Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Louisiana, Check

Getting there

When fly fisherfolk gather, the conversation almost always finds its way (after meandering through sidebars of gear, beer, and the opposite sex) to one universal angling topic; the bucket list. Must-do-before-I-die lineups typically include the classics. Kamchatka, New Zealand, Christmas Island, Alaska, Patagonia, Cuba. They are also, with increasing regularity, expanding to the more exotic. Oman, Bolivia, French Polynesia, the Seychelles. Some of our more adventurous practitioners have secret lists, far beyond most of our imaginations. (Heaven forbid Elon Musk finds something that will take a popper on Mars.) And while my personal desires also includes many of the these places, near the top has long been a more domestic destination. I've wanted to chase big bull reds in the southernmost marshes of Louisiana.

Hello Houma.

Good Morning, Louisiana!

As they say in real estate, "Location, location, location"

Fish Camp

Ambushing from the weeds

Steve Martinez hoists a dump truck black

No bulls for me, but lots of slots

Shut up and cast!

The Other Woman

Looks like my fly line

Schnnider Boy, LA

Bayou pit stop

The fishing was tough during our week in the marshes. I look at the pictures above and wonder where those blue skies were when we were actually slinging a fly. Wind and cloud cover gave us a good fight but that's destination angling. Just because it's on your bucket list doesn't mean it will click when you get there. The hardships are part of the game. A true bull eluded me, this time, but Louisiana remains high on the list with a provisional check.

Who says a bucket list item needs to be a once-in-a-lifetime entry?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Actus Reus

First, I humbly thank the handful of you who have reached out to express your dismay and support regarding my recent legal difficulties. Your concern is deeply appreciated but, I’m afraid to admit, completely unnecessary. Despite the fumus boni iuris nature of the alleged lawsuit, it was completely fictitious. I was not sued. The RFA does not exist. No visit to the Supreme Court was made. (Gorsuch, however, really IS a notorious low holer.) My crimen falsi was simply a misguided attempted to justify my unjustifiably long absence. Mea culpa.

But I must admit that I’ve struggled mightily in deciding whether to print this clarification or to let the story stand, incognita. You see, around here, volenti non fit injuria completely applies. In plain English, if you read this stuff, you've asked for it.

Legit cave.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

On Appeal

Hi. Remember me? I used to write with some regularity in this space. It’s been a while, but now the silence can be broken and the truth behind my absence may finally be told. I was sued.

It's not a pretty story. The RFA (Real Flyfisher Association) slapped me with a cease-and-desist order alleging that I was fraudulently posting as, well, a real fly fisher. Apparently they found a sympathetic judge who had actually seen me cast and the lawsuit was on.

It’s been a long slog, fighting the deep pockets of the RFA, but after numerous appeals and a rigorous climb up the judicial ladder, none other than this great land’s Supreme Court vacated all of the lower courts’ judgments, citing as precedent our present “state of affairs.”

Ginsburg (who throws a pretty mean spey) wrote for the majority:

Given the suitability of the current holders of many of our top governmental positions, Mr. Sepelak should reasonably be allowed to assume the role of a fly fisherman, a brain surgeon, or a ripe avocado for all we care.

Alito (trout-setter) for the minority:

WTF were we talking about?

It was a landmark decision, but a close one, won only because Gorsuch (a notorious low holer) is still having trouble with his buzzer.

However it happened, the result is good news, presumably, to my half-dozen followers here at Mike’s Gone Fishin’, and I hope to be back posting shortly. At the very least, the Photo Bins should get started again, though Photographers United is watching me very, very closely with litigious intent.

Needless to say, it’s good to be out from under the oppressive cloud of adjudication and back to the business of dispensing some serious fly-fishing false news.

Stay tuned, comrades.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


The twelfth time’s the charm.

I know it’s the twelfth because it wasn’t the eleventh. No, it most certainly wasn’t the eleventh.

I was trying to remember the right number. I thought, at first, that it’s the third time that’s the charm, but the third time I only hooked my first White Oak bowfin. It came unbuttoned in a decidedly uncharming tarpon-like cartwheel. So the third time’s actually the tease, not the charm. It’s the twelfth that’s the charm. Yes, now I’m sure of it.

Coincidently, twelve’s also lucky. Lucky twelve. Not seven, like many people think. Seven was the second hookup, lost when the beastie folded my 8wt and dove into a tree submerged underneath my kayak. Left me hopelessly hung-up. No, seven’s not lucky. Seven’s mocking. Mocking Seven. Twelve is the ticket.

All the rest are just numbers. Fruitless days on the water in dogged pursuit. Unable to find fish or unable to make them eat. Musky fishermen know them. Permit and steelhead guys, too. White whale days. It takes an angler with a short memory and a mathematically-challenged, non-quantitative disposition to keep at it. To push through the numbers. To endure those teasing and mocking and empty digits. To summon that long-suffering, analog optimism that defines us as fishermen. Normal folks would just move on to something else, undone by the numbers. For the rest of us there’s always tomorrow.

So I’m ready for my Lucky Twelve. My charmed time. It’s in the bag. I’m going to get one of those big bowfin the next time out.

Unless I don’t. Then maybe it’s actually Lucky Thirteen, though somehow that doesn't sound quite right.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

One Bug, Now Two

A repeat, here, of a piece that I posted nearly four years ago under the title One Bug is Quiet.


We stood back and watched as she roll cast the slow, shaded run that tucked tightly under the thick rhododendrons. Cast, drift, cast again; avoiding the encroaching branches with a quiet ease. “And she’s just getting started,” he whispered with a subtle hint of pride. “She’s figuring it out.”

I hadn’t seen Brandon since our week chasing redfish on the Laguna Madre, a year-and-a-half past, but had followed his exploits through One Bug is Fake, his online journal of fly fishing, survival, and whatever. I kept up with his angst through job changes, moves, and the generally painful business of sorting out what was important in his life. Kept up, that is, until the blog fell silent earlier this year. I worried a little.

So when I caught word that he’d be in my neck of the woods for a family Thanksgiving gathering, I wandered westward and reconnected with him on a chilly Appalachian trout stream. There, I came to understand his disappearance.

“Have you been writing?” I asked, thinking I knew the answer. “Not really,” he replied, watching her swing the fly once again. “I’ve been happy.”

Those who write understand. Words, all too often, come from deep, dark places and passages born of hurt carry a weight and an edge that can resonate. It’s been suggested that contentment is the death of good writing. I’m not completely convinced, but do know that it’s easier to express when things are broken. Through the cracks seep emotion and heart and, inexplicably, craft. It’s a gruesome tradeoff.

“But I’ve been thinking on a piece for a while now,” Brandon added, as his companion concentrated on her next drift. “About what’s changed.”

I nodded, and smiled, and thought to myself that there was no need to hurry. No need at all. I’d be glad to not hear from One Bug for a while.


Since that time I've heard very little from One Bug, for all the right reasons. And it's quite possible that today ol'e One Bug will be struck permanently mute as he and his companion on that chilly North Carolina stream, the source of all that hushed happiness, will be tying the knot.

Heck, I'm so happy for them that I'm having trouble with the words myself.

All the best to you, Courtney and Brandon. All the very best.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Creepy, In a Good Way

The plan was to knock around The Big Easy for a few days. Wander the Garden District, the French Quarter, and maybe a bayou or on the outskirts of town. Eat and drink too much. Listen to some good local blues and jazz. Take lots of pictures. It was a good plan. Hell, it was a great plan.

Mother Nature laughs at my planning.

Shortly after we arrived, unseasonal rains dumped eight-to-ten inches on NOLA in a short few hours, flooding The Bowl and many other low-lying areas within the city. Clubs along the Quarter found waters coming over their steps and seeping into the venues. Travel around town was a disaster, where you could drive at all. It wasn’t pretty. And then it kept raining.

This mess left us to while away a large chunk of our time in the hotel, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. We stayed at The Columns, a gorgeous old turn-of-the-century boutique boarding house, now twenty-guestroom hotel, that offered a dark, mysterious charm. And by mysterious, I mean creepy.

Creepy in a good way.

Adding to the creep factor, for much of our stay we were the only guests in the place. Quiet dark halls. Empty staircases. Rows of closed doors. Were one to be effected by such things, there was some serious malevolence brewing.

Did anyone see The Shining?

But we loved the place. While Mary napped or read in the room (number 25), I happily puttered around the haunting hallways and climbed up and down the incredible spiraling staircase to capture a few images, fully expecting to get back home to find soft spectral streaks in the photos. Ghosts of old New Orleans, peeking through.

They were most certainly there, visible or not.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Photo Bin - April 2017

It has occurred to me that I have been taking myself too seriously for too long and this poor little blog has suffered for it. I've fallen into the trap of wanting, needing, everything I post to be slick, well developed, and (dare I say) publishable. Wanting it to be remarkable. But by adding that pressure, I've throttled things to the point where posts have become few and far between. The twin ironies are that even my best work isn't all that hot anyway and that by holding out for "the good stuff," I'm not writing anything (which doesn't do a hell of a lot to help advance the craft). I've not even kept up the Photo Bins.

Herewith, I'm shaking off the pretension and getting back to just putting it out there. It's that or stop altogether and I don't think I'm quite ready for that. As this is the April bin (and it's August already), there's some catching up to do, so let's get started.

In April, the camera always fills with the extravaganza that is the annual Live Free Cornhole Tournament, a loving fundraiser for the memorial scholarship that we maintain at Georgia Tech in my step-son's name. Friends and family gather to share loads of fond memories, good fellowship, and just a bit of friendly competition, all in Freeman's honor. Together we miss him and keep alive the event he started as a simple gathering of friends to celebrate the arrival of spring. In his absence, we've repurposed it in his memory.

The brave few that held out to the bitter end

That's a start. A slow month, April, but things got a bit crazy in May, June, and July. Their bins to follow here shortly. Then maybe I'll be back on track.


What is a Photo Bin?

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