Search Month: March 2018

The Fisherman is Eternally Hopeful

Rich had cancer, and it was spreading fast. We both knew this was our last trip together and that a dear friendship was coming to a close.

We fished a long morning, and eventually, I worked upstream toward my friend. From thirty yards, I could see the exhaustion in his face. Rich stood where a long riffle dumped into his favorite glassy pool. He breathed a long breath and gazed at the cloudy sky. Reeling in his line and breaking down his rod, he looked at me, and we smiled. We each knew we were at the end of something.

I was fishing a large parachute ant, moving quickly and covering a lot of water, as was my habit on Clover Run in those days. And in the right months it was a tactic that brought at least one chance to catch and release a really good fish. But on that morning I hadn’t caught much of anything, so I threw a couple careless, hopeless casts into the glide ahead of me as I waded the last thirty yards toward my friend.

“Put a few casts to that bank,” Rich said, and he gestured toward a shallow piece of side water next to the riffle where he was standing.

With not much cover on the bank for a trout, and with the sun poking through the clouds at midday, I didn’t have any hope.

Where is My Fly?

John looked back and glared at me through his copper lenses. He was frustrated, exasperated and worn out. I’d just told John, for the third time, to drift his fly on the inside of a large midstream boulder. But his cast and the resulting drift were far away from the mark and even further away from any chance of hooking a trout. So I started to speak the sentence again, a little lighter this time, with a little more empathy.

“Just drift your fly on the inside of . . .”

John interrupted. He shook his head in anger and leaned in toward me.

“Man, if I could see the fly, I’d put it there.”

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #35 — How to Fish With Friends

Fishing with a stick and line is a solitary endeavor by nature. It always comes down to the two hands of one angler: one on the rod, and the other in control of the line. Sharing the water with friends is great, but fishing, inherently, is not a team sport. It’s more like pole vaulting than a baseball game. It comes down to individual performance. And at its root, fishing is just a contest between one man and a fish.

. . . But we fish together to share our experiences, to learn from one another, to catch up with old friends and make new ones. We choose to fish together because the bonds formed on a river are like none other, and because flowing water and shared moments can heal friendships and mend grievances . . .

The Dirty Fisherman

I walked around the bend and saw his blue truck, but I couldn’t see Gabe until the lean man sat up. He stretched and slid slowly off the tailgate, onto his feet and into his sandals. The climbing sun made the blue paint of his pickup bed too hot, and when the shadows were gone, the dirty fisherman’s rest was finished.

Gabe leaned back on the hot paint again and grabbed the duffel that he used for a pillow. The faded bag was stuffed with clothes: some stained, some clean, and most half-worn-out. He pulled a thin, long-sleeved shirt from the bag and changed, tossing his wet t-shirt toward a damp pile of gear by the truck tires. The long sleeves were his sunscreen; the beard protected his face; the frayed hat covered his head, and the amber sunglasses filled the gap in between.

Gabe was a trout bum. Not the shiny magazine-ad version of a trout bum either, but the true embodiment of John Geirach’s term: authentic, dirty, and dedicated to a lifestyle without even thinking much about it. He fished on his own terms. He was a part-time fishing guide for the family business and a part-time waiter. We never talked much about work, though. I just know that Gabe’s life was fishing, and everything else was a cursory, minor distraction.

Where is My Fly?

Where is My Fly?

John looked back and glared at me through his copper lenses. He was frustrated, exasperated and worn out. I’d just told John, for the third time, to drift his fly on the inside of a large midstream boulder. But his cast and the resulting drift were far away from the mark and even further away from any chance of hooking a trout. So I started to speak the sentence again, a little lighter this time, with a little more empathy.

“Just drift your fly on the inside of . . .”

John interrupted. He shook his head in anger and leaned in toward me.

“Man, if I could see the fly, I’d put it there.”

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #35 — How to Fish With Friends

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #35 — How to Fish With Friends

Fishing with a stick and line is a solitary endeavor by nature. It always comes down to the two hands of one angler: one on the rod, and the other in control of the line. Sharing the water with friends is great, but fishing, inherently, is not a team sport. It’s more like pole vaulting than a baseball game. It comes down to individual performance. And at its root, fishing is just a contest between one man and a fish.

. . . But we fish together to share our experiences, to learn from one another, to catch up with old friends and make new ones. We choose to fish together because the bonds formed on a river are like none other, and because flowing water and shared moments can heal friendships and mend grievances . . .

The Dirty Fisherman

The Dirty Fisherman

I walked around the bend and saw his blue truck, but I couldn’t see Gabe until the lean man sat up. He stretched and slid slowly off the tailgate, onto his feet and into his sandals. The climbing sun made the blue paint of his pickup bed too hot, and when the shadows were gone, the dirty fisherman’s rest was finished.

Gabe leaned back on the hot paint again and grabbed the duffel that he used for a pillow. The faded bag was stuffed with clothes: some stained, some clean, and most half-worn-out. He pulled a thin, long-sleeved shirt from the bag and changed, tossing his wet t-shirt toward a damp pile of gear by the truck tires. The long sleeves were his sunscreen; the beard protected his face; the frayed hat covered his head, and the amber sunglasses filled the gap in between.

Gabe was a trout bum. Not the shiny magazine-ad version of a trout bum either, but the true embodiment of John Geirach’s term: authentic, dirty, and dedicated to a lifestyle without even thinking much about it. He fished on his own terms. He was a part-time fishing guide for the family business and a part-time waiter. We never talked much about work, though. I just know that Gabe’s life was fishing, and everything else was a cursory, minor distraction.

Fly Fishing Strategies: Tippet Rings For Tag Droppers? No Thanks

Fly Fishing Strategies: Tippet Rings For Tag Droppers? No Thanks

Fishing dropper rigs should be easy. But judging from the amount of questions I field about knots, dropper types and tangles, fishing two or more flies causes a lot of angst out there.

Last week, I wrote about fishing tangle-free tandem rigs, and a popular question repeated itself in my inbox: “Tippet rings would be great for droppers, right?” My short is answer, no. My long answer is . . . usually not. Tippet rings for tags can work, but I don’t think it’s worth it.

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #34 — Outside the Box

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #34 — Outside the Box

Good things happen by thinking outside the box. Norms are for normal people, and in the strange world of fishing, there aren’t many of those. At some point, every type of fly has been used against its intended purpose, because fly fishers are a creative bunch — not so normal, really — and the penchant for experimentation is urged on by the trout themselves. Everything works sometimes.

So here’s a list of flies and techniques that do double (or triple) duty.

Back to Basics — Back to Buggers

Back to Basics — Back to Buggers

Bill texted me at 2:00 pm.

“How’s the fishing, and where should we meet?” he wrote.

The day was changing from a perfectly cloudy and drizzly cool day to a pure washout. More dark sky slid over the horizon as I hustled back to the truck. Patches of heavy rain were dumping buckets throughout the region. In a few hours the whole river would muddy completely.  Some sections were still fishable, but not for long.

Under the shadow of the rear hatch, I stashed wet gear into the truck and changed into a drier shirt as another SUV arrived from upstream and turned into the dirt pull-off. The side windows slid down, and I saw three fishermen inside.

“How’d you make out?” they asked. “Is it muddy down below too?” The driver gestured in the direction of the rising river, just out of site beyond the hemlocks.

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Absence | Goodbye, Winter

Absence | Goodbye, Winter

I hold on to winter longer than anyone else I know. I love winter for what it is, for what it makes me feel, for what it turns me into — for how it forces family to huddle closer, and for how exquisitely alone I feel outside.

Winter is the season of absence.

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Troutbitten Featured in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Troutbitten Featured in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

My friend, Steve, texted me yesterday to ask if I knew that my name was in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette sports section. Since my mediocre Little League baseball career ended at twelve years old, I’d figured that my chances at making the sports section of any paper were shot. But to my surprise, there it was, both online and printed in the Sunday paper.

And I have to admit that it makes me smile. I grew up reading the PPG, and I still do. As a home grown western Pennsylvania boy, I follow my Steelers, Penguins and Pirates with devotion.

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #33 — Fish the Edge

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #33 — Fish the Edge

I walked against the current for most of the evening, working a mid-river seam with a pair of nymphs, stepping slowly upstream after a few casts and picking off a trout every ten yards or fifteen minutes (however you want to measure it). In the heaviest sections, the...

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Streamside | George Daniel on nymphs — When in doubt, drag ’em

Streamside | George Daniel on nymphs — When in doubt, drag ’em

Fly fishing done well is a mental game, a series of tips and tricks. Those tricks are like a deck of cards, all stacked up and ready to play, ready to pull out and utilize the one that best fits the moment. Sometimes we know what card to play, and other times we stand in the river befuddled and confused. In those perplexing moments, we shuffle the deck and then choose: Pick a card — any card.

Adding cards to the deck of tricks is half the fun of this whole thing. All the good anglers I know are constantly searching for the next trick, the next clue, because a larger deck provides more options and more solutions.

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Fly Fishing Strategies: Tangle-Free Tandem Rigs

Fly Fishing Strategies: Tangle-Free Tandem Rigs

Multi-fly rigs allow for more chances to screw things up, and that’s undeniable. In an early article, I brushed off the tangles problem like it’s not a big deal. With experience (and some resignation to the inevitable errors), it really isn’t a big deal. Here are some ideas to keep the tandem rig tangles to an acceptable minimum.

Keep in mind, that I’ve grown into these strategies. I’ve done a lot of fiddling and wiggling with rats’ nests out there. And remember, the thing they don’t tell you about trial and error is how much the errors suck the life out of your will to keep trying . . .

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