March 31, 2010

The REAL thing.

It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit.
Antoine Rivarol

Only the madman is absolutely sure.
Robert Anton Wilson
After a particularly unsettling series of casts, I raised my rod, grabbed the fly out of the air and examined it again. It lay still, inanimate in the palm of my hand, betraying nothing more to me than when I'd held it in close regard only moments before. In the distance beyond my focal point noses still broke the surface, the rings appeared and slid downstream, providing a humbling backdrop on which was overlaid the frustrating patina of my failure to find a suitable mechanism with which I might escape this rising sense of anxiety. My eyes followed the tippet back to the knot. Enough length remained for three more ideas, which was no help at all...
Presently, regaining a bit of swagger as I tied on yet another alternative, there, perched regally on my nippers, sat the very object, the very real version of what I had been casting to those noses, which were still dimpling the surface behind me.
I carefully placed it in the palm of my hand next to my imitation, and was immediately gratified by how closely I had come to the color, and size of the natural. As if on cue, the natural moved closer, as if to more closely investigate his artificial cousin, suddenly seemingly so offended as to jump off my hand into the air and away on a puff of wind.
The little drama brought a smile as I began lengthening my cast, and shortly my properly colored, properly sized unnatural rode smartly down the riffle, flanked on either side by several real ones.
The nose that broke the surface at the spot where my properly sized, properly colored artificial had been drifting left a ring, and nothing else. I'm pretty sure that the expanding ring drifted on downstream with the current, but I didn't take time to notice. I was busy.
I had to get my fly back.

March 29, 2010


Talk about it only enough to do it. Dream about it only enough to feel it. Think about it only enough to understand it. Contemplate it only enough to be it.
Jean Toomer

We breathe life into our passion with our constructs of deception. Our reality is based on fictions continually modified by contemplative imagery. Such a wonderful place is this to be! Where else could I survive? Where else would I find purchase? The elevation of a craft designed solely to deceive? Oh what a priceless gift I've received!
I take it not lightly, this art. I spend hour after hour in a conscious quest to achieve that which will be perceived as real. Imitate life. Initiate a strike. Feel my pulse. I'm alive.

March 24, 2010


Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace.
Eugene O'Neill

Several years ago, maybe more than ten now, I came across this quote. For whatever reason, I'd written it down on a yellow college-ruled legal pad. It was rediscovered the other day, still unwrinkled and crisply folded, as I went about rooting through a corner of my closet stacked with discarded clothes in search of an old t-shirt that I used to wear each and every time I went fishing, a t-shirt that says, simply, 'life is good' above a small but personable graphic of a fish.
I found the paper in the old duffel at the bottom of the pile. This aged piece of my fishing history was for a long time the unit into which I packed everything I would need to have in the tent with me when I was out on an expedition for few days. The last time I used that old, now quite pungent, time-odored bag was for a weekend camping/fishing expedition to the Lochsa River which, after the following discourse about the shirt, will regain focus as the center point of my offering. I'd worn that shirt on every expedition since up until a few years ago when it suddenly went missing, and yes, I could be a tad bit superstitious sometimes, and yes, I still am, for that matter.
Back to the quote, and to the Lochsa.

It was to me back in those days a quite agreeable thing to have in my possession a good book whenever I undertook an expedition. After a day of chasing trout, a good hot meal next to warm fire, and maybe some flies tied under the headlamp, I would look forward to crawling into my sleeping bag to read. And, as of the time of this particular trip, I'd been enamored with several authors from around the turn of the century whose works had eventually made it to the Broadway stage. So, with a compilation of three of Mr. O'Neill's stage dramas in my bag and my Gazateers in the passenger's seat, I set off.
I wasn't too far into the first of his offerings when I came across the words at the top of this post. They immediately found purchase with me. I couldn't help but relate them to my fishing and the pursuit of trout. I love it when things I read, or hear, or experience adds fuel to the fire of my desire to do what it is that breathes such vibrancy and color to my existence.
Later that night, I was startled into wakefulness by a most intense electrical storm accompanied by torrential wind and rain. Huddled in my tent listening to the tumult outside pounding the nylon walls, I was grateful for the advice I'd received upon arrival from an older gentleman who stopped by as I unpacked my gear. He was setting up his fifth wheel in the next space.
" You'll want to dig a trench around your tent. And find the high ground to set up on, like over there", he said, pointing. "You'll understand why if the weather folks are right. And if it gets too bad? Well, I'm real close."
By the next morning, aside from a few downed tree limbs and wet ground, you would have never known what blew through, although my fire pit was full of water. I grabbed my old coffee can and scooped out several cans full. The rest would drain out over the course of the day. On my way out I stopped and knocked on the old man's door.
He answered straight away, and I had the feeling he'd been checking on me periodically. I thanked him for his sage advice the afternoon before and he smiled.
"Which way are you going", he asked? "Up? Down?"
"First time I've fished this river" I replied. " But I thought I'd head back upstream and work my way down. It's early yet. That'll give me time to do a little investigating. How about you"?
He looked off upstream into the canyon, and a smile began to wrinkle in the corners of his mouth. Stepping down to face me, he put his hand on my shoulder.
"Tell you what. About six, maybe seven miles downstream the water slows. There's a logging road that takes off the inside of the curve back toward the water. You'll see it. Stay on that dirt track for as long as it takes for it to end. That's where I'll be from three this afternoon until dark. If you come, knock on my door when you drive up. I'll be taking a nap."
He squeezed my shoulder, smiled, and turned to go back up the stair. But I caught the glisten of a tear welling up in the corner of his eye.
"You remind me of some one I once knew very well. It kind of takes me back into some fond memories."
And I knew he was referring to himself. And I think it was me, many years down the road, that I was talking to.
I turned and headed back to my car, a tear glistening in the corner of my eye.

March 22, 2010

Dream Sequence

Dream more than others think practical.
Howard Schultz

There is this scene which plays out in my head when I wish to retreat from everything else. Maybe some of you can relate, maybe it is a waste of your time to read further. But, then again, maybe you should read on anyway.
I am standing waist deep in very clear water that moves through and around me quite slowly, but with purpose. Tall grasses, waving gently in the humid breeze, line the channel I am in the midst of; were I to reach out both arms to their full extension I would bridge the gap from bank to bank. Downstream, a submerged tangle of branches and logs throws the calm current into brief disarray, the tension of disturbed hydraulics swirling the vegetation in the channel upward, convulsing lazily just under the surface. The disruption of the constant flow over time has allowed small pebbles of gravel and sand to form in the vacuum a short but noticeable tongue which divides the current, extending just below the jam for several feet. Beyond that, the roots of an ancient tree insinuate a mild change of direction in the channel several more feet below the tongue's tip. As I strain to sight as far around the top of the bend as the tall grasses will allow, I become aware of movement. There, just below the jam in the deeper channel running to the leeward side. A darker, elongated shape, so still now as to cause me to wonder if I indeed saw what I saw. I remain vigilant, not daring to move, to breathe, and am shortly rewarded for my effort.
He is tucked in tightly against the outer wall of the channel, barely visible in the refracted gray midday light, about forty feet downstream. His movement, combined with a classic German coloration reminds me again of the perfect nature of his existence. He appears to glide, in place, almost as if suspended.
I am struck by the possibility that my presence has been noted. A long, silent exhale as I realize I have again been holding my breath, remaining quietly still, observing, looking for signs of apprehension in the fish's behavior.
Presently, my attention is diverted by sudden disturbances in the water's surface around me. I watch a what I took to be a bubble become a tiny mayfly, and then another and another. Soon there are many, and I am engrossed in their struggle to free themselves from their shucks.
A ring. Right above where I saw the Brown. And then another. I know now why he has been so silent, for so long. He has been waiting for this moment, and now it is here. His absorption with feeding will help to camouflage my activity as I make ready. I strip coils of line from my reel, truly finally appreciative of its silent action.
Tied to my seven x tippet is a benignly dull colored classically-styled upwing imitation of a mayfly approximately the same size and color as the naturals I see now dotting the surface as they float proudly past.
I know I will have but one cast. I must lengthen each false cast quickly, without drawing attention. And I know that it must turn over precisely at the right moment as to land ever so softly, without any more slack than is needed for the final drag free drift to my target, who feeds on, seemingly now blind to my existence. Or so I would like to think.
I pull as much line from the end of my four-weight bamboo rod as I think necessary, and then set the fly free to drift downstream a bit before I lift the rod.
After three false casts, I decide that it's now the time, and deliver, calmed by the narrow, perfect loop extending out downstream toward my target. I watch my fly follow the line to the end of its loop, and as it begins to turn over, I pin the line in my hand to the rod. The loop responds, recoiling slightly as the fly turns over and settles gently. My fly rides proudly downstream...
... and the dark shape is moving upward in the water column now, nudging the surface... my fly is, is, gone...
That's just one of many I have. I think I'll fish a mouse pattern next time. How about you?

March 18, 2010


Confidence is such a fragile and precious thing.
David Duval

The egoism which enters into our theories does not affect their sincerity; rather, the more our egoism is satisfied, the more robust is our belief.
George Eliot

A few days ago I made the two and a half hour drive out west to Rocky Ford Spring Creek. Weather-wise, it was spectacular. Chamber of Commerce type stuff. Thin, high clouds, temperatures in the mid 60s, and just the friendliest of breezes. And the fishing wasn't too bad either. The fishing is never bad; sometimes the catching, for one reason or several more, doesn't always live up to our expectations. And that, it turns out, is a perfect segue into this offering.
As far as spring creeks go, Rocky Ford is not your atypical stream. Its trout population is bolstered and proliferated by a hatchery that lies a short distance below the place where the waters first come out of the ground. There are approximately two and a half miles of fishable water below the hatchery until the creek runs onto private lands. Below the private lands there are a couple more, if you don't mind hooking the occasional carp, walleye, or perch.
But the upper end of Rocky Ford is where the best action is to be found. There are rainbow here ranging in size from twelve to thirty inches. They grow fast, which is easy to understand when you become aware of the fact that this creek is a glutton's paradise. It's a trout food-producing machine. At all times there are a variety of menu items available. And that can prove extremely hazardous to those flyfishermen who come here. Especially the ones with fragile egos.
To be effective here on a regular basis, a decent working knowledge of the many food sources can, most times, provide a real advantage as can familiarity with specific colorations, sizes, and movement. Some days it is a must, and some days, well, it can be so frustrating as to defy explanation.
Weekends are the absolute worst times to fish Rocky Ford, for the obvious reason. The old adage of 'if you can see them they've already seen you' is taken a step further into 'if they can hear you good luck'. I've witnessed many a flyfisher's undoing at the fins of these fish. I call it the fishbowl effect.
It is amazing to watch these trout in their natural habitat. Problem is, it's made less than natural because we can do just that, even more so by many of the guys who stomp up and down the banks (there's no wading here) looking for fish to cast to.
That's why I 'don't go there' on weekends. It's a real circus, and those who are there expecting to fish in the company of other respectful, courteous fishermen better realize that etiquette is just another word in the dictionary having nothing to do with fishing.
During the week, it more closely resembles and fishes like a true spring creek. I believe Tuesday, or Wednesday to be the two best days to be there. Monday gives the fish a chance to recover from the shock of the weekend. Beginning Thursday afternoon and on through Sunday night, there are usually enough fishermen there to virtually fill every niche in the cattails that line most of the creek. Even during the winter. Talk about extreme pressure! I have at times wondered what kind of offspring will be eventually produced if and when successive generations of these trout are constantly exposed to so many fishermen, their flies, and mostly, to their lack of respect. But I try not think about it too much. It upsets me.
Tuesday was, as I stated earlier, a perfect day. I fished for about 6 hours, from eight in the morning, until around two. I landed fish with scuds in the first two hours, and then stayed ahead of the curve when I saw chironomids in an esophagus sample. I've been working on several types of a trapped midge emerger, and I got the chance to employ those for a very short period after fishing the venerable chironomid under an indicator. But that didn't last long, as a # 14 callibaetis began coming to the surface shortly after I had switched to the midge. The callibaetis don't waste any time trying to get airborne as soon as they are free from their shuck, and their ability to get into the air prompted many younger fish to come clear out of the water in pursuit.
As quickly as it began, it was over. By noon the surface was quiet and reasonably clear of any hatch activity, so I went back to the scud. And proceeded to draw blanks. Out of sheer frustration with the lack of time remaining, I cut back my leader and went to my secret weapon. The black marabou leech.
As I fished my way back downstream, stopping itinerantly here or there to cast, I landed several more strong, aggressive fish. But most of all, I had a ball casting far across the wider sections and watching the bow wakes appear as I erratically stripped back my leech.
The leech really works well shortly before sunset and into the darkness. My own experience with it tells me that I will entice strikes from aggressive feeders even at midday, as was the case here.
I have learned, over the years, that there is never too much I can know, or learn. I have the opportunity to add to my 'toolbox' with each fishing experience. And the more I can assimilate and understand, the better prepared I am. All of which translates into a stronger belief system which will serve me well if and when I encounter situations whose solutions have yet to be discovered.
That's part of the magic. Solving the mystery because I believe I can.
But that's also why it's called fishing, and not catching, isn't it.

March 15, 2010

90 Days

Genius is eternal patience.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Spring is, as 'they 'say, in the air. Soon, the river will swell with the liquified snows shed from the mountains to the east, although to call it a 'swell' is an understatement. The river channel will be scrubbed clean by the sheer power of the annual deluge. In my eyes, it will basically, as is the case with each melt, become a new river. And so, after the river has regained its composure, I will begin once again to unravel the mystery of its trout. Each year, dependent upon the severity of the flow, it's necessary to re-evaluate what were once favorite places, and in the process find others that have been created.
But, for the next ninety days, the river is closed. It is, for the rainbow of the river, time to spawn. I am a bit dumbfounded when I think about the activity, taking place during this period just before and into "the Torrent'. It reminds me again of just how adaptable the trout of this river are. To exist through the maelstrom of such a hydraulic storm as is wrought upon the river while procreating seem to me to be incredible examples of survivability, strength, and determination. And, although the fish are simply doing what Mom Nature set them up to do in this time frame, I am grateful, appreciative, and blessed all at the same time for their perseverance!
There are the regular studies conducted by our Fish and Game Department dealing with the spawn here in the lower river. And, while numbers are probably disparaging to the authorities, I have a pretty good suspicion, founded upon experience, that there are more progeny being produced and surviving than are being reported.
So, for the next few weeks, the spring creeks of the basin and the plateau will be my destinations. Time to get re-acquainted with the folks out west of town who have trout-filled water flowing through their acreages.
There are some big fish out there. I intend to fool some into eating my flies.

March 8, 2010

Assume nothing

You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.
Denis Waitley

I am constantly waging war with my assumptions. I stand philosophically at the chalkboard of my fishing experience devising theory after theory, knowing full well that it is indeed a slippery rock I stand upon when I seek formulaic solution, while in the back of my mind whispers this voice, urging me to understand that it doesn't matter; I'll never know the half of it. That is precisely the beauty of it all, it tells me patiently, even though I persist in my efforts to weave some sort of order into all of this.
There is a section of the river I where I like to fish most often in the late summer. While the golden sun expands as it slips behind the hill, I tenuously stand in the deep currents to witness the hatch of not only several different, very small mayflies, but also caddis, and midges. Up stream there are a series of swift, shallow riffles which serve to oxygenate the water and provide to this wider, slower run where I stand the veritable smorgasbord of food items. Trout align themselves along the deeper trough running down the west side, where the rocks provide cover and breaks in the current. The east side is a long, slow eddy, where the midges have risen from the muddy bottom. But it is down the west side where I will see the first of many noses poke through the bubble line into the surface film. This activity will take place over a period of two to three weeks at nearly the same time each afternoon barring any sudden weather, temperature or flow changes. But probably the most spectacular part of this ephemeral, daily occurrence is the energy you begin to perceive, building slowly, but palpably, as more and more tiny specks appear on the surface and are carried itinerantly downstream. And as they are funneled into the bubble line, rings begin to appear on the surface, starting near the lower end of the slower run, gradually working their way upstream to the tailout of the lowest riffle.
It is not an easy run to fish, for several reasons. The hardest part is simply getting to it, unless one has taken the time to search out the shallowest routes. It can only be reached by wading from the other side, a distance of about forty yards, each step measured and cautiously taken. The bottom is covered with large, algae-slimed rocks, no two of the same size laying next to each other. And, I have also come to understand that subsequent to each high run-off spring, I will need to find my way all over again. All one need do is witness the sheer strength of the volume of water moving past at any point on the river in late spring to understand why this is mandatory procedure.
I will never forget my first experience here. To be honest, I spent several hours on different occasions attempting to get to this stretch, becoming more and more frustrated by the depth of the river until finally one day stumbling upon one route, and then another. But by then it was very nearly totally dark. I marked them, and was back the next day to confirm my suspicions.
Getting there, or, getting so much closer, was quite an accomplishment. But then that became small potatoes when compared to fishing it, because once there, I was presented with a laundry list of obstacles and mysteries.
First off, I found that I could approach no closer than fifty to sixty feet at any point where there was a shallow route. And, to make matters even more interesting, many of the prime areas for feeders were in current breaks due to their close proximity to rocky outcrops or fallen timber. That translates into accuracy, and that's to be expected. But what I didn't take into account was the depth of the water I was going to be casting from until I realized I'd been holding my arms up over my head for the last several yards just to get there. It was almost to the top of my waders. I cinched up my shoulder straps, giving me another couple of inches to work with.
In deeper water, casting for accuracy as well as distance took a little time to master. It's amazing how much we take for granted when we're less than waist deep. I never noticed how much my whole body was getting into the cast, and as a product of that, how much I disturbed the water. Not good when casting to skittish trout, even if I was some distance away. Put these fish down, and word gets out all up and down any given section. They'll likely stay that way for hours, and if it's already just about dark, well, you better plan on coming again tomorrow or swimming back if you stay beyond your ability to see in the dark.
Figuring out which of the three mayflies being preferred from moment to moment was the next mystery to ponder.Three differently colored mayflies, mixed with a couple of psychotic caddis all hatching at the same time.
It is not enough to simply put any fly in front of a trout that's been around for very long. In this case, even if it's one the three right models, it's still basically a crapshoot unless you have some way to quantify your reasoning. And the best way I know of so far is to actually land one and pump his esophagus. That's where luck can lend a hand. That's why I tie some 'generics', subimago patterns with real blahso coloration. That's also why I make a concerted effort to be standing there ready to fish before I see rings. That time when the feeding is just beginning to get serious seems to me to be the best time to fool one or two, although now I leave myself open to all sorts of conjecture as to whether or not all or even most of the feeders are eating that which I see in one or two samples. It could be that I fooled the only two who deviate from the rest, or it could be that I am indeed correct but in few minutes it'll be something else, or maybe it's a free-for-all and anything is good. The latter assumption might easily be the best, but it is also the shortest-lived, because very soon the feeders will be so dialed in on whatever it is they are seeking, that only that particular fly, in that particular stage floating in that particular way will be the one that is sought... for a few minutes, anyway.
So, I remain vigilant. Ready to exercise my cranium again, in order to bring some order to this madness.
I must be mad.

March 4, 2010


The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.
Douglas Horton

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Leonardo da Vinci

Thoughts I've been having recently set off a memory.
My son and I were camped near Sparwood (home of the world's largest dump truck), on the Elk River.
It was getting late. Elevenish, which is very late if you rose at five to cook breakfast, throw together some PB&Js, and spent the next fourteen hours chasing cutthroat. I was frantically fighting off fatigue while tying as many Adams as I could before falling into my sleeping bag for a few hours. And I'd delegated the task of sifting through my shoulder bag to my son to look for any flies we thought might work some magic the next day on Michele Creek. Namely, more Adams.
As he went through the many film canisters in the bag, I got a running commentary concerning the contents of each. That he found only a handful of flies that might fit tomorrow's bill was expected, but what struck us was the sheer volume of flies I had in this bag! All meticulously tied with something, some place, some insect, some strategy, in mind. Mission completed, he tipped back his hat, stood to throw another chunk of birch on the fire, and laughed.
"I guess the question isn't why", he said, backlit by a shower of sparks rising into the night sky, "the question is, why do you have to have all of these with you all the time?"
I put the whip finish on the last Adams for the night, cemented the head, and took it out of the vise. Standing, I turned off my headlamp and stretched, all the while looking for a somewhat rational answer.
"Well... hm, I don't know. Guess I just got used to carrying them with me 'cause it was easier to do that than to have to sit down and sort through them for however long every time I wanted to go fishing."
Which was undeniably, embarrassingly true. Rather than take the time to actually sit in one place long enough to affect some order into my fly assortments, I'd tell myself 'next time', stuff another film canister into my Sage bag and be good to go, escaping once again the increasingly daunting task of bringing some order to my inventory. And, truth be told, avoiding doing that had caused me grief. Several frustrating incidents come to mind of rising fish and me, sitting on the ground, madly scrounging through my damned chock full bag of canisters looking for the one that held the flies I'd tied the night before. Sometimes I got lucky, most times those rings were only a memory by the time I found what I was looking for.
In my decision to 'simplify' this situation with the flies, I was presented with another problem. The thrust of the idea was to carry fewer flies and have them more readily available. I could already see that deciding which flies to carry was going to be an ongoing project, dependent upon what kind of trout, and where I was going each time. So, what was I going to house them in? I settled on a few smaller, waterproof boxes with rounded inside corners. Having had access to a multitude of box styles from my years at the shop (I'd tried them all at one time or another), I'd found that these 'tournament' boxes fit my needs perfectly.
I fish a lot of small flies. A fourteen is often as big I'll go. Having a box that I could easily dip into rather than one that had all those rows of foam that I would've filled too full (because it was too expensive to buy enough of them) seemed to provide the best, and quickest access. Beside that, they fit better into my vest, which, by the way, I still prefer over any of the packs I've ever tried or seen on the shelf. Now I know we all have our own likes and dislikes, and what I chose may very well wrinkle some noses, but it works for me.
But, in the final analysis, as I got comfortable with my new set-up, I found that I gained more confidence. I can't stress enough what an advantage that mindset now affords me. It's allowed me to carry fewer flies but fish them with more skill. We all hear over and over that 'it's not the fly as much as it's the fisherman', and I am a true believer in that adage.
Having the right fly in any given situation is the optimal scenario, but, beyond that, it doesn't always guarantee success. What will increase
your odds is your skill level, outside of once in a while just plain getting lucky.
I like to say that there will always be x number of dumb fish in any stretch, on any given day. How you fish to the rest of them is what matters.
Keeping it simple. It's not as easy as it sounds, until you try it.

March 2, 2010


Memory that yearns to join the centre, a limb remembering the body from which it has been severed, like those bamboo thighs of the god.
Derek Walcott

Habits change into character.

It might have been due to the environment I found myself in after a due amount of time spent simply but earnestly relearning, rethinking, being re-educated; away for such an extended time from anything even remotely connected to the desire to cast flies to trout...
... but, as consciousness returned and I regained, or, more specifically, finally discovered my equilibrium, my awakening was akin to a child's first visit to a toy store...
Although working at a fly shop can actually, at times, faintly resemble real work, don't let anyone fool you into thinking they're busting their butt there every day all day long. In fact, there were many occasions wherein I had to consciously stifle the big grin that demanded space on my face, because it was just so damned wonderful that I had become a member of this select group of guys who, between the 4 of us, had close to a century's worth of flyfishing experience on salt and fresh water, from rivers to lakes. And that's mostly what made us so popular, and business so good. Well, that and the fact that we also sold predominantly high-end gear. Only top shelf stuff. And our tying section was second-to-none anywhere, or so we were told repeatedly by customers familiar and not. I think they were right, too. All of us tied and were very good at our individual specialties, from conception through construction into knowing how to fish them.
But me? I was in heaven. Surrounded by all this fabulous stuff. And I was most enthralled by the particular piece of equipment that dealt with the delivery of a fly. The rod.
We carried a full complement of a certain manufacturer's fastest, most comprehensively high-tech rods you could imagine. A box behind the counter held a score of reels, lined, and ready. And out behind the shop was a hundred yards or so of paved parking lot. Perfect. The lab. Where we took prospective buyers to prove to them that this was the rod they needed to own. I spent every last idle second I could possibly get away with out there, casting, researching, testing the rods. I sold hundreds of them, because I knew them, their characteristics, nuances, inside and out.
But I was also working undercover. For me.
At the time, it was my sweetest dream to own nothing but the most lethal of fishing weapons, the fast rod. And, I wanted to have in my possession several different weights and lengths. You need to understand that from where I was coming, there couldn't be anything else. I'd fished for so long with such pedestrian gear. Now that I had the chance, I hungered for the feel of a real rocket launcher in my hands. A rod that had the ability to jet my fly into the next county. A rod that painted a picture overlaying perfectly on my vision of a tight loop carrying my fly,weightlessly, endlessly, into places I'd only dreamed of reaching before.
Fast was good, I thought, and faster is better. Technology is where it's at. How could there be anything that might even come close.
Well, ultimately, the shop died, unable to survive the onslaught of evils wrought by what else but technology. The internet and its on-line catalogs. The huge, multi-faceted box stores. The economy. The rod manufacturers own warrantees. The dollars and dollars needed for advertising on increasingly diverse levels weren't coming in anymore, and it was painfully sad to be a witness to the slow death of a long-time fixture in the local flyfishing community.
Now, years later, I have my rods, and I love them still. They are my bread and butter. I can think of no finer way to fish the waters I call my home than with them.
I do, however, have a new weapon in my quiver. It is a rod of a very different nature. From a time I once thought long past. A time when there was no reason, no need, to hurry. A time when it was about the experience as much as it was about the fish. It is the antithesis of what I thought I had come to believe about my needs. And, in that regard, it is a teacher.
My newest rod, a two-piece seven and half foot four-weight, is a bamboo rod. It is strikingly beautiful to see; an absolute joy to cast and surprisingly agile in the fight. It was a gift from my son, who sees so much further into the heart of things than I seem to ever give him credit for.
It was made in Bellingham, Washington by my son's friend, a craftsman, a fireman, who loves, lives, his craft and his passion.
We are, all of us, never too old to learn; it's the part that we might learn something about ourselves along the way that keeps many of us from ever understanding that. I am reminded of that every time I hold this rod in my hands. I am also now aware that progress may indeed be made, but it is not always in the direction we think it will, or should take us.
Sometimes it takes us on journeys we might never have thought to take.
And that's a very good thing indeed.

March 1, 2010


It has always been my private conviction that any man who puts his intelligence up against a fish and loses had it coming.
John Steinbeck

Time. Out of nowhere it races past, leaving a settling dust trail of memory, tangent only in the photograph in your mind's eye.
Your fly loses itself in the sunset, the ambient field a carryover from thousands of casts into a dream that never ends before awakening you again and again to the constant loss of time. Where once time stood so still, it now runs into itself, rivulets becoming torrents seeking only the calm of beginnings. And still you fix on the horizon, staring into the destination of distance while tight to a pulsing magnetism that is your life and The Pursuit. Of waters that grant wishes to your imagination, daring to draw, from your tired, but joyous heart, one more blessing.
There is a space where you fit, though you know not the shape of it. Formless and without definition, yet it is all around. It is the shape of your life in the perfect loop of your time, here, on this earth, in this magnificent photograph you carry forever in your mind's eye.
Your cast carries you far away again. As your fly settles, so too do you.
Stay tight to your time.