Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Prince Nymph

We all have our go-to flies; those little bits of fur, feather and wire that - when tethered to the business ends of our leaders - always seem up to the challenge of stinging a few willing fish. Conversely, we all have those flies that we disdain, and avoid with near religious fervor. Perhaps they were recommended to us by the kid at the shop. Perhaps they were gifted to us by an ignorant spouse. Perhaps the fish gods spirited them into our boxes as a means to test our resolve. My resolve has been tested.

I fished Prince Nymphs for years. I tied them skinny. I tied them fat. With beads and without. I used the best hooks and bushels of the choicest herl. Dozen after dozen came off my vise, and never - not once mind you - did I ever hook a fish on one of the flies I so painstakingly tied. Not so much as a bluegill, sunfish, or pumpkinseed ever saw fit to grace my fly with a take. 
So now I say, "Down with the Prince, and a pox on his house!" Never again will this royal imposter defile the manicured rows of Pheasant Tails and Hares Ears, which fill my favorite box. Never ...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blogroll: The Green Eyed Monster

I'm relatively new to this blogging thing. I've only been at it for a little over a year, and I've scribbled fewer than 150 posts. I do enjoy it though. Blogging gives me the opportunity to do the one thing I genuinely miss about working in a flyshop - talking about fishing - without actually having to work in a flyshop. I wonder if that's how it is for other bloggers.

The thing is though - blogging cannot take the place of conversation. Talking fishing is as much about listening as it is about speaking, and that's why I follow so many other blogs. I'm frequently surprised by the diversity of thought and opinion in fly fishing's corner of the blogosphere, and I'm always amazed at the breadth and depth of talent demonstrated by my fellow bug chuckers. Here are a few of my favorites ...

I don't know the Flyosopher personally, but I do know him as a writer. In simplest terms, he's good. With choice diction and clever turns of phrase, he takes the most mundane aspects of our sport, and turns them into gold. He maintains and infrequently updates a bug chucking blog that is about so much more than fly fishing. Each post is worth the wait. He's a better writer than I am, and I'd be lying if I said I was just a little bit jealous.

Pat Cohen has maintained the Warm Water Journal for a relatively short while, and he's only been tying for one and a half years. The blog is simple and straight forward, but the flies he sometimes features are wonderfully complex. His bass bugs look better than anything tied in my vise in the 25 odd years I've masqueraded as a fly tyer. Pat's work keeps me humble.

Simon Graham maintains Pike Fly Fishing Articles. He calls Finland home, and spends his season chasing esox across much of western Europe. His flies are beautifully proportioned with careful and stunning blends of color. He's incredibly talented. I have to admit that I am envious of both the flies he ties, and the beautiful fish he catches.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention, The Anglers Net. The Net is maintained by Geoff Shaake and Robin Hill, both of whom were fishing guides in the great state of Alaska. Now Geoff and Robin putt around my neck of the woods. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting either of them, but the issues they address in their blog are sometimes near and dear to my heart.

Then - of course - we have Buster Wants to Fish, Moldy Chum, and The Fiberglass Manifesto. Together, these are generally regarded as the creme de la creme of fly fishing blogs. I must admit they're very nicely done. Each has a wide readership, and together they probably pick up more followers in a month than I have since my blog's inception. Their schwartz is bigger than mine.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Look Into the Mirror

So ... two days ago I hit one of my favorite carp/bass spots. I caught a bunch of fish, including my first mirror carp. What an odd looking fish. Fun though ...

Sadly, when I returned home I made the mistake of leaving my DSLR, video camera, and fishing bag in the car. There they remained throughout the day yesterday, and last night they were stolen. I'm just glad the thieves didn't bother to look in the trunk. They would have found three bamboo rods, and several graphite sticks.

I've lived in this neighborhood most of my life. No one locks the doors of their homes let alone the doors of their cars. I'm sad, disappointed, and furiously angry.

And that leaves only one more thing to say.

If you should look into the mirror, and see a thief looking back at you - a thief with my camera and a picture of the only mirror carp I've ever caught in my life - well ... then ...

In Case of Emergency

Just in case you feel the need to relieve yourself on someone's leg while fishing the salt ... use the old "urine neutralizes the toxin" line. Good fun for all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mixed Bag

Little bit of everything today ... a few head shots for ya'll.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Knowing ... In the Biblical Sense

Riddle me this ... the Dalai Lama, the county fair, and fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex. What have they in common?


Here's a hint. T-rex is a CARNivore. The fair is a CARNival. The the Dalai Lama claims to be the reinCARNation of thirteen previous Dalai Lamas.

Still aren't following me?

Carnival. Carnivore. Reincarnation. Each word shares the Latin root "Carn," meaning flesh. In a purely linguistic sense, a carnival is a festival of the flesh. A carnivore like T-rex is a devourer of flesh, and the exiled leader of Tibet is reanimated flesh.

To have carnal knowledge of someone or something is to have knowledge of the flesh.

So it goes with men and women. So it goes with trout.

It was Lee Wulff who suggested that a game fish was too valuable to be caught only once. This is almost cliche, but it couldn't be more true. Please consider the following photographs.

The fish in the first photo was caught last year on my favorite stretch of my favorite river. It taped 21" long, took an emerger at the height of the hendrickson hatch, and fought like its life depended upon it - it did not. The fish in the second photo was caught two years ago on my favorite stretch of my favorite river. It taped 20" long, took a dun at the height of the hendrickson hatch, and fought like its life depended upon it - it did not.

Notice the similarities?

The spot patterns are identical. Each fish has a broken gill plate - look just ahead of the pectoral fin. Each fish has some sort of wound or infection on its lower jaw. These photographs - taken one year apart almost to the day - depict the same fish. This animal, which was caught and released several times, survived year to year relatively no worse for wear.

Catch and release works. Catch and release provides anglers with the opportunity to set free a good, solid fish one day, and admire a genuine trophy the next. Catch and release helps to ensure that our children - sons and daughters - will know their fish not for a fleeting moment, but on a first name basis.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Suppose It Was Inevitable

The Rusty Spinner is now on Facebook as "Rusty Spinner." My wife insists that social networking might be a way to increase my blog's readership, and while I'm not too concerned with just how many people read my rants, I must admit that it would be nice to talk fishin' with a few more folks. So there you have it. It seems my drill sergeant was correct. I'm worthless, and I am weak. I've given in to narcissism, and in doing so I've joined the 21st century.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hot Towels

My barber - Mr. Lyndsey Bezio of Mr. Lyndsey's Barber Shop in Clifton Park, New York - has been cutting my hair for more years than I like to admit. Lyndsey is the only gentleman in the area that knows how to give a decent military cut, and even though it's been 15 years since I left the Army, my hair still likes to play dress up. Lyndsey's a veteran too - Navy, but still technically a veteran I guess - so he understands my need for a low maintenance head.

Of course, just about any barber could give me a fade or a high-and-tight. I suppose that in a pinch, even the ladies at the trendy coiffure up the street could get the job done - although they'd probably use scissors and gel instead of clippers and alcohol. Heretics, but it doesn't matter. I cannot bring myself to leave Lyndsey. I'd feel like I was cheating on my spouse. Besides, there's just something about the way he does business.

Lyndsey is quick with banter, and knows how to appeal to his customers' interests. With Bob he talks politics. With Steve it's sports. With me he'll talk fishing. The shop is adorned with military and sports memorabilia. He keeps lollipops and gum for the boys - there are no girls at Lyndsey's shop. A cut or shave ends with menthol and a hot towel. Lyndsey is an old school barber, running an old school barber shop. He's one of a dying breed.

Even rarer than the old school barbershop is the old school fly shop. There might be one left out west, but I haven't seen one on the east coast since George Schlotter's place - The Angler's Nook - closed over a decade ago. George was something of a regional, fly fishing celebrity in the 70s and 80s. He originated a simple skating dry fly called the Vermont Caddis, and a hendrickson emerger that is - to this day - still deadly during a hatch of ephemerella subvaria. 

The Nook was actually a shack off route 313, not far from where the Battenkill crosses the border from Vermont into New York. As one passed over the threshold of the shop, he or she was usually greeted by a pair of bespectacled eyes peering up from behind a desk that effectively hid most of the proprietor's face. George spent the better part of every single day at that desk, tying flies for shops around the country. Undoubtedly, he can still whip up a dozen variants quicker than I can piece together a bugger, and his flies may still be found in bug bins from Maine to Washington.

If George wasn't seated behind the desk when you arrived, then he was likely out back messing with the chickens. He raised birds for hackle as Whiting had not yet come on the scene, and Metz and Hoffman were too costly an investment for a commercial tyer whose livelihood depended on economy. He sold a few capes, but used most of them himself.

I once saw George select chicks to raise after they had hatched. He separated out all the hens, and placed them in a black plastic bag. He then wrapped the opening of that bag around the exhaust pipe of his car. After running the engine for just a few minutes, the squealing and piping stopped as all the chicks were dead, having been asphyxiated. Cock hackle sold. Hen hackle did not. I remember wondering what it must have been like to know the world for only a few confused moments. It was a foolish, and juvenile thought to have had. George had a family to support. He couldn't afford to be charitable.

On the wall of George's shop hung a beautiful charcoal sketch of a brown trout chasing a minnow. That drawing fueled my dreams throughout adolescence, when those dreams weren't otherwise occupied by more typical teenage fair. The brown was huge, larger than life I suppose. Its spots were the size of dimes, and he wore a fearsome kype. That fish could have eaten every last one of George's chickens, and I spent season after season trying to live up to the promise of that sketch. I suppose I still do. Now that I've a few more years under my belt, however, I can be absolutely sure that fish like that do dwell in the river's riffles and eddies. I've hooked a few, but I haven't been fortunate enough to close the deal.

In the end, my memories of The Nook will have to sustain me. I can't see George ever coming back, and I think it unlikely I'll ever find another shop quite like his. That's not to say I plan to stop searching, but in the meantime, I suppose I'll have to get by on hot towels and the promise of trophy trout. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fugly, Fuglier, Fugliest

I just cannot help myself. I love chasing these things. Mercy ... mercy ...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fight Club Redux

Yesterday, I took a drive out to the fly shop to drop off a rod I needed repaired. The tip snapped, or rather ... I snapped the tip. While there, I ran into someone I haven't seen in a long while. He's the inspiration for a piece I wrote last year, and seeing him made me think to repost it today. I would also like to note that he seems to have matured some. He doesn't seem nearly as full of himself as he once did, and when he spoke of the river, he spoke in hushed tones. Perhaps he reads The Rusty Spinner.

You Do Not Talk About Fight Club

The narrator of Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club, and his alter-ego Tyler Durden, would make fine fishermen. Why? They've the good sense to keep their collective, dissociatively disordered mouths shut. Silence is the first rule of Fight Club. Silence is the second rule of Fight Club. "You don't talk about Fight Club" (For the sake of further emphasis the contraction is omitted in the screen play ... "The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club"). Similarly, silence is the proverbial golden rule of fishing.

You don't talk about the river. Just in case that isn't clear, I'll say it again. You do not talk about the river.

When you talk about the river you lose your right to complain about ever increasing crowds of people fishing your favorite runs. You lose the privilege of receiving fishing reports from those folks who exercise a little more verbal control. You lose the security that comes with knowing, absolutely knowing that there is a quiet place where you'll someday teach your son or daughter to read the water. When you talk about the river you lose your key to the inner sanctum.

Pete (last name omitted to protect the guilty from lynching) once talked about the river. As a matter of fact he went so far as to play guide, and one of his sports caught an enormous brown, which topped five or six pounds. For that brief moment Pete was a hero, and in the six years since that moment, positively no one has mentioned the river in conversation with him. Pete has been ostracized. He is, in the words of Robert DeNiro, outside the circle of trust.

Pete's case illustrates an important point. It is the deep-seated, almost primal desire to be a hero that motivates talkers. Talkers need recognition. They need for someone to acknowledge that they're competent, and that they've done a job well. In an effort to gain such satisfaction, a talker will spill his or her guts to anyone willing to acknowledge the talker's prowess. Talkers unload their bowels where they sleep, and are later surprised at the smell of their beds.

Understand too that talkers often do more than just talk. Sometimes they play at being a guide. Sometimes they write magazine articles or books. Sometimes they just hang stuffed fish on the wall, and eagerly anticipate the inevitable, "Where d'ya get that one?"

Sometimes they blog.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


They're obese, foul smelling, and covered in gelatinous ooze. They've mouths reminiscent of a nightcrawler eating its own tail. They root in mud flats, hoping to make a meal of the insects and crustaceans from which other, more refined fish simply turn away. There's nothing elegant about them. They're slovenly. They're repulsive.

Carp are also incredibly powerful. They've an uncanny sense of the dingy world around them. They know when you're coming, and this quality more than any other makes them a worthy adversary. They're downright tough to catch - on purpose anyway. If a bug chucker spots and stalks a carp, makes a cast without spooking the fish, and then hooks up ... well ... then that bug chucker has got some mojo.

And besides ... when it's "too hawt fer trawt" ... these fugly bastards can make for a fun afternoon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gudebrod Down for the Count?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

By Michelle Karas,

POTTSTOWN — The leadership of local manufacturer Gudebrod Inc. confirmed Monday the layoff of its entire work force.

W.E. "Nat" LeGrande Jr., company president, said he is hopeful the layoffs, which occurred Friday, will be temporary. He said about 60 to 65 union and non-union workers have been temporarily laid off from the 274 Shoemaker Road facility while the financially troubled, family-owned company seeks new capital.

"We are in the process of trying to bring in fresh financing," said LeGrande. "And I think we're going to be successful. I think it's going to happen."

LeGrande said employees were notified at meetings on Friday of the immediate layoff.

Gudebrod is a manufacturer of products including medical cords, silk and synthetic sewing threads, fly-fishing thread, and braided lacing tape for the aerospace industry.

"Our greatest desire is to reopen and start shipping again," he said. "We're very anxious to reopen and continue making quality products we've made here since 1976."

Securing new investors is something LeGrande said the company leadership has been working on for the last six months.

"It's close, but I can't tell you when it will happen. As soon as we do, we will call everybody back," he said.

On Monday, the facility parking lot was empty except for two cars — those of LeGrande and his brother, E. David LeGrande, a company director.

"We told everybody on Friday we would call them back in as soon as we can," LeGrande said. "We left it at as soon as we had financing we would call them back."

Financing, according to LeGrande, is the only thing that's "the matter" at Gudebrod.

"We have great employees, products, suppliers and customers, but we need the money to bring in raw materials and pay a few bills before we can be up and running again," he said.

Gudebrod, according to LeGrande, has suffered since losing its major account — Glide dental floss — in 2007.

"That's really the start of when our problems began," he said. "Losing the Glide contract was huge. It was five-eighths of our business."

He added, "Everybody has known for two years that we were skating on thin ice."

Per the company website, Gudebrod dates back to the mid-1800s, when Belding Brothers Silk Co. was established in Middletown, Conn. In 1885, that company was sold to Christian Gudebrod and was renamed Champion Silk Co.

In 1895, brothers Christian, Frederick and Philip Gudebrod purchased the assets of the John B. Cutter Silk Mills in Bethlehem.

Two years later, they found an idle plant in Pottstown and moved their business south to Old Reading Pike in Stowe, renaming the company The Gudebrod Brothers Silk Co. Inc.

Brothers Edward and Charles Gudebrod joined the company around 1900.

The company had its peak employment during World War II when its products helped support the war effort. During that era, hundreds of local people worked at what was often referred to as "the silk mill."

In the 1970s, the company changed its name to Gudebrod Inc. to better reflect its product diversity and subsequently moved to the Shoemaker Road site.

LeGrande said the company board is working to keep the company running and in Pottstown.

"We all have a common goal here, and that's to move forward," LeGrande said.

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