Tag Archives: books

A Passion For Tarpon

A Passion For Tarpon is dense.

I received a review copy a long time ago, August I think. I wanted to read through it before commenting. Seven months later, here are my thoughts.

This book surprised me. Hearing some pre-press buzz back in early 2010, I had expectations of this being an ego showcase for Andy Mill, regarded by many to be the best tarpon angler in the world. But it’s not that at all.

It features lengthy, unfiltered interviews with pioneers and legends like Steve Huff, Bill Curtis, Stu Apte, Sandy Moret, Tom McGuane and others. Steve Kantner, (the “Land Captain” and the king of Florida ditch fishing) contributed an essay on the history of chasing tarpon. Interspersed in between the historical chapters, Mill shares his thoughts on gear and technique.

If you’re heavily immersed in the tarpon culture you’ve probably already bought or considered buying this book so this may all be a moot point. But if you’re tangentially around it (like me, excluding ditch babies) I would make the case that the interviews alone make it worth the read. You could take notes from each one and assemble it into a timeline or concentrated history of modern saltwater fly fishing.

My personal favorite is the interview with Steve Huff, who has a wealth of interesting things to say. One here:

One time Sandy Moret and I were in Homosassa. He had on a grizzly fly with a red palmer. He was stripping this fly and this tarpon came up behind it and, you know, kind of sipping around but did not take the fly right away. And it was right on the end of his nose. You could see it. It was early in the morning so the fish was really close–like 20 feet away. He is not stripping it so fast. He is trying to feed this fish. The fish comes up and he takes the tail of the fly. He bites the tail. Sandy does not move it. He then comes up and he bites the center of the fly. We are watching this. And all you can see is the red palmer on his lips, and then he eats the rest in three bites. “

There’s a ton of anecdotes like this in the book. Whether they’re worth the $100 price of admission is up to you. But I dig them.

From Wild River Press.

Hard at Work

Breezy
On the jetty.

Tosh Brown and I have been working on making an idea for a book project a reality. A “large format pictorial on fly-fishing the Northeast coast” won’t work without large format-worthy pictures. So we’re blasting our way through some of the fall run this week.

CT Mike 2
The underwater housing is worth more than your life.

We’re in the middle of fishing around New York Metro and surrounding salt, with Tosh working the lens.

BOOK REVIEW: The Big One

the-big-one

Score one for participatory journalism.

In 2007 David Kinney, a career newspaperman, dove headfirst into the collective insanity that is the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. The result is The Big One, an exhaustively researched window into the people and culture that fuel the derby, and the mania that fuels them.

It would be tempting to think this was an easy book to write; go fishing and then type it all out. That would be incorrect. Kinney deserves credit for gaining access to a group so paranoid and insular that getting any of them to talk and take him fishing is remarkable. (In fact, reading some passages, you’re left to wonder if the source is on the level or passing along blatant misinformation.)

Kinney weaves the narrative around a local angler named Lev Wlodyka, who during the tournament catches the fish of a lifetime and sparks a flurry of controversy that still reverbates in striper cirlces today. (Yo-yoing for stripers is a divisive fishing technique.) But Kinney fishes with just about everybody in the tournament; from shore, by boat, at night, at sunrise, on the jetty, in public spots and secret spots, with blue collar wharf rats and charter hiring blue bloods. He documents what the tourney means to them against the backdrop of evolving Vineyard life.

The book is not for everyone. Some may be turned off by what competitive fishing does to people. Others will blanch at the glorification of an all-kill tournament, a practice even a lot of hardcore anglers find outdated. If you’re comfortable with either notion, and have delved into northeast salt, you will enjoy this read.

Even if you’ve never been to the Vineyard or fished for striped bass, bluefish, albies, or bonito, there is one central theme you can take away from this book. And that is that the best fishermen are insane.

Bloggers With Book Deals

akwallpaper1024x768

A guide in Alaska named Miles Nolte posts accounts from his life on the river into a thread on The Drake Magazine forums. The thread gets a following. One of the readers starts a publishing company. He signs up Nolte to write a book based on his thread:

The AK Chronicles

Start a blog or thread or something and you never know. Look what happened to the guy who did Stuff White People Like.

BOOK REVIEW: Muskie on the Fly

Having spent many summers on a river where catching a muskellunge is an achievement that gets noted in the local paper, and having witnessed exactly one person hook one on the fly, I’ve looked forward to reading  Muskie on the Fly, by Robert Tomes, as much as any other fly fishing instructional book. As someone who ranks the muskie high on his fly fishing wish list, I am not disappointed.

Muskie on the Fly falls in line with other books from Wild River Press, such as Fly Fishing for Striped Bass, in that it is obsessive, compulsive, and encyclopedic in its depth of coverage. And that it is packaged as an expensive glossy hardcover. As with the striper book, if someone buys this with the intent of leaving it on a coffee table, they are missing out. Reading this book will shorten your dues-paying casts from 10,000 down to about 8,000. (What, you were expecting instant gratification?)

A few years ago I had the opportunity to hear Tomes give a talk on muskie at a local fly fishing show, and he delivered an informative presentation along with a powerpoint slide show of adrenaline-spiking muskie pics. His was the only presentation where I actually learned something. Consider this book the expanded, way more in-depth version of that.

For a quick sample of Muskie on the Fly, check out this excerpt on Midcurrent.

BOOKS: Men’s Lives

Reading Peter Matthiessen’s book from 1986 on the lost way of life of Long Island’s south shore surfmen and baymen. I’m a huge fan of Matthiessen’s trilogy of historical novels on frontier Florida, particularly Killing Mr. Watson and Bone by Bone. This book is so far a great read about a culture now buried under glitterati and horrible traffic every summer.

Fishing with Dynamite

Reading a book called Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers, about the pre-park Everglades in the 1920s and 30’s. It’s a colorful read, with firsthand narrative like this:

Well back in the ’20s and ’30s, dynamiting fish was quite common, although it was illegal then too. But you could buy dynamite then over the counter at the Horn Hardware and Lumber Company. Even kids could buy dynamite. And, you know, we lived right next to a big magazine of dynamite. Wasn’t over two or three hundred yards from us. If that thing had gone off, it would have blowed us slap into that Long Glade.

When fishing with dynamite, the older men would usually gather up us yearling boys and head to a canal looking for some fish to shoot. One of the best places was called the “big hole,” and it was about a half mile from the mouth of the Florida City Canal where the canal spanned Six Mile Creek. Here we could see that no one was ahead or behind us. If we used too much dynamite, it would break the fish’s rib cage, and it’d kill too many. One and a half inches of dynamite was plenty–just enough to hold the cap. A hole a little bigger than the cap was punched in the dynamite and about two inches of fuse was teeth-crimped in the cap and shoved in the hole and packed with loose dynamite; a little dynamite was put on the end of the fuse so it would be easier to light. A match or glowing cigarette was used to light it. Us boys would stand around the canal with our clothes off. As soon as the charge was lit, thrown, and went off, we’d hit the water on the run. The fish would boil to the top, and the boys would throw them up out of the canal. The older men would sack them up. In five minutes, we would get out of there.