Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pulaski 2010 - The Film

Todd's excellent film of our wonderful Upstate NY adventure. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010


If normality ever returns I'll do my best to capture more about our trip to the Salmon River in New York, but for now the abbreviated version. This was my first try for steelhead and I was apprehensive about hoards of grumpy anglers, but we - me, Todd and Steve - found solitude. My expectations were to freeze half to death, perhaps hook a fish or two, and hopefully not regret the whole escapade. Where usually it is deathly cold and ice, we were bathed in 60 degree sunshine. We hooked over 60 steelhead on trout rods and 6lb tippet. We landed 21 fish, my own rod rod accounting for 9 fish, the first of which was a beautiful 12lb male. We helped each other in the playing, landing and photographing of fish. We were a good company. All fish were bigger than expected, perhaps between 8 and 14lbs. The majority were bright crome and (with one rare exception) all fought like nothing I've ever known: ripping through strong current, down to backing, apparently off, then on again, hooking river bed, then movement, chaotic jumping, powerful switch-back runs. I've never been more grateful for my Barbour hankie. The story is much richer - during one battle I had my old Diawa rod wrenched from my hand and had to run through feet of water as the fish pulled it down river (I caught up with the bright ten pounder two pools down) - but for now, and until I'm properly sedated, here's some mug shots.

My first steelhead

The fish that stole my rod

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Recalling the Main Idea

There's a perception that to embrace "tradition" in fly fishing is to look to the past - fish a certain way, perhaps with wet flies in the style of yore, or to carry a creel and fish with a split cane rod - but away from these obvious differences to the "modern" incarnation, I've a feeling there's something more intrinsic about the sport that we’re letting slip by. I've been thinking about this for a while - I think about it when I look at most fishermen - but it came to roost recently with the advent of a wonderful new "app" for the iPhone, which the stream-side angler can turn to for the answers to meddlesome issues such as: which fly should I tie on? How do I tie a knot, or cast just so? Which are the rivers with the best chance of catching? Friends, this modern helper can even tell you which way the wind is blowing and if it is raining, the most perplexing of angling puzzles.

I know I’m getting old, and I'm probably becoming too rigid in the way I like to fish. I should move with the program like the others. But I got to reading a book - a fascinating but soon to be downsized device made of paper and print - by the challenging angler/author Thomas McGuane. And in a trice I remembered that it isn't  me after all.

"Getting rid of stuff is a matter of ceremony. The winter has usually made me yield to dubious gadgets, and I’m at war with these if the main idea of fishing is to be preserved. For example, the net can go; it snags in brush and catches fly line and if it’s properly out of the way, you can’t get it when you need to. Landing fish without a net adds to the trick and makes the whole business better. Make it one box of flies. No mono-filament clippers. Teeth work great. Trifles like leader sink, fly-line cleaner, and geegaws that help you tie knots must go. You may bring the hemostat, because to pinch down barbs and make quick, clean releases of the fabled trout help everything else make sense. Bring a normal rod, with a five- or six-weight line, because in the early season the handle you have on hatches is not yet sufficient and you must be prepared to range through maybe eight fly sizes. Weird rod weights reflect fantasies and often produce chagrin on the water.”   
This reminds me to not get distracted by the need for more stuff. Not just because we don't need it to be good anglers (we all know we don’t needmore stuff, right?), but because with each addition we cut more small corners that help further our detachment from the main idea. I like to think McGaune and other good anglers are still "at war" with the endless trappings, though perhaps now there's no need to be, such is the glaring absurdity of the trinkets on offer to the modern angler, who will soon have no need to think about fishing at all, much less care. 

Perhaps some traditions are everything in fly fishing.