Articles in the Category Commentary

Dry or Die?

. . . There’s a segment of fly anglers who will never see streamers, nymphs or wet flies as a legitimate offering. That’s fine. Keep it to yourself.

There’s another segment of fly fishers who believe trophy hunting for big browns with big streamers is the only way to live out there. And everything else might as well be tweed hats and waxed catgut. That’s fine too. Keep it to yourself.

The majority of us are fishermen, just having fun, trying to catch a fish and then catch another one . . .

Q&A: Long Drifts or Short — What’s Better and Why?

I play the odds. I’ve seen what works best, so I repeat it the most. And I’d rather get two or three good casts against the next log for the next thirty seconds rather than just one cast to the log and twenty five seconds of stripping away from it. This is the mindset of having tight targets, of getting short and effective drifts . . .

Life On the Water

Accomplished and skilled fly fishing requires that you give part of your life to the river. That’s evident in the first few trips, and I think the depth of all this surprises would-be anglers. It intimidates some, and it captivates others . . .

Q&A: What Do You Have Against Euro Nymphing?

I use euro nymphing often, but won’t be limited to it. And I don’t like the term because of the limitations associated with it.

That said, I don’t think we can change it. Just like the rest of language, we are stuck within a framework for communicating that precedes us. We can only do our best to define and work through this system accurately . . .

Front-Ended: Can We Stop Doing this to Each Other?

Front-Ended: Can We Stop Doing this to Each Other?

There are two types of people who will front-end you on the river: the rookie who honestly and innocently doesn’t understand on-stream protocol and the guy who knows exactly what he’s doing but doesn’t care, so he front-ends you anyway.

Pity the first type and forgive them. The second type are despicable bastards, and no amount of reasoning, arguing, cursing or pleading is going to change their behavior. If you encounter the second guy, just walk away. If he’s bold enough to cut you off intentionally, then he’s bold enough to stand his ground no matter what reasonable sense you try to make . . .

Angler Types in Profile: The Rookie

Angler Types in Profile: The Rookie

I’m consistently surprised by the lack of river sense that’s missing in so many anglers. I mean that literally and not condescendingly. Just as a city kid marvels at the sight of deep darkness on a moonless night, fifty miles deep into a state forest, the country boy doesn’t give it a second thought. It’s experience. And that’s all it is.

People who are new to fishing just don’t know much about rivers. And I never really get used to that. Because so much of what a river does, and what fish do in response, is organic to me. I grew up fishing and playing in small streams. As a kid, I was drawn to every runoff ditch within walking or biking distance. I couldn’t stay away. And like anything else, you grow into your surroundings. I don’t think that can be changed, whether we’d like it to be or not.

Anyway, those without that same history with rivers see the water differently, and sometimes I have trouble remembering it.

On a cool April morning, Sam and I hit the water with all his new gear . . .

What to Trust

What to Trust

Of the good fishermen I know, one thing I see in all of them is how easily they can reach conclusions about fish habits. They have a knack for knowing what to trust and when to trust it.

The damned thing about a river is that it changes every day, and the habits of trout follow. If you’re observant enough to see the dynamics of a river, you can predict how the fish will respond, just by correlating their behavior patterns with the changes in water level, clarity, food availability, etc. Often, though, that’s a big leap to take. And it requires trusting in your observations enough to act decisively on them . . .

Holding a Trout — Their Heart in Your Hands

Holding a Trout — Their Heart in Your Hands

Fish pictures are the grand compromise of catch and release. An Instagram feed with a full gallery of trout is replacing the stringer of dead fish for bragging rights. And that’s a good thing. They look better alive anyway.

Would a trout be better off if we didn’t take its picture? Sure it would. Moreover, wouldn’t a trout be better off if we didn’t set a hook in its mouth and drag it through the water? Yup. So I think we have to be a little careful how self-righteous we get. Point is, we all draw the line somewhere, and I firmly believe that a quick picture, taken responsibly (I’ll get to that), won’t hurt a trout.

Most of the fishermen I know who’ve spent a great deal of time with their boots in the water have caught on to catch and release. The bare facts stare you in the face pretty quickly if you start keeping your limit on every trip. You soon realize that a good fisherman can thin out a stretch of water in short order, and a group of good fishermen can probably take down an entire watershed.

So we take pictures instead . . .

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Posted | Club Fish | 2065

Posted | Club Fish | 2065

The small freestone stream where I learned to trout fish in Indiana county, Pennsylvania is posted against trespass. It has been for a couple decades now. So too is the wooded hollow with the broken splash dam where I chased brook trout as a young teenager. In fact,...

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Thirty-Inch Liars

Thirty-Inch Liars

My story, Thirty-Inch Liars, is over at Hatch Magazine today. Here are a few excerpts..... -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- ... I once read through a publication that printed, "Thirty-inch wild trout are common in this stretch of water." Now, I don't care what river in...

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Trophy Hunting: Meet Jercules

Trophy Hunting: Meet Jercules

. . .I’ve gone through a couple phases of trophy hunting, but I’m always careful to return to my roots before the obsession overtakes me. I don’t want to lose my enjoyment for the simple things on the water: the friendships, the forests, the mountains, the mysteries and the way thick, cool moss on limestone feels like a sofa cushion for a mid-stream lunch. Those are the good things that are available every time I put on my waders, even though the big fish usually aren’t.

While going in and out of these phases of trophy hunting for wild browns, I’ve learned that I was looking for big trout in the wrong places. I had to seek out new rivers. And sometimes, I simply had to find new places on my old rivers. Point is, I learned that trophy hunters need a target. It’s not enough to go to the same places and fish the same ways as you always have. You have to learn where the big fish are, go there, and put on your patience pants — because Whiskeys don’t come easily . . .

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What to Trust

What to Trust

The tall man crossed the old railroad bridge above me. He paused at the midpoint, lingered and watched me cast for a moment, then he bellowed downstream to me with a voice full of triumph. “I caught a bunch! They’re taking Zebra Midges just under the surface.” “Not...

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