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!