Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lousy Fisherman

The deep woods sound of cicadas.  The water is cool enough at dusk now for a few sipping trout.  How I missed that scene but here I am as if I never left.  A cold beer with an old friend, going through it which we all do at times, is just what the doctor ordered, whether his doc or mine doesn't matter.  Hits the spot for the both of us.  I practice casting to some rising pumpkinseed who happily take an imitation cinnamon ant.  The trout pay me no mind, they are too smart this time of year after a long summer of being fished over.  I figure I've got another twenty years or so before I can fool the late August brown on a dry fly.  Hell, even Hemingway said that anyone is a good fisher in May.  True.  So long as I can be a good friend and have one, I'll take "lousy fisherman".

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Late Hatch

They came off late.

The sulphurs;  Like the flurry of ideas here as I attempt justice in the writing, they swarmed the river after I had thought they would or possibly could show.  At the edge of the day's fading light, the sun melded with the overcast slate and they somehow appeared, with the street lamps, in unison.

The family of dad, uncle, and two boys, fishing bait, had had enough.  They waved their goodbyes in broken English.  They had caught nothing but stomped to me quietly, the boys did, as the fly took a small brown.  A sullen feeling across me that wished one of those boys had held the bouncing rod.  Maybe next time.  Off they went with the last of the natural light.  And on came the yellow bugs with big wings.  They flicker through the sky as the trout sip and salute them.

It's been a year since this fishing nirvana occurred last, yet here they are, different than I remembered, later too, but here just the same.  The questions enveloped my head from which fly was perfect for the top to which fly would fool the big flash at the bottom, two feet in front of me and sweeping the crumbs off of the riverbed floor.  She had been flashing at me for an hour and a half like a lady of the night who had a phantom sense about her.  Was she really there?  An answer I would not find.  Suitable, I thought.  Back to the fish on the top.

From 8:36 pm, if I had to guess well, to 9:15, I took trout one after the other.  Some slashed within feet, some across the stream.  They all sent fast and pulsating vibrations through the rod to the arm of the angler.  The arm sent signals to the mouth.  The smile, big and wide and shit eating, did not dissipate until the business of the next day.

There is nothing better for the soul than a late hatch that one thought may never come at all.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Want of Things

The spring has been tough.  I am busy.  Life moves on at a pace that is faster than I am, like an asshole buddy in high school that speeds off four feet as you try and get into his open passenger door, frustrating you at every level yet you still need to get into the car.  But, hey, you gotta have a sense of humor about things.  There was an outing in a thunderstorm at 5AM rowing around in a tin boat and cursing at a fish finder that didn't work, all the while eating reservoir skunk.  There have been half hour trips, running your car at high speeds through the hills to slap your waders on in a window of time that really doesn't, or shouldn't exist.  Like taking one deep breath in the midst of an asthma attack, I suppose.  Feels good and gets me what I need in the moment.  There have been quite a few of those.  There have also inexplicably been some of the best fishing memories made, the gifts, the ones I am surprised were able to happen and the ones that I put no stake in to begin with.  That should teach me something right there.  Yes, it is true, life is moving at a blizzard clip and it is hard to keep up.  But there are freeze-frames that I will carry forever.  I hope that you all are able to slow down some this spring, catch fish, and cherish some memories.  I need to sometimes remind myself that we are all given what we need. A want of things is a different story entirely.  


Monday, April 13, 2015

Reservoir Dog (or maybe...)

I was raised on a road called Old Kensico about a half mile up the hill from the Kensico Reservoir. I fished there as a kid off shore for rock bass and other pan fish. Played there as a teen with aimless dreams and laughter.  Now I fish it by jon boat (no motors allowed, a blessing) and have been since about 2006. For years one was not allowed to get a boat out until April 1st.  They changed that a few years back so that fishing is allowed all year so long as there is no ice. I can't remember the last time ice prohibited the fishing until after April first but this was one such year.  I don't think there was clear open water until April 6th. Be that as it may, my first voyage of the year came this morning,  April 12th.  I wasn't the only one lured by warmish temps and little to no wind. Although it's possible that I was the only one to catch such a large serving of a very finicky fellow:

Oh well. It was a gorgeous early spring morning and I cannot wait to get back out there again.  The reservoir that I have called home for my entire life may skunk me once in a while but every dog has his day (eventually) and no matter what happens, I never leave The Big "K" feeling empty.

Tight lines!  I hope some of you are having better luck than me this early season!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


The car was iced over in a glaze at 6:30 when I went out to get her started.  Spring indeed.  A quick check of the gear and some chipping away at the windows and soon Phill arrived, hot coffee in hand.  A good friend and fishing partner, his thoughtfulness hit the spot.  As far as a fishing spot, well, that wasn't so easy.

Checking the gauges incessantly yesterday, last night, and again upon rising, it was apparent that most of our tail-waters would be "blown out".  I'm not sure why, but it seems that the people who make the decision on the state level to release water from the reservoirs enjoy fooling us fisher-folk on April 1st.  My go to stream for the day usually runs at about 100 and was up over 3 and a quarter.  Another favorite was at over 400 from it's usual 200.  And so the story goes.  Be that as it may, it was opening day and we were going to fish come hell, or more literally, high water.

A stop into The Bedford Sportsman for some needed supplies and it was onto another cup o' joe and an egg sandwich at the deli nearby.  The pace was clearly not that of a rush with frigid waters awaiting and a couple of guys that were feeling fortunate to finally have some time to "shoot the shit".  We grew up a few houses from one another, got in and out of trouble together in our youth, were each other's best men, and now we're just sitting in a car eating eggs and asking "how are the kids doing?"  Life is good. 

We started at a stream that I had only fished once and what a beautiful little river it is.  The crunch of a fresh thin layer of snowy ice (God willing the last) under our boots was a good sound on the small hike into a couple of promising looking pools.  For as many cars as were parked out at the road, finding some solitude was not that difficult.  I concentrated on these pools for the duration of our time spent here while Phill bounced around a bit more.  

A few spin fishermen strode by once in awhile, sharing equal news of a slow morning with no trout to hand.  Phill came in and out of view and each time gave the thumbs down on the luck.  The water was about 37 degrees so my guess is that the fish were too cold to breakfast.  If only they had those eggs.

We headed for another smaller stream not too far from the first and the car's heater was a nice touch for the toes.  Fishing downstream for awhile with stunning views brought nothing to hand.  The theme of the day seemed imminent but I didn't mind to tell the truth.  I haven't felt a bend in the rod since probably November or earlier as my only year round stream went as cold this winter as a kid's tongue on dry ice.  Today was about more than catching trout anyway.  Today was about the promise of a new season.  

A quick car ride upstream and we were at it again.  The day's temp was slowly climbing into the moderate 40's and I swear I even felt the sun warm my shoulders for a second.  I'll take what I can get. More fishermen with even more news of cold water and empty nets.  An elderly man "harumphed" me when I said I was just happy to be out.  I got a kick out of that.  Lord knows I've been there.

Finally, after missing a fish but seeing it flash, I had at least located a possible lie.  After a tweak of the rig and the right drift, I managed two small stocked fish and missed another two.  Phill began to have the same luck and also managed a couple.  It was time to quit while we were ahead.  Time to get back to those kids we were asking about earlier in the day.  Time to know when the promise of a new season had thrown us a bonus.  

Happy Opening Day 2015.  Hope it was as good to you as it was to me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Turning Point

She stood in the doorway, beautiful there, that led to the small asphalt courtyard from the musty bar. She waited as I tipped the bartender.  We never liked to be out of sight.  I brought the drinks and we sat at the metal grated cafe chairs.  The kind that waffle at your thighs.  The music loomed outside with us.  Blues. The haze of the evening was setting in as the city sunlight crayoned a soft September dusk onto the brick and slab of the buildings that hung over us.  A teenage romance that strained to arch into adulthood.  It was either to continue here or to halt and drop our hearts where we sat.  A turning point.

"It's me or it's not.  Now or never", I stated flatly trying both to be brave and tough.  I was a sapling though.

She pointed her eyes down.  Took a drink.  Smiled.

"There's a lot to think about..."

"There's not," I demanded.

A drunk girl, twenty some-odd-not old enough to drink, strolled by gasping, "You guys are soooooo cute together!"

We laughed as the girl passed.  I remarked about how even the drunk girl knew about us.  She tilted her head back up and set her brown eyes upon mine.  The flicker of a candle sparkled inside of them.  I held my breath and sharply swilled at the beer.

"I just needed some time.  I may need more but I understand if you can't give that to me."

"I can't," I answered, "it's too much already.  If you go, I won't be here when you turn back."

Hardball.  A gamble.  I risked everything.  At that moment she might have gotten up.  I might have paid the tab and walked out of that bar with nothing but a cheap buzz as I stared blankly while she walked down the tiled subway platform.  She didn't though.  She sat.  She smiled.  I took her hand.

"Are you sure about us?"  She paused.  "Are you sure?", she asked.

I turned her soft hand up into mine and interlocked our fingers.  I pulled her in, across the small table.  We kissed.

"Let's go," I said.  "I've always been sure.  Always."

We stood up.  She was radiant.  The point had turned and she was mine.

Still is.

(I know.  It's not about fishing.  But winter is officially over and opening day is at hand.  Another turning point.  One that we can all celebrate.  Good luck out there.  Tight lines.  Back to our regularly scheduled program. -- Mike)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Winter at the River's Edge: A book review...of sorts.

My friend Walt over at Rivertop Rambles sure can write.  He brings the fishing narrative to a whole new level over at his stomping grounds here in the blogosphere.  I have been following Walt's adventures for nearly two years or better I guess, so I decided back before all this damn cold came to claim the northeast for the duration that I should pick up one of his paperback books.  I'm sure glad I did.

River's Edge; A Fly Fishing Realm is a remarkable journey throughout the streams and rivers where North Western New York State mixes company with the beautiful wildness of Pennsylvania.  Each chapter has the reader walking along the trail-side with Walt on one of his "home" streams in this seemingly timeless region.  The author writes with ease and recounts his experiences on these waters while offering insight into some practical items such as access areas, species, ideal rods for specific streams, etc.  Nary a Sunday morning went by for me in this last month or two where my coffee wasn't accompanied by a chapter or two.

Walt takes us for a ramble along the Kinderhook, where he got his start as a kid "on the fly".  Dropped off by his parents at the ripe old age of twelve, Walt seems to have connected to the solitude immediately.  Upon his return years and years later, the memories flood the fisherman as well as having the present moment take him directly back in time.  With each passing chapter, the author connects us to his life's fishing journey utilizing history; not only his own but of the streams and rivers he meanders on.  Tales of townships, watering holes, citizens, etc. keep us company while we wade through the pages.  The solitude that the reader finds in the author's words are never an image of loneliness.  Yes, there are a couple of tales of days spent with fishing partners but mostly Walt is on his own in nature.  It is no wonder that we sense from him an expertise on birds, flora, vegetation, critters, and what have you.  It is inspiring to read of the knowledge that Walt has, not only of fishing, but of all that he is surrounded by.  In his humble exploration, the reader never feels that the writer is doing anything but sharing in a selfless way.  I've read some of the "experts" and they certainly want you to know it.  Walt attempts no part of that but instills in the reader a curiosity for things unknown in the wild.

What must be mentioned regarding River's Edge is it's connection to conservation.  The author, again without presumption, not only knows the waters he fishes like the back of his hand but contributes much to the lifeblood of these streams.  Whether a trail-side communication to an unethical fisherman or a full blown stream restoration effort through different communities, Walt has either had a hand in these or at least knows and appreciates the trials and tribulations these rivers and their inhabitants have survived through.  Clearly a passion of the writer's that connects him to the species he fishes for, conservation ties the entire existence of fisherman to fish, to surroundings, to nature at large.  This, the reader takes away and hopefully carries to his or her own home streams.

My thought before writing this "review" was to explore a few of my favorite chapters for you out there in cyberspace but instead I invite you to find yours.  There are bound to be a few, this much I can promise.  As I mentioned, Walt Franklin is a damn good writer, and this book reflects this undeniable fact from the riffles to the pools of his favorite trout streams and back out into the wild surroundings that all of us treasure.


Friday, February 20, 2015


83 he would be on the 19th of February

They sat in the kitchen of the fishing cabin smoking and playing cards.  I could hear the happy commotion from the tiny bedroom as the light slipped under the door and onto the wood planked floor.  I wanted to be included, to be older, to stay up late.  The wish of so many kids throughout the years.   I got up and peeked through the skeleton keyhole.  Smoky denim and the back of a flannel shirt.  A yellow linoleum tabletop with large hands perched on them, at once slapping the table with joy.

"Full house, Jack!  Beat that!",  he barrels out as the roar from the table emerges.

"Ha, ya sonofabitch! Ya got me..."

I creak open the door slightly as the laughter slowly subsides and the "pfffffffftttttttt"  of the cards shuffle.

"Dad," I say timidly, "I have to pee."

I didn't but this was my plan to get in on the action.  Who could sleep through this anyhow?

A quick 'go ahead' from Dad's nod and I sweep through the kitchen like a mouse with a broom following it.

From the crusty bathroom I hear, "Hey, let the kid stay up a bit, Jack.  Why don't ya?"

"No.  Too young.  Maybe next year..."

"Ah, you're no fun!", the guy ribs away.

"Next year, next year..."

I scurry back, averting the eyes of all but dad who winks.

There never was a "next year".

Happy birthday, Dad.  You are missed.


Monday, February 2, 2015

A Wintry Mix

The stream has been cold.  The banks all but void of fishermen.  The line searches the frigidness and comes tight only to snags of rocks and iced over branches.  A new stainless steel coffee thermos, a gift from my wife for Christmas, the only hint of warmth as I sit on my perch and watch the winter water drift by.  This has been tough going.  Dead of winter fishing does a couple of things to the mind.  It is a lonely venture in one regard but it is laced with reflection as well as forward thinking.  Possibly the only time of year on a stream that bends the mind in both directions and this may be the only reason I get out there at all.  I don't even know that I can call it "fishing" with a straight face.  The local reservoirs are full of tip-ups and jigging rods and the opportunity for screaming drags but I guess I would rather freeze my ass off alone with less prospects.  Winter is a busy time of year for me in which I am being pulled in a hundred different directions so the cold solitude is a welcome reprieve I guess.

A bright spot in a gray season a couple of weekends ago was a visit to the Fly Fishing Show out in Somerset, NJ.  I have wanted to attend in previous years but hadn't had the opportunity until this one came around.  I took the drive with my brother in law, whom you all know as "The Mick", and my buddy Chris from over at Juniper Fly Fishing.  Chris and I have never met in person but have been in frequent touch over the past couple of years.  The day proved true to me my assumptions about the guy; that he is a kindred spirit in things such as fishing, music, and beer.  A good hour plus ride out had the three of us talking the Croton Watershed, the Catskills, and the Farmington.  It was joyfully painful to talk technique and tactic as we all agreed that a trip to a fly fishing show was only a distant second best to a trip to the stream.  You take what you can get.

Out at the show was row upon row of gear, tiers, artists, lodges, you name it.  If you could dream it up, you could pretty much find it here.  A Catskill Conservation group sold raffles to raise money to their worthy cause and offered free casting "tune ups" in which I took part.  This was coupled by a fantastic demo later in the day by a gentleman named Gary Borger.  The tips I took away from these experiences will hopefully stick with me until the spring makes its anticipated return.  "Whatever the end of the rod does, the line must do as well."

At the show, I had the pleasure of meeting Matt Delorenzo in person, a guide on the famous Ausable River at the Hungry Trout Resort.  Matt and I have a mutual friend in common, Frank DeGrazio, who guides in our local waters as well as the Catskills and is affectionately known as Hendrickson Spinner.  Matt told me to bug Frank about getting me up to fish with those guys on the Ausable.  Hint, hint, Frank old pal ;)  He really was a good guy and it was neat to have my "online" fishing life merge with reality at the show.   We even ran into Pete Kutzer from The Orvis Company.  Pete does some great casting lessons for Orvis and a slew of them can be found online.  Talk about a laid back demeanor and a "trout bum" tone.  Pete was a cool cat and when Mike and I asked him to say hello to "Uncle Tom" for us, he laughed and knew exactly who we meant.  We dubbed Rosenbauer with that nickname a couple of spring times ago on the just- before-daybreak banks of the Willowemoc while we slung streamers to much success thanks to one of Uncle Tom's helpful podcasts.

One of the highlights of the day was sitting in on a seminar in which 90 year old Lefty Kreh gave us his freshwater tips.  We joked that it should have been called "Lefty's Life Hacks" because he offered a lot more than just regular old fishing tips.  His sense of humor alone was admirable but his ideas shared on simple things like 'putting your name on all your gear' to 'strapping luggage to a car roof' were a solid way to spend an hour of our day.  He spoke with Mike after the presentation about Mike's upcoming trip this May to the Florida Keys to do some bone fishing.

(Me with legendary Lefty Kreh)

The pinnacle of the day for me was meeting John Gierach, the famous fly fishing author out of Colorado.  We said hello to him at his table and he was a pretty unassuming guy who seemed a bit out of his element and we decided he might just hate doing these things.  I was pleased to think that this was probably the case, at least the part where he had to read aloud a chapter of one of his books to about seventy people in a conference center ballroom.  He seemed genuinely tortured by it but loosened up once he cut himself short and just took questions from the crowd.  I was fascinated to listen to the man that kept me a fly fisher throughout all of those years where I never touched a cork handle or waded into a stream.  He kept me there, on the streams of my youth with my father by my side, and he eventually brought me back to this sport that I love so much.  Someone asked him which he considered himself, a writer or a fisherman first.  He answered that he was a writer who loved to fish.  It was interesting to note.  He also admitted that he fishes for reasons that we all do but he would never presume to know how to capture the grand scheme of "why" one fishes in his writing.  He hoped that this would just come through in his stories.  It does, John, it most certainly does.  I was inspired by the man that day and I hoped for him that it would end soon and he would find himself driving up the mountain from his Colorado home with a fly rod in the bed of his pickup sooner than later.  But not before a picture with me.

(A giddy fly fisher with John Gierach)

I hope all of your winter meanderings are keeping you close to the streams.  Whether by foot or by thought.  We will be in the warm light of spring before you know it!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Shall We Gather at the River

In 1864, Robert Lowry wrote this hymn. In church this morning, it brought me to the river.

"Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.

Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.

At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.

Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace."

With thoughts of tight lines on Sunday mornings of springtime -- Mike