Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The top ten reasons stripping baskets are sexy..

    Personally I feel that the stripping basket is fly fishings hottest accessory. Both functional and attractive no fashion concious fly rodder should be without one.

1.       They keep your line from tangling like Fabio’s hair in front of a wind machine.

2.       Anybody that will wear what amounts to a dishpan around their waist is obviously comfortable in their appearance…..and their sexuality.

3.       I almost always meet hot chicks while wearing one. Okay maybe not meet, more like gawk as they go walking by on the beach. (note: Police Officers are not there as match makers)

4.       You can always say that you’re pushing out your stomach to help keep the basket in place.

5.       They make your butt look smaller. That’s probably not true but I’m leaving it in anyway.

6.       They give you a great spot to place your hands for that “I’m cool but disinterested” pose.

7.       Stickers, you can pimp out a stripping basket in such a way that even an East L.A. low-rider would blush.

8.       Distance, everyone knows that longer is better.

9.       Their muted colors go with everything!

10.   It’s a much hotter accessory than the Murse.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sometimes you get the bear....

  Fish are funny creatures in general and when you put them in shallow water it gets even worse. Corbina are that way, they make fools of the best fly fishers with an almost graceful ease. Think that cast was spot on? They’ll just move a foot to the left in the time it takes for your fly to unroll out of its loop.  When you think that fish is coming for your fly and you’re trembling with anticipation they just swim calmly over top of it, barely lifting their sand crab stuffed belly far enough from the bottom to clear the hook point. The fact that you can see all of this happening is both a blessing and a curse. I think that any type of sight fishing is.  So, while sight fishing is the most exciting way to catch them it’s not the only way.

  I’ve been spending some time fishing in an area that has produced several world record corbina but not for corbina. Instead I’ve been on a mission to get a big halibut on the fly and this spot is known for that as well.  As summer progresses and the water warms the halibut have a tendency to head into deeper, cooler water with a little less penetration of light into their realm. Corbina to an extent will do the opposite. They enjoy the warming waters and the lack of a marine layer doesn’t seem to hurt their eyes as much as other species. It could just be that with the increased visibility from my perch on the beach that I just tend to notice them more.
The question that haunts us.. Which one to use?

I saved a bunch of money by switching to Geico
   I’d been making my way down the beach taking pictures and casting, my total take for the morning one slight little needlefish with an impossibly large appetite considering the size of the flies I was using.  I’m easily distracted so when I saw the remains of what must have been a sand castle competition I stopped and started taking pictures of that. My fishing partner however, was much more focused than me.  She continued on down the beach and after I’d entertained myself looking at the amazing creations that had been left on the beach (I can barely get a bucket of moist sand to stand correctly) I figured I’d better catch up.

 Fishing our way down the beach she spotted the fish first. The size of it was impressive, most are around eighteen inches and this one added a half a foot at least to that. Being the chivalrous male that I am and not wanting to end up with a 7 wt being broken over my head, I offered to let her cast in the area that she’d spotted the fish.  A few casts later and I hear a whooping noise followed by “You’ll want to get a picture of this one!”  I shuffled my way back over to where she was backing out of the water trying to get the line clear of her legs and the stripping basket.  A few moments later I managed to help get the line untangled from around her legs where the surf had tangled it. I’m positive that there was more than one onlooker laughing quietly, okay loudly at the sight of me with my camera slung around my neck and her alternating which foot she was standing on so that I could get the line clear. Finally the line was cleanly on the reel and it seemed the battle was won.  I was starting to forget my own disappointment at not getting a cast or two towards the fish before she ran me off like a grizzly protecting its salmon dinner, in fact I was actually getting excited at the thought of getting a few shots of it with the camera.

The only shot I actually got.
 This was not meant to be though. I was standing in the surf waiting to get a nice broadside shot of the fish in the water and planning the series of shots that I wanted once it was on the sand.  A loud, rather unladylike word came out of her mouth and I turned to see the rod pointed straight up into the air. If you’re not familiar with fishing that’s not a position that you want to see the rod in when a fish is supposed to be on the other end. Something had given and it wasn’t the fish, one last attempt had earned its early release. The anger level radiating outwards from a roughly five foot six inch epicenter convinced me to stay well out of range, a distance I estimated at about twenty feet. The distance I figured she could throw the rod with any sort of accuracy.

  Eventually she cooled down enough to make the walk back to the vehicles. Being who I am as soon as I thought I could get away with it I commented on her use of an open ended loop knot. A knot which I reminded her was very difficult to master.  Unfortunately though I had miscalculated both the amount of time needed for her to cool off and the speed with which the toe of her wading boot could connect with the back part of my thigh.  These things happen…

Saturday, August 11, 2012

You've got to have soul

   I remember reading somewhere in a Stephen King book the character stating “you’ve got to have soul”. I don’t remember the name of the book or character off the top of my head but I’ll never forget that line.
   Fly fishing is the same way, at least for me it is. I was told recently that people wanted to see noyhing but how-to articles and blog posts. If that’s true then how do you explain the success of mags like The Drake and Fly Fish Journal? I like the occasional how-to but it seems as if we’re bombarded with them on a daily basis. How to tie a knot!  How to Catch a Trout! How to find that secret spot that no one else knows about except they all do now, because we just blew it up for you!  Fuck THAT!
 I’ve been struggling with my own fishing lately and now I know why. I let that “soul” go, let myself get too mechanical.  I got worried that someone was going to see me make a bad cast or trout set on some beastie.  I thought if I mechanically fished my way through that run or the trough along the beach that I wouldn’t miss any fish. I forgot that although the fish are what gets me there it’s the soul that I stay for. I’d watch Pelicans diving on bait thinking what a cool picture it would make if I caught that moment when they break through the meniscus. That one exact time when the water opens up and says “you’ve earned it”. What was I doing instead?  Mechanically working my way down the beach trying not to miss a section of bottom, cutting it apart like a grid. Cast, step, retrieve, step, repeat. Not in the fun way that Steelheaders seem so adept at but more like a bunch of robots at some car factory in Detroit. Buzzzz, whirrr, twist and snip.
 Well, fuck that. It’s not why I fish. I’m as competitive as the next guy, maybe even more so if you ask my friends but it’s not my only reason for fishing.  I fish because as a kid I could walk down the railroad tracks to old Mrs. Sills Bass pond and see Deer or Egrets or Ospreys and even catch some fish if conditions were right. I could sneak into the run down barn where they used to have their dairy and check out the old unfinished restoration of the Model T.  When the sunlight would hit that car and shine off the metal shavings that were on the floor it was magic. I’d sit in the dust and wonder how much time her husband had put into that car and if she left it there after he’d passed away hoping he’d come back to finish it.
I fish because there’s always something new to see and learn. What makes a Striped Bass go from the Chesapeake all the way north, sometimes as far as Maine and back again? How come the sunrise always seems that much more spectacular when you have a fly rod in your hands? I’ve never seen a marsh dawn over the bayou and I want to more than anything. I have seen the sun rise over Long Island Sound and seeing the swirls of Stripers and bluefish as they chase down sand eels in that eerie gray light of dawn though. That’s the kind of thing that gives it soul.

You’ve got to have soul, man

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Some things don't need to be touched


  “Left to right, 30 feet out.”  That’s usually when it starts for me.  My heart starts beating so loudly I swear the fish can hear it.  The blood rushes to my face and swallowing gets hard. It doesn’t matter though; my mouth went dry when I spotted the bugger so there’s nothing to swallow anyway. I try to concentrate on my breathing and making sure that the coils of line in my hands aren’t tangled since the last time I looked at them a half second ago.

  You can’t rush these things, that’s what I’ve been told. Somehow it’s hard to think about that when you have twenty plus pounds of beautiful golden Carp grubbing along the bottom just a short cast away from you.  This isn’t my first time and I’ve managed to get lucky and land a few big ones but the feeling never changes. That’s what keeps me coming back; it’s an intangible feeling a strange mixture of adrenaline and fear.

  I’m still keeping track of her as she moves along, Waiting for that moment when I can make a cast that won’t send her fleeing from the shallows for the safety of deeper water.  It’s already happened a couple times this morning so I’m aware of the game. The first time a pair of Mallards decided to land nearly on top of the fish I was stalking, leaving nothing but a cloud of mud where a happily tailing fish had been. The second time, well that was my fault. I had been so focused on my fish that I failed to notice the smaller male come along looking for love. When I made my cast he spooked at the movement or glare of the rod and took the bigger fish with him.

 My eyes scan the water quickly to make sure I don’t make that mistake again. No one else is around and I make a false cast to judge trajectory and distance, a second and I shoot some line on the forward cast plopping the fly two feet ahead and just to the right of her. She pauses for a moment and I think I’ve messed it up for sure. “Too damn close” I grumble to myself angrily. There isn’t enough time to beat myself up any more as she darts forward and slurps the fly. I can’t even set the hook before she does it herself bolting at the foreign object in her mouth.

  The little bit of extra line shoots through my fingers and then the guides putting her on the reel almost instantaneously.  “I wouldn’t touch that fish, the water here is really dirty”. I’m startled by the strangers voice behind me, I hadn’t even noticed them.  As I watch the backing melt off my reel I can’t help  but think that it doesn’t matter if I land her or not, I’ve already managed the most enjoyable part for me anyway. It’s the feeling of the cast , beating the shakes and the lump in my throat that really matter.

      For me it’s the things that you can’t touch that make fly fishing an addiction.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Striper Bum in Trout country

    I grew up on the East Coast, Long Island to be exact. Although I started fly fishing when I was twelve, I never caught a Trout on a fly until I was almost seventeen. It wasn’t for lack of locales, more so it was a lack of desire. I started with Bass and Bluegill and quickly graduated to Bluefish and Stripers. Trout were more of an afterthought in my fishing ventures and in many ways still are. When I would chase Trout in my teenage years it was because they were the first species that the season opened for. I would ride the bus or hitchhike to whatever lake seemed to offer the most promise (read: most heavily stocked). With a spinning outfit a few Mepps Roostertails and maybe some bait I was set for the day.

    Fast forward several years and go clear across the country.  I got a job offer that brought me to California in January. I’d never been and well, it was freaking January in New York. Work kept me pretty busy the first couple of weeks and then suddenly I realized I was in the middle of the desert. I’d seen the beach out here but mention of fishing; much less fly fishing just brought confused looks from the locals. I may have even been asked if that was a new type of surfing or I could just be remembering poorly, it wouldn’t be the first time.

    Los Angeles quickly lost my interest and I soon found myself in the high Sierras packing mules and smack dab in some of the prettiest Trout country you ever saw.  It was hard to pass much of the water I was riding by, so naturally, I didn’t.  With an eight and a half foot five weight stuck in one of the panniers I made some, umm, extended stops. Purely to let the stock rest of course. Catching smallish wild fish on dries has a way of becoming addicting to nearly anyone and I still find myself laughing to the trees when a wild Brown misses the fly and leaps several times it’s body length out of the water.

 Although work, family and more have brought me back to L.A. I still find my way to the high country to fish for Trout on occasion. I don’t think that they will ever take the place of my beloved Stripers, they do make for a nice diversion here and there; mostly when the lakes seem completely devoid of any fish with stripes. So what if I may make a stop on the way home to sight fish to some Carp (my second favorite type of fishing). When I’m there I’m perfectly happy giving myself over to watching my fly bounce along the surface until it disappears with a flash of either buttery yellow or silver and rose.

                                           Till next time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

                            Cuda Time! Sort of

 The last couple of weeks have promised big Barracuda at almost every turn. For reference Pacific Barracuda do not get nearly as big as their Atlantic brethren, a big one here is anything over 8 or 9 pounds. The sport boats have been tearing it up, so naturally I've been unable to find myself a ride to the Barracuda grounds. That finally changed yesterday.

 We knew that the big body of fish had pushed up the coast from us so we were hoping to find a few stragglers or some fish from the second push, although they tend to be smaller they stick around a lot longer.  A 2:30 AM wake up is not on my list of fond things but when you hear it's an early bite you do what you've gotta do.  I made the drive to my buddies house and we loaded the boat and headed to the LBC.

 Rigged and ready we finally made the Horseshoe kelp around 6ish and started looking around. A big spot on the meter turned up a lone Calico Bass before we drifted off the spot. More running around and a couple of hours later I spotted promising looking bird activity. I grabbed the 8wt stripped off some line and made a cast. A long thirty second count later and I started my retrieve. My head is always on a swivel while I'm chasing fish that can pop up at a moments  notice and I was looking away when I felt the grab. I set the hook and a few runs later saw the color of the fish beneath the boat. There's no mistaking the look of a Cuda when it's in the water; Long and sexy with that bright yellow tail that always seems to be enhanced by the blues of the ocean.

  Sure enough as Rob is getting ready with the Boga, one last head shake and it's gone. I picked up the last of my line expecting to see a clean slice through the 50lb fluoro I was using as a shock tippet. No such luck..my fly was still there I just hadn't set the hook hard enough. Damn. I looked over and said "I sure hope I didn't screw up my only fish of the day." I don't have to tell you that of course I had. We spent another couple of hours searching but no more schools materialized. Rob decided to bang the wall with clousers and I decide to just catch a nap on the deck.

 That's Fishing



Friday, May 4, 2012

Have Carp gotten Trendy?

    I recently got involved in a conversation with someone who's married to a fly fisherman. Naturally the subject of Carping with a fly rod came up. I stated that it was nice to see more of the Carp subculture showing up in ads. She then told me that she didn't think that classifying Carp fishing as a "subculture" was accurate. As an example she used her husband whom she described as your typical bamboo-dry-fly-only-trout-snob. Within the last year or so he had taken up fly fishing for Carp, so obviously it must be going mainstream.  I'm not sure that I agree with that logic though. It could just be that I like feeling that I'm once again part of a subculture again. It reminds me of listening to Nirvana in my bedroom wondering why nobody understands me.

 In reality though I still have many customers come in to the store wondering what that funny looking fish is. I've had customers come in and say "geez I need to get you guys some pictures, you've got a Carp on the board for Chrissakes!"   I know, I know, it's hard to find a fly shop that doesn't have a picture of some sun-bleached dude in a visor and shorts holding a Carp bugle first into the camera lens. Blogs hailing the virtues of Carp abound.  Every company now carries a Carp fly selection and most shop rats are wandering brown canals for Carp on their days off. I still don't think it's mainstream. When we see ads with a guy in tweed standing waist deep in some brown frog water maybe I'll believe it. I still think we're a ways off from having some metrosexual admiring the spawning colors of a Carp along the banks of the L.A. River while pondering how it relates to the meaning of life. I'm glad for that!

 Until then I may have to find a fish that's slightly less trendy though....Gar anyone?