Monday, August 26, 2013


A couple of years ago, I was shopping for fly tying baubles online and saw a "related item" that, while totally unrelated to what I was purchasing, caught my imagination. AquaGlo: glow in the the dark floatant! What could be better for those late evening rises to enhance visibility.

The tube, eerily similar to a tube of ChapStick, has lingered at the bottom of my fishing bag until I happened upon it again last week. I was out fishing for the evening so I decided to add it to the bottom of my waist pack and use it if I remembered in the height of the fishing.

As dark fell hard in a deeply shadowed bend pool, I could no longer see my fly. Out came the glow in the dark floatant. I place a dab on the Usual followed by exposure to my headlamp. In short order both the fish and I could see the fly better. Perfect.

Yet it felt like cheating.

With all the new technology available to us, where does one draw the line?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: Pulp Fly: Volume 2

I don't read as much as I want to. Part of that is the demands of work and family but my writing is also stealing cycles. And did I mention the work? And the occasional fishing trip? Fortunately, some time at the beach gave me quiet moments to read and I burned through a couple of books.

My favorite was the latest volume of Pulp Fly. As I wrote last fall, Pulp Fly is a new venue for writers to present fiction related to our sport. This issue is a compilation of short stories from twelve authors. I found the quality of writing in the first volume to be variable. This volume seems much stronger. I'm not sure if that has to do with the stable of writers or the emerging editorial voice. I suspect it's both.

Some of these stories are smart observances of the sport. Tosh Brown's Somewhere Out West gives voice to what I'm sure many a fly fishing guide has thought (and perhaps some have said).

There's also a dark streak in this volume with tragedy befalling and surrounding some of the characters. Flow by Alex Landeen, Hot Sauce Diary by Will Rice, and Frank was a very dull implement by Matt Dunn cover the landscape of suicide, murder and fear of murder (and fear of outhouse tipping).

And the whole thing starts off with an essay from Erin Block (Fireweed) whose literary sense and turn of phrase doesn't disappoint.

In addition, who can resist anything that includes a story about Sasquatch (Lone Lake by Chris Hunt).

Well worth the price of admission.

Pulp Fly: Volume 2, $6.95, Available on Amazon for Kindle, Barnes and Noble for the Nook and iTunes for whatever the heck Apple uses to publish books on their path towards total world domination.

Full Disclosure: I'm writing a piece of fiction for Volume 3 (available later this year) and I happen to like some of the folks who were published in this volume. That may skew my point of view slightly. Please adjust my praise by 13%

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ruh Roh

As Scooby Doo would tell you, sometimes things have a way of getting worse before they get better. Yesterday Jimmy Kimmel's interview with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Actress and heir to the Dreyfus billions, that's right, a billionaire) was circulating around fly fishing social media. The talk show host and actress were talking about their new found passion for fly fishing. Prior to that, Kimmel had chatted up Ashton (Chris) Kutcher about the same subject (He was even wearing an Orvis Trout Bum trucker's cap).

While I'd like to get all excited about this, I can't. Sure celebrities sharing and talking about our sport can only be good for attracting more young folk and maybe some older ones to our sport. This could be great for the vendors we love. And I don't begrudge a flood of new anglers on the river. I generally walk further off the path than most are likely to do and thus won't be troubled with the water slapping newbs. Snap it!

What I fear are new Huey Lewis' and Charles Schwabs. Both these two, aside from their run of the mill fame, are infamous for trying to privatize public waters and block and harass anglers who try to use waters that are a public right. Kimmel and Louis-Dreyfus and their social circles have the money for land, leases and lawyers that could do a whole lot of damage to stream access for mortals.

Hopefully Kimmel and Louis-Dreyfus are more benevolent that some of the other moneyed types. Maybe they'll even join in with TU and other conservation organizations to make hay for public access. It's not been my experience, but maybe I'm wrong.

So I'll start by extending the olive branch. If Jimmy or Ashton (Chris) or Julia want so swing by and fish some fine public waters and visit restoration projects that benefit the public, they can give me a call. We may even need a hand in the fall sampling streams and digging holes for new trees. And I'm sure I could find a few projects in need of cash.

Here's to hoping they're on our side.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Felt was never so sharp


I fished a small stream in the Dry River Valley of New Hampshire over the weekend. A brookie in every plunge pool. More on that tomorrow (or maybe the next day). I fished with no more than five feet of fly line out tip top guide. When I pulled some more line off the reel to secure the fly for a brief walk upstream the fly line snapped in two. Ten feet of weight forward fly line gathered at my feet.

This puzzled me for a moment until I recalled my last trip to the Housy when I was casting streamers and had a swirl of fly line at my feet in the shallow water. And I stepped on the line a bunch of times. And I must have clipped it with the metal studs on my boots. A perfection loop at the end of the fly line put me quickly back in action.

I still wear my Orvis Henry's Fork boots with felts soles when I fish the didymo infested Farmington. They're lightweight and seem grippier than the rubber/steel soles will ever be. And they never bit my fly line.

More on this soon.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Unpacking: Fishpond Westwater Guide Lumbar Pack

Unboxed. Distinctively Fishpond.
Today a package arrived from somewhere out west where Fishponds are hatched. Enclosed was the Fishpond Westwater Guide Lumbar Pack pictured at right.

I've been using a Simms waist pack* for a few months now. I tried lumbar packs years ago, an early offering from Orvis I believe, but it was just too much of a compromise from the vests of the day. I switched to Fishpond vests for a while. I liked their functional design, fit and overall comfort. Then along came Sling Packs (I never reviewed the Orvis one, but I like it a lot) and, finally, Simms hooked me with their waist pack.

The one real disadvantage of most waist pack offerings on the market is that they're not waterproof. Sure you can wear your waist pack high up on your back. That's why they all have shoulder straps, to keep them from slipping down into the water. But if you're going to really wear it near your waist, you'll someday be tempted to wade one step too deep and you pack'll get drowned. I do that several times a season.

Most of the major manufacturers have come out with packs made of a material which is a relative newcomer to the sport -- thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This is a material that can be worked like a fabric, stands up to abuse, and keeps things dry. I think Orvis was the first to market with their Gale Force line and Simms has it's Dry Creek offering. Or maybe it was the other way around.

I've never used these packs. It pains me to say that it's not because I don't appreciate or desire their waterproof capabilities. While I'm not out on the water to look fashionable, it's the aesthetics that get me. They're ugly. They look like some alien seed pod. I've seen what Aliens** can do. I want no part of it.

So Fishpond comes out with a TPU offering and ups the ante a bit. It actually has some sense of style to it. It looks like something more than a pod to store gear in. While the TPU material has some look and feel issues that can't be avoided, this product actually looks like it belongs in the Fishpond line-up.

The pack is about 20% larger than current offering by Orvis and Simms.  I have no doubt that this pack will swallow a bunch of gear. The interior is essentially a large open pocket with two organizing pockets against the back wall one of which is made of a clear material so you can see what's at its bottom.

After the Simms pack (and most vests for that matter) which have a place for everything, basically having to put everything in one large pile will be a change. I suppose those back pockets will provide some organization for the small stuff that usually gets lost. I'll load this out in the next day or two and let you know.

Outside there's a single waterproof pocket, I'm thinking for a fishing license, as well as many places to lash zingers and such. There are also some sturdy looking D-Rings and zinger points on the belt. Tag ends of straps are secured from flapping by elastic keepers. Handy.

My complaint about most waist packs is that they don't have a place for a net (other than stuffed in the belt). I'm not sure why adding a D-Ring to the shoulder strap is so much trouble but Fishpond has come up with a unique solution -- a passthrough slot in the back of the belt. You still have to stick it in your belt, but they've design it that way. I'll be interested to see how well that works in practice.

Hopefully I'll get this out for a spin on the water in the next week or two and give you some first impressions. In early September I'm bringing it to Idaho and Wyoming for some dedicated time on the water. That'll be a fine test of it's practicality.

See you around the west.

*Fanny Pack = Lumbar Pack = Waist Pack. Though I suppose some marketing type will correct me.
** Sigourney Weaver. Space Marines. Blowin' shit up. Nuff said.

Disclosure: This pack was sent to me gratis. I'd like to think that doesn't matter in the words that I chose. You judge for yourself.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The second to last summer

The Beaverkill. Upstream.
Summer is toying with us. With crisp mornings mimicking early fall and lush greens that remind one of late spring, August is all wrong. Even the dogwoods, which by now have usually become ugly, shriveled, befungused drooperies along the edges of the deck, still look robust. I sense sweltering late summer days are coming but for now I'll toy with dreams of cooler streams, perhaps cool enough for trout fishing.

In the Catskills summer is stunning. The folded landscape shimmers as sunlight slides between heavy white clouds and dapples the shoulders of the ridges. Deep in those folds fabled trout streams named in a different era -Willowemoc, Beaverkill, Neversink - tumble over freestone and beckon with sparkling winks through trees heavy on their banks.

Camping in the land of Gordon, Wulff and Van Winkle has become an annual event for my clan. We've not yet been doing it for long enough to call it tradition, more of a habit I suppose, but it's something I've come to look forward to each year when the days grow long and hot. This year good friends joined us. It was perfect.

If angling were our purpose we'd be in tents on the banks of the Beaverkill earlier and later in the annual cycle of hatches but that's not why we've come with houses of nylon. I'm not really sure why we do it beyond the fact that it feels right that in an era of connections that are less and less physical and more and more transient that we should gather in one place with the ones we love, disconnect and share for a short time intense periods of that other connectedness that we seldom experience.

We may have one more summer together in a tent. Twelve months from now my eldest will be preparing for his first year of college. If we're lucky we'll get him to ourselves on one more camp before he starts traveling his own road.

I still remember dark, quiet nights just after my children were born when Ann and I would lie awake listening to their deep rhythmic slumber. You almost couldn't bear to be separated from this new life and yet over the years you've let the distance grow, nurtured the independence, though you secretly wish you hadn't. Saturday night we slept together, all within arm's reach of each other, for what may be the last time in our lives.


The sun was likely too high to make fishing worthwhile but the time seemed right for many other reasons so we were off to the water. Up here, far from its merger with the Willowemoc, the Beaverkill is a stream not a river. Calf deep in the heart of the riffle, we marched downstream to the pockets and seams that had yielded trout in the past.

Sam has been fly fishing on and off for the past four years and at fourteen, his physical stature and talents have finally caught up to the geometry and physics of the sport. He casts wonderfully when he focuses on the fundamentals and even his bad casts are pretty good and he's tolerant of my coaching. In the time he's become a better angler I think I've become a more patient coach. I suppose there's room for us all to grow.

Fresh air and fine weather conspire to inspire a nap.
We worked the water hard for a few hours with a variety of summer flies. We talked about the stoneflies and caddis whose homes and shells littered the water's edge. We spotted minnows in the shallows feeding on the detritus kicked up by our steps. We fed them some more. But we saw nor hooked anything fish shaped.

On the way back I noticed a dark slice of current running against the bank under overhanging hemlocks. It sure looked fishy and my Yellow Sally dry drew two splashy rises without a connection. In hindsight, we probably should have looked for faster water. It's a summer tactic that I had forgotten. Next time.


Looking up at the stars late at night, the campfire tricks the eye. I'm sure it's a trick of depth of field as the mind tries to sort out the starry expanse from the amber light on the branches arcing overhead. Against the black sky the layers of branches seem flat, painted on a wooden panel and artistically layered, a perfect viewing portal for the wonders above.

Sitting around a fire, the night held at abeyance, intimacy is enhanced. The cold, dampness which places ache and stiffness in older joints seems to soak truth and passion from the conversation. In this safe place we talk about secrets and remembrances and dreams while still allowing for that deep lean back to silently view the expansive, endlessness of the night's starry sky.

We're not what one would call minimalist campers 

Nothing is better than an evening card game at camp.

Don't bet against the capacity of adults and teenagers to invent wiener jokes during a hot dog roast.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Seven Tips for Catching Smallmouth on the Housatonic at Corner Hole at 8 a.m. on a Saturday

While my Smallmouth angling reputation is not as legendary as that of others1 and my trout angling experience is more voluminus2, I know that you're likely struggling to make the switch from trout to bass and I thought I'd pass along expert-level tips to make you a better angler.
  1. Fish alone. You want all the good water. It's summer and there won't be much water in the river. You want it all. If you can't fish alone, then fish with people who will readily take direction. Point them to the thin, crappy water3. Choose the water with some structure. Smallmouth like bouldery structure from which to ambush. Except when they don't.
  2. Only fish when the water temperature is around seventy degrees. You could get this information by taking the water temperature directly or by calling the fly shop. I like to wait until all the trout discussion boards are hysterically wailing about the need to not stress the fish and to stay away from cold water refuges and other such conservation nonsense. That's when you know the smallmouth bite will be ON!4
  3. Fish large, colorful streamers. My experience has been that the best color is Chartreuse. I like chartreuse mostly because it takes me several tries to spell it correctly when I'm typing it. I also like it cause the smallies hammer it. They also hammer white and yellow. Black and Olive work too. I haven't tried red. Red may work. Brown, probably not. But what do I know?
  4. Make long, fast strips. Nothing works better than a three foot long, fast strip action. Strip-pause-strip-pause. The strike comes at the pause. Of course, when the long strip doesn't work, then use short strips. And longer pauses. And you can alternate the pause with two strips or two pauses and a strip. You get the idea. Stick with one method but mix it up until you find something that works.
  5. Don't trout set. Smallies are the bonefish of trout water.5 Strip set. Hold on. A six inch smallie fights like a trout three times its size. Foul hook that bad boy in the tail and you're in for an afternoon of fun!
  6. If you're not sight fishing, forget top water flies. Sure, watching a bass eye a popper for fourteen minutes before she hammers it is exciting. Sorta like watching grass grow but where the earthworms are aggressive carnivores hammering field mice in slow motion. But if you can't see the fish you'll never know whether a fish was eying your fly ready to pounce or you were fishing over dead water. And that lack of knowledge will make you second guess yourself every time you cast. And that'll erode your self-confidence. And that'll lead to doubts about your self-worth and eventually you'll find yourself sitting in your parent's basement, in your underwear, watching reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. Don't fish top water flies if you can't see the fish. Please.
  7. Don't Tenkara. Sure you can do that foolishness in the privacy of a small stream. But on a larger river you're going to look like a complete idiot casting a large streamer to a large fish and then dancing around to make that streamer swim.. And then all those "I told you so!" comments that come your way when a modest smallie busts you off and busts your rod will be a chorus of unbearable shame. For the sake of your pride and sanity, Tenkara in private.
Well that's about all I'm willing to tell you for now.

I hope I won't see you on the water, but if I do, I hope you're fishing where the fish are not.

What are your favorite Smallmouth tips?

Dave caught this beauty by following six of the seven tips above. That was his first fish on a fly rod.

1 - Though I'm a more legendary bass fisherman than noodler.
2 - I've intentionally fished for Smallmouth twice. Some would say that's real expertise. Others would mumble and we don't listen to mumblers.
3 - Unless you see a monster swirl there, then take that water. Last Saturday I saw a "head and tail" swirl in six inches of water that made my heart stop. Of course once it restarted I didn't mention it to nobody. Especially not to the guy standing about twenty feet upstream of the swirl fishing the deep run.
4 - Hell, you might even catch a trout. Especially if you target those cold water refuges. They're stacked up like hell in there! Okay, that's not sporting. Don't do that. Intentionally. With weighted treble hooks. That'd just be wrong. Stick to the smallies.
5 - That BS about carp being freshwater bones is just that, BS. Nobody fishes for carp anyway. That's all just more flyfishing carp marketing BS. Don't fall for it.

Bonus Tip: Train a dog to spot the fish for you. This is the only reliable way to fish topwater flies when you can't see the fish. Of course, blow a hook set and that dog is gonna give you crap for a long time.

Gierach said there's no such thing as a fishing dog.
Who knows.....

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Kirk Deeter: TU Strategist

Kirk posted over on the Angling News site that he's been asked to be TU's Director of Strategy and Outreach.* He begins the by asking for help.

...Now, I am asking for your help in moving my business [Trout Unlimited] forward.  What can I do?  What are the weaknesses?  Where are the opportunities?
I value your input, and appreciate all insights and ideas… good, bad and otherwise.
This generates some interesting questions:
  • How can the angling trade and TU get closer? 
  • How can TU attract non-fly anglers? 
  • How can TU attract non-anglers? 
I suppose there are others. Join the conversation over on Angling News.

* This guy does everything.....