a farewell to farms

The smell of freshly-spread hog manure on ochre September fields was heavy in the air on the banks of the Big Muddy, but the biggest farmer stood in the bow on what was probably Squatto’s 2012 smallmouth float swan song, and that farmer is blogging before you now.  Continue reading

modes of participation in a migratory fishery as identity: a screed

Steelhead. Chasing chrome. Unicorns. An addiction, the most extreme form of freshwater fly fishing, a polemical and political minefield, where angling etiquette goes to die. The swing is the thing, strike indicators are for pussies, why don’t you want to actually catch a fish, it’s not as good as it used to be, this is our river you Fucking Illinois Bastards.

The rhetoric of steelheading as identity gets a tad exhausting. Can’t everybody be cool? It should be enough that they’re here, and we’re here, and that they’re miraculously ascending their natal system again before their cometlike peregrinations take them back beyond our ken, and that we’re casting flies at them instead of sitting at a desk or commuting or filing our taxes or any of the other muddy gray things that cast no light on the stony road of the inevitable. Why do so many of us have to be so loud and 21st century about it?

Hey, swinger. I get it, you’re a cowboy. Keep stepping down the run, John Wayne.

And you, with the strike indicators … don’t listen to them. You can be proud or ashamed, just keep doing your thing, but wait your turn. This isn’t Thunderdome.

And you, with the bait … you’re going do what you’re going to do, and you’re never ever going to read this anyway.

And all of you pick the hell up after yourselves and stay the fuck off the gravel. This isn’t your garage, and just cause it’s a self-sustaining population doesn’t mean we can’t still fuck it up.

Ninja, please

The punter evening shift was hiking down as the the punter day shift – the Dark One and your author – were hiking up. Their waders were all dry and did not have goose shit on them. Their hands did not smell like fish slime and beef jerky, and were not coated with the earthly residue of mashed-up midge larvae or mayflies squished on the wing.

“Get any?” the evening shift asked.

“Yeah.”

“Nymphs or dries?”

Ninja, please. Do you see any Thingamabobbers?

the one

Lots of each are nice but sometimes one is all you need.

The one need not be big or rare, just timely.

The clutch fish turns the day around. The clutch fish improves your subsequent casts, unfurls your leader, betters your drift, lets you carom flies off trees and leaves and onto the holding lie; it lets you laugh full-throated at missed strikes, makes you feel smarter than you actually are.

Today’s one was my first fish of 2012, and she came from way up a feeder creek that was running clear while the main branch was becoming higher, cloudier, and colder as the sun melted snow off the bluffs miles upriver. Crawling over old elms downed in last year’s flood, tiptoeing through ankle-deep water on flat cobbles that looked like they were hovering under rippling air, casting upstream to every broken top deeper than my boot.  In the trough of a long riffle the drift brought up the fish that would have busted the slump and I missed the take, but when I made the cast again she came back – a little nosy blip and a flash of wormy olive and the weight was there, fighting to gain what passed as deep safety in that austere March stream. When she was close enough to net I saw she was a spec, a brookie, a streamborn native and that my year on the water was starting auspiciously. The hook was fair in her left maxilla; her right pectoral fin was torn along one of the rays. She rested in my cupped cold fingers for a while and breathed water and then pushed back into the creek and turned invisible again. And as I sit at home with a glass of beer and a picture I hope this hard winter is coming to an end, and I hope she ate a big fucking dinner of stonefly tonight.

2012 Opener: Milk Run with the Monster

I won’t sit here and feed you a line about why it’s not called “catching” or about the crushing continuation of a beatdown that started on a fishing pier above some wily sunfish almost a year ago now; but the best thing about fishing with a 3 year old is that they always think it’s just nice be out. And the Monster still has that skunk on her back. Continue reading

Re-org 2012

It’s that time again. Crap must be reorganized. All that is old shall be made new, or at least all the old shall be made to be put in new Akro-bins from my new favorite store. On the docket: reorg the warmwater materials storage,  reorg and restock the early season-slash-go-anywhere trout box, inventory tippet, clean some lines, lube some reels, wax some ferrules. And what’d be smart is to get a head start on tying for the spring stands on the ROP. And prototype some warmwater monstrosities.

Ah, what’s the point … we’re all going to die. Continue reading