Category Archives: Fly Fishing

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

Reconsidering Van Halen’s 1984

Van Halen’s 1984 came out in January of 1984 but my first memories of it are from that summer. We were visiting old family friends in upstate New York and Brian, who was my age, had it on casette. We sat in a loft in his garage and played both sides of it on a boom box, along with other tapes like the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks, U2′s Under a Blood Red Sky and maybe the Dead’s Greatest Hits or something.

That type of musical surface grazing is perfectly acceptable for 12 year old boys trying to feel their way into the rock and roll landscape. Everything is new, even the old stuff, and–for the most part–yet to be decided upon. In the context of that summer, 1984 was pretty great.

But that’s likely the last time in decades I listened to 1984 with any real conviction.

At some point in your musical maturation you have to make a decision. In the early teen years  your cultural affiliations–and to some degree who you hang out with and what you stand for–are defined by your tastes in music.

My older brother was a Deadhead, among other things, and older brothers tend to dominate access to the turntable. He had an impressive and discerning vinyl collection that ruined me for what was going on while growing up. 1984 was not to be included in the process.

Why?

The album has to placed in the musical context of the era.

–Led Zeppelin was only five years gone and still dominating in a very large way. FM radio still mattered and Zeptember, Zep 10-O’clock, Get The Led Out and all the other Zep blocks had not yet exhausted their shelf life. (People also still went to Led Zep and Pink Floyd laser light shows at the planetarium. In retrospect, these were like watching Pong on mushrooms.)

–The Clash had put out London Calling a few years earlier, which was and is undeniably epic but it still did nothing to stop the skinny-tie new wave and record-label “punk” that was about to happen.

–There was a lot of pop out there that people supposedly liked from bands like Naked Eyes, Men Without Hats, Men at Work and Culture Club.

–U2 and REM were on the cusp of being big but were not yet major acts. (REM still had that effete college radio feel to them and U2 would not release Unforgettable Fire until later that fall.)

–The Grateful Dead had no mainstream impact in this era, existing outside of it by the grace of the wandering lifer head scene and also college kids trading soundboards on cassette.

–Punk existed underground but that’s what it was, underground.  The hardcore kids were few, far between and out there.  The two kids who had lo fi recordings of DK and Black Flag did not like you.

–Nobody took 80s hair metal seriously.

The pre-1984 Van Halen fan, though, was not like the typical metal fan. They were punks not in a Western Civilization way but in the Alfred E. Newman sense of the word, smirking outsized personalities who the girls actually liked but who also had the potential to humiliate you in front of large gatherings. They were, in essense, an army of 13-year-old David Lee Roths.

They drew the VH logo over everything.

Still, with all that, it is easy to underestimate the mainstream impact 1984 had when it first came out.  The songs, combined with the MTV videos, were huge.

There were four ridiculously seminal albums in the 80s and 90s of my youth:  U2′s The Joshua Tree, Guns N Roses’ Appetite For Destruction, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Metallica s black album. (You also have to add Run DMC’s Raising Hell, which made rap ubiquitous, so that makes five. Five is the number.) Whether you like any of those bands or not the musical U-turns they created are undeniable.
Others that seemed big at the time of their release, like Synchronicity, have been relegated. (Possibly due to Sting’s subsequent tantric gasbaggery.) I’m not sure what 1984 is or why it isn’t remembered like it was when it was new.
Van Halen’s problem may be the same as one Led Zeppelin has–they never were and will never be the obscure act that gets discovered in a grass roots sort of way where a fan can claim they are “my band.” They’re everyone’s band. In  some history of heavy metal I watched somewhere, Chuck Klosterman described Van Halen as casting the widest of all nets, and saying you liked VH was akin to saying you liked the NFL. If you’re everyone’s band, no one’s going to drop a knowing reference to you in a conversation meant to reinforce your musical sophistication. Unless it’s done in an ironic way.

Maybe the pop hair metal scene that arose in Van Halen’s footsteps unfairly snared them in its wake. Maybe Sammy Hagar diminished the band’s legacy in the way that Hangover II does to the original. Maybe it didn’t have the requisite staying power; the mainstream kids who liked it moved onto the next mainstream thing by 1985. But Van Halen’s recent Roth reunifications refute that. They were legit.

So what, then, was the original problem with 1984? Van Halen, when it comes down to it, stands for nothing.They were not looking to effect social change or garble cryptic lyrics laden with intellectual gravity. They were looking to get off. When you go down a certain rabbit hole, this becomes problematic.
Weirdly, this is also Van Halen’s salvation.
You can’t run deep all the time, it becomes insufferable. It’s a fast way to get trapped inside your own intellectual snobbery, which does no one anywhere any good.  (Besides, as David Foster Wallace wrote, “No matter how smart you thought you were, you are actually way less smart than that.”)
Critically, 1984 will never get the artistic benefit of the doubt like other 80s albums such as Remain In Light, but so what?
Objectively, has there ever been a better rock and roll front man than David Lee Roth? Was he not at the height of his powers in 1984? And is Eddie Van Halen not a genius? He is mathematically brilliant, bringing guitar technicality to the masses in the way The Elegant Universe delivers quantum physics.  Sure everyone can understand it better, but it’s still fucking string theory.
The Songs: “Hot For Teacher” and “Drop Dead Legs” and “Panama” are spiritually equivalent to 50s rockabilly: women, cars and school rebellion in the Reagan era.  Or, Eddie Cochran funneled through a heaping mountain of cocaine.
So I’m going to listen to it, unironically, both in my car and in front of people. Because 29 years later, I still like it.

Contingency Plans

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A north, northeast wind with gusts to 30, even 40 mph can make the east coast of Florida an unpleasant place to be, especially outside the inlets. But there’s a lot of water to cover between the coasts, too, and there’s always a lee somewhere¹.

(1. I like ditches.)

Striped Bass and Cataclysmic Space Rocks

The website space.com has an article up detailing the lasting effects of the interstellar object, estimated between five and miles in diameter, that crashed into earth at the spot now known as the Chesapeake Bay Crater.

Without this epochal event, there is no Chesapeake Bay and no striped bass fishing as we know it today. Stuff to think about, walking the beach.

FULL ARTICLE

Jumping Cues, Making Haste

The guide had the boat staked off on a flat on the edge of I-275 and the angler on deck stood poised to cast.

I don’t know if he actually did because I was driving southbound at 70 mph. Whoever they were, that’s the farthest they got into my visual memory–a split second freeze frame through the passenger window.

Still, If I hadn’t seen them…

Traffic paced up to 80 mph and I had somewhere to be and the water disappeared from view but the idea of me being on it didn’t. I had a brief but less menacing wander along the lines of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

The hard part of being a fisherman is the not fishing. Which sounds a little self-inflicted and absurd on the face of it. Sometimes having had the experience is enough of a thing, like watching the great migration in Kenya or checking out the gargoyles of Chartres. Sometimes something you did in the past, like high school football or geometry, stays locked in that place and you don’t mind.

But fishing brings the irrational desire to be doing it when you shouldn’t be, and the dangerous speculation that you’d be happiest doing it at all times.

When I start to think that way I’m drawn back to “Some Remarks,” the opening essay of Thomas McGuane’s The Longest Silence:

“Worst of all are the lamentations of the angler who has given himself entirely to the the sport and feels that sportsmen up for the week or the season only to return to jobs or family don’t understand him.

I’m afraid the best angling is always a respite from burden. Good anglers should lead useful lives, and useful lives are marked by struggle, and difficulty, and even pain.”

Even so, it doesn’t always stick. Especially in Florida.

So against better judgment, I pressed down the gas pedal and guided the rental car into the fast lane, and cycled through a few more scenarios that would put me on the water, and not that fucker on the flats who by now was probably deep into a 40-inch redfish.

STEPHEN KING: The Important Part is the Story and the Talent

I work for a magazine that was once solely traditional print but now the paper mag is one part of it: The centerpiece of content delivery across many mediums.

 

I’ve collaborated on a hardcover photo essay book, contributed to the first two Pulp Fly ebooks and done some work for websites and paper pubs as well. Some of the paper ones are dead now but some of the websites are too¹.

 

Writers as a group tend to swing on a pendulum between inspired and despair, and also to complain a lot about the way things aren’t.²

 

But it’s not such a bad thing that there are a million ways to get words out there if you want to, whether things get sorted out the way you want them to go in this transition or not. As Stephen King says at 2:52 of this clip, “The future’s gonna be what the future’s gonna be.”

 

As for today, I’m going to look for inspiration from the past.

 

¹Most of that work is lost to the wind except for the ones I boxed up for posterity that my kids will throw out one day.

²My all-time favorite excerpt on writers and writing is this one from Charles Bukowski.

Humility and the Common Carp

About that trout set. It’s not a thing that’s done in saltwater or warmwater or 99 percent of the fishing I’m wont to do. My muscle memory has been ingrained with setting the hook on the strip, and this hasn’t been helping me in pursuing the diminutive but wary common carp that reside nearby.

The thing about sight fishing for carp, I’ve come to find, is that it quickly exposes all of the things I am doing wrong. I couldn’t get a carp to look at my flies for ages until two years ago I had a breakthrough. I caught a few more and thought I’d unlocked some sort of secret code but I hadn’t. I think, maybe, I was just getting lucky.

carp junior

The wrongs: I’d throw a fly in front of tailing, mudding or foraging pond carp and start slow stripping it, like a bonefish retrieve. They did not like this. I’d think casting within a foot of its mouth was close enough. It wasn’t. I’d think they couldn’t see or hear me standing on the banks. They could. I’d somehow hook one and not know why then go four or five trips in a row without getting a serious look.

My continuing relationship with the common carp is like living in a piscine version of a David Allan Coe song.

But there’s something about them that brings me back. As I told a friend recently, “I suck at it but I really love it.”

Of late, a few wise words have helped me suck at it a little less. The great John Montana of Carp on the Fly offered up this advice: Cast a little beyond the fish’s mouth and drag the fly back so it drops right in its feeding circle. Then don’t move it. Since I started doing this I have had at least one carp attempt to eat my fly on every subsequent trip. Revelation.

This led to confounding problem number two: a catastrophic run of missed hooksets. There is nothing like watching a fish eat your fly but not hooking it, or thinking a fish ate your fly but not knowing or not feeling it or maybe it did but did it, jesus, what he hell?

Backing

Then John advised the trout set. And the need to be decisive.

It’s still several degrees removed from easy for me, but I’m going to buy Kirk Deeter’s book. Because if a mere six-pound fish is capable of exposing the backing on my 6wt, it’s a thing that’s worth all the suffering.