fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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trying to keep it simple (or, call me cheap)

A time comes in every fly fisherman’s career when it becomes clear that he (or she) has too much gear.

An outsider will recognize this long before the fly fisherman, but it seems that at some point, the vast majority of fly fisherman will eventually talk about simplifying. This may mean using a lanyard instead of a vest, carrying a single fly box instead of three, or taking up tenkara, which itself requires the purchase of more gear.

There’s an irony to the oft-told story of the boy who started fishing with cane rod, then grew into the fly fisherman who owns a small-brook rod, a small-river rod, a medium-river rod, a large-river rod, single- and double-handed salmon/steelhead rods, a stillwater rod and maybe a saltwater rod. And a few spare rods just in case. Each rod, of course, needs a matching reel. While there is legitimate need for a range of rods, this same fly fisherman will fondly recall the remarkable enjoyment, and simplicity, of chasing bluegill, bass, trout or some other fish with that cane rod of their childhood.

It’s been posited that a fly fisherman moves through four stages in how he approaches the sport, and the same might be true of gear:

  1. The first stage entails learning to cast with a rod that was passed down as a gift or was simply inexpensive enough to warrant an attempt at fly fishing. The first fish caught on this rod will likely be remembered forever. A fly box — probably a small, free one from the fly shop — and forceps fit into any available pocket. A broken branch serves as a wading staff.
  2. Stage two entails replacement of that first rod and reel with counterparts that are shiny and new, both of which are more of a personal choice, and not a choice necessarily predicated on budget. Then there’s the vest; two, three or five more fly boxes and the flies to fill them; a decent mesh net; a wading staff; and maybe waders and felt-sole wading boots.
  3. It all peaks in the third stage. A preference for a specific brand means new rods, new reels (with back ups for both) and new lines for every type of water fished or species chased. The vest may be replaced with a chest or sling pack. A rubber net is a must have, as is a lightweight, high-strength composite alloy collapsible wading staff. New rubber-soled wading boots include carbide cleats. A multitude of flies are purchased or tied, and if tied, enough materials to last three lifetimes must be bought.
  4. The stage of simplification. It’s not so much about catching fish anymore, it’s the act — the gear is secondary. Maybe an attempt to recapture the pure joy of that first fly rod-caught fish, or perhaps avoiding hauling so much stuff around the river. Perhaps the rod is one built at home…not perfect but nice looking enough, and mated to a reel chosen for no other reason than it’s a favorite. The single fly box may not be filled, but it has every fly that’ll be needed.

If the level of a fly fisherman is measured by his gear, I’m still an amateur. Coming into the hobby later in life hasn’t afforded me the years that many spend accumulating equipment.

I did, however, purchase a new net at the club auction this week, for many reasons. Sure, it’s lighter than my current net and more “appropriately sized” for the trout I land. Crafted by a club member who’s also a skilled woodworker (so, made in America), it’s one of a limited set with the club logo (in enamel and metal) worked into the handle, and my winning bid will go into the pool of money the club donates to many conservation organizations.

Fly fishing is not stuff, it’s what you do. (And it really shouldn’t matter what you use to do it.)

Net Detail

Close up of the enamel badge...


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what we see this Wednesday… (2011-05-25)

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psuedo guest post: minimalist tenkara

I received this from a friend, Ted Shapas, who’s the conservation chairperson with the Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen. While the video isn’t all that new, I think Ted’s humorous take on it is.

We’ve all heard of Tenkara fly fishing, in which the reel and most of the line are eliminated. I submit to you a new minimalist fishing method that goes beyond Tenkara – no rod, reel, or line required, just an open boat!

The not so funny part is that these airborne fish are invasive silver carp (escapees from Arkansas fish farms) that have infested many Midwestern rivers, and will likely turn up in California before long.

In an effort to make lemonade from lemons, commercial fishermen in IL and elsewhere are now keying in on these fish for export to Chinese communities in the US and overseas. Silver carp are apparently a delicacy in southeast China, and the Midwest fish, because they are wild, are highly regarded.”


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what we see… (03/16/2011)

  • Write up over at Eat More Brook Trout about a ‘small gesture’ tied to fly fishing that will go towards relief efforts in Japan: http://bit.ly/hM9S7t
  • Wine, fly fishing flicks, demos and gear not too far away from me at the Grand opening of the Leland fly fishing ranch. Best of all, it’s free (except for the films): http://bit.ly/SaiKi
  • Take a gander at Eastern Sierra guide Tom Loe’s winter ride…it’ll get you to the Upper Owens River in style, with lunch and cold drinks:
Sierra Drifters War Wagon

The "War Wagon"