Monday, December 30, 2013

The Photo Bin - December 2013

So far away from this Southern boy's place.
Snow. Ice. Big city lights.
Chicago on Christmas.

But intimate indoors, tucked away from the chill.
Grandkids. Family. Big time love.
Chicago on Christmas.

Cold on the outside, warm on the in.
Both the city and I, that night.
Chicago on Christmas.

What is a Photo Bin?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Twas the Week Before Christmas

It's an annual tradition here (and a cheap way to squeeze in a holiday post without having to actually work for it) to trot out my home waters version of Clement Clarke Moore's Christmas classic. I missed it last year, for some reason, but it returns now, "original artwork" and all.

Like Grandma's fruitcake and Uncle John's reindeer tie, it's awful but it wouldn't be Christmas without it.

'Twas the week before Christmas and down on the Haw
Not a fish was arisin', the weather was raw.
The water was frigid and brisk was the air,
Too chilly for fishin', but I didn’t care.

The browns were all nestled down deep in their pools
While rainbows and brookies were nobody’s fools.
And I in my waders and old fishing cap,
As usual, just couldn’t cast worth a crap.

When further upstream there arose such a crash,
I started, and slipped, and sat down with a splash.
My glasses went this way, my rod, it went that.
You know you’re in deep when you’ve floated your hat.

The gleam of the sun on the river around
Was lovely, but hell, I was going to drown!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a funky old kayak. (The end must be near.)

With a little old paddler, too fat for the boat,
Who was trying his best just to keep it afloat.
Through the rapids he teetered, bounced off every big rock.
The dude’s in big trouble, I thought with a shock.

But as he arrived at my favorite hole
He snapped it in place with a neat barrel roll
And glided in softly, as smooth as can be.
No fish would be spooked, except maybe me.

And then in a twinkling he popped out of his craft
Like a cork from a bottle, I shouldn’t have laughed.
He reached back inside and he slowly withdrew
A lovely old 4wt of shiny bamboo.

He was dressed all in Gore-Tex and looked straight from the pages
Of catalogs like Orvis’, Hardy’s and Sage’s.
A vest full of goodies encircled his frame
With gadgets and zingers, too many to name.

He spoke not a word but went straight to his fun,
Throwing laser-like casts, seeming straight from a gun.
His roll casts were graceful, his loops were so tight.
Presentations were flawless, each drift was just right.

He threw pheasants and hare's ears and woolies and strymphs,
Hoppers with droppers of copper john nymphs.
He had all of fly fishing's mysteries debunked,
But darned if old Santa Claus didn’t get skunked.

I felt sort of bad for the jolly old elf.
But why fish the Haw, I was asking myself.
He could have fished Battenkill, Madison, Snake.
It seemed that the Haw was a foolish mistake.

I needn’t have worried, I had nothing to dread,
For he gave me a wink and here’s what he said.
“We all should remember, and here’s what I’m wishin',
That it’s not about fish, but it’s all about fishin'.”

He sprang to his 'yak, to the rocks gave a push,
And shot down the stream with a splash and a woosh.
But I heard him exclaim as he drifted from sight
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all keep lines tight.”

Here's wishing the happiest of holidays to you and yours!!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Young Guns

Nothing energizes me (and makes me feel very, very old at the same time) like spending a couple of days with the young guns of our sport. No creel carryin', Thoreau spoutin', Tilley wearin' fishermen, these. I'll bet not a one owns a proper vest. Soft hackle nymphs and #24 midges? Ha! Let's tie the biggest friggin' musky chickens that will stuff into these Regal Big Game jaws. And let's put it all on the web. Realtime. And while many of the old guard shake their heads and mumble dejectedly about the direction of fly fishing, I damn well love it.

Okay, maybe I'm still trying to get enthused about video, but that's a small quibble.

I was reminded of all this as I spent a couple of days in Asheville, hangin' around with the SCOF crew (that's Southern Culture on the Fly, for those of you who've been hiding under a rock) at the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Expo and subsequent Iron Fly.

I've wracked my brain, since my return, to distill a story from the experience(s), but it ain't happening. So, to save myself the headache, I'll just dump a few pictures on you and leave it at that.

And, with this crowd, it seems completely appropriate.

Except that there's no video.

I spent a lot of time wandering around the expo and I'm proud to say that I didn't buy a thing. It took great restraint, let me tell you. But I also didn't take many pictures. I suppose that if you've been to one show... The casting pools always fascinate me, though.

For a better (yeah, video) feel for the show, check out Southern Fly Photography's quick treatment, here. Nice work, Thomas. My favorite part is watching TFO's Kent Edmonds tuning a really young gun's stroke at the pool, starting about minute 1:45. It's always good to see Kent as he passes through.

My Hoosier homey, Pile Cast founder Dave Hosler, made the long trip from Indiana and along with the intern (both pictured at the top of this post) held court at the SCOF booth - the busiest, and most entertaining, table in the place.

They both tie a mean musky fly.

And speaking of mean flies, there's the ultimate young gun fly tying event, The Iron Fly. The boys from Pig Farm Ink somehow found their way from Fort Collins, CO, to bring their unique brand of fly fishing insanity to Asheville. I don't know where to begin.

So I won't.

Sadly, I needed to put it on the road before the competition got started in earnest. Next time...

Gotta give a nod to our hosts, the brains (and I use that term with great care and affection) behind SCOF - Dave Grossman, pictured above in a rare quiet moment, and Steve Seinberg who somehow evaded my camera throughout the trip but who can be understood completely by the artwork in the background and the workspace below.

In the end, these young guns are irreverent, raucous, and riding an edge and it's a joy to see. They have a passion for the sport and a energy that's impossible to resist. Say what you want, old guard, but they'll outfish you, outdrink you, then outwork you when it comes to protecting all of our waters. They're the future of our sport whether you like it or not.

And I'm good with that.

Special thanks to the boys, most especially Dave G, Steve, Dave H, Alan, and Chris, for letting the old man hang around. I had a blast.

But now, I think, I need a nap.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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.