At the top of the world

A trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Photo: Pat Clayton
I don’t know what trade I would have followed if I’d been born a couple hundred years ago. Maybe a tanner, like one of my ancestors. Maybe a farmer. Maybe even a writer, though I suspect not. But barring some unimaginable change in my personality, I’m pretty sure I would have been a fisherman and a hunter.

One fly or two?

Does fishing multiple flies hurt more than it helps?
Fly fishing the Madison River in Montana (photo: John Juracek).
A couple years back, on the last winter day the Madison River was open to fishing, I ran into an old friend fresh off fishing a midge emergence at Three Dollar Bridge. As any fisherman would, I asked about his success. He admitted to struggling, managing to catch only a couple trout despite an abundance of midges and rising fish. This was out of character for him, so I pressed for more details. He retrieved his flies from his car, showing me those he had used and asking what I thought. All his patterns were viable imitations; any of them should have sufficed.

When 99 percent of 157,599 is not enough

A big victory for dog food manufacturers, a demoralizing defeat for anglers and conservationists
Fly fishing for striped bass in the surf along Cape Cod (photo: Chad Shmukler).
Last week was a big one for fisheries up and down the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. In Baltimore, Maryland, the board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) gathered to vote on an issue of paramount importance to recreational and commercial fishermen from Maine to Florida. And anglers were paying attention. In fact, in the months leading up to last week's vote, almost 160,000 individuals had submitted comments to the ASMFC voicing their opinion on what decision their state managers should make.

The Snob

Chapter 3: Derelict
Photo: Farb Ian / cc2.0
“What are you in for?”

Now, I had a real Alice’s Restaurant moment here. Except I didn’t get arrested for littering; I got arrested for picking up litter. I was an unlitterer. You cannot possibly get more pansy than that. I almost laughed. But, as it often happens, while my brain was working on the perfect thing to say, my mouth was already running. I heard myself saying “Being free.”

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell sheer dumb luck from genius. He looked at me. Everybody looked at me. You could’ve heard those cops fart in the interrogation room over at the police station, it was so quiet. He reached out a hand and put it on my shoulder and all I was thinking was, if I ever get out of this, I will never bemoan not being a pretty man again. He smiled down at me and with his other hand pointed to the lunch line. “Get yer grub, come sit with us.” It was then that I could see the Live Free or Die tattoo on his bicep. I did what he said and sat with my new friend, Earl, and listened to some pretty good stories at lunch. Like, when they arrested him, they took his Harley. Some dude outbid his club member for it at auction. “Shit man, that sucks, I’m sorry.”

The Snob

Chapter 2: Jetsam
Photo: Debris Field / cc2.0
When we got there, it was a beautiful little pond. Maybe 50 yards by 30 yards, but manicured right down to the last cattail and water lily. We walked up and stared at it for a moment, nobody saying anything, until suddenly there was a big splash. My rod was already rigged with a big popper, and I marked the splash by sound and looking at the ripples in the moonlight.

“Okay guys, this is a little different than the river. So what I’ll do is this, I’ll cast it out there, and then I’ll hand the rod to one of you, and then you strip it in, and we’ll keep doing that until you get a fish, and then we trade. If anybody comes, you drop the rod and run. We’ll meet back at the car. Good?” Nods all around. “Okay, who’s first?”

There wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation, Paulie and Darryl pushed Louie forward. I made a nice long cast out into the pond to a few oohs and ahhs and realized they had never actually seen a cast before. The fly landed with a satisfying “plop!” (something nobody said ever about a trout fly) and I handed the rod over, showing him how to strip without actually doing it, lest I hook a fish by mistake. “Go like this,” I said, “and if you hear a splash, lift the tip of the rod up? Got it?” In the dark I could see his big eyes and serious face as he nodded.