Friday, April 29, 2011

Warning: Hard Core

A wee drop of porn for a Friday. Splendid.

E Jonny

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dangerous Liasons

Jonny's recent adventure at The Culvert reminds me that I never did tell the story of the One That Almost Got Away. You remember that one, don't you Jonny?

The Culvert, you see, is just that, a culvert. It runs under a road, and as such, is a veritable bait funnel at the right time of year. What is perhaps most fascinating about The Culvert is the rapidity with which the ebb and flood tides change direction. The idea of "slack tide" simply does not apply.

And so, here we were one late night, fishing The Inside, on the flood, drifting all manner of hair and tinsel, when Jonny gets a take. The fish is clearly large, and starts going farther up current. Jonny is worried that the fish is going to make it 'round the bend, which is bad news, so he steps into the water, right in front of The Culvert. This will give him the proper angle to pressure the fish and hopefully turn it.

Now, had that fish taken the fly an instant earlier or later, what transpired would never have happened. But the ocean is a fickle woman, she is, and it was in that instant that Jonny stepped into the water in front of The Culvert that the tide she did turn. And with that, Jonny's fish, and then Jonny himself, were both sucked into the tube. Luckily, I saw this happen and was immediately upon Jonny's wading boots, holding on for dear life. I tried and tried to pull him back out, but understandably, he was kicking fiercely. Indeed, it was a hard blow to my hand against his metal cleats that released my grip, and to my horror I watched Jonny's feet disappear into the dark swirling water of The Culvert.

But, no sooner had I called his wife to ask if I could have his other fly rods (knowing this is what he would have wanted) than did I hear him hootin' and hollerin' at the far end of The Culvert, and up he comes holding a real cow of a striped bass.

"Jonny!!" I cried. "I was sure you were as good as dead!"

"You damn near cost me that fish, T.J. !!", he shouts at me. "Next time, you let go of my feet, understand!?"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good News TJ!

After the easy striper fishing of last week - lots and lots of silly fish jumping on my flies - and with today being so bloody warm, it was time to venture to the Culvert for the first time this new season. I kissed my wife and kids, strung up the ol' floating line, grabbed some other detritus and headed to the sound. Ready for the first dry shrimp action of this merciful spring season.

I was half way there when I realized I'd forgotten the lovely box of shrimp flies I've painstakingly tied throughout winter. Sod it - there was a white muddler Andy had tied years' back hooked above the vanity light in my car. It would do.

I forgot my cigar cutter and lighter, but never mind. I tied on the muddler in the half light; so what if the headlamp in my other pants would've been handy. Snipping off the tag end with my teeth (no clippers) and, oopsie, wrong tag. Take II and the fly was firmly retied to the inappropriate 8lb test that had been on my floater since the last steel trip with Zakur. No biggie. It'd do.

English Jonny makes his way to The Culvert.

The tide - high at 7.20 at the local point - was still pulling north through the Culvert when I arrived. So I mounted a high rock and began to cast to the slacker water when, on only my second back cast, I hooked the power line behind. A hard pull separated everything: no fly, no line, all gone. The lights went out in adjacent houses. That muddler was a powerful pattern, right enough.

Before I could shut my car keys inside, break my new rod, or slice off a digit I peered into the bank-side rocks and looked for the first grass shrimp of the year; perhaps the first wee crab; a silverside; anything.

And there you have it, Andy. Not one set of shrimpy eyes did I see. Nothing. It's late, you see. Just like you planned it.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Pleasant and Interesting and Satisfying Things

Somebody, in an internet discussion forum, recently inquired of another fisherman, "Well, if you're simply going to cast and strip the fly in, why not just use a spinning rod?" or something to that effect. I believe the original offense was fishing a Clouser Minnow on an intermediate line (two offenses, really). My initial reaction to the question is one of befuddlement. I have done both, and the reason to favor one over the other is simply that they are not the same thing. Like masturbation and intercourse, if you cannot tell the difference, you are doing at least one of them incorrectly. But in some ways, these sorts of comments are variations of the "But it's not fly fishing!" shrieks that we hear all too often. And this, in turn, brings us round to the debates over what the definition of fly fishing is. We, that is fly fishermen, have spent a lot of time arguing over whose definition is sound and whose is horseshit. But what strikes me is that it seems nobody really ever seems to question the initial premise, which is that defining it is something that needs to be done. Perhaps it's the question, not the answer, that is horseshit.

Now, now - I can hear the objections already. We need a definition if we're to enforce the "Fly Fishing Only" regulations on certain waters, you say. But the Fish & Game regulations booklet has as much bearing on what fly fishing really is, or is not, as a speed limit sign has on the meaning of velocity. I have driven 25 miles per hour in a 20 mile per hour zone because that's the sort of rebel that I am - but I never had any illusion that I was going fast.

“But what about the fly fishing record books!?”, you say. The definition of fly fishing, for the purposes of records, is a form of rule-making, and rule-making is necessary for competitive games. And that's what the fishing record thing is all about. But even competitive games can have different rules, without losing their identities. The rules for basketball in high school, college, and the NBA are not identical, but nobody seriously entertains the idea that only one form is basketball. And since I'm not interested in competitive fly fishing, I don't care how it's defined.

I think there's something else going on here, and in my opinion, it speaks to a deeper issue (pathology?) among fly fishermen. Those who are terribly concerned with the definition of fly fishing, and in particular with how other people define it for themselves, seem threatened by the thought that somebody who doesn’t “do it properly” might be called a fly fisherman.

Why this is so is puzzling, unless perhaps it’s because these people are asking fly fishing to define them. “If that guy over there casting and stripping his so-called ‘fly’ can say he’s fly fishing, what does that say about me?”, they implicitly ask, with furrowed brow. Indeed, what does it say about you? If a guy standing on a street corner peeling a banana wants to call that fly fishing, it makes no difference at all to me. Why would it?

I myself happen to enjoy fishing with a fly rod and fly line in a variety of ways, but my favorites of these varieties usually have two things in common. First, I enjoy casting a fly line, particularly if the casts required are at least long enough to allow me to see a nice loop sail through the air. Second, I enjoy the feel of a fish’s strike in my line hand. For these reasons, something like high-stick nymphing, where one might have little if any fly line out of the rod tip, and the hook is set not by a strip-strike but by a quick lift, holds less appeal to me. I do enjoy seeing a fish take a surface fly, but I prefer the explosive strike of a largemouth, striper, or bluefish, which I can both see and feel, over the gentle sip of a trout to a small dry. What this all means, then, is that I particularly enjoy stripping a fly through the depths, waiting for the tell-tale “tap tap”, or better yet, the socket-wrenching tug, that tells me that through this hand line - and that's what it really is, under these circumstances - I have connected to something unseen and mysterious. When that tug no longer excites me, I'll likely not give up just my sinking lines, but fishing altogether.

In “Fisherman’s Spring”, Roderick Haig-Brown explained that the reason he fishes is because “pleasant and interesting and satisfying things happen to me whenever I go fishing.” This seems reason enough to choose that method which pleases one most. I’ve always referred to what I do as fly fishing because it seemed the easiest way to describe it, but the reason I fish the way I do is because it seems to insure that pleasant and interesting and satisfying things happen. So call it what you will. It matters not the least to me if The Committee should someday decide that, according to The Definition, what I do is not fly fishing; it won’t change the way I fish, and upon returning home, I won’t feel compelled to ask my wife “But do you still love me?”

[Photo: Brayshaw casts dries to fickle browns during an evening hatch on Michigan's famed Au Sable River. How does that make you feel?]

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sunny, warm, stripers

It hasn't been like that recently; but when SWMBO said she was taking the kids and leaving me, I thought I should go out tonight, the next few days looking windy with rain, and tonight being terribly clement.

Flying solo, I had a cracking time, despite the 20 to 25 other chaps who had the same idea. I got in position and took a fish on my first cast. Many more followed, and I'm too tired to eulogize about the finer points - there's a pizza and wine waiting. It's what we men do when they're away.

With the Sound like a mill pond and the red sun setting, after 3 hours of catching I bid a good eve to the throng, fish still biting as the tide slackened at 8pm. My arm aches, I stink like striped bass. It was really good fun. Bye bye.

First Striper Thumb of the year!

I switched from a small Clouser to this bigger fly.

And the bigger fish liked it. This one perhaps a smidgen under 30".

It's quite lovely to catch spring stripers again.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Brook Trout Through the Angling Year

The Angler’s Culvert Fly Fishing Photography section features artists who draw subtle connections between fly fishers, water, and light, and who've perfectly captured a sense of place.

Of this week's entry, not content with one picture, we celebrate the art of the brook trout by taking in the full angling year. Worthy of a big hand, I'm sure you'll agree.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fishing Tackle and Flies!

Are really quite boring. Tying is nice, with catching in mind. Products are nice - pieces of machinery and the like - but the novelty wears off, and then more clobber follows (see McGuane's war against amassing too much "stuff").

Casting is fun. It's always novel, always challenging.

This guy is quite good, by Culvert Standards. [True: the music is ghastly, but just watch him]


Friday, April 8, 2011

We Are Nature Too

I think this is a poem, or a song. Anyway: it is really something. I think. I'm going to read more Jim Harrison, and if I like him, I'll possibly pick up more Shakespeare. I've been meaning to get round to it for some time.


I want to die in the saddle. An enemy of civilization
I want to walk around in the woods, fish and drink.

I'm going to be a child about it and I can't help it, I was
born this way and it makes me very happy to fish and drink.

I left when it was still dark and walked on the path to the
river, the Yellow Dog, where I spent the day fishing and drinking.

After she left me and I quit my job and wept for a year and
all my poems were born dead, I decided I would only fish and drink.

Water will never leave earth and whiskey is good for the brain.
What else am I supposed to do in these last days but fish and drink?

In the river was a trout, and I was on the bank, my heart in my
chest, clouds above, she was in NY forever and I, fishing and drinking.

-Jim Harrison

Here is a short film I liked.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jonny is Doing Striper Recon

I love trout streams, but the sea is a sweet whore that I covet more with time.
It's like emerging from one of those space pods where I've been asleep for a very long time. Not that I'm stirring unaware of the 10,000 years now passed. I mean where you've lived them all. Alive under permafrost. The end of days. 

To the river today for the early season striper slaughter. Some 20, 30, 50 fish I'd catch on a watchamacallit line and a Bead-chain-Clouser-Flatwing-Deceiver-Fagend - these fish aren't discerning creatures, and they're hungry, and thanks to my new iPhone (copyright pending) I now realize that most fish don't give a flying shit; they just eat stuff. Not entirely unlike humans in this respect. You might want to power down your PC and think about that for a day or two.  

Welcome back. So I met Steve (The Fisherman) and Bob (Flyrodder) at The Place with 2 or so hours of outgoing tide left. I've put their real names in parentheses so you know who I'm on about. It was blowing 20-30 MPH from the north-west, so right in our coupons (Scots - noun; meaning "face"). Casting was towards shore for us righties, then throw it up-current a bit and hope I don't snag the next fella in the cue. But today the line was only 4 or 5 others and, to those of you who know, this can mean only one thing: the fishing hasn't happened yet. We all agreed - almost as if we had the faintest scooby doo (Scots, cartoon character, immortalized in Glasgow;  slang, meaning "clue") about anything at all - that it hasn't happened yet. It's late, you see. Because of the harsh winter. The Forsythia hasn't quite ripened. Please: today's spartan tally had nothing at all to do with the inescapable fact that we caught sweet Fanny Adam (nothing) while the other 4 anglers did quite nicely (on fly). Clearly they were fishing flies with eyes. Or something else Heathen.

Anyway, these photos are for my land-locked friend who misses the salt. I can confirm that, despite nae fish, today was deeply pleasurable. A million miles from the trout/steelhead paraphernalia, today I threw 4 things in the boot (trunk) and went about my fishing. Any day now I'm going to have me a bag full of cocks. And when I do, my friends, then, and only then, will it be spring.

It's the hand break, but I was pleased to be fishing.

Windy. I don't want to do this again, but today was exceptional. I'll be there Tuesday.

I was terribly bored. This is my IKEA footstool stripping basket (copyright pending). The rod is Orvis or whatever.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Conversations overheard

A recent technological innovation promises to change the way we fly fish forever by finally taking the mystery out of fly selection. The "ichthyo-phone" is a recording and translating device that allows anglers to not only record, but to also understand, what wild fish, underwater, are saying. The "iPhone", as the inventors are calling it (seems to be some trademark issues not yet worked out, so we can't say for sure what the device will be called once commercially available), is still a work in progress as there are still some bugs to be worked out (for example, it can translate the languages of all of the anadromous Pacific salmon as well as steelhead, but not that of the residential life-history form of the rainbow trout...which does make you wonder, don't it?). But we at The Culvert had a chance to test out a prototype recently during a steelhead outing. Using a splitter and dual microphones, we were able to capture, simultaneously, the above-water conversation of two fly anglers and a conversation between two steelhead in the run they were fishing.
Angler 1: "What are you going to use? I'm thinking of trying this purple egg-sucking leech. You see, the steelhead see this leech eating one of their eggs, and they get mad, and strike the fly out of anger. Even makes 'em fight harder."

Angler 2: "Yeah, I know that. Everybody knows that. But I think I'm going to try this orange egg pattern. Check it out."

Angler 1: "What's with the stringy stuff around it?"

Angler 2: "That's the yolk leaking out, dumbass. You see, the steelhead see this egg coming down the run and they notice the yolk oozing out. This way, they know the egg's already been punctured and won't survive, so they might as well eat it."

Angler 1: "Oh. Yeah. That makes sense. Well, how's about you try that fly and I'll try my leech, and we'll see what works."

Meanwhile, under the water...
Steelhead 1: "You hungry?"

Steelhead 2: "I dunno. I guess. Hey, you see that thing coming down the run? That purple thing?"

Steelhead 1: "Yeah. What is it?"

Steelhead 2: "No idea. Should I eat it?"

Steelhead 1: "I guess. What's the worst that could happen?"

Steelhead 2: "Don't you remember what happened last time you ate one of them things?"

Steelhead 1: "No. What happened?"

Steelhead 2: "You know, I can't remember either. That was two days ago. Don't matter though; the thing's gone now."

Steelhead 1: "Hey, here comes something else. Orange thing. What is it?"

Steelhead 2: "I dunno. You gonna eat it?"

Steelhead 1: "I guess."

And back on dry ground...

Angler 2: "Whoa!!! Fish on !!!!"

Angler 1: "Damn! What'd he take?"

Angler 2: "Orange yolk-leaking egg, size 10. Better put one on now, Dude!"

Angler 1: "Well, I've got an orange egg pattern, but it doesn't have the leaking yolk."

Angler 2: "Shit, man. I think you're screwed. Hey!! Fish on !!!!!!"

[This piece was published in a slightly different form in the Fall 2013 issue of "The Drake" magazine.  Thanks to Tom Bie and "The Drake" for putting it out there.]

Trout Opening Day

Opening day 2010, Salmon River, Colchester, Connecticut.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Grand Old Time

Brayshaw pointlessly considers fly choice on Ohio's Grand River
I worked hard Wednesday to get work out of the way and ready for Friday, for Thursday I was going steelheading again. A full day later, 320 miles on the car, and bloodshot eyes, and what have I got to show for it? Nothing. I got skunked.

In fact, this is the first time I have gone steelheading and not caught multiple fish.

Bright Chrome

The Angler’s Culvert Fly Fishing Photography section features artists who draw subtle connections between fly fishers, water, and light, and who've perfectly captured a sense of place.

Of this entry, this week's featured photographer writes "Sorry for the quality of the pic, but I was by myself."

Of course, we know our readers feel as we do when we say "No apology necessary!"

(And..."I look forward to your first article!")