bearable and worthwhile. We'll find time to adventure and talk and write and read and together we'll make the coming year notable and extraordinary. The end is upon us and I face it with hope because it is also the beginning of new adventures, deeper friendships and a hope for grace and peace for those I hold dear.

Happy New Year to you all.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Christmas Fire

From time to time I indulge myself in the delusion that I can write. There are pieces that I'm proud of and those that I'd rather have not written in the first place. But if I really need to get brought down to earth, I just need to troll around and read from a handful of folks who can craft a tale. Mike Sepelak is one of those people. He's written a fine, four-part holiday tale for us all to share. Links below.
Part 1: A Christmas Fire: The Burning
Part 2: A Christmas Fire: The Queen
Part 3: A Christmas Fire: The Search
Part 4: A Christmas Fire: The Gift
I hope you enjoy the tale half as much as I did. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Longer Days

The light fades too early through the late fall. With a paucity of daylight I dole it out with great attention. I find myself plotting more.

When the solstice arrived Friday I secretly celebrated. The lengthening days, if only by drops, mean the Hendricksons are looking up from the cobble wondering when the combination of light, temperature and whatever else it is they're waiting for will be right. It's not close but it's coming.

Sunday I had to distract my brain and with holiday preparations as complete as they're going to be Ann suggested I go for a walk by a stream and taunt some trout.

It's the season of small flies and slack water. The zebra midge is the fly I tie on most this time of year though I probably should use it more during other seasons. A small Copper John gave weight to my rig.

A small stream by the house is one of my favorites. It's familiar in ways I never expected to know water. I've seen it thin and thick and everywhere in between. I've seen it transform from a stream of  Brookies to one with mostly Browns. I know some of it's secrets.

This stream winds north edging farmer's fields, burrowing under the highway, flowing beyond the bridges at Sandy Hook deep into melancholy.

Our church was empty last night. I know that sounds like a figure of speech but it's not. Christmas Eve at St. John's is a special time. It's a small church and is New England story book perfect. It's usually packed on Christmas Eve. Not last night.

Twenty people struggled to fill a space that'll hold eighty. I suppose that maybe there was too little joy in Sandy Hook to support caroling and the promise of a coming savior. More than anything the ninety minutes echoed the struggle towards normality -- a journey that I thought we had begun but which still seems to be out there somewhere.

Sunday's fishing was restorative. I dove into it with a focus that forced me to shunt aside all the stray thoughts that have occupied me lately and just be in the moment. I fished the likely spots with special attention to soft areas just off the main current. It yielded the desired results, mostly on the midge though a few took the Copper John. Where there was one, there was reliably a few more. Perfect winter fishing.

The first fish of the afternoon came in a new secret spot. It's a popular hole that got filled by a fallen tree during a spring storm. The channel is much nearer the bank now but the fishy water is still on it's far side. But through some chance act of geology and hydrology the larger fish hold in the thin near seam; a fact discovered by accident on a errant cast this past spring. Three on, one to the net. Winter's first trout.

I wandered a thin tributary for a few hours picking up trout in the likely spots and making hopeful casts to unlikely water. The trout cooperated in ways I had no right to expect. Perhaps some cosmic balance is possible. At least in the world of trout.

During this season I enjoy hearing David Sedaris' Santaland Diary reading on NPR. It ends as follows:
Tonight, I saw a woman slap and shake her crying child. She yelled: Rachel, get on that man's lap and smile or I'll give you something to cry about. Then she sat Rachel on Santa's lap and I took the picture, which supposedly means on paper, that everything is exactly the way it's supposed to be - that everything is snowy and wonderful.
It's not about the child or Santa or Christmas or anything, but the parents' idea of a world they cannot make work for them.
David has a way of painting amusing, dark pictures about the human condition but this struck me pretty hard when I heard it yesterday evening. In town we're going through the motions of Christmas service and present opening and caroling and family dinners. But life is still too raw to make if feel like anything but wallpaper covering something ugly; wrenching sorrow and an awful, harsh reality.

Sam just stopped by. He's very excited about his Christmas gifts and at thirteen I know he no longer harbors a belief in the magic of Christmas. But I sense that maybe there's still some of that wonder that can only be found in the young.

That's part of the journey we're all on. To find the wonder that we've lost. To restore the wonder that our children have had stolen. To break the cycle of gloom and once again to be able to look at each day as something more than to simply be survived. 

Longer days will help. Life is always more wonderful when the sun is shining. Especially when it's shining on a ribbon of water harboring trout.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No Light

I worked from home yesterday. It's a Friday habit though I've been doing it more so lately as conference calls dominate my day.

I received a phone call shortly before 10 a.m. saying that my child's school was in lockdown because of a shooting. It took me a minute to process that the shooting refered to could be at the school though there were no such details in the message. But then I recalled they locked it down a few years ago for the bank robbery. And then I walked into the kitchen. Ann was already making calls to everyone she knew in town. To sort it out your brain hopes for, wishes for, a best case scenario.

When you discover that the shooting is at your children's former elementary school and now that they're in Middle and High School they're safe the relief takes your breath away; texts arrive saying they're okay. The guilt I felt at the relief that warmed my heart remains; especially as the day played out.

We spent the morning and afternoon glued to the TV set watching the familiar setting overrun by armed men. We saw neighbors on TV gathering their young children, relieved that the kids we saw at bus stops along the street, are safe, at least those that you see, and praying that the rumors are not true.

And then they are true. And then the truth is worse than anyone could expect.

I want to run away. I want this not to have happened. I want the pain to end.

But all I can do is weep for my neighbors who's pain is immeasurably more than mine.

This morning the sun did not rise. There is no light in Sandy Hook though we look to the horizon hopeful for a dawn that will warm our hearts and comfort our children.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Under the tree: Reading Anglers Edition

A few months ago Jason Whiteley sent me a copy of his illustrated children's book, Tales from the Tacklebox: Escape from the Crooked Tree. I've been sitting on that review for a while intending to pair it with another review I've been meaning to do but those great plans went the way of most great plans.

In this time of giving, I review below some of my favorite reading of this year. If I didn't already own this stuff I'd ask for it under the tree. If you know an angling reader I think they'd all be great gifts. Of course, don't forget to get a little something for yourself.

This book may set unreasonable expectations about the
size of fish than can be caught....
Tales from the Tacklebox: Escape from the Crooked Tree, Jason Whiteley, illustrated by Michael Koch, $14.99 Softcover, $4.99 ereader (Amazon, B&N, Google).

Jason sent me a free copy of his book and I subsequently bought the ereader version from Amazon. This is a fun book. It's delightfully illustrated by Michael Koch and while it has the simple story and primary colors of a children's book it's more than just a story about angling. Within is a fable of loneliness, self-worth and redemption; all valuable lessons for young anglers. My young nephew enjoyed it and was especially concerned about Stinkbait's loneliness. It's tough to be a Stinkbait.

Olive the Woolly Bugger App, Kirk Werner, The Apple App Store, $0.99

Who knew Dry Flies were such bastards!
I've been trying to buy Kirk's books for some time. I ordered the first book from an online fly shop and it turned out to be out of stock. A nearby fly shop told me they had a copy but it wasn't there when I arrived. I finally got around to buying them on Amazon while shopping for other Christmas presents. While awaiting their arrival (Note to Kirk: ebook),  I downloaded the Olive App. Short story: This thing is way under-priced for the value. Not only does it contain a short animated book that kids find enchanting, it also serves as an introduction to fly fishing. Throughout the story are links to sidebars describing all aspects of our sport from fly selection to stream entomology and river habitat. And then at the end there's a game. What's not to love? Kirk has an exceptional talent with both his illustrations and story telling. Good fun!

The Flyfish Journal, Steve Duda, Editor, $39.99/year, four issues

Part of the reason I still buy paper books is that some just feel good in the hand. Trade paperbacks I'll buy as an e-thing but certain hardcovers have a heft and quality that are delightful; good "hand". It's a strange thing by which to measure a piece of literature, but I never claimed to be normal. For forty bucks a year not only do you get four issues of fly fishing literature, but it comes in the best feeling and looking magazine journal I have ever held. And then when you open it and page through and read it you get wonderful stories from the likes of Deeter, Bie, Santella, Nolte and a host of others who write equally as well. Good stuff if you like the literary end of angling writing. Hook and bullet readers need not apply (unless you're looking for something completely different).

The Drake, Tom Bie, Editor,  $18/year, four issues

Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. Yeah, this journal has been around for a while and the forums that the Drake Mag site have spawned are notorious but it remains a benchmark for angling journals. I only discovered The Drake a year or so ago and find it an extraordinary collection of writers who don't have their drift boat tied to convention. At times I feel like it tries a bit too hard to not be conventional but then you don't become something different without planting your flag far off the beaten path. Mostly it's a solid, alternative voice in our sport's literary landscape. You'll read plenty of Tom Bie and Geoff Mueller in the magazine but you'll also get Tosh Brown, Chris Santella (there's that name again, watch for a pattern) and Bruce Smithhammer.

Fly Rod & Reel, Greg Thomas, Editor, $23.95/year, four issues

I know. You're saying, "Steve, you literary snob, how could you recommend a hook and bullet (sans bullet) magazine like Fly Rod & Reel. You might as well just recommend Field & Stream." Not so gentle readers. In a trend that began when Greg Thomas became editor a few years ago, the magazine has moved from being a "fish here, with this" sort of thing to being a place where stories about our sport can be found. This struck me when reading a recent article by Tom Rosenbauer about fishing the Delaware and a search of previous issues made it clear, the magazine is moving away from what one might consider "traditional" fare. Of course, this should be no surprise given the magazine's long tradition of publishing Gierach and the Traver Award winners. Look for more goodness from this magazine going forward.

Trout Magazine, Kirk Deeter, Editor, Free with a Trout Unlimited Membership, $17.50 Introductory Membership or Free for Women, four issues per year.

"Steve, again?! Are you nuts? Trout Magazine! That's TU Propaganda!" Okay, yes, historically this is a pretty dull magazine; mostly backhoes, stream restoration and news from the TU Nation. But TU went crazy and hired Kirk Deeter and installed him on the editorial throne. Since then this thing has taken a hard turn off-road. Kirk's first issue brought stories from writers like Chris Santella (there he is again), Monte Burke and Christopher Camuto. These writers aren't producing conservation articles. They're writing stories about the people, fisheries and sport that we all enjoy. While I'm going to reserve final judgement on this venture, I suspect that this will soon be the greatest value in fly fishing magazines -- free for the price of membership.

Finally, three quick recommendations: You couldn't go wrong with any of these books. Two I reviewed earlier this year: the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing by Deeter and Myers and Shin Deep by Chris Hunt. Each can be had for around $15 in the usual places. And, finally, Pulp Fly edited by Bruce Smithhammer, $4.95, ebook only. About a dozen stories from different writers, half of which made the bargain price more than worth it. Probably the second best value on this list.

I hope you all get what you want for Christmas, even if it's as simple as more time on the water and peace in your heart. Both things that are hard to find but are worth searching for.

Even though Jason sent me a free copy of his book nobody else sent me anything or asked me to write this stuff. It's stuff that I enjoyed and hope you (and those on your Christmas list) enjoy as well.

Save the Farmington, Send an Email

I just got the following email re: the petition I asked you to sign.
FRWA has had to suspend its online petition that was to be delivered to UConn Office of Environmental Policy about the MDC Proposal to provide Drinking water to UConn and Mansfield.  If you previously signed the FRWA petition, we cannot guarantee at this time that your comment (if any) will be forwarded. 

You may learn more about this proposal and send your comments directly to UConn by visiting this link:
Written comments should be sent to:
Name: Jason M. Coite
Agency: University of Connecticut – Office of Environmental Policy
Address: 31 LeDoyt Road, U-3055
Storrs, Connecticut 06269
Phone: 860-486-9305
Fax: 860-486-5477

Thank you all so much for responding so quickly to our action alert.  If you have any questions, please call us at the office at (860) 658-4442 or visit our website at  
Aimee Petras
Education and Outreach Coordinator
It looks like perhaps the State doesn't care about petitions and will only respond to emails. So, send an email to this address:

Here's the email I sent to Jason. Feel free to cut and paste into yours.
Subject:  Water Diversion for UCONN

I am writing to express my strong opposition to the proposed water diversion from the Farmington River Watershed to supply UCONN and Mansfield with water. This sort of diversion is troubling not only in itself but also because of the long-term precedent that it sets. One only has to look west in places like the Colorado River drainage to see how overuse of resources harms watersheds. We should not start such a trend in Connecticut.
 Thanks for your support.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I drained my river and now I have no water!

In 2005, the University of Connecticut at Storrs took so much water out of the wells bordering the Fenton River that the river ran dry as the water table was diverted to showers and toilets. Eight thousand trout died and a pretty stretch of river was killed.

Since that time the town of Mansfield and the University have been looking for a new source of water. It turns out they found it: the Farmington River watershed.

The plans is to spend over $50 million laying twenty miles of pipeline so that five million gallons of water can be diverted each day from the Farmington River to the students in Storrs.

Now call me crazy, but I think this idea is crazy. The West Branch of the Farmington is a Wild and Scenic River and in one of the best trout fisheries in the state and among the top ten in the Northeast. Pulling water from this watershed is both a bad idea for the near term and sets a dangerous precedent for future water diversions in the state and region.


I encourage friends of the Farmington River to sign the petition opposing the diversion of water from the Farmington to students on the other side of the state.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Everything I Needed To Know About Steelhead, I Learned From "Animal House"

I've known and fished with Steve Culton for several years. He, along with Jon, even infected me with this desire to fish for Steel though clearly he's more committed and addled than I. Below is a post from a local fishing forum to which I thought many of you equally addled anglers could relate. Below is his account of recent day trip (i.e. suicide run) to Pulaski, NY reprinted with his permission.

“Road trip.” - Boon and Otter
There’s something liberating about heading off to a far away place where steelhead live. An opportunity to be alone with your thoughts on the way up. Smoke a few cigars. Listen to the football game on the radio. It’s an adventure, flying solo. Too bad Fawn Lebowitz couldn’t make it.

“Oh boy, is this great!” - Flounder
I got to the river a little after six. It was dark enough to need a headlamp as I negotiated the wooded hillside down to the water. There was the uncertainty of crossing the river at 650cfs without a wading staff, but I had that old composite hockey stick shaft I use to prop up the hatch of the Jeep. Worked like a charm. I find fishing far more enjoyable when I’m able to cover the entire length of a run, and I did so in splendid isolation for nearly two hours. By nine, three other anglers had joined me. We exchanged pleasantries and fishing talk, which is civilized and makes you feel good that you’re not sharing the water with morons. Two of them were swinging flies, so to appease the fishing gods I gave each of them a classic-styled soft hackle. Sadly, the fishing gods had Monday off, too.

“Greg, honey, is it supposed to be this soft?” - Babs
Really? Not a single take, not even at first light? Not in the deeper runs, the soft seams next to the fast water or that really sexy confluence at the bottom of the island? Not right after all those midges started to hatch? Not on the zitty day-glo patterns or the somber naturals? Courage, lad. Your moment will come.

“Thank you sir, may I have another?” - Chip
My plan was to move around to find fish, so by 10:30 I was headed down river. Rumor had it there was a bunch of fresh chrome in the DSR over the weekend, and maybe they’d be up to Pineville by today. Or not. Fished five different holes over a quarter-mile stretch. I caught two sticks, one log, countless leaves and a fine selection of cased caddis. Not a bump from a fish. This is turning out to be a proper spanking.

“If I was in your shoes, I’d be…”
“Leaving! What a good idea.”
- Dude at Dexter Lake Club and Boon
The old college try will only get you so far.

“You have to drive us to the Food King." - Otter
To this point I have fished almost 7 hours and only seen three people. Including my last trip, I’m now into my 16th hour without a touch. So I am biting the bullet and heading to Altmar. Yes, there will be crowds. But there will also be fish. Mmmmm. Ring me up for some steelhead.

“My advice to you is to start drinking heavily." - Bluto
Good grief. This mob is ridiculous. It’s a Monday. What’s it like on a Saturday? Still, if this is the price of admission to catch a steelhead, I’ll pony up. I fished a few vacant holes then jumped into an opening in the sweet spot I had my eye on. I noticed a pile of beer cans on the shore behind me. A hookup would be most intoxicating right about now.

“I don’t want to seem…you know, pushy" - Chip
You know you’re too polite when you jump into a spot that opens up, you take great care to ask the angler below you if he has enough room, then ten minutes later a guy just walks into the space between you like it’s his own private beat.

"Mr. Blutarsky: zero-point-zero.” - Dean Wormer
Insert Culton for Blutarsky and that’s my day. And I did it without a single pencil up my nose.

“What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is!”- Bluto
I was walking out at 3:45 when I saw the little hole where I had hooked a fish last December. So I climbed in and fished for another half hour. By 4:15, I had made my decision.

“I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.”
- Otter
Yep. I'm going back next chance I get.


Steve Culton lives in Connecticut. He is a freelance writer, guide, professional fly tyer, and moderator on While he is an educated man, Steve will sometimes drive to Pulaski, fish all day, catch nothing, drive home and still proclaim the trip a success.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quick Sips: Twitterings

I know the many of you follow and ignore my Twitter feed regardless of how easy I make it for you to gain access to my brilliance. So, for my faithful, I present an extract of recent discoveries around the intertubes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Somewhere downhill

Somewhere downhill, close by, a small water flows.

Gathering myriad crevice's trickles it emerges from the wood as something substantial enough to harbor trout. And it does.

And it is unfished and unreachable on this unseasonably warm day.

But it is there tempting and haunting those desires and memories of days past and days to come and days that can only ever exist in the imagination.


Morning Fog. There's trout water out there.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Damn those dams

I prefer dam films that have WW2 bombers blasting them to pieces, but otherwise, this one has promise.

DamNation | Trailer from FELT SOUL MEDIA on Vimeo.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Senate needs a kick in the ass: Call them now!

I recommend you cash in your 401K, buy guns, ammo and MREs cause the apocalypse is coming. It's not the Mayans, it's Congress.

Why am I ringing the alarm bell? Well, the fiscal cliff will surely destroy humanity and I have proof that we're going to drive off it at full speed. We know Congress can't agree on jack shit. But now I've found they can't even agree upon stuff that they agree upon. Sound stupid? It is.

Exhibit 1: The Sportsman's Act of 2012 (S. 3525)

This Act is a wonderful thing. It takes twenty smart, relatively politically neutral laws, packages them together into something that both the House and Senate like and sends them up the flagpole to get saluted. The saluting commences.

Are there details to be worked out? Sure. The House has passed their version. The Senate has their own version. But everyone seemed to be rowing in the right direction. Hell, the bill was supported by both the White House and the NRA. When was the last time that happened?

Well, apparently one provision of this law will raise the price of a duck stamp from $15 to $25* and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) pointed out that this violated Senate rules (and perhaps the U.S. Constitution).

So, all the Republicans piled on and killed this thing.

Let's say that again slowly:

The Republicans (and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)**) killed a law the NRA supported because of a procedural issue.

Against the Senate rules!? Jeez.

This is just the sort of crap that could get worked out in committee. The bill has to go there anyway to get reconciled with the bill the House approved. But instead of just letting this thing sail through with high-fives all around and a bit of non-partisan cooperation, a wrench was thrown in.

Good grief.

Now we (you) need to act.

A list of how the Senator's voted (taken from Field and Stream) is below. If one of these.... Senators is in your neighborhood, give them a call. Let them know how important it is to get things sorted out ASAP so we can get this thing passed.

This bill is too important to die under the weight of partisan crap.

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Till then, I'll see you in your zombie-proof, bomb shelter. You better be armed or I'm taking your canned chick peas.

Alexander, Lamar; 202-224-4944 (R-TN)     
Ayotte, Kelly; 202-224-3324 (R-NH)          
Barrasso, John; 202-224-6441 (R-WY)       
Blunt, Roy; 202-224-5721 (R-MO)          
Boozman, John; 202-224-4843 (R-AR)          
Boxer, Barbara; 202-224-3553 (D-CA)          
Brown, Scott; 202-224-4543 (R-MA)          
Burr, Richard; 202-224-3154 (R-NC)         
Chambliss, Saxy; 202-224-3521 (R-GA)          
Coats, Daniel; 202-224-5623 (R-IN)          
Coburn, Tom; 202-224-5754 (R-OK)          
Cochran, Thad; 202-224-5054 (R-MS)          
Collins, Susan; 202-224-2523 (R-ME)          
Corker, Bob; 202-224-3344 (R-TN)          
Cornyn, John; 202-224-2934 (R-TX)          
Crapo, Mike; 202-224-6142 (R-ID)          
DeMint, Jim; 202-224-6121 (R-SC)          
Enzi, Michael; 202-224-3424 (R-WY)          
Graham, Lindsey; 202-224-5972 (R-SC)          
Grassley, Chuck; 202-224-3744 (R-IA)          
Hatch, Orrin; 202-224-5251 (R-UT)          
Heller, Dean; 202-224-6244 (R-NV)          
Hutchison, Kay; 202-224-5922 (R-TX)          
Inhofe, James 202-224-4721 (R-OK)          
Johanns, Mike; 202-224-4224 (R-NE)          
Johnson, Ron; 202-224-5323 (R-WI)          
Kyl, Jon; 202-224-4521 (R-AZ)              
Lee, Mike; 202-224-5444 (R-UT)              
Lugar, Richard; 202-224-4814 (R-IN)          
McCain, John; 202-224-2235 (R-AZ)          
McConnell, Mitch; 202-224-2541 (R-KY)          
Moran, Jerry; 202-224-6521 (R-KS)          
Murkowski, Lisa; 202-224-6665 (R-AK)          
Paul, Rand; 202-224-4343 (R-KY)          
Portman, Rob; 202-224-3353 (R-OH)          
Risch, James; 202-224-2752 (R-ID)          
Roberts, Pat; 202-224-4774 (R-KS)          
Rubio, Marco; 202-224-3041 (R-FL)          
Sessions, Jeff; 202-224-4124 (R-AL)          
Shelby, Richard; 202-224-5744 (R-AL)          
Thune, John; 202-224-2321 (R-SD)          
Toomey, Patrick; 202-224-4254 (R-PA)          
Vitter, David; 202-224-4623 (R-LA)          
Wicker, Roger; 202-224-4623 (R-MS)
Akaka, Daniel (D-HI)
Baucus, Max (D-MT)
Bennet, Michael (D-CO)
Bingaman, Jeff (D-NM)          
Blumenthal, Richard (D-CT)
Brown, Sherrod (D-OH) 
Cantwell, Maria (D-WA) 
Cardin, Benjamin (D-MD) 
Carper, Thomas (D-DE) 
Casey, Robert (D-PA) 
Conrad, Kent (D-ND) 
Coons, Christopher (D-DE) 
Durbin, Richard (D-IL) 
Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA) 
Franken, Al (D-MN)
Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY)
Hagan, Kay (D-NC)
Inouye, Daniel (D-HI) 
Johnson, Tim (D-SD) 
Kerry, John (D-MA) 
Klobuchar, Amy (D-MN)
Kohl, Herb (D-WI) 
Lautenberg, Frank (D-NJ)
Leahy, Patrick (D-VT) 
Levin, Carl (D-MI) 
Lieberman, Joseph (ID-CT)
Manchin, Joe (D-WV) 
McCaskill, Claire (D-MO) 
Menendez, Robert (D-NJ) 
Merkley, Jeff (D-OR) 
Mikulski, Barbara (D-MD) 
Murray, Patty (D-WA)
Nelson, Ben (D-NE) 
Nelson, Bill (D-FL) 
Pryor, Mark (D-AR) 
Reed, Jack (D-RI) 
Reid, Harry (D-NV) 
Rockefeller, John (D-WV)
Sanders, Bernard (I-VT)
Schumer, Charles (D-NY)
Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH)
Snowe, Olympia (R-ME)
Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI)
Tester, John (D-MT)
Udall, Mark (D-CO)
Udall, Tom (D-NM)
Warner, Mark (D-VA)
Webb, Jim (D-VA)
Whitehouse, Sheldon (D-RI)
Wyden, Ron (D-OR)
* Every duck hunter I know would support the increased fee.
** Why, you ask, would Senator Boxer vote with the Republicans? Well, it has nothing to do with Senate rules or the US Constitution. One provision of the law would prevent the EPA from regulating lead in bullets and apparently California has banned those bullets. She's just voting against that provision. I won't comment on the idiocy of that....oops, I did.

Additional Reading
US Senate Kills Sportsman Bill
Senators try to bring back the Sportsman Bill
Help Us Save the Sportsmans Act

Friday, November 23, 2012

Healing Waters

Got out fishing today so I didn't write anything. But you can check out a guest post I did over on The River Damsel.
Update Nov 27: I've pasted the complete text of the guest post below.

Last week, Emily's husband, David, received a kidney from his sister. I pray that all is going well for both of them and that they'll be back at something resembling normal soon.

Writers often wax poetic about the healing powers of our sport. The syrup that is poured on the topic would put a six-year old sugar junky off the thing. But there is something to the notion.

I find that time on the water helps me physically distance myself from the stressful noise in my life. It's more difficult to stop the mental machinations and it can take several consecutive days before the voices in my head turn from work to fly selection and reading water; eventually my head emerges from hunched shoulders.

Efforts like Casting for Recovery and Project Healing Waters take folks wounded by chance and by war and introduces them to the things that most of us find each day on the water. While I'm sure it's not everyone's game, I bet some wounded find the connection to that something we all know and move forward.

Last weekend I stood in the sleet and snow in Pulaski, NY. After two days of Indian Summer, the weather turned to what most know as typical Steelhead weather.

The morning started out gloomy. Just before the weather turned almost a dozen anglers stood under gray skies in the run below where Jonny and I were fishing. Everyone was doing their best to put in the time when the bite was clearly off. While I didn't feel crowded by the other anglers, it was clearly different from the normal, solitary existence of a small steam angler.

As the weather shifted and the sleet, hail, and snow fell I was shocked to see the masses scatter. Aren't Steelheaders known for their hardiness? Within fifteen minutes we had the entirety of the run to ourselves. Far too much water for one to fish but very pleasing to have to one's self.

All that was left was the rhythm of the cast, the rush of the water, and the sound of pelting weather on my jacket. The only thoughts I had were of fly selection and sensing tension on the line. In the next hour I caught nothing but released much. If not for the clock running out on this trip I could have done with a bit more casting and stepping through the healing water. And I wouldn't have minded another tug by a fish-shaped, nickel-bright object.

Life is busy right now. Demands both personal and professional seem to have peaked and there's precious little room for anything else. Like most of you I will continue to tuck away quick trips to the water; to find and preserve that something else that exists.

Some days it is just fishing. But mostly, it's something else.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Friday

It took me a few weeks to write the following story and by the time I got around to putting it in print the season has passed. So I saved it for today. Black Friday is coming.


I think that most non-anglers would be startled by the amount of my brain capacity that is allocated to fly fishing rumination at any given moment. I suppose this fixation on trout, the stream and the experience, is largely due to how relatively rare a trip to the river is when compared to my opportunities to attend conference calls.

I imagine it's the same for most anglers, heck, for most anyone with a passion for anything. But like most hard core athletes it is the pre-game visualization that is the most critical -- What flies? Which pools? How will I play the "big one"? Will there be fruitcake?

I don't like fruitcake but Black Friday means fishing on the Housatonic with Don and Jon and that means that Jon will bring along his wife's fruitcake for us all to sample. My lack of love for fruitcake finds its genesis in a) dried fruit being the antithesis of fruit and b) my parent's wedding cake.

Deep in the dark recesses of my childhood home a freezer held a brick of fruitcake indelicately wrapped in tin foil. This remnant of a 1960 wedding was brought forth every couple of years and pieces of dark, freezer-burned cake were chiseled for us all to sample. I still get chills thinking about it.

At the risk of having more fruitcake foisted upon me, I admit that Jon's bride's cake is entirely edible, bordering on enjoyable. It's more of a bread than a cake and this may be its secret. Of course, spending a morning in the middle of a river being buffeted by a nor'easter’s winds make my palette far less discerning that it might otherwise be.

Prior the last year’s fruitcake trip I was in full visualization mode. The USGS streamflow charts and weather reports are bookmarked. If the combination of streamflow, weather and fishing reports were to be believed this could be the best Black Friday trip ever.

If there’s an emotion that is more fundamental to the sport of angling than hope, I don’t know it. That deep feeling of expectation drives the next cast, the next trip, the next season. And so I hoped Tuesday’s storm would be mild.

Wednesday brought a harsh reality.

We scattered to our various Plan Bs. Jon elected for fishing the salt on Friday. Don threw in the towel. My brain was set on trout so I called a guide I know up in Massachusetts. I booked a boat for my youngest, Sam, and I on Saturday. Hope was restored.

That is until Dan’s text message late Friday evening. "Technical Difficulties" and then "Call u in five". Short Story: Dan had to work a show on Saturday. If fishing trips were fairies Tinker Bell would be dead; I no longer believed they actually existed. I went to bed in a funk; but with a inkling of an idea in my head. Perhaps I could still will her back to life.

I had received some intel on fishing upstream from a certain bridge on a certain small stream that should have been running clear by morning. It was. Sam and I packed one rod and traveled light. We took turns casting to all the likely spots. The first Brook Trout came on a caddis pupa. We fished upstream through pockets and riffles. We hooked a couple and landed half a dozen; all Brookies.

We talked continuously about nothing in particular and everything in general. We investigated industrial and domestic wreckage along the river bank. We talked about fishing and rigging flies and lone moss colored rocks. We let the deep mud of marshes suck at our wading boots. We sat on rocks and watched. We grabbed hot chocolate on the way home.

I very much missed the Black Friday trip. The camaraderie and tradition are a treasure. But the weekend could not have turned out better. I was restored in a way that only flowing water can accomplish and I shared it with someone I deeply love. And through all the disappointments and surprises of the past week I discovered that what I desperately wanted wasn't what I really needed, which, I suppose, is the miracle of this season.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Deliberate Life

Some good people got together and made what looks like a great video about people and life with some fly fishing mixed in.

Another emerging trend in the art about our sport is compelling stories about people. This will be one of them.

Worth a watch.

A DELIBERATE LIFE TRAILER from RockHouse Motion on Vimeo.

ACTION: Peanut Bunker Need Help TODAY!

source: Menhaded Defenders
Menhaden, an important bait fish along the east coast, has been under attack for years by commercial harvesting. Menhaden stocks have declined 86% during the past three decades with a majority of that decline being attributed to fishing for the reduction industry: creating fish meal sold primarily to the aquaculture market.

Ironic: Wild populations are being decimated to feed fish raised in pens.

Today is the last day to get comments in on this important issue that protects the food for wild Stripers and Bluefish.

The Menhaden Defenders organization has put a handy tool out there to help you add your voice to the discussion. It only takes about 2 minutes to fill out the form and make your voice heard.

The regulations that you're asking to be enacted will ask for
  • 50 percent reduction in landings
  • Start date no later than the 2013 fishing season
  • New target of 30 percent MSP (maximum spawning potential) must be reached within three years
  • Consistent reporting in both the industrial fishery and the smaller bait fishery operating largely in New Jersey and Virginia
  • Allocation of the fishery to support small bait harvesters
These seem like reasonable and prudent actions given the status of this important resource.

Thanks for your support.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The numbers

Two and one-half days.
Ten hours of driving
Countless flies lost.
Sleet. Rain. Hail. Snow. And that was just today.
Six takes.
Three fish-jumping, drag-screaming fights.
Zero landed.
Maybe T.J. was right.
Maybe he can recommend a program.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

We steel

It's getting late.
And my scotch is empty.
And my lids are heavy.
And I've drawn blood.
And still I tie.
With some tetanus-like bug roaming through my bloodstream, in early November I find myself diseased. I'm thinking about Steel and what they eat and where they live far too often.
I see the bobbing headlamps in the crisp, blue, pre-dawn dark making their way to water.
I can see hemlock shaded runs that in strong light disclose their bounty but whose murky depths are usually covered by damp skies.
And my brothers lining the banks. Casting. Stepping. Chucking. Ducking.
Heads swivel in unison as a hoot and a rip of water signals mono unzipping the steel beneath.
So many hours in a car just to stand in weather that'd blast the paint off a battleship but we go without flinching and without concern for anything but whether they're there or not and despite reports we believe beyond hope that our luck will be better. Fresh fish will push up and, no, no, we will not be denied the zing of adrenaline and the grins that do not fade.
Soon. Very soon. Maybe a good night's sleep and a dozen or so conference calls from now my brain will fully embrace Steel.
As I've said before, I am not a Steelheader.
And I watched the Steelhead Public Service Announcement.
I am not a Steelheader.
But still I tie.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Chris & Sam with Tom Harrison on the Deerfield
Just before I nodded off a couple of Saturday's ago I was startled by the muscle memory of a trout slamming a quickly retrieved streamer. My whole hand twitched and I swear my other arm did a strip set. I smiled as I drifted off.

Like most fly anglers I appreciate the aesthetic of a trout taking a dry off the surface. And I know of the effectiveness of a practiced nymph presentation. But there's nothing like a wrenching tug on a tight line as it swings or is retrieved through the current.

via Michael Richmond
My high school physics teacher, Mr. Fazzino, taught me about Newton's second law* and even a modest trout lacking mass more than makes up for it in acceleration yielding a force on the end of the line that is quite satisfying. Add a fast current and you've got quite the thrill. Of course, the trick is giving the fish a good look at the fly so as to interest it in the rest of the game.

There are some people who make fly casting look easier than it is. My buddy Len is one of those people. Bruce Smithhammer is another. I watch folks like Len and Bruce and try to pick up a bit of technique to mend my own which tends to be effective yet hideous.

One trick I've noticed in both these gents' repertoires is a single haul. For them it's an almost imperceptible and probably subconscious act but you can see its value. When making a short cast or if there's a bit of a breeze that extra dash of line speed can help load and fire line effectively.

I learned double hauling in Alaska where fishing large, heavy flies -- whether they were streamers or mice or large nymph rigs -- is common and where the rivers are large. I'm not a master of the haul, but I've got the basics down.

Once I had the double haul down the single haul was easy; though I hear learning a single and graduating to a double is the more traditional way to approach the technique. Regardless, I make it work in my own way.

I fished the Housatonic a few weeks ago with a good friend. It was a cloudy day and while the river had recently been stocked with twelve thousand fish we didn't find too many. I blame the mergansers.

The BWOs were there and we got a few on tiny flies but the fish weren't on them consistently. We also managed some nymphing and swinging wets.

Streamers helped
Late in the day, I switched to a second rod I had leaning up against a tree on the bank. This five weight rod was strung up for streamers with a 150 grain sinking line and a garish yellow and orange articulated fly. A little hauling got the fly to the right place.

What good fun. I didn't land any of the fish I hooked, but I did have four on in a relatively short period of time. And the takes were the jarring experience that gets the adrenaline going.

I spent a day casting heavy sinking lines with the Harrison's up on the Deerfield River two weeks ago. The nymph fishing was slow so we switched to streamers early and the fishing was steady after that.

The usual trick with streamers is casting right to the bank. By doing so you get your fly traveling right through the ambush zone where the water deepens. Of course, this also means you're likely to have to cast a bit farther than normal and that's where a little haul can make the task easier.

This time of year my Day's Worth Fly Box looks like quite the menagerie. On one side a collection of nymphs and dries with the largest around an #18. On the other is crammed tufts of marabou in yellow and orange on hooks that can barely be contained in the box.

There are still plenty of opportunities this fall to cast lilliputian dries to sipping trout. But more often than not I'm tying on something large and colorful and hauling to the far bank hoping to set the hook and feel that lively tugging that resonates from finger tips to shoulder.

Small flies for fall trout.

* f=ma or, in his mnemonic, "Force equals your mother"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After the storm

The storm has passed. It's early still; seems earlier with the power out though the purr of generators, ours included, echo up the valley.

The winds were strong all afternoon yesterday. By late day they were up and constant and the occasional gust made vertical things seek horizontal and took your breath away. And we hadn't seen the strongest winds.

With darkness the peak of the storm arrived. Why does this always happen at night? I can't recall a storm where we went to bed thinking "Phew, that's over". It's always "I wonder what'll be left in the morning?".

Sunday afternoon, between the search for D batteries and an oil change on the generator, I managed to spend an hour or so on a local stream. The leaf hatch was going strong and no bugs were seen. I fished up a long slow pool with nary a nibble. When I got to the head of the pool I looked back and saw two fish slapping at something. Damn.

Wets on and I worked back downstream swinging in the current. The first took a swipe and tugged hard and took both flies with him. Damn again; felt like a heavy fish. The second turned off perhaps seeing the commotion and wanting none of it.

Today will be spent cleaning up what little mess we have. My parents are down on the shore so I'll have to get down there to see how they've fared and to test my minimal mechanical skills to see if I can get their generator to turn.

Thankfully the major rain fall was well to the south and we've been spared the flooding that came with last year's storms. Most of the local streams are still orderly and will soon be fishable.

And we're dreaming of steel for the weekend although Sandy still has a part to play in that story as she boomerangs out of sight.

Good riddance.

In the calm before the storm trout were pursued.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Watering the Steel

Pulaski, NY. Early November. Steelhead.

Do you think they'll be enough water?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Peanut Envy

I have streamers on the brain; articulated streamers

I fished the Deerfield on Saturday with the Harrison brothers. The fishing was good on articulated streamers. Those that nymphed, my boys, did less well.

Olive, articulated streamers. Gotta tie some.

And yellow too. The Housy trout like yellow. With a bit of orange.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Seeds of Spring

The first hard frost has come prematurely crimping the growing season at an abrupt end. The wildflowers are gone too, mostly; gone to seed.

Tomorrow it will be seventy degrees. The weather pretends that the season hasn't changed but we know it's just a ruse. More of the same is in order. Sweaters are out of boxes hanging on the backs of chairs, ready at hand.

Like most cycles, the end of this one just sets up the next.

There are tiny flies on the water now. It's the start of good Blue Wing Olive weather and thread on small hooks below CDC puffs catch fish and test the limits of eyesight and tippet.

Looking forward, the season of large flies isn't too far off and deep below the stream's surface last spring's spinner's seed is already preparing the next generation of hatch.

It's coming.

We only have to wait it out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Interesting Times for Outdoor Writers

The other day I read a very satisfying essay in Fly Rod and Reel, Alaska: Adventures in the Trouting Life, by Troy Letherman. I don't know if this is a fundamental shift in the industry or just a nod to the fact that the current issue also includes the Traver Award essay but finding an essay in the middle of a major fly fishing magazine was surprising. And satisfying.

The sporting essay is a rare creature these days. The small dribble that emerges in the end papers of most angling and hunting magazines wouldn't keep a illiterate nourished much less those that consider themselves readers. Solid fiction and non-fiction essays seems trapped in a world of sparse opportunity and questionable commercial viability.

The written word has been changing for some time; accelerating in the past decade. Distribution was the first to change, online buying expanded access to titles. Borders and Waldenbooks were turned over so the new crop could be sown.

Then form changed, wicked fast. E-things are supplanting paper at an accelerating pace. No longer does one need to to actually publish to self publish though that's also gotten easier and cheaper, too.

This shift in medium is the big change. Even though I, like others, still appreciate the heft of a good book electronic media, including blogging, is now the game.

I came late to blogging, like I did to fly fishing, but I think I came at just the right moment. I am standing next to giants, feeling short. This community of writers is diverse in experience, style and talent but it has tremendous passion and the many unique voices make scanning the RSS feed worthwhile.

Within this medium you can separate the hobbyists and fringe elements from the folks who take craft seriously; it's about writing. The writers are not sworn to the daily post but instead to the semi-regular publishing of essay. Popular, quality writers are finding reliable audiences and readers are beginning to see a way out of the desert. But there's still a gap begging to be transformed.

It's still nearly impossible for a writer to create a bridge across the chasm separating a quality hobby from something resembling, at a minimum, part-time employment. Even the Grandmother hand knitting pot holders can find a market at a local craft fair; not so for the writer.

But that may be starting to change too.

The intersection of electronic ease of publishing and the multitude of payment systems is one such bridge.

Bruce Smithhammer started an interesting experiment with Pulp Fly. It's hard to sort out whose idea Pulp Fly was or how exactly it came together, it's a circle of modest, talented people, but Bruce is the ring leader and editor. This book contains eleven essays, mostly fiction, from various authors. Some names you'll recognize in that, "hey I think I read something by him in The Drake" sort of way. Others are new.

What's also new is that you have to pay the authors $4.95 to read it. Unlike bloggers or the ubiquitous e-zine, writers get paid.

As Bruce readily admits in his forward, this book is a latter day derivation of the pulp fiction novels of the early twentieth century. And it's genius. It is the metaphorical craft fair for pot holding writers.

Of course, now we need more editors and publishers in this new format. It will be interesting to see who takes that on but my gut tells me that if writers can get paid, they'll abandon venues that want to use their work for free and be attracted to venues where there's even a modest likelihood of payment.

I think the supply side is going to pick up steam.

Perhaps most importantly, we need readers willing to pay $5. The toughest challenge for Pulp publishers will be getting publicity and ironing out competition from "free" sources. I suppose writers will have a big hand in sorting that out though if given an economic incentive, it'll be an easy decision.

And eventually, some writers will make money the old fashioned way. A ton of very talented, perhaps even the most talented, are going to continue as hobbyists and go no further. But a few, the Hammets, Lovecrafts or Harrisons of our generation, are going to break out and be big.

And between now and then it's going to be a hell of a ride.

Who wants to start publishing house?