Tag Archives: brook trout

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).

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