Steve Zakur's blog

I'm (almost) done

Sometimes enough is enough
Photo: Justin Hamblin

Gravel roads don’t have the adventurous chops of a two-track. Still, turning off of pavement stirs that part of the brain which knows wilderness. When the road disappears into a river-scoured canyon, even the weariest traveler can sit up and take notice. I was weary. I was also watching.

Four days of Big Sky and big waters had left me depleted. But there was something more. Deep in my gut, a microscopic organism was preparing to attack me. In the morning it would give me misery but for now it just made me feel sour and sleepy. Also, I was fished out.

Evening meetings

Government governs whether we show up or not
Photo: Anythony Vinciguerra

My fly tying desk is a mess. I recently painted my home office and that required a reshuffling of furniture and all the oddball things that one acquires in a well-lived life. There’s a desk in the corner where my fly tying stuff lives and even when it’s well organized it can never be described as orderly. In past winters, I’ve been able to slide over there after dinner and tie the handful of patterns that I’ve come to rely upon. I’ve been meaning to get that desk back in the game, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve got lots of excuses, but one reason is evening meetings.

Wait, do I have to share too?

When private-ish water goes public
Photo: Steve Zakur

There's this small brook, a couple of towns over, that I fish from time to time. It's little known except to a small cadre of small stream anglers. The fishing cannot be described as good, but that's not what turns on people who crawl along thin blue lines. Wild fish. Tricky casting. Ample opportunity to lay out f-bombs when you tangle in a pile of twigs for the third time in consecutive casts. That’s a full day for a small stream angler. Sometimes I go down to this brook with the sole intent of smoking a cigar and sipping single malt. Losing a fly to a tree is just a bonus.

You don't want what I have

Those with questions about public lands in the West need only look east for answers
Photo: Gerry Tomasen

I know this awesome couple out in Idaho. Bruce and Kat, like many folks in Idaho, are avid users of the great outdoors. Bruce hunts elk with a bow and fishes rattlesnake infested canyons with a fly rod. They both ride fat tire bikes up and over majestic ridge lines. In a day, Kat can cross-country ski distances that I won’t drive without a bathroom break. All on public lands that are easily accessible.

The most accurate 2016 predictions. Ever.

What's coming in your next year of fly fishing
Releasing a feisty rainbow back into the current during a January expedition on the North Platte in Wyoming (photo: Brenden Neville).

If you had told me this time last year that I’d be fishing half as much in the second half of the coming year as I did in the first half, I’d have been deeply depressed. And I’d have fished a whole lot more in the first half. But next year will be different. I know what I’m up against going into the year and I’ve gained some very specific insight into what’s ahead. I’ve also developed some insight into what’s ahead for you.

At the turn of the tide

Heeding the call of the salt
Photo: Steve Zakur

Back from a week by the sea, I already find myself scrolling through rentals for next summer. Over the past few summers I've been drawn to the mountains but growing up by the sea, the salt is under my skin in ways that I am reminded at that first whiff of damp, briny air.

Growing up we fished in the ocean. When schoolie stripers were in during the spring I'd sometimes borrow a rod from a buddy and we'd head down to the shore and cast and catch. But there was never the passion, the obsession, that I have today for trout shaped objects.


Ushering one fisherman's descent into madness

At some point early in the last decade, I was like Frank. The entirety of my fishing gear would fit in a small box with my clunky boot foot waders, shiny and new, filling the lion's share of the space. One fly box with a dozen random flies. A single rod. Click and pawl. Discount line rigged with a leader nail knotted in apparent defiance of the impermanence of its design.

Tax day schoolies

I'm a trout angler. I don't fish for striped bass.
Photo: Chad Shmukler

I'm a trout angler. I don't fish for striped bass. That is, unless I get a text saying that the striped bass are in and that Bob was catching them last night, one per cast.

Last year I fished for striped bass twice. Once in the spring when they clearly weren't there and later in the summer when they were elsewhere as well. I had heard tell of times when the schoolie stripers were on the move and they could be had with abandon but that was last year or last week or at the other spot that I wasn't at.

Until Sunday evening.

First cast

After a long, interminable winter, it's coming.

Having a small black lab puppy sitting in the space where my fishing gear usually resides makes that space look a whole lot bigger than it does during the season. It also seems more lonely despite puppy exuberance.

Two months ago I took all my fishing gear out of the back of the Volvo wagon (yes, I live in Connecticut, the native range of the Volvo) and stacked it in the garage. The primary reason was knee surgery which I knew would take me off the water for a while. The fact that it was five degrees outside didn't hurt either. And then this new puppy needed to go somewhere on the ride to the vet.

Laying about in in the depths of a hundred and one fever I have the leisure of considering all manner of things. In and out of the void topics both meaningful and mundane surge and recede. Did I reply to that email? I wonder if the ice dams on the roof will be a problem? How long before the streams flow free again?

Unlike much of the west, our eastern winter has been wet and frigid. Four foot drifts guard the banks of the driveway. The stop sign at the end of the street has been consumed by the plow's drift. It's increasingly difficult to find places to put the new snow which arrives, a few inches at a time, every other day or so.

While I still whine about the weather, mutterings about the weight of the season are so common as to be meaningless. So much has already said about the endless cold days that there are few words worth listening to. I do it as much out of habit as anything else.


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