Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Gunpowder River and a proposed management style

The Gunpowder should be called the Gunpounder. This poor tailwater in Maryland, during the warm months, is fished and kayaked to death.

I wish to god the beautiful catch and release stretch was run like a private club, with beats and a nominal daily rod fee...and no boating allowed.

I have had some of my my memorable angling moments on the Connectquot (sp?) and Nissequogue (sp?) in Long Island are run on a beat system. This system is simply the only way that decent smaller trout streams near large population centers can remain healthy and fun to fish in the warm months. In the cold months, the streams could go back to standard catch and release, no bait.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Fractal Salmon Fly and a Salmon fly Manifesto

I am firm in the belief that the various permutations of the salmon, steelhead and streamer flies allow the most artistry and creativity in the act of flytying. The pallette is larger, the amterials more varied and the need for exact imitation of the drab colors of nature is obviated.

I am also of the belief that macro-photographed portions of those same flies can be a kind of art in and of themselves. As we get closer, the imperfections come to the forefront and what seemed to be perfection turns out to be the irregular folly of our quivering fingertips. The salmon fly becomes the fractal shoreline- flowing and gangly becomes linear and angular which them becomes flowing and gangly, ad infinitum.

Like so many things in our life, the salmon fly as currently tied urges us toward a kind of mechanical perfection. Gone is the ever-so-slightly rough-hewn sensibility of those who tied salmon flies for fishing. Instead, we are left with a generation of mere technicians, hermeneutically reinterpreting aged tomes to mean that spending two hours constructing a wing is acceptable and that a salmon fly selling for $300 is rational.

I throw back the gauze clouding modern salmon fly tying and offer this Manifesto:

1. A salmon fly tied must be tied to be fished
2. A salmon fly must follow rules until makes sense not to.
3. A salmon fly pattern must be able to be completed in under ten minutes.
4. A salmon fly need not be fished for salmon, but must be fished with passion.
5. A salmon fly should use materials that reflect the tier's respect for the natural world and for once-living beasts.

Tie on, friends.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

New Flies

Fishing at night again has got me thinking about stripers looking through a fly to the moon or general brightness of the sky. To that end, I photographed a wide range of my striper flies both under and over exposed against a daylight-balanced light.

The photos are intentionally out of focus. I don't assume that stripers have vision that is quite like ours. I also don't own a camera that has a macro mode.

Abrames General Practitioner

Modified Abrames General Practitioner with Dee Wings and Jungle cock eyes rearward

Top to bottom: Abrames-style General Practitioner using burned-goose shoulder "spey" hackle as body hackle; The Five Color (my salmon-fly pattern of five colors of seal-fur dubbing...the recipe is too complex to list here); Ray's Fly with super-duper-awesome Japanese floss body (Alec Jackson floss and it is by far the best I have ever seen or used); extremely simple spey fly with whiting "spey" hackle body hackle; Modified Abrames-style GP with wild turkey wing and rearward "eyes"; simple salmon fly.

Another Grey Ghost Shad flatwing with a marabou throat/collar

An Abrames General Practitioner

Very simple, austere spey pattern with Whiting "Spey" hackle body hackle


Extremely colorful flatwing with golden pheasant crest top and lady amherst crest throat (not really a throat, but I cannot remember the real Salmon-dresser name for that position on the fly.)

The Five Color...notice translucence of seal fur.

Grey Ghost Shad


I must now buckle down for final exams. I wish the world well.

Seersucker Shorts (made by Keiko) and good vintage brown and white spectators make studying for finals a breezy operation!

Fishing Chesapeake Bay at Sandy Point, Kent Island

The stripers are here. And big ones, at that. They are hungry and vicious.

The great tyer and fysher-with-an-angle, Paul Matthews, and I hit some of Pauls favorite spots for doing presentation fishing for stripers.

Paul and I were using two-fly casts, attempting to drift the flies naturally where we could and doing strip-retrieves where needed. We started fishing around 5:30pm and fished until 9:45pm.

Paul was using a nice, soft Temple Fork Outfitters 9' 9wt.

I was using a Bob Meiser 10'6" 8/9 switch rod with my friend Markus Rohrbach's absolutely beautiful swiss reel...but it has no all...just a very light click to prevent overrun when stripping. My hand is the drag. I love fishing for big fish with this reel, because once you are hooked, it borders on the kind of complete loss of control that I seek in fishing generally. I used a Rio Longcast 9wt line with a 40-something foot head that was really too light for that rod. Once the whole head was out, it was quite easy to throw the whole flyline, or spey-cast the whole head, though.

At Sandy Point, the current was moving a hundred yards out and the bait fishermen who could get out there were having good luck with nice, heavy. We had no luck, but the scenery was sublime. I angered an osprey at the end of a jetty, so I was able to intertwine with nature a bit. No baitfish on the surface that we could see. None. At all. Zero. Paul is a great raconteur and knows so much about the mechanics of the ocean that even when not catching fish, the fishing is very enjoyable. The moon was large, low and pink-orange. It was like an eye watching us casting against its own reflection on the water.

We next went to a lighted boat launch. The boats were already prepping for the first day of "Trophy Season" aka "You can keep big striper season." No luck, but we saw a beautiful and large great blue heron and a very drunk good ol' boy who asked me if I, "Every catch anything with that thing." I assume he was referring to my "brain" or "rakish good looks," but he could have meant my "fyshing rodd."

We then went to one of Paul's favorite and very secret spots. He chloroformed me and when I awoke, it was striper paradise There was a fine current from the tide going out. Paul spotted fish and with about 30 mins before I had to be whisked to the Metro station, we started casting to real fish. I hooked two strong fish and lost them both.

I had hooked them on a Grey Ghost-ish streamer tied Carrie Stevens style...tied on an 8XL looooooong shank size 2 hook. I used the UNI Glow yarn for the body and head and it did, in fact, glow nicely. Both hookups were on the swing, feeding line in and mending like mad. Both takes wereat the end of the swing.

I believe I lost those two nice fish because (A) 8XL hooks give large fish a lot of leverage for which to throw the hook and (B) I used Mustad hooks and forgot to sharpen and debarb. Lesson learned for about the 10th time. (C) is the dragless reel!

Paul was kind enough to drive me to New Carrolton where I caught the Orange Line Metro to Metro Center. Needless to say, I was the only person on any train carrying a bright silver spey rod case, dirty waders, and filing hooks.

A great time that I hope to do again as soon as finals are over...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Shrimp Patterns and Ray's Flies

A kind fly fisherman and tyer named Paul Matthews gave me one of his own Ken Abrames-style General Practitioner flies as well as a beautiful and sparse Ray's Fly.

The top four flies are variation on the General Practitioner, the three bottom are Ray's Flies.

Top fly is Paul's

Next is my copy of Pauls, but with the following variations: webby body hackle, cock neck hackle in place of golden pheasant body feather (rear support), small pillow of fire orange seal.

Third down is supposed to be a grass shrimp. It uses two jungle cock eyes rearward, a silver bodi-braid body, green and blue webby hackle body, and two dee-style turkey strip wings.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Long Long Rod

I love the roll cast. It was the first cast I could do. I broke my mother's windshield overhead casting when I was first learning how to cast. I lived in fear of overhead casting additionally because I often hit myself in the back of the head with clouser minnows when I fished the salt primarily with a Walmart 5wt and broken single action reel.

The double haul is a dangerous thing when the fly weighs more than the line beyond the tiptop!

I came to doublehand rods as a solution to the problems of constantly almost hitting people on my backcast while fishing in NYC.

I suggest you try them, too.

Songs about lust twisted for the consumption machine

The ultimate irony of rock and roll is the use of rock songs for the commercials of mass-marketed products and service. I hypothesize that the reason songs of thinly-veiled teenage lust work so well for selling things is that lust and consumptive consumerism are part of the same paradigm of human desire.

The words do not even need to be changed, especially because many/most popular rock songs were filled with the same sort of bawdy innuendo as the bawdy-blues race records of the 1920s-1940s. Often the innuendo is not as creative as in the antique, often it was simply stolen, word-for-word, from the antiques. The words work perfectly for creating a lust-like, horn-dog excitement for a cellular phone or a goddamned brand of chicken.

Don't buy products that rebadge the music of lust into the music of consumptive desire. Smash the corporations, make your own shoes, forage for food.

Monday, April 03, 2006

CrabFeast 2006

It is important to feast.

Other than the bland monotony of most Thanksgivings and Christmases and Hanukah's, feasting is a lost art. Where people used to have a big social eating harangue, they now go out for a quick drink. Screw that. I want to eat seasonal delicacies in large quantites over the course of a half-day to celebrate the zeniths of my life. And I want to do this with friends and family. And I want to make an unholy mess- leave behind a mountain of shells and carcasses and detritus. I don't want to celebrate my friendships with goddamned brunch.

I want good iced tea, strong limeade, hoppy near-beer (I'm a teetotaler). I demand a dozen different piquant sauces to smear on whatever I am eating. I relish not using the sauces if the food is fresh and good on its own. Give me oysters carefully cleaned by my own hands and opened the same way. Let me lick the oyster liquor off my palm. I want crab boil seasoning jammed up my fingernails and covering my arms up to my shoulders in a gesso of celery seed and chili. Potato salad with my hands and cornbread with my fingers. Let everything get cold- it tastes better anyway Let me pound away with friends at the carapaces of crustaceans, spit out bits of shell, not worry about the condition of my butter-stained pants. Let me huddle in the kitchen, after its cold outside, and eat pie standing up with good friends and a good wife. Let me open oysters for my chums and my sweet wife. Let me tip one oyster to my mouth and give the mineral-tinged liquor to my pup. I want to feast continuously and slowly, talking and smiling, smelling the breeze and the waft of dank seafood from a giant pot. Invite the neighbors, call the kids over, give the bums a crab. Let's steam some Maryland blues and while the day away.

Feasting on the East coast near the ocean means either clambakes or crab feasts. If you do not know an old, salty man who puts on these feasts using a rusty pickup and worn implements, you must do it yourself. For a similar tradition, see the section in Joseph Miller's "Up In the Old Hotel" about steak feasting in Tammany-era New York City. See also Euell Gibbons' works on wild seafood gathering.

Maine Avenue Fish Wharf

The DC fisherman's wharf offers good seafood and good prices. It is one of the few indigenous food markets left in DC and it is a rare gem. There is great bustle and throngs of people: all great signs of a fish market. The purveyors know their trade You *must* know what you are buying, though. The difference between the regular "no-name" oysters and the sparkling, green Chincoteagues is beyond striking. The sad-looking tuna and salmon is just as sad as the flesh sold in your supermarket (Whole Foods excepted).

Much of the seafood is merely thawed from a frozen state. While frozen seafood is often quite good, I can get much of that stuff at my supermarket and prefer to get it at Trader Joe's. The real reason to visit a seafood market is to get the oddities, the easily spoiled, the animate. The range of clams at Maine Ave. is great. From giant chowder clams to tiny cockles, with black clams (See also Miller's book re: black clams) a rare favorite.

I didn't see catch tags on the striped bass, so I sincerely question their credentials. Other local fish looked good.

Why a crab feast?

As a final celebration before the guilt of Final Exam season descends upon us law students, my former study group partners and we decided to have a good old fashioned crab and oyster feast.

Lee drove and made a near-unholy Key Lime Pie, Rob made amazing sweet potato salad, Nate provided beverages. Keiko came later and smiled a lot. Peanuts was happy to eat some carrots and bark at the feasters.

A half bushel of Chincoteagues, unscrubbed

Rob working with the local crabs

Me with my usual dumb look and some food in one hand

Just before the crabs had crab boil dumped in their faces
Crabs cooking, Lee Hepner holding a suave court
Rob's absolutely excellent sweet potato salad
First batch of crab...underdone and needing a second steam (not dark shells)
Nate trims a mean lawn
Lee is a man of precision and rare candor
A regular shore feast
Lee opens his first oyster
The feast wears on, Rob does not tire, he wants the meat
Peanuts is sore afraid of shellfish
the key to a sucessful feast is a wash bucket laced with well as cheap champagne

the old mountain of detritus