Category Archives: Fly Fishing

BOOK REVIEW: Top of the Flood

There’s a certain mindset I’ve come to expect from Texans based upon those I’ve run across. If I had to explain it, it’s something along the lines of,  “We need to disassemble this 10 ton truck and walk it piece by piece across the length of the panhandle? Let’s get started.”

Tosh Brown has that in him, as evidenced in his revelation that he left behind his University of Texas business degree and a job in commercial real estate to shoot pictures. “Ditch the tie, get a camera and go on to be one of the most acclaimed fly fishing photographers of the past two decades? Let’s get started.”

He was certainly that way when he teamed up with me to publish our photo-essay book [shameless-self promotion alert: The Blitz: Fly Fishing The Atlantic Migration]. On our trips together, I learned a few other things about Tosh. First and foremost, he is a family man, proving that you can reconcile creative pursuits with raising kids in a functional manner.  Second, he loves good jokes and great stories.

When I read through Tosh’s new book, Top of the Flood: Halfway Through a Fly-fishing Life, I think back to those slogs through New England on the ferry, eating food warmed under a rotisserie heat lamp, listening to Tosh and waiting for the payoff.

TPF-Dropjacket1

Tosh’s recollections come across on the page as they would in person, well-told and with comic sensibility. In his essay called “A Matter of Record,” he recounts his nonchalance about applying for potential IGFA records for flounder and red snapper. He says of the latter, “If my memory serves, we ate that one grilled with new potatoes and a fabulous Veracruz sauce.”

There are great one liners like that in every chapter. (In his essay, “Extremes,” he aptly notes that “…snook are fastidious little pricks, even in Texas.”)

For more, read “The Bass Phase” in this month’s issue of The Drake, check out this excerpt on the Departure Publishing site, and buy a signed copy for $24.95

Summer Feet

You would think the continuous wearing of flip-flops would inspire a person to trim his toenails, but in fact the opposite is true. It takes podiatric confinement, and the realization that a wayward blade is stabbing into the adjoining toe, to effect action.

Either way, I’m not a man who likes his feet encumbered. Seasonally, the nicks and bruises start to accumulate like battle scars, accentuated by a pale tan line that splays in a V from the webbing between the big toe and the index toe.

I’ll take that any day over the ankle tan achieved by golfers or any other sock loving subset.

My first football coach encouraged us to go barefoot over the summer to toughen our feet. We went 1-9 that season so maybe that wasn’t such a great focal point.

 

The Striped Bass Conversation

People are catching stripers right now, that’s documented. Also documented is what anglers out almost every day are seeing–and not seeing.

Here’s a post from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation about how oxygen depletion is affecting striped bass.

Here’s another from Reel-Time where Capt. John McMurray details who’s really killing all the bass.

Here’s a follow up from McMurray on why we should eat bluefish not bass.

Here’s a post about how recreational anglers have lost the high ground.

There’s a 1@32pledge going around.

But maybe, for now, let ‘em all go.

striped-bass-release

Enduring Mountain Jam

My college town had just three total bars; the one I most cared for was called the Back Bacon. For one, they served draft beer out of glass Byrne Dairy milk jugs. Also, they had a jukebox. For the underfunded, there was a trick to getting the most out of your song choices: Locate the Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East. Mountain Jam” lasted for 34 minutes, and it counted as a single play.

It’s a long song.

The Allman Brothers based it off an innocuous little hippie ditty called “There is a Mountain” by Donovan, (which my friend Paula referred to as the happy song.) Duane Allman turned it into something more edgy, intense and rife with electric blues licks.

Who has time for long songs these days? I do, in the right moment. Almost always while driving.  That’s about the only time when there’s actual time to examine every note and remember certain ones or even associate certain others with a specific time, place and emotion in a personal history.

Recently, when I plug my iPod into the car jack–which sounds as antiquated as using eight tracks in the age of Spotify–“Mountain Jam” has inexplicably started popping up in shuffle mode. The first few times I skipped over it and then I didn’t and it reminded me why the reconstituted Allmans, with Warren Haynes in Duane Allman’s stead, were probably my favorite band to see live.

It’s easy to be dismissive of the jam band scene because at it’s worst there’s a layer of ritualism more complex than a cricket match, centered around baseless noodling. But people who dismiss the art of jamming at its best are missing the point.

In a live setting, it’s all about momentum. The Allman Brothers could build it as well as anyone and sometimes, in those long stretches on the Interstate, you need that to start moving downhill.

Bad For You

The Amish had the tops raised on their buggies as they trotted into town on the gravel shoulder along the road. I sped past them on the opposite side, wheels spitting dirty water off the rain-slicked asphalt. In front of me, a young man in britches and a straw hat ran across the road. He ducked into a small farmhouse and on the periphery I noticed a discretely placed satellite dish.

It reminded me of the time we bought chairs from a local furniture maker and, walking behind his barn, we passed a trash bin and spotted an empty bottle of blackberry schnapps. (As some astute person once opined: Whatever the conviction, everybody breathes the same way.)

The fields and front yards along the road were all flooded with water, and the river running alongside swollen over the banks, the last insult of the harsh winter. But passing by at 70 mph, it’s easy to neglect to appreciate how disconnected you are from everyone else’s resultant hardship. Because you are on your way to go fishing.

Mike driving jonboat

And you’re going to meet people and drink beer and eat all the food you are not supposed to–eggs and salt potatoes fried in bacon grease, brats and kielbasa and pepperoni, bricks of cheddar cheese and bags of garlic flavored curd, chocolate chip cookies from Wegmans and beer. Beer for lunch, for dinner and for the first second third fourth fifth sixth and seventh hands of Texas Hold Em.

I’m not sure why at every meal we always eat and drink the things that are bad for you. Even the vegetables are sprinkled with bacon and a layer of shredded cheddar. Maybe it’s just an act of defiance,  a tiny mutiny against the notion, which is never mentioned but implicitly understood, that we are all born to die.

Matt Casting

The water was cold and the fish were cold too. They had not yet crossed the fine line between preservation and predation. When their metabolism finally speeds up they will get hungrier and hungrier until they can’t resist anything that passes by, but in the moment they moved slowly, eating maybe out of spite, or just to keep going for another few weeks until the water temps rise and the reaffirmation of everything that is hardwired into their brains begins.

Piker