The fish in the sea

A catch is always in some sense an ending, but a loss can mark the beginning of something
Photo: Martin Christensson

She didn’t break my heart. She may have blindsided me a little, but it’s not as if she took my legs out and left me writhing in agony. We didn’t have enough history for that; there had been nothing promised. She simply vanished from my life—a life in which her appearance was at best a memorable cameo.
Not that I was blessed with the kind of telescopic perspective that enabled me to see that at the age of 17, when every word, glance, and gesture from a girl you’re interested in is freighted with earth-shattering significance.

Eat or be eaten

The cold fire in a predator’s eye is always unnerving
Photo: Thibaud Furst / cc2.0

Gut-hooked bass are nearly always dead bass, but this one was just barely gut hooked. Thankfully, I’d pressed the barb down on the #2 Wooly Bugger—actually, a fly of my own creation that I’d christened the Beasty Bugger thanks to its trademark, outlandishly big hackles—and it looked like I could slip its point out of that tender lining easily. It was a decent bass, but with my hand in its mouth I couldn’t see what I was doing. It was all by feel. And after feeling the hook what I felt next was that bass trying to suck me into its gut—trying to to eat me—index finger first.

Catch and release concerns for winter fishing

It's not just extremes in heat that can be fatal to fish
Photo: Justin Hamblin

Several winters ago, about the time I settled into wild trout country, I fell in love with winter fishing—the conditions, the solace, and the fish. For when the air turns cold, all but the hardiest abandon the water. The lucky angler may even find themselves solitary among mountains blanketed in white—the air aroar with the static of snowflakes crashing into Earth—and with an honest chance at a truly large trout that are relatively unpressured and intent on consuming the largest number of calories for the fewest expended.

Dead man

There's something just a bit unnerving about having a dead man talking to you
Photo: D. Schwen / cc4.0

There's something just a bit unnerving about having a dead man talking to you, staring at you, looking you right in the eye and saying his piece. I wasn't comfortable with the idea. Not at all. Still, I didn't have much of a choice. When the dead man is a friend of yours, you have to listen - out of compassion, out of respect, out of a deep sense of responsibility. You have to stand there and soak in the words and bear the burden of your dead friend's trust. And then you have to decide just how far you're willing to go for your friend. Your dead friend.

The road less traveled

Don't follow the herd
Photo: Brodie Buchanan

Twenty years ago, when I was still floating anglers down the Henry’s Fork and making my living on the oars, I followed a long parade of drift boats down the river and wondered at the sheer number of my fellow guides who rowed the same lines and had their clients cast to the exact same runs and holes. While that approach can work for the first couple boats, trailing the herd rarely guarantees the best possible results in the long term.