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"