Articles in the Category History

The Impossible Shot

I must have been in my late teens, because I was wearing hip boots and casting a fly rod. It was a short transitional time when I fished small streams on the fly and still thought I had no need for chest waders.

It’s remarkable how the details of a fishing trip stick in the angler’s brain. We recall the slightest details about flies, locations and tippet size. We know that our big brown trout was really sixteen inches but we rounded it up to eighteen. The sun angles, the wind, the hatching bugs and the friends who share the water — all of it soaks into our storage and stays there for a lifetime. Fishing memories are sticky. And for this one, I certainly remember the fly . . .

Will An Expensive Fly Rod Catch You More Trout?

A great fly rod responds to the angler. The slightest motions and refinements in the cast are transmitted to the rod, and it flexes — it responds in kind. The angler’s thoughts and instincts flow through a great rod, so our accuracy and adjustments become effortless.

We can be in tune with a great rod and perfectly connect with its performance. With some time spent fishing a great fly rod, it becomes an extension of our will. The fly hits the target because we want it to. The leader lands with s-curves in the tippet because that’s what we decided. And the rod makes it happen.

A go-to fly rod is like an old dog or a good friend. We know them, and our connection is natural.

Who Knows Better Than You?

Anglers cling to the stories and accounts others. We believe in the experts. We want masters of this craft to exist and to tell us the answers.

Sure, you might have a group of wild trout dialed in for the better part of a season. Maybe it’s a midge hatch every summer morning, or a streamer bite on fall evenings, for one hour on either side of dusk.

But it will end. That’s what’s so special about chasing trout. Like the wings of a mayfly spinner, predictability is a fading ghost . . .

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 . . .

Right Here

Right Here

I guess I’ve been searching for something.

For months now, I’ve spent my limited opportunities on the water fishing progressively more remote locations. Turning down offers to float and cast over abundant wild brown trout on our major rivers, I thought I was looking for solitude. What I’ve found is a companion so powerful it cannot be passed off as simple memory. It’s my own history, and I’ve felt it so presently that it seems at times my flat shadow may take form and rise from the leafy ground to start a conversation.

I’ve returned to the waters where I’ve been, to revisit not the fish, but the places in time. These memories are eminently tangible out there, without the clutter of accumulated things in my home, the garage or the grocery store to get in the way. A trout stream, miles removed from hard roads, and sunken into a valley beyond the distance of average effort, offers a peaceful reward and a natural, blank slate for anyone willing to seek it. And when thirty years have passed between visits, the reflections I’ve found in these old, familiar waters are astonishing.

Jeff’s Chicken

Jeff’s Chicken

In his mid-twenties, my friend Jeff walked away from his job to be a trout bum for a few months. It was a bold move, but a strategic one. Jeff had enough funds saved up to float him from late spring all the way into the fall, and he simply wanted to hang out, drink beer and catch trout for a while.

Some people hike the Appalachian trail. Others take a year after school to travel across Canada or maybe backpack through Europe, if you have that kind of money. Jeff just wanted to fish the hell out of Central Pennsylvania and be a trout bum for once. So that’s what we did.

At the time, my own lifestyle was pretty flexible. I’d already spent five or six years exploring Central and North-Central Pennsylvania during the day and playing music in clubs and bars at night. Gas was cheap then, and it was nothing for me to wake at dawn and travel north for a hundred miles.

The Fisherman is Eternally Hopeful

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 . . .

Eggs for Breakfast, Eggs for Lunch, Eggs for Dinner

Eggs for Breakfast, Eggs for Lunch, Eggs for Dinner

The old man and I spent a few more silent minutes together. We watched the growing cloud of energetic midges again, and he pointed out a few rises on the surface that I never saw. But I believed him. Somehow I knew he could see things that I hadn’t — that he understood things that I didn’t.

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 . . .

Hatch Matcher

Hatch Matcher

It was the summer before college — before the real world started, they said. Although, college life never proved to be anything like the rest of the world. I was working for a printing company, spending three hot months in a delivery truck, shuttling press orders to the docks and doorsteps of western Pennsylvania corporations.

As I drove repetitive miles across the Keystone state, I was most attentive in the valleys. From my tall perch behind the worn-out steering wheel, I peered over each bridge crossing, wondering and dreaming about trout. I knew of Western Pennsylvania’s struggles to harbor wild trout. I knew about its troubled past with acid mine drainage, but I’d seen marked improvement in water quality over my young life. And I’d explored enough to expect surprises — trout can be anywhere . . .

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Where the Lines Are Drawn

Where the Lines Are Drawn

I’m fascinated by the arbitrary lines people create for themselves. Nowhere in life do I see the tendency to define and delineate so strongly as it’s seen in fishermen. Anglers constantly draw lines about how they fish, about what kind of fisherman they are, and more emphatically, what kind of fisherman they are not . . .

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I’ve lived, and I’ve left some good things here . . . that is enough

I’ve lived, and I’ve left some good things here . . . that is enough

Will climbed up the mountain path and out of the canyon. He walked through the back door and into the old sunroom to sit at his grandfather’s wooden desk. He paused in thought and then put pencil to paper.

When he’d finished, he looked up through the sunroom glass toward the fading orange October daylight. Will walked to the porch and felt the cool stone under his feet as he scanned the landscape of his life.

The rooster crowed before dawn . . .

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The Ladder and the Sky

The Ladder and the Sky

The sky seemed as though it may fall to the ground with the weight of so many stars. With no city lights on the horizon, no clouds, and no trees or mountains blocking the beauty, I saw the big sky undressed for the first time in my life.

. . . I sat on the roof for a while, then laid back, lying flat with my arms stretched out to the sides, using my body as an extra receiver to take in what my insufficient eyes might miss . . .

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The Kid

The Kid

My story, The Kid, is over at Hatch Magazine today.  Here are a couple excerpts... -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- ... The kid was ten years old and small for his age, but his legs were strong and he waded without fear. He fished hard. We shared a passion and a singular...

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The Boat

The Boat

It was constructed by four muscular hands over two days and with one purpose — to float. Built to the specs of intricate line drawings printed on rough paper, the boat came to match the blueprints ordered from an ad in the back of a Popular Science magazine.

The builders used it for two seasons, and then it sat. The boat collected rain and bred microscopic life, providing food for mosquitoes and midge larva which hatched in their own time and fed the swallows nesting in the rafters of a nearby farmhouse turned post-war residence.

Year after year the boat sat, unused, lonely and forgotten.

Then it was sold — bartered actually — for enough groceries to fill one large brown bag. The hands of a builder passed ownership to the hands of a fisherman, having his own purposes for a boat . . .

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