Tuesday, July 25, 2017

That Reminds Me of a Story...

We caught fish.
More than that,
We made stories.

Stories that we’ve told over and over.
Stories that make us laugh with every telling.
Stories we will continue to tell, over and over,
As long as we’re here to tell them.
Stories that will keep you with us forever,
Now that you’re gone.

Some true.
Some with a kernel of truth.
Some we’ve made true in the telling.
It’s hard to remember which are which any more,
As if it really mattered.

We gathered together tonight and told them again.
Set aside the vises, the hooks and the feathers,
And, instead, tipped a glass or two.
Told the stories one more time.
Laughed with you as if you were here,
When, in truth, you were.
In the stories.

It may have started with fish,
But not a single tale tells of the catch.
They tell of falling overboard,
Of getting shit-faced,
Of putting our foot in our mouths at the worst of times.
They tell of broken rods, bent transoms, and anchors tossed overboard unattached.
Too many are poop or fart stories, I'm embarrassed to say.
Funny at six and at sixty. Boys will always be boys.
They make us laugh at our ourselves and we deserve it.
No one is spared,
For they are our stories,
Yours and ours.

Yes, we caught fish.
More than that,
Much more than that,
We made stories.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Carp It

Bend it

Net it

Juggle it

Admire it

Kiss it

Celebrate it

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

10 Steps to Catching Carp

Step 1: Find carp

Steps 2-4: Cast to carp

Steps 5-7: Scream at @#$% picky-ass carp (and guides, and Gods, and everything else)

Step 8: Catch carp

Step 9: Release carp

Step 10: Be bad

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Photo Bin: 2Q2017 - Beaver Island Suspects

Scott Thompson: That Feeling

True story (and I say that because around here one can never be sure), I had a dream last night that I was flying to Alaska to fish. At the end of my commercial airline ordeal, as I awaited the arrival of the Beaver to take me on my final leg, I discovered that my duffle was half empty (or half full, I never know which) and I stood on the tarmac trying to decide if I had been robbed or had simply forgotten to finish packing before departure. The latter seemed more likely.

What was packed was my camera, and, despite the tender care that my luggage had undoubtedly received in the hands of the gorillas in Delta’s baggage management division, my unprotected Nikon had bounced around in all that unfilled storage space such that the lens now looked like a half-crushed PBR can. The poor thing was toast and it occurred to me that it was going to be a long, boring week on the water. Never mind that I had no wading boots or shirts to wear (I remember those things specifically as missing), I was not going to be taking any pictures.

Steve Martinez: The big man's in the boat

Obviously, this glut of photos has been playing with my mind, even in my sleep. More specifically, trying to figure out how to trot out this pile of material without completely overwhelming the reader and cooking my laptop’s motherboard in the process. (I’ve heard it’s poor little cooling fan kick in during this past week’s marathon Lightroom sessions with startling regularity).

I’ve landed on the idea of groupings of five. A series of posts, each containing five images, that revolve around some theme. I have no idea what those themes will be. We’ll just have to see as we go along. As for how many there will be, we’ll just have to see that too. (You can tell that I’ve given this lots of thought.)

I fear more anxiety dreams are on the way.

Alex Landeen: Looking to the sky (and the man on the platform) for a little rain relief

Prepared or not, I’d better get started. Ignoring any coherent chronological sequencing of the events and images from the past three months, interspersed in this post has been a quick rogues gallery of my companions from our just completed carp adventure on Beaver Island. It’s a bit of a cheat as they have already been posted on my Instagram feed (yes, I’ve fallen down yet another social media rabbit hole), but for the sake of efficiency…

Kevin Morlock: Can't keep a good guide down

For the photo barrage to come, my apologies.

Cameron Mortenson: The Man and His Island

That goes double for the mugs in this gallery.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Warning: Impending Photo Dump

Where to begin?

When you last encountered this intrepid blogger he dropped a two-month-old pile of South Andros photos on you, then disappeared. Again. Now there's a three month hole in these pages. Three months of nuthin'. Well, it's not because nuthin's been going on. Quite the contrary, the past several weeks have been a whirlwind and the spinning has yet to stop.

As you can imagine, the picture pile's grown to monumental proportions and something needs to be done with it. So hold on to your seats. Here it comes. I'm taking advantage of the passing of the eye of this storm to do some catching up, photo bin style. Not sure exactly how to approach this except to dive right in.

The dump begins on Monday.

You've been warned.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Photo Bin - March 2017

Yes, you read the title correctly. Here we are, a week into June, and I'm just getting around to a March photo bin. For quite some time the bins have been carrying the load around here and now I can't even be counted on to do them in a timely manner. Sad. But the good news is that a part of the issue is that I've been busy. Fishing, no less. That can only be good.

Let's go back a bit and catch up, then, starting with an escape to the islands (South Andros, to be exact), the only really significant photo op of the month. And I'll make up for the lack of expediency with quantity.

There's something inspiring about an image framed by an overhead wing, especially when it's taken on your way in. Small aircraft and remote fishing destinations get my blood pumping, especially as the clouds clear and I see miles and miles of salt flats, just waiting to be waded.

And the airports these small planes frequent beat the heck out of the hustle and bustle of the internationals. Here, Jeff struggles through the crowd at the main entrance of Congo Town's busy airport. You can feel the tension.

Our ultimate destination? The Andros South Lodge. Bonefishing. Mighty fine bonefishing.

And we wasted no time getting on the water. Here Steve stands ready, despite a stiff breeze. If you're not ready to deal with the wind, stay off the flats. It's not a question of whether it will blow or not. It's a question of how much. Day 1 the answer was a lot. Damn permit. (Inside joke. Sorry.)

Day 2, and most of the days that followed, started with a run up the Little Creek narrows. As good a wake-me-up routine as there could possibly be. Put it on plane and blow out the cobwebs.

Side note, I'm proud to have this image (along with a couple of others in the bin below) included in The Flyfish Journal's terrific photo essay BahamaCon 17, a fun compilation of the photography, words, and video from our week in the islands, mostly shot by the uber-talented Copi Vojta. If you haven't seen it yet, it's definitely worth the time.

Mr. Barracuda didn't have such a good day, though, fooled by a big, ugly popper. Jason probably saved a few bonefish's days bringing this rascal to dock.

And speaking of coming to dock, at the end of every fishing day as we came off the water, we (and every other South Andros angler) stepped out of the skiff and into (or around) The New Ocean View, the focal point and gathering place of all manner of South Andros social life. Good times, outside and in.

Andrew and Kyle (our hosts at the South Andros Lodge) and Steve and Copi get their first post-fishing beers.

Kyle and Copi retire inside, out of the sun for a bit.

I've come to the conclusion that the best way to chase bonefish is to wade for them. Maybe not the most productive approach, numbers wise, but for sheer immersion in the world of the flats, it can't be beat. Here, Jason and Torrie scope out a promising piece of water from behind mangrove cover. See any tails? Nervous water? Stirred up mud?

And speaking of mud, we walked away from some of the fishiest looking flats imaginable because Torrie shook his head and "too clean." His club (and his incredible fish-finding style) ain't called The Dirty South for nuthin'.

And it's all about these guys. This poor fella slunk away with a sore lip, but he'd get over it before too long.

Perhaps one of the most iconic images of Bahamian bonefishing is the beached skiff out behind the South Andros Lodge, used by legions of anglers to polish up their casting strokes in preparation for the real thing. Painted rocks at 12:00. Moving slow.

After a full day and great dinner, we typically spent more than a fair share of our afterhours here, at the beach fridge, and bar, behind the lodge. A story or two were told. A dark-and-stormy or three were consumed.

And sober, dark-and-stormy, or whatever, this ring swing baffled me. The contest was How many hookups can you get in ten tosses? I played it like How many tens of tosses does it take to get a hookup? Sorta like my bonefishing, now that I think about it.

And the wee hours, back at the lodge. A few kahlik-clad dead soldiers stand guard on the tables, some boots dry before an early departure.

The next morning's breakfast gets planned.

Perhaps my favorite image of the week. The morning after. To steal someone else's line (and if I could remember who's it was I'd acknowledge it, but, with such a crew full of such wonderful writers, it could have been anyone's observation), a caveman theater.

A final look off the bow, the sun rising on our fly out day. The rocks still tailing at 12:00.

A less inspiring aerial view as we return to the continent. Fort Lauderdale sprawl doesn't hold a candle to Andros flats, but it does mean that home's just one more jump away. That's always a good thing.

That'll do for now. Sorry for the delay. But it was fun for me to go back and enjoy the trip, so all is not lost. The April bin should follow shortly with May's shortly thereafter.

So many pictures. So little time.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sometimes I Feel...

I was visiting family when I learned of his passing. Its significance didn’t have a decent opportunity to gain traction in the swirl of grandchildren, dog management, and the complexities of Chicago traffic patterns. Life raced on.

Here, a few days later, I’m back in my patch of warm southern woods. Catching up. Today that included a run into town for groceries, the pantry looking bare after our long absence. A mundane task, but I enjoy the trip. As almost an afterthought, I grabbed a CD. Fillmore East.

The Allman Brothers, to me, were always about the soaring six-string interplay between Duane and Dickey. Always will be. Fillmore East defines them. But with Duane’s loss and Mr. Bett’s departure, the band carried on and continued to carry southern rock’s water. It's not like Haynes and Trucks were slouches, but the band didn’t miss a beat and the bedrock was Gregg. You could be carried away with incredible guitar solos for long stretches, but someone had to hold it all in place. Gregg’s gravely voice and powerful blues vibe was that anchor. He made everything else possible.

Statesboro Blues, Done Somebody Wrong, Stormy Monday. I immersed. You Don’t Love Me, Hot ‘Lanta, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. I was home, musically and spiritually, as I sped along the twisty back roads of my rural refuge. The band had found me in my most formative musical moment and when you scrape everything else away they are my rhythmic foundation.

Then, the climax. Whipping Post. The radio’s volume found it’s way to 40, a number I’m not sure it’s ever been turned to, and I howled, and I growled, and felt the harsh, deep grind in the back of my throat. Satisfying. ...like I’ve been tied

And I cried just a little for all that I’ve lost and for all that I’ve been given, this being the music of my life. It felt good, both the crying and the howling, and it felt bad that he was gone. That so much was gone and will continue to leave me as time wears on.

I’ve been run down. I’ve been lied to. But I’ve lived. And the soundtrack, for the better part of my life, has been the Allmans. From Blue Sky to Whipping Post. Through good times and bad. The music’s been there for me.

Thank you Gregg. For it all. May you rest in rockin’ peace.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Symbol

War isn’t about guns. It’s about symbols.

Make no mistake, we’re at war. The battlefield is no less than our earth. The enemy are those for whom the almighty dollar trumps any other consideration. The symbols are our pristine places.

And no symbol stirs the passions of the fly fishing community more than Alaska’s Bristol Bay. No enemy is more reviled than the Pebble Mine partnership, now resurgent and emboldened by an administration that’s undermining the environmental safety net that we’ve fought long and hard to establish. The safety net that we, as a species, desperately need. In Alaska and everywhere else. There’s more than salmon runs at stake here, precious though they may be.

Today, hopefully, you will find your inbox, your blog feed, your online reading list, filled with this message. It’s no coincidence. We who have platforms from which to speak, be they large or small, have gathered together to send a unified message and hope that you, in whatever capacity that you can, will help pass it along.

I’ve said enough. You don’t need to hear the details from me. I’ll let Mark Titus, director, of the stunning documentary feature, The Breach, tell you more and give you your marching orders. He will also give you the opportunity to see his beautiful film for yourself, to inspire you to follow us into the fray.

Save Bristol Bay

Let’s use this symbol to win back Bristol Bay.

And then let's move forward to win the war.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Following the Rules

I’m a rule follower. Always have been. Product of my guilt-based Catholic upbringing, I suppose. So when I found myself nose-to-nose with a duck-faced Tennessee submarine, the first thing that popped into my mind was...

Would a noodled musky get me disqualified?

Dave saw the swirl as we sat on the bank enjoying our hard-earned lunch. At least he thought he saw a swirl. Your eyes start playing tricks on you after you’ve spent a day or two scanning the waters behind your chicken-sized streamers for signs of apex predators. But it left enough of an impression that we quickly wolfed down the remnants of our sandwiches, chugged the last of our beers, and rowed across the creek to check it out. Shallow water with a couple of deadfalls. The kind of water from which we’d moved a few fish throughout the morning. Since Dave was the one who saw the swirl he got the first shot, dropping a popper against the bank and splashing it noisily home. Nothing. Pitched it again. Still nothing.

Tom was on the sticks so I sent a streamer into the area, draping it over a submerged trunk that it didn’t clear on retrieve, burying the big stinger deeply into the swollen bark. I couldn’t roll cast it free so we worked our way over, figuring that, by then, the hole was blown. That is, if it had ever been inhabited in the first place. But as I leaned over the gunnels and reached down for the fly, stuck a foot under water, I heard Tom hoot.

Look at that!

I glanced up and saw nothing so returned to my extraction. But as my eyes dropped towards my dangling digits I saw what was causing Tom’s commotion. An arm’s length away, in that shallow foot of water, the object of our search lay suspended, a big one, calmly contemplating my wiggling fingers. Musky grande. Mid-forties, at a minimum, and thick as the tree I was digging my hook out of. Everything stopped except for the hypnotic fluid fanning of the musky’s splayed pectoral fins. He was so close I could grab him.

But would the rules allow it? Did my bare hand fall under the category of fly fishing gear only? It wasn't trolling or chumming. And just how much did I like my fingers? Hell, a fish that big, just how much did I like my arm! But this puppy was, hands-down, the tournament championship for our boat. There was no doubt. The little devil on my shoulder whispered Just win, baby.

Or maybe that was Dave.

But a shiver ran down my spine as I remembered Sister Agnes’s yardstick-enhanced lessons in ethics and I did what a good rule follower would do. I slowly pulled my streamer free of the submerged log, reached out, and plopped it in front of the beastie’s face. We held our breaths as the feathers fluttered to the bottom, settling six inches in front of the our prize winner’s snout.

I swear, the thing grinned. A contemptuous fuck you sort of grin. Then it turned, slid silently under the boat, and disappeared into the deep, green Tennessee waters, thus violating the final and most important rule of the Hardly Strictly Musky tournament.

Don’t Be An Asshole.

But then, I’ve come to learn that musky don’t seem to care much about our rules. Or us in general. So if that's how it's going to be, next year I’m bringing a gaff. Maybe put some hackle on it so nobody notices. Won't look much different than some of the big stuff we're already throwing.

Forgive me, Sister Agnes, for breaking the rules, but musky are straight-up assholes.