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Respect the spots, man! | A fisherman’s thoughts on friendship and spot burning

on
January 18, 2019
There are two ways to tell the experience of an angler: how he holds a fish and how he keeps his secrets. The latter is probably more important.

My secrets aren't your secrets. The places and dreams that I find sacred and worthy of protection are likely much different than your own. Among good friends, though, the respect for another's treasure is given. It’s hard to find a good fishing partner who yields to this tenet — to find a friend who will protect your secrets like his own — because secrets are a burden to carry, and most choose to shed that weight and give up a prize that isn’t theirs.

So we come to accept that holding secrets is a lonely affair, and that’s okay for me and the other introverts — of which I think the majority of the fishermen’s gene pool is comprised. It’s the damned extroverts that you have to be wary of. It’s the gregarious guy whose off-hand remarks about a river can sink the best of spots.

As most of us quickly realize, good fishing friends are hard to come by . . .

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I want to, but I don’t want to

on
January 11, 2019
My favorite eight-year-old looked at me exasperated, with his signature furrowed brow and troubled eyes. He animated the short speech with both hands and turned up the volume on his words. “Well Dad, I want to, but I don’t want to.”  Ahhh yes. That’s my son, because I’ve felt like that my whole life.

His tortured answer was a reply to my easy question: “Should we fish today?” But life decisions are hard for a boy so full of ideas and new plans for each day. I know it. I feel it. I remember it.

At that age, I hadn’t yet learned about the bargains we make with time — that we may do this thing now and the other thing later, accepting that upon fruition the second thing may be only half as grand as we'd hoped, if only because it wasn’t done first. These decisions are desperate when you’re eight years old.

He’s stuck right in the middle of two eras — old enough that the adults aren’t regulating every facet of his life, and yet not quite adept at wielding the freedom of choice. It’s overwhelming sometimes. I see it. I get it. I remember it . . .

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We watched daylight race the river downstream . . .

on
December 28, 2018
We added to the memories of a year gone by. A gray winter day with little sun and a lot of wind provided the last page in a final chapter — the last casts of 2016. And we watched daylight race the river downstream.

The best thing about a float is seeing miles of water as if in one frame. It’s like a filmstrip that you can take out and hold in your mind for a while. If you’ve done this long enough, then every rock around every bend carries a memory. The best island channels hold a group of those stories and offer them up as you float by. It’s a photo album: the river is a flowing film of your best and worst times on the water — moment by moment passing by. And if you’re lucky, you might create a new highlight for the reel . . .

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Super-Prime Lies and Big Trout | The Spots within the Spots

on
December 21, 2018
We talk a lot about big wild brown trout. The search for these extraordinary fish is what keeps us going. It’s part of the Troutbitten culture. And the inch marks of Whiskey (20+) and Namer (24+) are ingrained here. To some of us big fish are everything, but to all of us they are something very special for sure. And targeting super-prime lies is one way to catch these big trout consistently.

I recently wrote about locating and fishing rivers where big trout live. But that’s not nearly enough. To catch the big trout in your rivers, you have to know their specific address and go right through the front door. In every river there are places that harbor larger fish. But the real secrets are inside those places. This is where the true talent and skill of a big-fish angler emerges . . .

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Fishing Alone

on
December 14, 2018
I swear I fish best when I’m alone. I can’t prove it without a witness, of course, but I guess I don’t care to verify it anyway . . . and that’s the point.

In what seems like another lifetime ago, I fished the mountain streams alone and often, and I miss it now. In daydreams, I sift through memories of small water, the infinite brown-green variations of spruce and ferns, moss and bedrock. I see the variance of shadows oscillating in the wind among tree branches and impeding the passage of sunlight, from the deepest blacks to the hazy flickering shade marbling a maple leaf canvas on the forest floor, with its fresh but dying colors of fall. I miss the brookie streams.

Fishing mountain water is how I first defined my fishing self, and I long for that adventure and discovery again. I guess I stopped fishing the mountain water once my life became more about other people and less about me: marriage, a real job, kids. I had more time before all that, more days for dedicating to the miles and efforts it takes to reach lonesome places, to fish a while and then just walk back out . . .

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What happened to Laurel Run? The story of a stocked trout stream and a fisherman

on
December 7, 2018
. . . Laurel Run was heavily stocked with trout in those days. The arrival of the big white trucks was an event in itself, and each year we volunteered to float-stock the forested section between road crossings. If it wasn’t float-stocked, all the hatchery plants sent by the state to Laurel Run ended up at the bridges, making an artificial situation seem even more counterfeit.

I didn’t think of it as fake or artificial back then. It was just trout fishing. It was part of my Pennsylvania surroundings, and a place where the water remained cool enough for trout all summer long. But the raised PH level from acid mine drainage made the cool water insignificant for the reproduction of wild trout.

So we float-stocked it, and through the middle of May, the fishing was always good. A couple weekends into trout season, most fishermen accepted the deadbeat line that Laurel Run was “fished out.” But that’s just when the fishing got interesting . . .

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You’re in too Far Now

on
November 16, 2018
That large tail waved goodbye, and a sturdy wild brown trout slid back into the flow. It was a good fish for this river, and I texted a couple pictures to Burke — just to remind him that I was fishing and he wasn’t. This is what we do to each other.

I must've been a little too gleeful and gloating — chuckled with a little too much gusto when I hit send, maybe — because on the next cast, instant karma sent my leader and flies into the sycamores. And so began the twenty minutes of foolishness that followed . . .

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Fly Fishing with Streamers on the Mono Rig — More Control and more Contact

on
November 4, 2018
So why would we use a Mono Rig over fly line? What's the advantage?

Just like a tight line nymph rig, we gain more control over the presentation of the flies, and we have better contact throughout the cast and the drift. With fly line in the game, we cast and manage the fly line itself. With the Mono Rig, we cast and manage the streamers more directly.

With the Mono Rig, we can stay tight to the streamer after the cast, we can dead drift it with precision for the first five feet, keeping all the leader off the water. Then we might activate the streamer with some jigs and pops for the next ten feet of the drift. And for the last twenty feet, as the streamer finishes out below and across from us, we may employ long strips. All these options are open.

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