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. 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 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.

Monday, May 8, 2017

That Guy

There's always one. The guy that jumps out of the boat after ten hours in the heat, the cold, the sun, the chop, the wind, the whatever, and grabs his rod to run to the next dock, the adjacent flat, the muddy hole behind the launch, to see what else he can catch. He's the guy that takes the guide aside at the end of the days for extra casting lessons (when, in fact, you'd trade your firstborne for his current stroke). The guy that you have to go looking for when you're packing up to head back to the lodge, though he's easy to find. Just look for water. He's the guy whose fishing day never ends.

You know. That guy.

It's no accident that he fishes your, and everyone else's, socks off, day in and day out. He comes off the water and suggests that he's had a tough day when you know that he slayed them. He's a fish catching machine because he lives it, because he loves it, and you have to tip your favorite fishing hat to that.

You know. That guy.

I love that guy.

For the record, that guy on South Andros was my new bud Nathaniel Riverhorse Nakadate. A mighty fine fisherman, writer, musician, and as unique and entertaining a soul as I've encountered in quite some time. Watch for his work in The Flyfish Journal where he's a regular contributor.