Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#%@&tards: Redux

In less than a week, I'll be on my way to the river for the boys' annual steelhead trip. Each of us looks forward to this trip for different reasons, but come October each of us is similarly distracted from thinking of much else. Steelhead. In honor of the upcoming trip and the fellas who have made this trip something of a tradition, I bring back a piece that I wrote following last season's trip. Some of you might remember ...


Every November, the boys and I make the annual fishing trip to New York's, Salmon River. My wife asks why I describe this as the trip rather than a trip, given that I'll make at least two suicide runs (read: one day road trips with a minimum five hours drive time) per month throughout the fall and winter seasons. My bride asks a perfectly reasonable question, and I suppose if I stop to think about it, this trip is special for several reasons.

First, the November trip is a mini-vacation of sorts. The boys and I each take several days off from work, kiss our respective wives and children goodbye, and dive (metaphorically, of course) into the frigid autumn waters of several nearby Lake Ontario tributaries. Second, the duration of the trip allows us to behave more like boys than grown men. We generally don't do anything illegal, but given that we haven't any particular responsibilities for a short while, we do allow ourselves to relax in a way that might be frowned upon if we did it in the polite company of our families (a little "thank you" goes out to the Ommegang and Lagunitas breweries). Third, early to mid November is generally the only time of year when all of us can get together at the same time. That this assembly is a once-per-year event may be a good thing for our families, the towns of Altmar and Pulaski, and the local members of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Of course, there are certain draw-backs to wetting a line in the tribs that time of year. Anyone who fishes the Great Lakes with any sort of regularity - especially in that span of weeks between early September and late November - has almost certainly had a run-in with a #%@&tard. #%@&tards are the living, beathing, walking, talking personification of rudeness, and they're the sad reality of fishing western New York for potamodromous steelhead.

Whatever sense of etiquette a #%@&tard may have at home ... well ... he or she (yes, women are            #%@&tards too) abandons that behavior once in the vicinity of the big lakes. #%@&tards have an uncanny propensity for ruining an intrepid steelheader's day. As such, I think it incumbent upon me to help my too-few readers identify a #%@tard should they ever find themselves wandering the shores of the Great Lakes. How do we know a #%@&tard when we see one? It's not so easy as the uninitiated bug chucker might think.

What makes spotting a #%@&tard so difficult is that they might carry heavy action spinning gear or center-pin rigs, but they could just as easily be bug chuckers swinging spey rods or single-hand nymph rigs. They might tie their own married wing Jock Scotts, but they could also be spotted carrying jars of neon or glow-in-the-dark Power Bait worms. A #%@&tard might wade the river's currents in high end breathable waders complete with battery powered leg warmers, but they're as likely to be found in Gander Mountain neoprenes or Red Ball hippers. Ultimately, one can never tell a #%@&tard by his or her appearance, and certainly never by the gear he or she carries. One discerns a #%@&tard based entirely on the #%@&tard's behavior, and that behavior is easily recognized.

#%@&tards are the folks who insist on crossing a river through the very run you're fishing. Once on the far bank, #%@&tards will set up shop directly across from you, and toss their line over yours on every fourth or fifth cast. #%@&tards will step into your spot if you so much as dare to stop fishing for the sake of netting your buddy's fish, let alone to smoke a cigar, eat a sandwich, or pee in the woods. #%@&tards would crawl right up your backside if they thought there might be a steelhead inside.

And all of this brings us back to the November, 2011 steelhead trip.

For three days, the boys and I had been successfully fishing the same run. We caught fish; in all modesty, we caught quite a lot of fish. Most came on nymphs, several took eggs, and a few crushed swung flies. Either the river gods had enough of our antics or word spread that we were into fish because on the final day of the trip we were inundated with #%@&tards. We were simultaneously low-holed and high-holed. A wagon train of nomadic other-siders (bug chuckers who believe the fishing will always be better from the other side of the river) waded through the cherry part of the run. One #%@&tard decided he needed to fish exactly where I was fishing, so he set up directly across from me and began rigging his rod. I couldn't hold back.

"Really buddy? Really? Three hundred yards of river free below us, and you're going to set up shop right on top of me?"

"What'd you mean?"

"What do I mean? I mean there's a quarter mile of river free, and you're about to throw your line right on top of mine."

"I can fish here."

That single sentence encapsulates everything I hate about #%@&tards. Yes, you can fish here. You could also strip off all your clothes, and run down the river bank singing, "Doo-lay, doo-lay ... look at me. I'm an elf." If you were so inclined, you could jump off the roof of a very tall building, play Russian Roulette with a Colt Model 1911 (that's a clip loading pistol for the handgun impaired), or drive down the left side of any one of America's busy and beautiful byways. #%@&tards are very much aware of what they can do, but they often lack the sense to ask if something should be done. So while you can wet a line here, you shouldn't because to do so would be rude. Walking into the run that someone is fishing and setting up right on top of that other angler demonstrates a general lack of etiquette.

"Who taught you to fish?"

"What? My grandfather. Why you asking @$$hole?"

"Well, I find myself wondering if grandpa skipped the chapter on etiquette, or if you're just a naturally obtuse #%@&tard."

From this point, the conversation was infused with testosterone and became increasingly belligerent. Our discussion culminated with the #%@&tard removing his gear and gesturing as if he were going to come back over to the near bank and challenge me for the heavyweight crown (these days it may actually be super-heavyweight).

"Maybe I should just come over there, and kick your ass?"

"You're welcome to try Spartacus. Whenever you're ready, I'll be right here ... fishing the run I was first on at 4:30 this morning, and yesterday morning, and the day before that."

This kind of aggression seems antithetical to fly fishing, and bug chuckers would be right to find it distasteful. Unfortunately, returning a #%@&tard's attitude is often the most effective way to deal with the situation. I once chose to leave steelheading because of the preponderance of #%@&tardation on so many Great Lakes tributaries. I won't let that happen again. From now on, I'll take the fight to the
#%@&tards. Perhaps some tough love is just what is needed to teach folks that etiquette and common courtesy are portable, and as apropos on the Salmon River as they are along the banks of the Delaware, Battenkill, Neversink, or Yellow Breeches.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Have a Few Extra Dollars Lying Around?

Hardy and Greys Up For Sale

In an exclusive interview with the UK-based fishing trade magazine Angling International, Ken Brewster, the Commercial Director of Hardy & Greys has explained why the company is being put up for sale. Meanwhile business continues as usual at this iconic British brand based in Alnwick in the North-East of England.

Hardy & Greys – a business that has built up an almost iconic status since its formation in 1872 – has this week been placed on the market by its owner the Harris & Sheldon Group, a family-owned UK private investment group.

The sale is part of a long-term business plan by Harris & Sheldon to divest itself of the manufacturing businesses under its control.

Hardy & Greys has struggled to make a profit in the UK in recent years and a reshuffle last year saw it make 19 staff redundant at its base in Alnwick, Northumberland.

Selection reprinted from

Friday, October 19, 2012

An Open Letter from a Dirty Nympher: Redux

I first published this as a response to the article contained at the hyperlink. I still believe every word, and I think it appropriate to republish given the onset of yet another steelhead season.

An Open Letter from a Dirty Nympher

I'm filthy. I'm unwashed. I'm a piscatorial heathen. I should be ostracized from the clan; banned forever from the faithful fraternity of fly flingers. I'm a highsticker. I'm a shortliner. I'm a dirty ass nympher, and apparently, I'm only half a step removed from bait dunkers on the angling evolutionary scale.

Bug chuckers are an odd bunch. Many of us consider ourselves a step removed - if not a step above - other anglers. We like to think that our preferred manner of angling involves more skill than most other methods of putting fish in the boat. It is for this reason, and the propensity for bug chuckers to pass judgment on other anglers, that we are often labeled as elitists. I sometimes think that the term elitist - suggesting that one is of the upper echelon, the hierarchy, the elite - must have been coined by a fly fisherman who reveled in his own snobbery. Any normal person would have used simpler words.

And make no mistake. It is snobbery and pretension to assume that one's way of doing things is the only proper way of doing things, especially when discussing something as subjective as fly fishing.

This pretension has of late resurfaced and come to the forefront of a seemingly perpetual debate about steelhead angling, and the variety of methods employed in chasing this fine sport fish. Some argue that the noble steelhead should be pursued solely with two-handed rods and sparsely hackled spey flies. To do otherwise, these folks contend, isn't worthy of either the fish or the fisherman. Nymph fishermen like myself - especially those of us who use indicators - aren't really fly fishing at all. We're bobber fishing.

Of course, this argument is all so much nonsense. While swinging a fly is certainly less productive than nymphing, it is no more difficult a skill to master. Regardless of the method, one must cast, mend, and drift his or her fly in such a manner as to elicit a pull from an otherwise lock jawed winter fish. This is the essence of fly fishing. On each drift, we hope to raise a luminescent, acrobatic ghost that will burn our drags and run us into the backing. More than anything that separates us, it is this incessant hope that should bring steelhead anglers together, but it does not. Nowhere is this divide more evident than between those folks who are fortunate to call the Olympic Peninsula home, and those of us who cut our teeth on the Great Lakes.

Mind you that the divide separating these warring clans is more philosophical than it is geographic. Both parties claim an allegiance to tradition, albeit disparate, opposing traditions. Northwest steelheading is about the experience. It's about long lines, slow drifts, and a fanciful school of tying that claims Syd Glasso as its progenitor. Great Lakes steelheading is about the blue collar efficiency that characterizes the region, its industry, and its people. Short lines, short drifts, high sticks, and simple flies are the rule.

A cliche perhaps ... but beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Neither method is more valid than the other, and this is especially true now that the lines are being blurred between factions. Left coasters are increasingly turning to the techniques, which have been commonplace on tributaries to the Great Lakes. Right coasters are often arming themselves with spey rods, and boxes full of the long sweeping hackles and bright colors that were the trademarks of Glasso's flies.

Ultimately, it's all about the fish. A steelhead is special regardless if it's caught on an Orange Heron or a pink Sucker Spawn. It is special regardless if it's taken from shore or from a boat. A steelhead is special regardless if it's the fish of 100 or 10000 casts.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Salmon

I've come to love the Salmon River. Really, I have. It's grown on me, but such was not always the case.

The first time I fished the river's runs and pools, I lost every fish I hooked over the course of two days, and finished the second day by spewing vomit along the highway (a long story). But the memory of that God-awful introduction has faded, and most days I find myself eagerly anticipating my next trip to Altmar and Pulaski.

Yes. The river can be crazy at times. Hoards of people - some not so friendly, most not so courteous - descend on Pulaski every September, and they generally remain until mid October. By early November the crowds thin, and the river becomes much more user friendly. In the interim, however, we bug chuckers need to be flexible and go where the fisherman are not - even if we find fewer fish wherever that may be.

This is easier done than the river's reputation might lead intrepid bug chuckers to believe, but more on this later. Today ... just a few photos of our most recent trip.  God help me, but I love the Salmon.


First chromer of the year ... let's hope the first of many.