Thursday, May 19, 2011

Carp Fishing in America*

Many** of our readers have inquired as to how I first met English Jonny. I was in the Cleveland Wrecking Yard, shopping for another method of making walnut catsup.

English Jonny tapped me on the shoulder.

"Excuse me," he said. "I thought you were a carp fly."

"I'm not," I said.

Then he wrote "Carp Fishing in America" on the back of my shirt.

[Editor's Notes: *This makes no sense to you now, I know. But it will. Also: **None]

Getting Ready, # 3


We should consider lamb. Below, I have reproduced some correspondence from a man we'll simply call "Sam", out of respect for his anonymity. This "Sam" was my personal chef for almost twenty years, and still cooks an occasional meal for me. He's probably responsible for many of my faults as well, but on balance, his influence has been positive. The recipe, in its entirety, cannot be printed here because many of The Culvert's readers are women and children, but I will reproduce enough of it to allow you to start getting the house ready. That is, you can replace the caulking on the windows.


Spring is the time of year that our thoughts turn to... LAMB!

Although my local store carries some lamb throughout the year, mostly Leg o' Lamb, (not my favorite because I can't eat one all by myself at one sitting), in the spring I find more choices.

Recently the store has been carrying lots of Racks o' Lamb at their usual obscene prices, but I have become savvy enough to note the “Sell by “ dates. I put a Post It note on my kitchen cabinet, and on the day of that date or the day before, they usually reduce the price by about 30 to 40%. That's when I go to buy them and right now I have a Bunch o' Them in my freezer. I love them...all eight ribs at one meal.

For a more leisurely cooking day, I love lamb shanks. I've made them many ways and they are always successful among people who aren't prejudiced by a conviction that lamb is too “gamey”. It's interesting that some of those “lamb is too gamey” people eat venison, but usually only after it is converted to “Venison Summer Sausage”. “Rack o' Venison”, if you can find it, or venison tenderloin butchered well the way "Wayne" does it, tastes like beef and can be fork-tender, when cooked rare. Most other people's “gamey” venison tastes the way it does because they threw it in the back of their pick up truck, drove all over the county on a warm day in the fall to show it off, got drunk, parked the truck in the sun and took a twelve hour nap. After that, the venison isn't “gamey”, it's half rotten.

I digress... back to lamb.

Lamb shanks are yummy, maybe my favorite cut, and the enclosed is my favorite recipe, especially in warmer months. The recipe may appear daunting, but even if it is, every step in the chain is worth the outcome. The cooking time of the lamb, once it gets to the oven, is 4 hours, so there is plenty of time in the meantime to do the other steps.
I advise, even during warm weather, that you keep your home windows closed while this cooks...for two reasons:

1. If you let the smell escape, you are wasting it.

2. If the smell escapes, your down-wind neighbors will be lining up, inviting themselves into your kitchen to demand a "wee taste".

At least one short cut: use canned, well rinsed cannellini beans or great northern beans instead of starting with the dried beans. In Step 4, reduce the cooking time of the beans with the bouquet garni to 30 minutes at a bare simmer, but simmer the garni in the water ahead of time for 15 minutes before adding the beans. Starting from scratch with dried beans is better, but we all have other lives to live. Eg. once the shanks in their pot get to the point where the aroma fills the house, you will want to have sex, and it is a good time for it since you have 3 hours to accomplish it, assuming that you have already done the necessary prep work. Remember “If you have an erection lasting more than 4 hours, seek immediate medical attention.” So plan ahead. That whole issue scares the hell out of me. How long after 4 hours is too late to be “immediate”? If I'm too late to be immediate, what will happen? What constitutes “medical attention”? Will the “Home Health Visiting Nurse Services” qualify? What might she look like? Could that issue complicate (or facilitate) a resolution of the emergency?

Best of luck,


Monday, May 16, 2011

*Dapping with Herring Under a Bridge at Night

It's the latest craze - and it is entirely awesome. Near my house is a 7' channel that drains a large salt pond. Over the channel is a railroad line and stone bridge with large stepped abutments that make the most delightful perch 4 feet above water. On an outgoing tide, and when it is very dark, beneath the abutment there be striped bass that pop and roll in the moonlight. It is a weirdly magical scene. But angling here is the good part, as it really is angling. The outgoing tide moves left-right and the fish are often only a half rod-length away. Think about that: you're 4' above the water facing a 7' wide channel, sitting down on a nice stone chair, with stripers rising at your feet. Aided by the stone acoustics, the fish pop so loud it's kinda scary, like you're in  the wrong place at someone else's dinner time. Water sprays up when the bass inhale shrimp and other meals - you get a smelly striper shower. It's a unique place.

Casting for these fish, in the traditional sense, doesn't much work. One needs to channel one's deepest Huck Finn. A sort of *dapping approach seems to work, with only 3 feet of fly line protruding to a short leader (it's all rather comical, like dangling a fake spider from a tree, but with a stone tuffet. In fact, when a train streams past it fair scares the crap out from me.) A quick flip up-stream sets the cast under the bridge, then, being a righty, the rod goes over my left shoulder then lowered down and threaded up underneath and inside the bridge. Thus the fly drifts down to the fish, which, let's remember, are under my feet. I feel like some kind of performance artist explaining this shit. 

I caught four bass on various flies this way, walking each gracefully down my sandstone steps for a release akin to the perennially dapper (!) Peter Bowles retrieving The Daily Telegraph from his door step in To the Manor Born.  Next time I'm thinking the smoking jacket, cravat and slippers.

Rare photograph of English Jonny and his Wife
The next toy to play with was a 12" herring fly given to me by friend and uber-enthusiast Steve Culton. You know him; he's very tall with an audible smile. His herring looked great in the water; flowing broadside it looked like a big lazy fish. But damn, if it didn't take on a new life when fished just like a jig! Because, dearest Culvertites, this fly is 100% flexible being as it is tied in the flat-wing-stylee-of-yore. If one emulates the jigger man, with line dead vertical, you can make the "fly" do loops and circles around itself, just like a real fish if it were riddled with mad cow disease. From my perch, I could make this toy perform intricate synchronized patterns right under the rod tip. That it didn't draw a strike is wholly incidental, I'm sure you'll agree.

See you under The Bridge.


*Patent pending. I'm thinking of calling this Culvert Nymphing to keep track with the modern malaise for similarly bogus inventions.

New Perspectives

Although in many ways I am back home, being now just a few hours from where I grew up and fishing streams that look like those of my childhood, nothing really feels familiar. I fished small midwestern streams with worm and bobber then and rarely caught anything other than small sunfish and creek chubs. Approaching my new and current "homewaters" with a fly rod in hand and an eye out for carp and smallmouth bass is as new as can be. I've traded plenty of back cast room and a ten weight rod for tight quarters and a four weight.

New is humbling, but new is fun. I haven't yet figured out why one spot gives up multiple fish and another produces nothing, and I may never figure this out. But I've been playing the odds with enough success to keep me coming back.

Thursday I fished thirty minutes at lunch time and got nothing, then went back that evening, to the same location, and watched as smallmouth bass and rock bass pushed wakes in an effort to eat my flies.

On Sunday I badly needed to clear my head of something, so I spent several hours stalking carp. Jim Harrison once said something to the effect that few of us shoot ourselves during an evening hatch. An afternoon slurp turns out to be equally effective medicine. I highly recommend it. Many carp refused my flies, but one did not and I am a happy camper.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Getting Ready, # 2.

[Editor's Note: We have decided to make the contents of some recently confiscated hard drives available to you, the readers of The Angler's Culvert. Much of what has been uncovered is highly disturbing, but in the interest of national security, we felt it was only appropriate to release it. Analysts are still in the process of trying to make sense of it all, but it's clear that whatever it is that they're doing, it is clear that they're getting ready. ]

English Jonny (EJ): Thank you for sending me that poem. It is so bad it has made my balls ache.

T.J. Brayshaw (TJ): Yeah, he can certainly make one's balls ache. There's probably a lesson in there.

EJ: Yes, of course. But, the trip? What about food? Duck? Or lamb. Definitely we shall put red meat to our lips. Do you want to do any trout fishing? Late May is an excellent time to fish the upper river, and it's quite lovely up there. I wonder if we should start to look at tides and actually have some kind of plan for the week?

TJ: I've been meaning to look at the tide charts, but haven't had time, and figured it isn't urgent yet. Weather isn't as predictable as tides, anyway, so we'll have to be flexible. My only "plan", at this point, is to bring as many fly rods, lines, sex toys, reels, flies, waders, pain killers, muscle relaxers, digital cameras, one-dollar bills, books, apple-green bucktail hairs, duck recipes, and corn niblets as my car will hold, and start driving east. You'll have whisky, right?

EJ: Yes, of course. Bill has been hinting that he'd like come over to be with men and drink in excess, despite the fact that he knows you're visiting.

TJ: It would be good to have Bill over. Most primal rituals that occur around a fire involve some sort of sacrifice, and he seems like a good candidate. He's not so important that our society cannot thrive without him, but he's also not so offensive as to displease the gods.

EJ: Good. I'll open the invite to him. We can decide on a specific night later. He will look good on a spit with an orange in his mouth.

TJ: Yes. With the orange fruit in one end, and the orange Butt Out 2 in the other, he'll be a gourmet meal fit for a magazine spread. Charlie's wife can take the photos. We should stop now.

EJ: You should stop now. Please bring some books. And your fly-tying vise. I figure when we're not out fishing, having drunken fire pit Roderick Haig-Brown recitals (while gently turning the Bill spit roast), we might just tie a fly.

TJ: Yes, indeed. As for the spit, I have a rod & fly turner (for epoxy flies or the epoxy wraps on fly rod guides) that a friend made for me. I wonder if I should bring it so that we don't have to worry about turning Bill regularly. It's so easy to picture him, golden brown, with just the right amount of crackling skin and dripping fat, that I'd really hate to ruin it because we're both writhing on the ground in a Haig-Brown paroxysm.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Getting Ready #1

Had to test the boats before Teej arrives. No rod, just a camera.

Father in Law Joe at peace.

At high tide you can get in nice and close.

Joyous to be afloat again.

The boats are ready, old chap. Bait sighted (little bitty fish) and locals report that fish with stripes have been caught.