Category Archives: Fur n’ Feathers

What, are you kiddin’? We got us a blog here!

Jeez, it’s been a while. Sorry for that. I’ve been sorta busy though, what with selling every pretty young feather I own for prices that would make Lawrence Taylor puke (that is if feathers were under-aged hookers). Hey, if silly people are drinking the cool-aide, I’ll happily serve it to them.

Which brings me to an interesting observation: One of my fly-tying mentors once said to me that I would end up spending far more dollars outfitting myself with the accoutrements and sundries of fly tying than if I just purchased flies from the bin at my local fly shop which, he correctly cautioned, wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying. Well, I must say I was beginning to accept that truism until the feather hair extension tsunami came ashore. Now I can happily say, along with thousands of other eyes-are-bigger-than-your-fly-tying-ability, underachieving hair spinners, “Ha! In Your Face!”

Anyway, the other reason for not writing is… uh, well, I’ve been fishing. So for your amusement I will now attempt to be both interesting and entertaining as I arrogantly try to throw down a piscatorial post, regurgitating to the starving-of-late Perfect Fish loyal followers the last few months or so-th of fishing.

About the time Hydra and Leo minor appeared in the night sky, crocuses and skunk cabbage long since freed of the frozen earth, my blood began its irrepressible boil, to which I am merely a puppet with a fly pole wandering aimlessly along spongy sod banks, cobbled streams, bouncing down macadam paths loaded with bugs and paddle and car topped canoe looking for a fight.

Every other weirdo with a long rod is traveling along the same wavelength and so we begin bumping into the same folks with whom we shared laughs and beers and utterly untrue fish stories when last the weather was pleasant, only now to discover that we are shells of our former selves and look upon one another with suspicion and not a little bit of loathing. Like the late-night Striper Brother Triumvirate (clearly, not brothers. No brothers I know spend as much time together as these three whackos) comprised of Shit Talker with his shit talk and musings on tide and fish movement, and Rusty Stoeger who, while clearly not a contractor, nonetheless drives an sparkling F-350 with a back-rack and not a dent or wood chip in the bed-liner, and finally Para Cardia, his belly spilling into his stripping basket and clutching a beer cradled in a polyurethane zipper pouch sporting a plastisol rendering of a naked woman with impossibly generous breasts, a glistening inch of greasy cigar stuck to his lips which, when he smiles, peel back to reveal graying dentition tumbling in various directions like headstones in a colonial cemetery. All three  are camped out any warm spring night, on the one jetty in the known universe where striped bass are likely to show, casting and joking and awkwardly striking up conversation with intention to discover whether I am catching fish and where I am doing it, looking disapprovingly at my rig while I attempt to ignore them and fish alone which is what I really want to do but realize they are correct in their assumption that this is the place where the first convenient-to-cast-to Connecticut striped bass will show up. And, eventually they do. All is right with the world and I think I actually kinda like the Striper Brothers.

So, by now, I’ve melted into the darkness of my fishing life which is a nocturnal existence severed from that other life in which lives my family, non-fishing fiends, spin fishing friends, work, blogging, and readers of blogs. The gentlemanly pursuits of trout and bass do present themselves and when possible I slip away to enjoy a day of flailing about with my trouty, bassy, carpy, or pike-y brothers, but the striped bass still swims in the back of my mind and I wonder if my day-time on the water stalking trout or other lower fish forms is stripping away what goodwill remains in my wife’s heart. In other words, when she observes me — after I’ve cooked dinner and made a few feeble goodwill gestures like vacuuming, folding laundry or weeding — strapping my canoe to the car, I wonder not if I will get any later (it is a foregone conclusion that I will not, in fact) but will she speak to me for the next week. And while I do love the transformative company of stream-born Latin monoglots who look down upon or even reproachfully “correct” me for my use of the improper noun blue winged olive, I wonder if it is worth it to neglect my commitment to the venerable striped bass. I think it is, because any fishing adventure has its inherent opportunities for learning but, I am not positive.

Fishing and the problems it causes in the other compartments in my life, I like to fool myself,  is – character building. I’m not the most organized person but I strive to be. But I like the free form style of living that only a few people have achieved so I instinctively recoil from plans, which is not good if you fish and have human relationships with other humans who may… depend on you. Clearly I need to work on compartmentalizing because my compartments, I think it’s clear, are poorly constructed: they leak, and have cracks and are of generally faulty design. So That is what I’ve been doing: giving everything its appropriate compartment and unfortunately this blog got more of a shoebox than an actual compartment. Like while I’ve been writing what you’re reading I’ve been smiling over the screen at my wife who thinks I’m catching up on work, making paper hats for my four year old and her stuffed animals, and thinking about moon and tide and if stripers are eating somewhere, and when the first hard tails will show up within casting distance of shore. I think it shows.

So tonight, as I drive through the coastal neighborhoods of southern Connecticut, I’ll leave behind the adenoidal drone of frosted air conditioning units, DVRs dvr-ing, gadgets, bluetooths and streaming video and into quiet waters, you’ll be reading this nifty self-conscious post which I will have tucked away into its little box with the knowledge that it is completely disjointed, theme-less and, in some ways,  masturbatory.

Happy Fishing,

Thank you.

Oh! Here’s a picture. I didn’t take it and that’s not me with the fish, but I know both the photographer and the angler and these are my waters.


Roots, Bloody Roots

Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish.” -Roderick Haig Brown

Like the man said.

I’ll apologize in advance if this post sounds a little preachy. Sorry.

Also, if you are easily offended by foul language, you will be offended shortly. (Some folks think cursing is the lowest form of communication, but it is actually considered an art form in New England)

I don’t usually feel the need to defend myself but I’ll make an exception. Just for the record: I’m going to post pictures, articles, essays or other stuff I think is funny, cool, disturbing or stuff that other, better writers write about. Whatever interests me. If someone doesn’t like it, they can go fuck themselves I’ll continue posting stuff I like and maybe one day they’ll like it too. This, of course, doesn’t apply to you, dear reader

“Fishing, my friend, is a blood sport.” That is a quote from yours truly in response to an unhappy fly fishing guide who, sadly, unliked the Perfect Fish facebook page (insert eye-roll here). Seems he got a bit pissy about a photo I posted of a salmon being poorly handled. If you really give a crap, you can go read it here—you’ll need to scroll down a ways. Now, he could’ve sent me a private message to voice his valid concerns, but he wanted to make certain all 34 fans knew how he felt. OK, I would’ve dropped it, but a little bird told me he had more to say, elsewhere. Now, I’m sure he is a good guide and he’s clearly passionate about fish and fisheries, which is always cool. But I don’t go where he works and knock oars out of his hands. (I had something more insulting in mind for that last line but I’m trying to show restraint)

Now I know that most readers are normal, down to earth people who look before they leap. For example: let’s say someone puts up a photo of a slaughtered brook trout. An East Coaster like me, might think, “Well, that kinda blows.” Because brookies are like our steelhead, the only trout that belong here. But a cutthroat aficionado from the Rockies may jump for joy, because those rascally brook trout are a native fish menace. Obviously, it’s all about context. I’d certainly read that article, essay or post carefully before voicing an opinion.

Personally, I get testy when I see people keeping undersized striped bass and I’ve confronted a few face to face. But I also get pissed when I see people keep perfectly legal giant stripers and let them suffocate in a cooler. In fact, I’ve offered to dispatch more than one. I guess what I’m getting at here is that we should give our anger a bit of direction. Focus man! Focus! Choose a battle whose outcome is a bit more profound than getting a few people handle fish more humanely. Psst. I think the news it out: fingers in gills=bad. Good one.

Here’s some old news: Fishing (yes, fly fishing too) is hunting.  In fact, I propose that just about everything we do, in some way, springs from our long history of hunting. The human brain is a goal striving mechanism and for about 99% of our time on earth one of our main goals has been to kill and eat stuff (thankfully, now someone else kills it, packages it, and hides it in the isles of our local grocery so we can hunt for the best price).  Ad to that hunting for a mate, hunting for shelter, hunting for meaning in life etc. We hunt therefore we be.

By some incomprehensible galactic accident of evolution, we can happily catch and release fish. Incredible! If we could catch and release whitetail deer, that would be pretty fucking great. But we can’t. Besides, they taste really good.

When I walk down to the water with a fly rod in my hand, I have no illusions. I’m not there trying to be the goddamn fish whisperer. I am well aware of what it is I’m undertaking: Using the least efficient tools possible, I’m trying to make a fish eat a fly (made from dead birds and road kill), jam a hook in its jaw, observing with heart pounding ecstasy as it desperately tries to escape, all for my own selfish enjoyment. Then in an amazing turn of fortune (for the fish) and benevolence, I gently net him, retrieve my hook (oh yeah, it’s barbless because I’m ethical that way), briefly admire his awesomeness, revive and gently return him the water. How great is that?

It’s interesting that, historically, when something was referred to as “great sport” it usually meant the least amount of fun for the animal. It’s an irony of fly fishing that we use antiquated (yet high tech) tools to catch animals we so revere. It’s like the antique future!

Wouldn’t it be pretty arrogant of me to say to some guy with a cane pole or a southern trotliner that my way is better than your way, I’m a more ethical than you? Yeah, it would be.  If someone wants to keep a fish, well that’s his legal right (usually). I do like my way better, but that doesn’t mean it is. As a group, recreational fishers and hunters do so much for wildlife and wild places, it’s sort of hard for me to put a guy down for slipping his fingers in the gills of a stocked trout. Even if he lets it go and it dies, something else will make a living from it. Think I’d rather give money to a cause or join a group trying to take down a damn.

It kind of dishonors the fish if we somehow wave away angling’s history as a way to obtain food. So, when I say “blood sport” I mean to say, like many other activities which used to be purely utilitarian, fishing gradually became a sport, a recreational activity, culture, way of life, a passion etc. Isn’t at least part of the reason we choose the fly pole because it’s sporting –a self-imposed handicap? Whatever you want to call it is fine with me, but any phrase we choose is simply a euphemism. I will grant us this though: as far as fishing goes, fly fishing is the least bloody bloodsport. Usually there is no blood at all (unless you jam your fly into your guide’s ear). Yay us!

I know this is well trodden ground. I’m saying nothing new. Just a reality check.

Embrace your hairy man. Love him. (And, to my female reader: do the same.)

Now, on to other topics…


Headlong Into Winter

Even though winter’s brutal grip is tightening, there is hope in the hearts of anglers. On December 21 at 23:38 (that’s 6:38pm ET) our little blue orb begins tilting back toward the sun. Though it only lasts for a flash in time, the winter solstice marks the return of the light. We also, apparently for the first time in like 372 years, will experience a total lunar eclipse coinciding with the solstice. Go outside at around 1:30am and look up. Wish I was in bonefish country for this.

As we plunge headlong into winter, many of us in the northern latitudes are looking into our rearview lamenting our fishing season as it recedes. Here in lovely Connecticut there are still some striped bass around and of course trout are available all year.  Sea run brown trout seem like a great way to waste time. I will chew on a shoe before I’ll go ice fishing (unless there’s a heated cabin, beer and burgers).

Most of us are settling into our winter routines and trying to tackle projects fallen by the wayside. Some of you are tying bonefish flies for trips you may be taking (real or imagined). Fly rods and reels get cleaned and serviced (unless they’re mine). Fly boxes get replenished. Deer get killed. Maybe you’ll spend some time with the family you’ve been avoiding, who knows?

This is the time for building goodwill in the hearts of wives, girlfriends, children and parents (so you can justify that new stick, wheel or pair of Patagucci Rio Gallegos you’re lusting after). Take a cruise, go to Disney or, if you’re on a budget, maybe just up the road to the indoor water-park at the Holiday Inn.  Bring The Department of Fun Prevention your girl somewhere warm and give it to her (whatever it might be).  If you’re feeling really benevolent, hug a duder.

I’ve been reflecting on the things I’ve seen and done in 2010 with long rod in hand. For example, I bought a sweet water whip last spring, A Stowe Mansfield canoe. It’s so sexy I can’t even stand it.  It’s short n’ wide and perfect for standing and casting. Only 57 pounds, so even a weakling like me can easily port it. And I ported the shit out of that thing this year.  I slid quietly into a bunch of wet places I’ve longed to poach fish.

Saw hundreds of pike spawning in high water, including a 50 inch cow I poked with my tip top. Had a bunch of cinder worm hatches and slurping stripeedos all to myself. Got to cast to and sometimes catch Pickerel, smallmouth, largemouth and the lovely carp. Trouted it in favorite brooks, and went far a field to investigate rumors of brook trout in small places. Was at the right place at the wrong time for every decent little tuna blitz of the fall.

But adventures are waiting up ahead. Look at the coming year’s tide charts, and almanac, being careful to cross reference major hatches, and runs of salmon or steelhead. If possible, plan family outings during times when fishing seems least promising.  That way you can focus without distraction what’s really important (to the other people).


High Sticking It to Hell

I have to confess something: been high-sticking it lately and it’s becoming a problem.

I’m a dry fly snob. I’ll own it.  Presenting the dry fly and getting the eat is religion. Idiotically waiting, I’ll wear an ass shaped groove into a riverbank until fish begin to look up.  It’s a foolish, narrow minded stance—and one I’ve regretted on more than one occasion.  But I like what I like.

Nymphing is just, I don’t know, trouble. And I mean that on many levels. Tandem rigs, blood knots, split shot, bozo clown hair, measurements of water depth and speed which lead to addition, subtraction and advanced physics.  And we haven’t even gotten the flies in the water yet.

It’s a taboo subject among purists. Some old timers tolerate it but don’t give it lip service. Others revile it to the point of sacrilege. I mean, is it even fly fishing? Advanced bobber fishing, maybe, but not real fly fishing.

There is no argument though, that subsurface flies are lovely to look at and touch. True creativity is flourishing among modern nymph artisans. What with their sexy use of cheerfully colored wire, playful sparkle, crafty beads (metals and plastics), glues, devilish epoxy and imaginative use of game birds. Nymphs are all naughtiness.

Going deep is a dark art to satisfy our baser desires, the id, the self—the bad.  In other words, it’s fun. But why is it fun? Is it fun because it’s stupidly complicated and frustrating? Is it fun because the flies look cool and have cheeky, über-colloquial names and you must use two or three of them at a time? Or, is it fun because each time you loose a rig it’s like you threw a ten dollar bill in the water? All of the above, friends.

If dry fly fishing is dogma, nymphing is a cultish (yet surprisingly endemic) activity, abounding with splinter cells and sub-subcultures (Czech nymphing is all the rage among the younger, tattooed stream jock set) heading in seemingly disparate trajectories, the only common (and worthy) goal being to slay giant trout. And really, is there any other reason? After all, when temptation calls, are we expected to limit ourselves? Hell no! I say do whatever will put a bend in your rod and a smile on your face, even if it’s… frowned upon.

Thankfully, my brothers (and sisters) deliverance comes: in an endless, greasy mirror run dimpled by an armada of duns and the noses of happily rising tout. I will wait for it with a 15 foot 7x leader, and bottle of gink, pouring over box upon box of fussily tied no-hackles, comparaduns, para emerges, thorax-es, parachute caddis, rusty spinners etc. etc.

And with sweet salvation comes pious indignation.  I will look down my nose at you, nymph. Don’t be offended or surprised at my betrayal.  I told you from the start I was a devout dry fly snob. So what if I go slumming. Disingenuous? Yup. But I’ll turn my back on you, sure enough. Just sayin.’

See you in Hell.


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