Category Archives: Fly Fishing

The Top Two Songs Involving Corduroy Fabric

Yesterday I spent a lot of time listening to the Pogues, which is something to do on St. Patrick’s Day among other days. The song “Poor Paddy¹” came on.

In the song, Shane MacGowan references corduroy britches  nine times. It struck me as an intriguing cultural reference in that the only other song I can think of that mentions the fabric is NWA’s “Dope Man.”

In “Dope Man” Eazy-E mentions them only once. At the song’s four minute mark he says, “I’m the dope man yeah boy wear corduroy, money up to here but unemployed.”

These are the top two songs to my knowledge that involve corduroy². Both songs have the same hardness to them, of the working man trying to get by in less than ideal labor conditions. So what does corduroy have to do with that?

Luckily, Google provides ready answers for surface grazers, expedited by the magic of autofill.

No less an apparel authority than  Brooks Brothers³ calls corduroy the “cloth of the king,” before noting that during the Industrial Revolution, it became the go-to fabric of the working class, or as BB tells it, “poor man’s velvet.”

A more in depth history of corduroy can be found at V is for Vintage

This accounting describes it as having a “velvety feel making it durable yet soft to touch.” It also makes reference of using corduroy to sew “trousers” for soldiers, mountaineers and factory workers and those in “ink-based trades.”

So corduroy rightly has context within the two songs, and its strength as a material has afforded it venue in other pop culture mediums(4).

In any event, I own one pair of corduroy pants but several works of the Pogues and NWA and Eazy-E, so I’ll keep attuned to any other possible commonalities.

And, in case you were wondering about the justification for this, there is corduroy in fly fishing.

1. (It’s a traditional song, “Poor Paddy Work on the Railway,” documented by Carl Sandburg in American Songbag.)

2.(The Pearl Jam song  titled “Corduroy”  never actually mentions corduroy and, vocally, Eddie Vedder sounds like he may or may not be taking a dump. Who can say?)

3. (Brooks Brothers titles its clothing advice page, “Of Rogues and Gentlemen.” I can imagine the scrubbed salesman at the retail shop trying to play up the rogue angle to some accounting consultant from Deloitte. And, in hearing this, the consultant daydreams of the gang at the 19th hole saying, “He’s such a rogue, he played the entire round from the gold tees.”)

4. (Corduroy gets more play on Seinfeld in the form of swooshing pants. So do velvet, Gore Tex and cotton. Side note, the Yankee’s cotton uniforms episode has one of my favorite random Seinfeld bits, where George reads aloud, “Wade Boggs says, ‘What a fabric!'”)

trip sunset

Stop the NY DEC From Slashing Water Quality Testing

I’m reposting an email from Lee Willbanks, the executive director of Save The River, which advocates for the St. Lawrence:

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has slashed the state’s water quality testing budget and is now proposing to slash the state’s hazardous pollutant testing guidelines – reducing testing from once every 5 years to once every 10 years…or less. Urge DEC to keep a 5-year waterway testing schedule – testing our waters once every 10 years is not enough.In response to the budget sequester, last fall DEC cut its statewide water quality monitoring budget by a third, from $640K to $440k a year. This budget cut included the elimination of testing for pathogens (sewage) and pesticides.  We know from the State’s data that sewage pollution and pesticides pose a serious threat to our waterways and our health.  We need more data, not less, on the location and magnitude of these pollutants.Tell DEC we need to continue testing for sewage pollution and pesticides in our waterways – these programs should be reinstated.

DEC’s proposed new guidelines also make it more difficult for water quality data from outside sources, like Riverkeepers, to be considered by the State when making water quality assessments and plans. We need more sources of data, not fewer, to track and address water quality pollution. Urge DEC to broaden – not narrow the scope of water quality data it uses.

A water quality data blackout is bad for our environment, our health and our economy.  Please join us in calling for the restoration of our statewide water quality monitoring programs to 2012 levels of funding, staffing and testing.

Use this email template to tell DEC “Restore water quality monitoring programs to 2012 levels. You can personalize this email with your own examples of what robust water quality monitoring means to you and your experience of the River:
email address:  jamyers@gw.dec.state.ny.us

subject line:  Please restore water quality monitoring programs to 2012 levels

text:

Please accept these comments on the Draft Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (CALM) posted January 2014. The proposed CALM guidelines commit DEC to monitoring the waters of NY once every ten years or less frequently.  This is not often enough to manage pollution and protect the health of our waterbodies and the health of the public who swim, boat and fish.  I urge you to maintain the current water monitoring and assessment schedule of testing water in each basin of the state once every 5 years, or more frequently.

I am concerned about the presence of pollutants in our waterbodies and rely on DEC to test for all the pollutants that impact the health of our waterways.  In particular, I am concerned about exposure to the disease-causing pathogens found in sewage pollution.  I understand that DEC has recently cut pathogen and pesticide testing altogether and implore you to reinstate testing for those pollutants immediately.  Without regular testing and reporting on pathogens/sewage-contamination, public health is put at risk and the sources of pollution are left undetected.

Finally, the revised CALM guidelines include strict limits on the sources of outside water quality data that DEC will use to assess the health of NY’s waterbodies and limits staff’s ability to use their professional judgment in reviewing data sources.  In light of the limited resources available to the DEC to gather water quality data, I urge you to reconsider this position and establish clear, attainable guidelines for data collection that can be met by the non-profit organizations, academic institutions and civic groups involved in water testing.  Access to more data will allow DEC to identify pollution sources, and take action to remedy them more quickly – saving valuable waterways from slipping into greater impairment from which it is harder and more costly to recover.

Like so many New Yorkers, I consider clean water one of our most valuable resources.  Please invest our clean water dollars in a robust water quality monitoring and assessment program that conducts regular and thorough testing of our waterways and utilizes all reliable sources of water quality data.

Thank you.

casting

Anyone For Tennis?

The ladyfish stupidly hovered in the vicinity, en mass, for an incredible length of time and stupidly chased anything that hit the water. And I stood there, stupidly, and cast to them. It was one of those situations where the hookup was preordained and no patience or skill or even thought was needed to make it so.

This happened during a trip to Florida last December and, knowing it was likely the last time I’d cast in 2013, it proved kind of cathartic.

And injurious.

Tennis elbow, according to the infallible WebMD, afflicts people in their dominant arm when they reach their 40s. That last little fact  makes me the most indignant, because even though I’m at the age where any professional athlete not using steroids is retired, I should be able to fish without consequence.

The elbow situation itself is a minor annoyance for the most part, except when trying to cast a fly rod. Or holding the rod while exerting pressure on a hooked fish. So I haven’t been doing it.

This is the longest I’ve gone without casting a fly rod since I first picked one up in 1994 or 95 or whenever. In its absence I’ve been doing some other stuff like:

Watching Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

Watching Beware Mr. Baker

Playing air hockey.

Shoveling.

Not fishing has also made me realize that fly fishing has been my longest continuous indulgence into any one thing. As a kid I read all of Stan Fischler’s columns in Hockey Digest¹ and could name the backup goalie on every NHL team. In my teens I could spend hours stringing traditional pockets into lacrosse sticks and in college I knew by sound the 300 most obscure reggae bands² in the Western hemisphere. I also saw a bunch of jam bands a bunch of times so maybe that counts although those who are obsessed with jam bands are way more into them than someone who would mention it so casually in a one-off reference. (There are encyclopedias.)

Why fishing has had the most staying power, I don’t know. At what point does something we like to do build its own self-sustaining momentum? And at what point does the point of self-reflection about it become beside the point? There are a million other directions to go:


In the end I don’t really need to know why I need to do it³, or if I even need to do it, I just like to do it more than I like to do a lot of other things, and that’s enough. There’s no real reason to explain or justify a fishing injury or what  ladyfish are or why someone would stand around for unchecked amounts of time casting to them.

1. This was pre internet so you could only watch a game a week on the USA Network. Hockey Digest was the only other way to stay connected, but–as with anything–the lack of information allowed for more time to ruminate on the information available. For instance, it led to my long held belief that there should be a section called “best players with cool mustaches before mustaches were cool” in the hockey hall of fame. On the first ballot would be Charlie Simmer, Lanny McDonald and Michel Goulet.)

2. This band called Tishan we used to see all the time that was hailed as South Florida’s Premier Reggae Band might be the most obscure, if you’re keeping track. Then again it could be one of the early reggae djs named Tippa Irie.

3. As much as people like to call themselves “obsessed,” it’s not like you have a house of cats or need radical treatment for it.

Two Hours Vaulting: Monty-Python and the absurdist sketch based in historical fact

“We’ll have two hours digging, two hours vaulting, and two hours sleeping, ok?” This is one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite Monty Python Sketches: The Society For Putting Things On Top of Other Things. I first watched it at my friend Roland’s house when we were 14 and we’d break out that line, among others, at random as it has had applications during almost any absurd situation from high school well into adulthood.

But what I didn’t know as a 14 year old was that the bit had historical context from actual events in World War II. That realization of context made an already funny sketch even more so.

I was reminded of this after stumbling across an obituary of a former RAF bomber pilot who served time in the Stalag Luft III prison camp, the site of  allied POW escape attempts made famous in the movies The Great Escape and The Wooden HorseThe latter is the story of the vaulting.

Apparently the POWs at Stalag Luft III were a sporting set, as this article from Sports Illustrated details. Between soccer, rugby and golf, the addition of a gymnastic vaulting horse might not have seemed so far fetched. Still the idea of using vaulting as a cover for digging escape tunnels from a Nazi POW camp with spoons while under the watch of Luftwaffe guards is, on the face of it, insane. And ingenious and maybe the most ballsy thing I’ve ever heard of involving sport (where failure is the threat of execution).

Here’s a youtube link to the sketch if you’re so inclined.

Counting

I used to count fish. Most probably do when they start fishing as a way to catalogue it, or for whatever reason. I stopped mostly after reading Longest Silence–if you did you probably know the exact passage about “trout number seven”–and also because it is a nonsensical way to record a fishing experience.

Looking back on my fishing journals, I recorded a day in the year 2000 where I caught 30 just-stocked brook trout on a river where I paid for a beat. Should that carry more weight than the trip that year down the Rio Hatiguanico in Cuba?  The one with the ornithologist  who served me rum and helped me hook  my first tarpon on fly? By numbers it does.

So I started counting days. In 2008 I recorded over 100 excursions with a fly rod and I knew with the birth of my first child that year that the pace would not last unless I moved to Florida and/or won the lottery. In 2013, I recorded 52. Once a week seems more than reasonable for someone in a northern locale with a full-time job and family, and who is not a guide.

Still, counting days is not a perfect math, either. The year in my head doesn’t add up to the numbers on the page–a notion my wife would find insane¹. Maybe it’s because I turned down as many invitations to fish as times I actually spent fishing–I am probably the king of the “Yeah sounds awesome oh wait I can’t” response. Maybe it’s because of the skunk days I withstood trying to force carp to like me. But likely it’s because much of my fishing time came in clusters or consisted of stolen moments².

Either way, in 2013 I got to be on the water in some of my favorite places in the world in both Florida and New York with some of my favorite people and also got to watch my two daughters catch panfish on little pink Ugly Sticks by the dozen. So, yeah, 2013 was good. And as the great Neil Young sings, “numbers add up to nothing.”

Happy New Year.

1. (And most likely is.)

2. (In the Wordsworthian “Spots of Time” vein.)

Your Last Minute Gift Needs, Solved

It’s not too late to get a copy of The Blitz: Fly Fishing The Atlantic Migration for the discerning coastal fly angler.

Blitz, Now A Reality

I’ll send a signed copy but you can pick it up at  the following local fly shops:

MASS:

Capefish Clothing Company

Bear’s Den Fly Fishing

Fishing the Cape

NEW  YORK:

Orvis New York (Tell Rob I sent you.)

Urban Angler

Orvis Westbury

Campsite Sports

ONLINE:

Departure Publishing

Rise Fishing

Amazon

Stone River Outfitters

There are many others not listed that sell it too. This video kind of shows what it’s about. Merry Christmas.

BOOKS: 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish

Some of the places I’ve been fishing vicariously, like the White River via Steve Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher JournalOthers, like Henry’s Fork and the Deschutes and the Fryingpan, have been rolling around in my head since my fly-fishing infancy. Still others, like the Farmington and the Neversink, are almost in my backyard. And then there are the few, like the Bow River and Lake Taneycomo, where I’ve actually fished.

So after going through all 50 carefully selected and thoroughly vetted destinations compiled by Terry and Wendy Gunn, I don’t think of 50 Best Tailwaters to Flyfish so much as a book as it is a call to action. What have I been waiting for and, now that I’ve been thumped in the chest by this book, how can I apply what’s been given? Because the collaborators in this book, like the aforementioned Dally or the legendary Joe Demalderis of the Delaware,  have given us a lot.

Overall, 50 Best Tailwaters to Flyfish is an incredible reference for fly anglers, and also a reminder that fly fishing can take you just about anywhere you want to go, if you let it.

50-best-tailwaters-cvr-final