fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

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reality television makes me seem so smart (or, can you drown a fish?)

Whenever I’m flipping channels, I find myself stopping all too often on one reality television or another and occasionally spend too much time staring in disbelief. Few are engaging enough to warrant a season pass on the Tivo.

To me, reality television seems makes everyone else appear way more broken or stupid than myself or anyone I know, and if watched with the proper amount of cynicism, the absurdity quickly transforms into at least amusement, if not eventually outright hilarity. It’s almost a form of therapy that can make one feel so much better about one’s lot in life. (Full disclosure: Karen and I regularly watch “COPS,” and we figure there’s got to be a drinking game centered on the common suspect retort, “These aren’t my pants.”)



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what to do when someone whispers “gumball”

It’s likely that many of you have never seen “The Gumball Rally.” I have. I’m likely one of the few to see it on the silver screen (as a kid). This weekend, I’ll have my own little Gumball Rally.

I can’t say whether my opinion is biased because I saw “The Gumball Rally” before “The Cannonball Run” (1984) and its sequels. But to this day I think “The Gumball Rally” is the best car-centric movies about an illicit coast-to-coast race than any of the Cannonball films.

Sure, it didn’t have A-list stars (it did help move along the careers of Gary Busey as his nutty self and Raul Julia as Italian loverboy and Le Mans winner Franco Bertollini) and one has to get past the initial shock of its 1970s production quality. But it’s a better film.

Gumball Rally Poster“The Gumball Rally” starts in New York. “The Cannonball Run” starts in…Connecticut? Both end up in Los Angeles.

A comparison of all the cars in each film is a wash. However, the lead characters in “The Gumball Rally” (Michael Sarrazin as Michael Bannon and Nicholas Pryor as Professor Samuel Graves) drive an AC Cobra while the protagonists in “The Cannonball Run” (Burt Reynolds as J.J. McClure and Dom DeLuise as Victor Prinzi) drive a souped-up Dodge Tradesman ambulance. Hal Needham and Brock Yates’ actually drove a Tradesman in the actual 1979 race upon which both movies are based, but I’ll take the painfully quick and sexy Cobra any day. The stunt driving by 1960s Cobra racer John Morton lends realism to “The Gumball Rally” and, overall, the cars in “The Gumball Rally” are more beautiful.

If you want stunts, “Cannonball Run” wins. But the scenes of pure speed in “The Gumball Rally” don’t get in the way of funnymen being funny and vice versa.

I love the one liners peppered throughout “The Gumball Rally.” Erstwhile race organizer Michael Bannon: “Some of you won’t make it, but for those of you that do there will be no glory, no headlines. Just a few magic hours flat-out against the red line with no catalytic converter and no 55-mile-per-hour speed limit.” Then there is Raul Julia’s race car driver character’s commentary, with a somewhat corny but appropriate Italian accent, on the rear view mirror: “What’s behind me is not important.”

A final showdown in the L.A. River puts “The Gumball Rally” over the top. (The actors reportedly drove the cars throughout most of the movie, even in the river.)

This Monday I’ll be leaving Palm Desert with my wife, driving a Lincoln Town Car to the San Francisco Bay Area as a “hired driver.” I’ll be Jose from “The Gumball Rally,” the down-on-his-luck mechanic who hired on drive a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow without telling the owner would be racing cross country, to my wife’s Angie (Jose’s girlfriend).

It’ll be like my own personal Gumball Rally. Except for the high speeds, a paint-peeling sandstorm or trophy.

It’ll only be 500 miles instead of 2,800, but with the right attitude, any road trip can be fun.

( I dedicate this trip to all of my Gumball crew from Perris High School, Class of 1981. It was what I did with you that led to my so-far 27-year career.)


watch not, do (or what do you expect from fly fishing media?)

Maybe it’s just jealousy that [name redacted] earns money (or at least gets a tax write off) fly fishing, but I was bit more than puzzled after running across a new-to-me fly fishing show. The show is nationally distributed, so it must attract enough of an audience, but I just can’t figure it out. Perhaps it’s because it highlights waters in another part of the country, and I’m generally unfamiliar with the fishing opportunities outside the West.

The show is decidedly destination focused, with very little instruction. The host and show do enthusiastically support various charitable organizations and events, which is a great.

After a few episodes, however, I can’t decide if this show is one big advertisement for pay-to-play fisheries or a true reflection of the fly fishing experience in other locales. I’m used to stepping away from civilization for most of my fishing, but half the scenes in this show include a nice-looking cabin or lodge in the background, with parking only a few steps away from the water. Most of the time, this show is like fly fishing porn; easy fishing and big fish, always with plenty of casting room.

But if I can’t be out on the water, and whether tying flies or just vegetating in front of the TV, I expect most fly fishing shows to — directly or indirectly — teach me something beyond where to go.

Perhaps I ask a little too much of fly fishing media?


one thing to do when not fly fishing this winter

Even though there is no fly fishing in Yemen (and even if there were you probably wouldn’t want to go), I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rather unassuming Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) with three Golden Globe nominations for: Best Actor in a Comedy (Ewan McGregor), Best Actress in a Comedy (Emily Blunt) and Best Motion Picture–Musical or Comedy. A pretty big deal for a movie that pulled in less than $9 million in the U.S.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is one of those stories about unreasonably good-looking people surmounting challenges to fulfill a dream thought absurd, and one of the best examples of a “feel good” movie. I enjoyed it despite issues with some of the fly fishing scenes, which is okay. Fly fishing is essentially a plot device (in both the book and movie) to explore love, separation and loss and ultimately, inspiration and faith. It’s refreshing to see a balanced portrayal of an Arab character and his Middle Eastern country, and the likable cast does a great job bringing a not-quite-over-the-edge spark of screwball energy to their characters. (I would suggest that Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt haven’t been duly awarded for their trade craft.) The direction of Lasse Hallström offers beautiful landscapes as a supporting character.

In a nutshell, the attempt to bring fly fishing to the Yemen River is the quixotic* quest through which the characters search for contentment. A bit like fly fishing itself.

So, this winter, instead of justifying your lack of fishing with excuses of brutal cold, iced guides and the simple lack of a rational reason to fly fish in January, sit down with that beer or scotch, and enjoy. You can even tell your significant other that this is a film with fly fishing that they may actually enjoy.

*Yup, I worked “quixotic” into two posts in a row.


surprising ‘emergence’ suggests fly fishermen are a gullible an affluent bunch

The last few weeks have left me not thinking too deep about anything in particular except what the lack of rain and snowfall here will mean for fall conditions on my favorites Sierra streams. The vest finally got its annual washing, and the old granola bar found within tossed. A new list outlines small streams and larger rivers near the cabin but still unvisited out of laziness for lack of time. But there’ll be no piles of new gear this year. Just a few closeout flies, a new license, of course, and a few newly acquired hooks for tying as yet undetermined patterns.

It’s clear that I’ll not be doing much to support the industry, but the proliferation of fly fishing television shows suggests that the sport as a whole has become interesting, at least to cable programmers, even when one dismisses the dangerous fly fishing date on “The Bachelor.”

Fly Fishing TV ShowsMy DVR ‘fly fishing’ wish list has picked up more shows in the last month and half than recorded during all of last year, despite a limited cable line up in which the Outdoor Channel and NBC Sports Network née Versus are the main suppliers of these shows. I’m not so certain how or why some of these shows came into existence and made it to my cable line up, but there must be some belief they are worthy of some sort of cash outlay. (I do miss “Fly Fishing the World” and Trout Unlimited’s “On the Rise,” both on Sportsman Channel, and the hard-to-find “The New Fly Fisher.”)

There are a lot of dollars being thrown at fly fishing video, from homemade DVDs to the once underground and now nearly mainstream Fly Fishing Film Tour. While instructional DVDs may be the bread and butter of this genre, it’s easier to grab the remote than insert a disc — and tell ourselves that we can easy to ignore that the gear manufacturers sponsoring these shows hope to convince us to buy stuff we don’t need.

Our efforts at resistance may be in vain. Research suggests those of us still active in the sport bought more in 2010 after a 10% drop in sales in 2009. It helps to have a captive audience; most of these shows run during the winter months when local waters aren’t available to many of us. It might be sour grapes on my part; I’m suspicious that some shows are well-thought-out tax write offs that just happen to include fly fishing in exotic places.

There’s no immediate way to determine if this explosion of fly fishing shows is good or bad† ; much of the content of these shows is fly fishing porn; beautiful shots of scenery and fish. It speaks to the already interested, generally not something watched with the girlfriend/wife or kids. These shows likely will lure into the sport some novices who will suddenly face the reality that their companions on the water will be unkempt and rather plain looking, not the well-dressed and good looking host‡ casting perfect loops to big fish.

These novices will also quickly learn that good editing always excludes those back casts that snag the tree that’s always behind us.

† Such a discussion will bring up the ever-present debate about the growth of a sport that utilizes finite resources. It’s worth noting that fishing license sales continued a two-year decline in 2011, according to a selected sampling of states by the Recreation Boating & Fishing Foundation.

‡ There are a few hosts who might be considered ‘average Joes’: Greg Heister of “Seasons on The Fly” and the goofy Curtis Fleming of “Fly Rod Chronicles.” Though a celebrity, occasional fly caster Larry Csonka comes across as that friendly guy we’d all enjoy on a fishing trip.