Sunday, February 27, 2011

My New Chair

So I went to my local antique store, Clocktower Antiques of Branford, to find a desk chair for my tying desk - I've been using an old rocking chair that is useless as a tying perch. I didn't find a chair, but I did find a painting from 1994 for just $6,500. I stood there for quite some time bellowing at fellow browsers about its amazing color, resonance and sheer significance, then the shop owner came over and politely asked me to leave. Afterwards I fantasized about picking the thing up and just casually walking out the door with it, waving sincere thanks to Mr Shop Keeper on the way ("Same time next week. Jolly good!") Pete Townsend used to do this in guitar stores - grab one then run for it. But he was younger than I am now. And I had my 6 year old daughter with me. And it's illegal. It was only a fantasy. Honest.

This would go quite nicely over my tying desk. The one without a chair.


Friday, February 25, 2011

In Open Praise of Russell Chatham

If you've read anything on here, you know that "literary critic" was not what I was put on Earth to be. I'd like to leave that to Brayshaw and select other friends who are good writers, but they're just not prolific enough. Anyway, I don't pay much heed to what critics say. They're all at it, after all. But (yep, there she is), I need to get this next post off my chest. Afterward, I promise I'll try to play nice, as the grammatically awkward saying goes. 

What follows is a correspondence following the 1976 (Vol 1, Issue 6) Water Fowl Edition of Gray's Sporting Journal, in which appeared a Russell Chatham story called The Great Duck Misunderstanding. I hope by putting it here I do mild justice to the Journal's original tenor, and pray that I don't come across as a Chatham groupie. Given the next paragraph, the fact that I adore Chatham's writing, named this Blog after one of his books (credit: Brayshaw), and plot daily to divert my progeny's college fund that I may afford but one of his lithographs, I doubt I shall succeed in the latter.

These two letters capture my only true bias in the realm of field sports: that to be narrow, stuffy, closed minded is to deny the reality, the fun, the experience of it all. The response below envisions a sport best enjoyed in the context of whatever else we do, providing wholesome development only where counter-weight exists. It tells of why the pervading market (in '77 as now) for how-to-do-it writing is to opt for journalism over literature (Note: one of these is better than the other). It even has a note on conservation, of striped bass in this case. More, it says something to me about the importance of nurturing excitement in reality rather than keeping the real stuff, the fun stuff (and yes, the cussin) hidden under wraps. Wider implications here, right? In this aspect it is even more relevant today than it was in 1977, and again I hope this isn't off-message to what the author intended.

Many of the invisible people that I pretend to write this to will have read Chatham's book Dark Waters, which contains the story that so shocked some of Gray's readership. Brayshaw gave me the book, so you know who to credit or blame, depending on your point of view. Again remarkably, the book isn't really about fishing and on the face of it, the story, as its title suggests, revolves around cooking duck to perfection, the emotions of grease, wine and men.

I did tell you I'm no critic. But at least now I can play nicely. 


-A Person
South Carolina

   Dear Mr Person,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Brayshaw in Running for Gray's Angling Column?

Midcurrent's Marshall Cutchin says “Gray’s editor Jim Babb let us know yesterday about his decision to retire as angling columnist of the magazine after 16 years to pursue more book writing (he’ll remain the editor of Gray’s). That means a rare opportunity for someone to write a regular column for one of outdoor journalism’s brightest showcases.”

"Basically, everyone gets the same treatment: I want to see two sample Gray's columns, as polished as the writer can make them: one on fly fishing, one on whatever; they have to run between 1450 and 1485 words, and must be emailed to me not later than June 1, 2011. How soon they come doesn't matter--I won't be making a decision until after I've read them all--but crowding the last week might matter."

The new writer's first column will run in the March/April 2012 fly-fishing special, and there will be seven columns a year. Send your work to Jim Babb at

You heard it here last.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Signs of Spring #2

Crocus shoots under the eves were the first. I observed the second today:

Get that bird feed shit outa there and get on with the spring lawn prep shit people! I'm totally digging this phenology lark.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Good for you, Orvis

Orvis. Purveyors of the best fishing rods in the world that cost "just" $600. And next year, you'll need another rod for "just" $950. It's remarkable that anglers drive this market for items that, with moderate care, will actually last two lifetimes, but that's not Orvis' fault, right?

This is my rather repetitive gripe about Orvis and their like. I'm glad it's out of the way. After all, why should I care: I don't buy their rods at full price - I can't and wouldn't even if I were rich man. 

Today I wanted to pay tribute to Topol and to Orvis, and not just that lovely fellow The Honorable Lord Rosenbauer of Vermont. Say what you like about their prices, the market-driven conveyor-belt of the best and lightest fish catching stuff, but they sure are top drawer when it comes to customer care, to wit:  
Dear Orvis,

"Good beads - poor sizing. Overall rating: 2/5. By: English Jonny"

"Speedy delivery as ever, and the beads are very nice, but I can't agree with your sizing chart. I ordered 1/8 size beads in bronze and gold for size 14 hooks based on your guide. These beads are way too big for this hook size, so ultimately more time wasted. The carp will not be pleased. Please have a closer look at your size guide and rectify this issue.

Thanks -- Jonny"

And the very next day.....

"Dear Orvis Customer,
Thank you for the review you recently submitted for the Bead-Head Beads. Customer service and your satisfaction are very important to us and we do greatly appreciate your feedback as it helps us continue in ensuring [sic] that we meet your expectations.
I am very sorry that size chart suggested the wrong beads for you. I completely understand your disappointment and we greatly appreciate that you took time to send us your feedback. We reviewed the sizing chart online and have confirmed that it is incorrect. We are currently working to correct the chart. If I may have your address, I will be happy to send a pack of the 7/64 beads in gold and bronze to you.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know. 

Yours etc"

This may seem a little trivial, but to this padawan fly tier, desperate for fishing productivity while housebound on Hoth, these beads are pure gold (and bronze). 

Well done Orvis.


Monday, February 7, 2011

A use for February?

I hate this winter and blame the puritanical or just plain stupid bastards who, in early January, were telling me to "embrace" the snow, cheering when it appeared in the forecast. Now they know. To walk in New Haven is to covet a broken bone. Basement floods are inevitable. Weekends are spent with roof rake and chisel. Children. Housebound. 

I don't have shares in HomeDepot, so for the rest of us it's like living on the planet Hoth without the groovy outfits or access to a TIE fighter. It blows here.

College Street, New Haven, last Tuesday

Or does it? Like every angler I know, I need spring. As soon as those peepers sound (March 16 last year), we'll run for the rivers and salt marsh as if for our last breath. It'll be here then gone. And in the midst of this fleeting bounty I'll trudge through my local estuaries and curse the depth of the mud and the absent stripers that made me venture out for the 4th time in a week. I'll forget how I feel today, on February 7th, 2011, as ice dams threaten my dwelling. In April I'll swear at the invisible fish for making me jump in all directions. Local stripers, stocked or wild trout on the Farmy, Housie, Hammo, Q, or others I've come to abbreviate in this most annoying manner. Lake bound steel head, newly foraging carp, stripers throughout the Housatonic basin: it's feast from famine in a nanosecond. It's hardly fair after all this time in the Hoth System.

Tonight at dinner, as my children refused to eat while demanding yet more, my mind wandered: perhaps it's good to be an angler in February; to make use of the shitty fag-end weeks of winter.  Time to fantasize about what's to come, even to kid myself that this year, maybe this year, I'll be ready.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The End

Hi Jonny,

Well it's clear to me that the biblical "End of Days" is here, just as Sarah Palin predicted.  We're covered in a sheet of ice, but now the wind and snow have picked up as well.  I think it's unlikely we'll survive, but even if we do, it's pretty clear that civilization as we know it will not be the same.  It's probably good that I can catch fish to feed my family, but I suspect that I'll have to resort to whatever means are necessary to procure food, meaning that often times I will be choosing live bait over the fly rod, for the sake of efficiency.

Because it's likely that very soon all internet and telephone connections will be severed, I thought maybe you and I should set up some sort of "code word" that we'll both recognize, should we happen upon each other in the woods or wasteland.  I'm assuming we'll both be very dirty and covered in facial hair (well - I'm already like that, so you will have no trouble recognizing me), probably carrying a dead animal.  It's likely that our survival instincts will be on "High", meaning our first impulse will be to kill any other humans or animals we come upon.  But if we could agree now on a code word, perhaps we can prevent or at least delay our own mutual destruction.  Because we're probably not likely to have been communicating in normal English for much of this period, we may no longer retrain our normal vocabularies, so our code word should probably be something we can easily remember and pronounce, in sort of a Cro-Magnon grunt-like way.

I'm suggesting "slurp", but I am open to other suggestions.

It also now occurs to me that we should inform our families of the code word, unless we both just simply agree now that wives are fair game, given the likely state of the world at the time.  It probably is at least reasonable, though, that we agree now that we will treat each other's women with as much respect as possible, under the circumstances - which is to say, with the full understanding that a) they are unlikely to be amenable to an "abduction", but that b) repopulating the planet will be essential.

I apologize if this e-mail is somewhat rambling and incoherent, but as you can imagine, like you I am trying to figure these things out very quickly, while there is still time.

Your pal,


Dearest T.J.,

This is reassuring. I have sent you a personal email with an alternative code word. We will need this to ensure privacy from the thousands of anglers and hunters that have been visiting this blog since the explosion of your T.J. Brayshaw character. It is sad to me that the T-shirts and special no-weight-any-weight fly rods will never see the light.

I appreciate your practical suggestions, as befits a true biologist, for our women folk and for the potential re-population of Earth. On this matter, as we reach the end it seems only fair that I tell you that, during your time in Connecticut, on more than one occasion I........