Working

Right now I’m working on this post.

Earlier today I was working on leading the Mongolian civilization to victory. (New phone app.)

The last couple of weeks I’ve been working on filling my fly boxes for an up-coming trip to Wisconsin.

should be working on my casting every chance I get, but I don’t.

And I’m always working on keeping the house clean, keeping the children fed and keeping my patients.

 

 

Heartbreak

It may betray my manhood to use this description, but the water in the small pond I took my son to fish was the color of an iced latte after all the ice has melted. If you’re unfamiliar with this particular concept, think a milky-brown that you’re not sure if you can see into, that is until there’s actually something to see. In the case of the pond, a small bluegill hovering three or four inches below your little bumblebee colored popper. In the case of the old iced latte, a dead fly or an actual bumblebee.

Other than the hue of the water, the day seemed to be perfect for a quick outing with my little up and coming fly fisherman. The temperature was in the high seventies, very little wind, sunny, the insects were out but not the biting ones; like I said, just a great day to let a kid catch a few little fish on the fly to help that fishing bug embed itself a little deeper.

So I strung-up his rod, tied on a little popper, gave him a few bits of instruction and let him go.

He piled his first couple of cast but after reminding him to slow down and where he should stop the rod on his backcast, he got into his rhythm. I stood back beaming like the proud father I was as I admired my child casting with a grace that put many an older more experienced caster to shame.

Then the fish hit. It wasn’t big and it hooked itself, but my son, who obviously was born to be a fly fisherman, deftly landed it like he’d been catching fish on the fly all his life. I unhooked it for him and handed it over for a quick pic.

“So, what did you think about that bubba?” (In my world all male children are bubba, buddy or boudro.)

This is what I heard next, “That was fun.” Short pause, “I want to start fishing with Bob.”

Still smiling but a bit unsure I asked, “Bob who?”

“No, not Bob,” he laughed as a dark cold feeling started to gather along my spine. “A bobber. I want to start fishing with worms and a bobber. I think it’d be more fun. Look a butterfly! I’m going to catch it!” He dropped his fly rod to the ground and ran off in pursuit.

 

Teaching The Art of Fly Fishing (and how I may ruin my friend forever) Part II

The first thing I want to say about teaching my buddy Adam how to cast a fly rod last Saturday was that for the first time in years I was forced to actually stop and think hard about every aspect of my casting.

“So it’s all in the wrist?”

“What? No, no, no,” I said. “Like this.”

“Uh huh, so it’s in the wrist.”

I tried to explain that because I spent a lot of time fly fishing in tiny streams with lots of overhanging vegetation I developed a wristy cast and that he should try to avoid casting that way.

“What about the thing you’re doing with your other hand?”

“I’m not doing a thing with my other hand,” I inadvertently lied.

“Yea, you are. You keep pulling on the string.”

“Um… The line. I am?” I suddenly became conscious that I was double hauling my cast. “Oh, that. It’s called a double haul and it’s something you don’t need to worry about right now.”

And so his casting lesson went.

I soldiered on anyway and did the best I could to explain to Adam what was going on with his rod and line while simultaneously trying to figure out exactly what the hell I was doing to get my fly line where I wanted it to go. I guess I should be happy that casting has become such a natural thing for me but it makes me kind of a sucky teacher. It seemed though, by the end of the lesson, that he had the basics down.

After the casting lesson Adam asked me a few questions about the actual fishing part of fly fishing. This caused me to start in on a thirty minute one sided stream of consciousness rant about all things fly fishing. I think I got to “and fuck Brad Pitt and that shadow casting, A River Runs Through It bullshit” before I realized I’d lost him. So I decided to just give him a “how to” book so he could pickup some of the basics and threw in a couple of issues of The Drake and my copy of Death, Taxes and Leaky Waders by Gierach to get him in the proper fly fishing state of mind. I also told him to practice casting every chance he got and maybe find a good video or two to watch so he can see how a pro casts.

Hopefully for Adam this is the first of many steps to becoming an accomplished and well rounded fly fisherman. And if it isn’t? Well… I don’t like crowded streams and every little bit helps.

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Hipsters, Rednecks and Tenkara

I don’t want to sound like a hipster, but I was tenkara fishing way before it was cool. Yep, before it became fashionable in the fly fishing community, I was catching fish using nothing but a rod, line and fly. The first fish I ever caught on a fly was fishing “tenkara style”. That was in the 80’s. Tenkara didn’t become mainstream until around 2010. Yea dude, I’m that far ahead of the curve.

I’ll admit that the rods used weren’t the $150, cork gripped, tenkara rods used today. No, me and mine, we used telescoping fiberglass rods known as bream busters” that you could get from K-mart for about $15. These rods were usually used like a canepole to fish worm or crickets for the various sunfish that inhabit the fresh water tidal rivers around where I grew up, but when the time seemed right, like directly after an afternoon thunderstorm or during a calm sunset, we would pull the floats, split shot and hooks off our lines and add a popping bug. These we would “cast” tenkara style to any place we thought looked fishy, more often than not to get a strike as soon as the bug hit the water. Some of largest bass and bluegill I ever took were caught like this.

It always makes me chuckle a little when I read an article, some of which were written by fisherman that I have the greatest respect for (John Gierach and Ed Engle to name a couple), about tenkara. Most of these articles include things about tenkara’s ancient Japanese roots, its simplicity, its beauty, blah, blah, blah. I’m not trying to disrespect this form of fishing, but rednecks on the coastal plains of South Carolina have been fishing like this forever. Fly rods were few and far between where I grew up, but every little country store that sold tackle in my area carried an assortment of cheap popping bugs just for people to use on the ends of their canepoles.

The first time I saw an actual tenkara rod was on the banks of the Beaverkill in New York back in about 2006 (there I go, being all hipster on y’all again). I was fishing near the campground one day when a Japanese gentleman walked down to the river holding what looked to me like the world’s skinniest bream pole. Being curious I walked over and asked him about it. He told me, in broken English, about traditional Japanese fly fishing, showed me some flies he tied and showed me how to “cast” his rod. I told him, in southernese, about my fishing a very similar outfit with bass bugs in my home waters. There was a lot of smiling and nodding and probably very little real understanding of the details of that conversation but I think we both got our points across.

I didn’t really think too much about that conversation until a few years later when I saw an article in a magazine all about tenkara. “Wow,” I thought. “Bream buster fly fishing is going mainstream.”

Lately though I’ve been thinking about getting a tenkara rod. They are much lighter and more delicate, in a good way, than my beloved bream busters and I have a feeling I would really enjoy fishing with one for native brookies up in the Smoky Mountains or, really, for any trout on any small stream. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ll probably end up with a tenkara rod sooner or later, but I swear, as God as my witness, that I’ll never tell anybody back home how much I paid for my fancy bream buster. And I’ll only fish it ironically.

Teaching The Art of Fly Fishing ( and how I may ruin my friend forever)

I imagine that I’m the kind of fly fisherman that professionals in the industry dread the most. You know… the broke kind. I guess that’s not a completely fair statement, but I have never been able to afford the things the pros seem to suggest in all the fly fishing media I’m exposed to. I’ve never had a lesson of any kind and I’ve never been able to hire a guide. Growing-up, a fly rod was known as a “yuppie stick” and was used only rarely to cast poppers to bass and bream. Everything I know about fly fishing has been learned through reading, videos, and good old fashioned trial and error. So when an old friend of mine contacted me on facebook and asked if I would teach him to fly fish, I didn’t hesitate, “Hells yeah I’ll teach you.”

My friend is the one with facial hair and glasses.

I realized later what a huge responsibility I’m taking on. For someone who is basically self taught, I do well enough; I get my fly where I want it to be, I know how to mend a line to get a good drift, I catch fish on a pretty regular basis, and people who see me fish don’t walk away shaking their heads anymore. I’m personally happy with how well I do now and I learn more every time I go out.  Problem is, there are probably a lot of bad little casting habits I have that I’m not even aware of and there’re some that I know I have.  Now I’m going on to teach my buddy how to cast the long rod and he’ll learn my bad casting habits. How am I going to tell someone not break his wrist so much on a cast when I cast with my wrist all the time. Hell, my form may be awful, I don’t know, I’ve never been fly fishing with anybody who could critique my cast.

He and his wife want to have kids one day. What if he teaches his kids to cast like me, and his kids go on to teach their kids… I know my children are doomed, but doing that to someone else’s family…

Now the part that really worries me. I didn’t start fly fishing seriously until after the birth of my first child. If I had started fly fishing even a year before I did, my life would have been dramatically different. Before my wife and I got together, I was “unsettled” and more than a little nomadic in nature, aka. I was a dirty hippie. If I had been fly fishing during that time I’d probably be sleeping in a tent right now, on the side of a river trying to catch that last late autumn BWO hatch instead of, well… Maybe it’s best not to think about it.

He told me, before he and his wife start trying in earnest to have children, they have a kind of “bucket list” of things they want to do first. Now I’m in charge of adding fly fishing to the mix. I know this guy well and he has an addictive personality. I have yet to find anything quite as addictive as fly fishing and I’ve tried lots of things. So what if my little fly fishing padawan gets really into it. I could be destroying his entire genetic future by teaching him to fly fish. What if he adds going to the Keys to catch a tarpon to his list or Alaska for salmon. What’s going to happen when he discovers the concept of a slam. Or that first time he unravels the intricacies of a complicated hatch and has a big trout take his fly without any hesitation giving him that brief but wonderful illusion that he’s finally got this fly fishing thing down, just to find out latter that there are other puzzles to solve with each new fishing situation and the only way to find those situations is to just keep fishing and fishing. His bucket list will keep growing and the next thing he’ll know he’s spent his entire life chasing fish all over the world instead of having children. And I’ll be his fly fishing mentor so he’ll send me pictures of all his catches. He’ll be smiling, holding a big permit that he caught on his last trip to Ascension bay and it will come with a letter saying “it’s not big as one as that one I caught last year near Big Pine but it’s still a nice fish” and I’ll be stuck struggling to put my second son through college where he’ll get a degree in 17th century French Literature.

Fuck that! It’s not fair! Not fair of me to do something that might interfere with a friend’s future. Not fair of me to teach an innocent a bad casting stroke. And it wouldn’t be fair to his poor wife.

Of course I do need a fishing partner.