Saturday, February 23, 2013

Frosted Valentine

Valentine's morning we awoke to a light dusting of snow. It was one of those magical snows that dappled everything with bright highlights and renewed the dingy, old snow with a crisp, white coating.

Flood Plain
Poacher's Lane

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tenkara: It is what it is

Let me start by saying that I think "Fly Fishing Only" waters are idiotic as would be "Gill Net Only" waters.

I've seen a discussion going on in the social media about whether Tenkara is fly fishing or not. Specifically, this becomes an issue when one considers using a Tenkara rig in "Fly Fishing Only" regulated water.

Look, flies! It must be fly
fishing. From Tenkara USA

There are two dimensions to this discussion. The first is a philosophical question: Is Tenkara, in form, a method of fly angling? I can easily see both sides of this discussion. I happen to think it is fly angling. That's an opinion.

The second question is a legal question: Does Tenkara angling fit the legal definition of fly angling in a given jurisdiction? In Connecticut, it does not. Apparently it does not in Washington either. Legally, Tenkara is not fly angling, it is Tenkara angling.

If you chose to fish with a Tenkara kit, I'm not sure why you would have an expectation that you'd be able to use it on "Fly Fishing Only" regulated waters. It's not, legally, fly fishing. So, either get over it or change the regulation.

I would suggest the change to the regulation would not be to redefine fly angling but instead to remove the restriction to the waters altogether. Anglers unite!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Quill Gordon's Story Time

Private angling clubs are anathema to me but there is one that I might be convinced to join: The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society. This esteemed society of anglers sits on the banks of Fish in a Barrel Pond and stories of the goings on are brought to us regularly by its caretaker, Quill Gordon, via the Fish in a Barrel Pond blog.

I've enjoyed Quill's writing for the past few years and he and I have exchanged notes on writing and angling. I was pleased to receive a draft of some new work a few weeks ago. It's the sort of stuff that puts you on the edge of your seat waiting for the next installment.

Quill has also been toying with the mechanics of electronic publishing and recently published three essays on Amazon and Barnes and Noble to test the waters. These three essays, published under the banner "Quill Gordon's Story Time: Tales of the Outdoors for Anglers and Others" are wholly enjoyable in a manner that readers of Quill's blog will immediately recognize.

I'm not sure how to characterize Quill's writing style but there's a strong dollop of Mark Twain in there coupled with something else I can't quite put my finger on. The first story I read was "The Buddy System". This tale of the untimely death of an angling buddy will serve as guidance for future generations caught in the same situation.

The second was a cautionary tale of tinkering called "The Conflagration at Green Damselfly Cove". The ends that man will go to to tame fire and solve problems better left unsolved is perfectly captured. The last installment is "Teach a Man to Fish...". This tale provides insight into the intersection of fly fishing, beaver ponds, and the absurdity of otter angling.

If you enjoy Twain's writing you'll feel right at home with Quill's. The fact that he narrates around the sport and business of fly fishing makes it that much more enjoyable.

As I said in an earlier post, I believe electronic publishing will continue to change the way we both find and consume literature. Gordon's is a good example of the trend. I think the key will be finding the right price point for this work. At $1 for each installment the volume of content felt just a tad sparse. I didn't feel cheated, so the value seemed right, but I think Quill, and other author/publishers, will continue to seek the right sweet spot along the price continuum.

No doubt we'll see more from Quill in the near future. I, for one, am excited at the prospect.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Whitlock et al

I went to Somerset to see the IF4 show two weeks ago. A few folks I know produced and starred in A Deliberate Life and seeing it was the purpose of the trip. There were also a couple of other notable films including Mark Crapo's short, The Beard Chronicles, Cast Alaska 2 - Sheebang by the folks at Cross Current, The Last Salmon Forest by Detonation Studios. I've heard my buddy Chris talk about fishing the Tongass in the past and now it is firmly on the short list. If you get a chance to see IF4, definitely see it.

The trip would have been worth it for IF4 alone but a stay overnight made a visit to the fly show a no brainer. Sam and I got there early as we had to be home by mid-afternoon. We wandered around a bit speaking with the fly tyers, buying some critical supplies and oggling the shiny objects of our desire.

I made several passes through Dave Whitlock's booth. I hadn't met Dave before but like you I'm familiar with his work through the articles in numerous magazines. His illustrations of bugs, fish, and habitat that are among the most recognizable in our sport.

Early in the day, Dave was nice enough to spend some time talking as he worked. We spoke about the business of art - illustration vs fine art , the business of writing - writing for the paycheck vs the soul,  and about being new to the game vs an old hand. It was very enjoyable and he was generous with his time.

Later Sam and I couldn't help but add a couple of prints to our collection and Emily and Dave were kind enough to donate a few prints for our upcoming TU banquet.

One of the things that I didn't count on was how much I enjoyed speaking with the vendors. Sure I was enamored with their wares, but there are a lot of fascinating folks in our sport and it was a good time just hanging out and chatting (and buying a few things, too). I suppose it's not much different from anything else in life, it's generally the people you meet that make the trip worth taking.




Gregg Heffner

Claes Johansson
Cork below Bamboo



Monday, February 4, 2013

A Discussion with FR&R Editor Greg Thomas

I had a revelation a few months ago. It was one of those things where you discover, as if struck by lightning, that something that used to be one way is now another. In this case, that thing had been changing forever but I didn't realize it. Perhaps my powers of observation are overrated.

The thing that had I had not noticed changing was the magazine, Fly Rod & Reel. Sometime in the past couple of years it had begun to change from a "how to" sort of thing to something different; not exactly literary but clearly not the bait and bullet mold.

I got in touch with Greg Thomas, Editor of FR&R, and he agreed to respond to a few questions about himself and the magazine. The results of that exchange are below.

Growing up in Alaska and Washington is seems like angling has been a part of your life right from the beginning. If fishing came first, are you an angler who writes or has your profession moved to the forefront and you're now a writing-angler? Or does that even matter?

I started fishing with my father, the artist Fred Thomas, when I was three or four. We caught steelhead and king salmon with regularity, plus big sea-run cutthroat. The outdoors has been at my core from birth, pretty much. Because my dad worked for himself he could always take up a friends offer to fish or hunt, when so many others couldn't. I wanted to mimic that. When it became clear that writing was something I excelled at—during high school—I decided that would be my ticket to doing just about whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it, in the outdoors. After college I shunned permanent work and just cruised the West. I didn't want to be a guy, say, from Florida, who fished Montana or anywhere else in the West for five days a year and then thought they would write a book about it. I wanted to be legit. So I bounced around, having fun, fishing nearly 200 days a year, living a pretty good, but lean life. I think that has paid off—when manuscripts cross my desk I know if a person really knows what they are talking about or they're just playing a game for gear or a trip somewhere. To your question, I'm at once a writer and an angler first.

What's your writing story -- when did it start, was it always about angling, where's it going?

At first I wanted to be a sports writer so I could afford to go to all the professional sporting events. Then the idea of fishing and hunting all the time took over. A teacher in high school once told me I was a very good writer and I ought to make a career of it. That was really the first time my academics had been acknowledged. So I enrolled at the University of Montana, mostly because of the fishing but also because they have a highly respected journalism program. Those journalism classes were invaluable. They taught me to write and edit strictly. But instead of going out and getting a newspaper job I always pursued freelance so I wouldn't have to be anywhere at anytime and could fish when it was prime. I struggled like most young writers, but has some early success, too. One day I said, this article that I just penned is as good as anything I've ever read in a travel or outdoors page of a national newspaper. I said I would send it to every major newspaper in the country until someone bought it. I faxed it (yes, that dates me) to the New York Times that night. I got a call in the morning with good news—the article has run in the national edition that day. Big break. Everything was pretty easy after that.

What writers influence you most?

I like reading the Japanese author Haruki Murakami, but his work is so fantastical it doesn't really influence my writing. Hemingway was a great storyteller and I think his work influenced me. McGuane is good, too, the best angling-essay writer alive. A.J. McClane was an early influence. But, really, Jerry Holleran, a professor at the University of Montana was the guy who ran my ass into the ground and made me a good journalist. He's responsible.

What writer, living or dead, would you want to work alongside, learning craft and sharing time on the water?

Probably Hemingway. He liked to tip them back and I do, too. But I think he was way more responsible than he's credited for. He worked hard, got his work done and done well, and then he cut loose. I'd like to work on the writing craft with him and get into his head, check out his mentality. I'd also liked to have learned boxing from him. I'd loved to have kicked his ass around in the ring. Or, yes, I'll admit it, it probably would have been the other way around. I don't know . . . he's just a man's man and was strong willed. He lived his life the way he wanted to and he lived it well with no excuses. There's a lot to be admired in that.

While this is not exactly fair, in Fly, Rod &Reel's pages between William's conservation column and Gierach's end story one has traditionally found the fare of a modern fly fishing magazine's -- go here, fish there, do it this way, etc -- but things seem to have shifted during the past year or so to a different kind of article and voice in FR&R. What's going on here?

I can't really take credit for the shift. I think the former editor, Joe Healy, is responsible for some of that. I worked under him for a couple years and our vision of what was tired in fly fishing and what could make a magazine stand out really meshed. We're both storytellers. And that is the key to Fly Rod & Reel and what separates us from the masses—we tell stories and along the way we give just enough information to allow someone to enjoy the same experience on their own or through a lodge or guide.

It's a big tent and it's all fun
 and games until someone starts
eating someone else's lunch.
Is the editorial shift for FR&R being driven by competitive pressures such as The Drake and The Flyfish Journal?

I've never felt any competitive pressure at all. All I try to do is what I think is best for the reader. I just want to do all of it better than anyone else. Regarding the Drake and Fly Fish Journal, I like both publications and feel that they are important to fly fishing. Tom Bie and I started our magazines at the same time and leaned on each other a little for advice. You know, Tom started the Drake by selling his driftboat; I started Tight Lines with about  a thousand dollars in my pocket. Both publications were successful and I'm proud of myself and Tom for having worked so hard. Tom now has his niche and Fly Rod & Reel has its niche. Steve Duda at FF Journal is a cool dude and doing a great job, too. It's not a matter of whether any of these three titles deserve to exist, it's just a matter of the industry supporting the effort.

Who are some of the new writers of our sport coming up in the pipeline - who are the guys you're reading and expect we'll see more of in the future?

The truth is there aren't very many high quality new writers coming into the fold. And there aren't a lot of old writers who are really good either. I'm not alone in searching for writers who are trained and care enough to turn in a manuscript that lacks errors, moves from point a to point b, and so on seamlessly. A lot of people consider themselves writers but few are writers. I say this because it opens up possibilities for anyone who does write well. Write well. Tell a great story. Edit your work. Provide hi-res photo support with the manuscript. Call me first.

The advent of electronic publishing, blogs, websites, etc. have created lots of outlets for readers to find content. Are books and print dead? 

Print magazine and books aren't dead. It's just an atrophying market. The best will remain. Hopefully the manufacturers and the advertisers will look critically at who's making the best effort and providing the best material and the'll support that. Honestly, I still think the printed word is the best way for people to educate themselves on certain subjects, inside and outside of fishing. If the printed word is lost and all we have is video, the world will continue its dumbing-down process and we're all headed for hell.

Haida Gwaii. I still think
he made it up.
If you could live by any body of water, which would it be?

Not fair. Not a fair question. I love the Big Hole River but after living in a small town for seven years I couldn't go back to rural living. I love tarpon and thought seriously about moving to the Florida Keys back in the 1990s when I spent up to a month a year there in May and June casting everyday for giants. But there aren't any mountains. And most important, I don't have any family there. Family is everything to me. I am from the Pacific Northwest and it is in my core. It courses through my veins. It's where all of my family lives. Maybe I'd live on a particular steelhead stream in Alaska, which I won't mention the name of. Or maybe a stream on Haida Gwaii [1]. The Dean River would be killer. I spent a week there one time in a dreamlike state. It was during my divorce. Life sucked. I could have fallen off the face of the planet and not cared. Then the Dean came along. Life seemed worth living after that.

What's your favorite angling experience to date?

Dean River, British Columbia. Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec. Tarpon out of Marathon, Florida. Redfish in Louisiana. All sick experiences. But my days on Silver Creek in central Idaho, when my sister and mother and father would visit, and we'd grab a Bowl of Soul at Java and race to the creek for the 6 a.m. Trico spinnerfall—that's when everyone was happy and healthy and the world seemed too be at our fingertips. Great times. Wonderful memories. Freakin' giant rainbows and browns on tiny dries.

If you had to give up fly fishing or writing about fly fishing, which would it be and why?

I'd give up the writing because I've achieved most of the goals I set. But to give up fishing? When I'm on the water nothing else matters. It's an escape from reality that helps me through life. That said, I don't know if I'd like fishing as much if there wasn't that overriding sensation to find meaning and a story in my trips to the water. The combination drives me to do it as often as I can.

Does PBR have redeeming qualities? If so, what are they?

Are you kidding me? Rainier, too. Ditto for Red Hook. Actually, I've never met a beer I didn't like, warm or cold.[2]

Not for drinking
Scotch or Whiskey[3]? Rocks or Neat?

Whiskey. Rocks. Tiny splash of water to bring out he flavor. To hell with peat bogs. They're hard to cross and it taste like crap.[4]

Are you cool because you fly fish? 

I saw a bumper sticker in Missoula on a souped-up, lifted Chevy truck. It said, "I don't care if you fly fish." Loved it.

Sometimes I think many of us think we're gods gift to humanity because we fly fish. And we consider ourselves better than most people and certainly better than people who would fish in any other way. I used to think that way, but I changed my stance years ago when I started to consider fishermen, whether jerkers, spin-dogs or even the commercial guys, as a body that can make a difference in government and policy decisions. Hey I'll turn in the  rat-bastard who's taking over his limit or killing a wild steelhead, or fishing with bait in a no-bait area, as fast as anyone. But I'm more accepting at this point. If they're playing by the rules they're ok by me.


You can catch more of Greg Thomas in the pages of FR&R or over on his blog, Angler's Tonic.

1 - Yeah, I thought he just made this up to mess with me, but there's actually such a place. Unless he made up the Wikipedia entry just to boldly manifest the lie.
2 - Clearly Greg has never tried this Belgian cherry wheat beer that tastes like Robitussin. Or maybe he has. That'd certainly say something.
3 - Would "Scotch or Bourbon?" been a more accurate question?
4 - While I'm generally a single malt guy, Woodford has it's charms.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Old Farts & Insurrection

What the hell happened to January? It's normally a slow fishing month and when measured in terms of fish caught it fares poorly. Other dimensions of life moved right on in an sucked up the blank spots on the calendar and now it's gone.

I did manage to get out to the the Somerset show and briefly meet Cameron and Matt. Sadly, the Somerset folks didn't consult me and scheduled the event on my anniversary weekend so I had to fly back home for dinner[1] with Ann and the boys.

Our annual dinner outing has become one of those traditions that only gets finer as the years go by. The boys have become better conversationalists, they've begun to appreciate fine food, and, while our relationship evolves to meet the demands of life in front of us, Ann and I are in a stronger and better place with each passing year. We are blessed.

Next year I'll have to figure out the logistics better -- there are some folks I would have liked to hung out with (e.g. some of you reading this).

The month, with its paucity of fishing had other high notes. I got to wander a small stream with Jonny which is always a worthwhile venture. And I finally caught up with my brothers over belated holiday meals. A quick month, but no complaints now that I've reflected for a few moments.

Old bald guy teaches mocks young guy with hair
When you wander around the Somerset show you find that many of the folks standing in booths and doing demos are graying and bald; like me. The Cheeky and the Vedavoo guys were notable exceptions but no doubt the guys in booths and many of those wandering the aisles were what someone in their 20s would call "old".

Over in Fish Camp Rehab, Ken writes an interesting article about the generation gap. It's long but worth the read. It builds on the experience and commentary of Matt at the Ozark Chronicles at the Southern Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers conclave last year.

In short Matt and Ken talk about how the events of this particular organization appeal to the older guys, likely the guys running the show, than the younger, emerging generation of anglers. If you look at any event run by any angling organization you likely see the same thing -- older guys running things like they like to. And they're often wondering why more young folks don't get involved.

I know that this can be off-putting to those who'd like a different experience but part of the problem is you can't expect someone like me, with 48 years under the belt, to identify with what's going to make someone who's 27 or 32 excited about getting involved. I'm going to try, in fact I do as member of my Trout Unlimited board, but I'm sure to miss the mark more often than I hit it.

What we really need is for this younger generation to leap the gap and lead us a bit. We're starting to see that in my chapter and I hope to see it accelerate. The average age of our leadership is coming down. We also need new, younger members which we're beginning to see. But we also have to remember that a lot of those old guys write big checks to keep things going, so it's always going to be a balance.

If there's an organization that you belong to and it's not going in the direction that you want, it's time to lead an insurrection. Bitching about things is rarely productive; leadership is what's needed.

Yeah, it's these guys we want.[2] A photo by Rob Yaskovic via Matt Smythe the Fishing Poet

1 - If you ever get out in our neck of the woods, swing by the Good News Cafe.
2 - Just don't tell them I said this.