Category Archives: Fly Fishing

Matt Smythe’s “A Deliberate Life”

“It’s the continuing series of small tragedies that send a man to the madhouse.” –Charles Bukowski

When I think about my friend Matt Smythe I think of that line from Bukowski’s poem called The Shoelace. I’ve fished with Matt a few times and shared a Maker’s Mark or two with him and in my experience our conversations tend to sound exactly like his narration of the film he collaborated on called “A Deliberate Life.”

I call it Matt’s movie because I relate to it most through his eyes but it really came to pass via the joint efforts of him and Grant Taylor and the crew from Silo 4. By now most of you have probably seen the trailer posted above or watched the short version of the film at IF4.

I had the opportunity to view the full version and watching it reminds me of sharing a jon boat with Matt and realizing that he really did what the premise of the movie is about. It’s about real life, and holding that series of small tragedies at bay by following your passion. He actually did this, leaving the security of benefits and bi-monthly pay stubs that most of us cling to, to get after a life lived outdoors. And in doing that he actually did this, made a movie about five people who decided to go that way and see it through.

The cinematography is stellar and the subdued soundtrack enhances the reflective mood. Again, Matt’s narration sounds like having a conversation with him, while at the same time carrying a poetic rhythm that matches the visual flow of moving water. The film is in many ways set in the eternal present, this group of friends fishing together (in places we daydream about while typing on laptops) and talking to each other about how they all got to this point in their lives. I wish they all shared a little more about the before, about what they broke away from and some of the gritty details that led them to “a deliberate life.”

But then again, isn’t this what life was like before the dawn of social media, where everyone now feels compelled to share every detail about everything until mystery and discovery are choked away? This is what stories around a campfire used to be, revelatory yet at the same time incomplete. Maybe it’s enough to say, “I made a decision and I’m here.”

And the fact that they are “here” and not still “there” amidst the little tragedies–there’s satisfaction in that.

To get the full version of the movie, head on over to SILO4.

BOOKS: 50 Best Places Fly Fishing the Northeast

The first thing I did, when I received a review copy of 50 Best Places Fly Fishing The Northeast by Bob Mallard ($34.95, Stonefly Press), was flip to the Montauk section. Because even though the book is dominated by the region’s top trout waters, when I fall asleep at night I dream about salt. So I was pleased to see that the person selected to contribute the Montauk intel was Brendan McCarthy. While I have never personally fished with Brendan, I know a lot of people who have and he has an excellent reputation. Next I flipped to the Maine chapter and the section on Casco Bay. Eric Wallace wrote that one up, and he pioneered sight fishing for striped bass there.

Knowing that Mallard’s choices for those two contributions are legit makes it easy to extrapolate that he picked people who know what they’re talking about to profile the other 48 fisheries. Stonefly Press has a stable of these 50 Best Places books, including the 50 Best Tailwaters To Fly Fish.

50-best-places-northeast-cvr-final

This installment includes several venerable locales from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Places like the Ausable, Salmon and all the Catskills spots in NY; the Housatonic and Farmington in CT; Cape Cod in MA, the Saco in New Hampshire and…well…there are 50 of them, you get the picture. So if you fish the Northeast or plan to, consider this a starting point, reference guide or inspiration to fish new waters.

The 2015 Comeback of the Connetquot River

The first trout I ever caught, in upstate New York, came courtesy of the New York DEC stocking program. The first trout I caught on fly came courtesy of the fish hatchery at the Connetquot River. I spent a lot of time in the  1990s learning how to fly fish by targeting those stocked trout.

Brown Trout Underwater

Though I agree with everything Kirk Deeter wrote in his Fly Talk post about hatchery fish, I was sad when the Connetquot hatchery closed in 2008. And I am happy with the report from Andrew Cuomo’s office that the hatchery is reopening in 2015.

I’ve listened to others mock the Connetquot for it’s prior reputation as a trout fishing fantasyland, and I’ve written about my own conflicted thoughts about it here before.

And of course you can take it deeper and delve into why growing trout in a hatchery only masks the larger problem about why wild trout populations in the region would be unsustainable. That is all true.

swirling rainbow

But for all that it is and isn’t, the Connetquot is an excellent resource as well as a learning ground for teaching angling ethics and stream stewarship. The place demands it, and the threat of a year-long or lifetime banishment for violations is not a vacant one. (Read about the rules and etiquette on the Long Island Trout Unlimited site.)  I look forward to taking my daughters.

Little Faces

The last thing you want to do is humanize them because they’re not looking at the world in the same way. But they are looking at you.

Others may think we treat them like toys with the hollering and fist bumps that ensue from hooking them but that’s not what we do.

The eyes are alive and maybe their brains don’t process us like facial recognition software but their photoreceptors still collect the light. I’m no scientist but I know these fish remember.

Possibly (hopefully), some day 15 years from now this baby tarpon will be far removed from the swamps and moving along the coast, and it will notice the potential food twitching in its face that looks a little bit like craft fur.

There’s the chance it will catch sight of your refracted profile rising from above the waterline, which will trigger an historical recollection of trauma, and it will pass.

And if you’d like, you can blame me for that.

Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat

The good thing about fly fishing for peacock bass is that it don’t cost nothin’ except for sweat and time.

I’m lucky that way in that when I’m down in South Florida I can find ways to expend both. It’s funny, though, how many people in Florida don’t break a sweat. They move down  for the weather and run from air conditioned cars to air conditioned houses or the restaurants that have their thermostats set at 64 degrees.

Another aspect of note is that, while driving through neighborhoods looking for new water, the farther you get from the coast the more oceanic the street names become. Nothing like being 50 minutes from the beach and headed west on Sea Breeze Lane.

I love it all, though. I’m useless for the winter things like steelheading but I can hang in a wilting corner of the Everglades all day long. If that’s the way the day goes down, it is a good day.

Enough Of Your Borax, Poindexter

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It’s not complicated. If you find the water and its surface temperature is in the 70s and the air temperature is in the 80s, they will be hungry. And if you cast  they will chase. And when they do that and you watch it go down in the shallows it sets off a wave of opioid polypeptide compounds that washes over your neuro-receptors, and you are happy.

War Paint, Redux

Once in a post I likened the darkened bars on the gill plates of a smallmouth bass to war paint.

War Paint

In the last issue of The Drake, I wrote an essay about smallmouth bass where I described the “dark bands on the gill plates popping like war paint.”

Many times when you write for print it’s as if you send it out via pneumatic mail tube, never to be heard from again.  So it was gratifying to get a package in the mail from an angler  from Michigan named Jon Lee.

“That stuck with me,” he wrote of the line. “I paint fish and couldn’t get it out of my head so I painted it.”

Thanks Jon Lee, to me that’s about as cool as it gets.

war paint