Friday, April 10, 2020

A Real Singularity


There is a quote we've all heard about not being able to step into the same river twice. The river isn't the same, and neither is the angler. No other river encompasses this more for me than the Savage. Usually I am there with my brother. Sometimes with friends. Once with my wife. Once, alone. Each pilgrimage has found me at an inflection point or a singularity in my life. While my last visit had me contemplating impending fatherhood, this most recent visit had me daydreaming of what it would be like to bring my son here someday.

This time, as well, the aforementioned truism inverted upon itself as we found the world to have changed each time we returned to shore. Lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, quarantines, ominous newscasts and their portents of an impending horrific sloughing-off. A societal inflection point. A real singularity.

None of that existed between the banks of this little river. The most anxious thought that could occur within the dome over water bounded by the tailwater fog was whether or not this beautiful brown would break you off in the deep pockets. Nothing from the world outside of the river manifested upon anything that was done along or within it, or on anything that came from it. Emerging from the sanctuary to get food or make contact only made us want to retreat into it again. 

As the inexorable end to the trip loomed nearer, my thoughts turned to parting ways with my brother. We'd probably be going our separate ways for a while, and the uncertainties of the immediate future and the precariousness of life seemed all of a sudden more visceral. Were we living in the good old days without fully realizing it?

This river makes me want to pare down my kit, to make the interface with its ecosystem as uninterrupted by conscious calculations as possible. To be able to focus on what provides satisfaction. A few of the several flies that I know work, some tippet, a net, hemostats, a beer tucked into my waders and my brother working upstream on the far bank opposite me. Keep it simple. Here, and elsewhere. And enjoy every minute of it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Woah, Big Gulps huh? Alright...Welp, Cya Later!

The Freshwater P4P Champ  

It was April Fools Day, and the stealthcraft raft drifted on its own accord down the middle of a popular Pennsylvania watershed home to a population of world class smallmouth bass. I stood atop a custom casting platform placed over what would normally be the front seat. I labeled it "TRONS," to serve as a reminder of the float's goal but also to quickly measure and release my quarry. As is the norm, the raft spun in the current, got redirected from wind gusts, and occasionally was pushed into prime lies, overhanging branches, and log jams. Floating alone while trying to cover many river miles is a frustrating and rewarding experience. You have to make due with the opportunities that present themselves and quickly forget all those that pass because someone else isn't on the oars. I could anchor up and dissect each little lie but the float would probably take me four days to complete. 

I had just gotten down from my platform in order to steady the boat in the current. I stood back atop the casting perch and saw my target. A root ball at the base of a large sycamore tree. I quickly double hauled into a side arm cast and threaded a 7 inch articulated fly under the overhanging branches. As the fly approached, I stopped the forward motion of the cast causing the fly and leader to jackknife to the side. My fly landed parallel to the bank a few inches from the base of the tree. I immediately gave a hard strip causing the deer hair fly to make an audible and visual commotion on the water. As the fly paused, the largest smallmouth bass I have ever tangled with engulfed the fly from the rear. I set the hook and triggered a moment of chaos that won't soon be forgotten. Two water clearing leaps and several bulldogging bursts under the raft bent the 7wt. H3 in half. I let out an audible grown as my net slid under the smallmouth. Thick, muscular, and long, she measured a solid 22 inches. 

Moments like this are what make smallmouth bass such an enticing fly rod target. Their tenacity once hooked is legendary. Interacting with them on large flies careening around the surface is an adrenaline filled blast that will always have me coming back for more...

Monday, January 20, 2020

Finding Winter


Winter Gold

The dead of winter. For most serious fly fishermen, winter represents a greater chance at solitude, and the power that one can find in being alone. Few people are willing to leave the comfiness of a warm home to venture into low temperatures. Far fewer are eager to stand in 34 degree water silently hoping for a tug at the end of their line, as they slowly lose feeling in their toes. Thankfully, nature and the elements are often all the company one needs on the water. There, they can find solace in the ethereal beauty of a snowflake, the intricate formations of ice, or the way a gust of wind can cause tears to form in the corner of their eyes. Small moments like this, easily make up for cold extremities. 

The bees knees of fly fishing in winter is the the silence of snowfall. Standing alone in the middle of the river, swinging a fly, with the only sound being of the water rushing between your legs is therapy for the mind. An equilibrium check from the rigors of work and the constant barrage of a negative news cycle. Living in an area where snowfall can be scarce, it is an easy decision to search for and find these experiences. If you yearn for that moment of chill, make it happen. 

Find your winter. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Internal Swing Monologue


A Beauty of a Skamania Buck


That's definitely the sweet spot and there has to be a fish there. This must not be the spot. Are they holding right now or moving? Are they in their winter lies or in the transitional water? Hmmm, let's slow this swing down. Slower, slower, there it is. What the hell? Ok, broadside AF...Was that a bump or a leaf?  Why did that Spey Jedi give me shit about having bead chain eyes on a fly? I bet he'd get a kick out of this tungsten cone. He'd probably think I'm "dredging" with this sink 4 tip. This is definitely the wrong angle for this spot. This is definitely the right cast for this spot. This center pinner is definitely going to low hole me. Maybe if I bought the 450 grain, the extra 30 grains would cast better and I'll catch more fish. Nah, I already have like 34 shooting heads. I'm going to pick this guy's pocket. I have no idea what I'm doing. I've caught more browns the last few days than the past five years combined. There must not be any steelhead this year. Maybe, I should go to Malinda's and buy some fly tying material. That is definitely the last thing I need, but I'll probably spend 100 dollars. Gotta get that perfect shade of brown dubbing. When was the last time I nymphed? I can't remember.  There it is, thats the swing. BAM! Now, that is definitely not a brown trout...

Monday, October 7, 2019

My Girl


Riley
2005-2019

All dogs are special in their unique ways. Riley was the runt of the litter who had a passive, "you first," personality. She played second fiddle for her entire life to two much larger labradors, one aggressive and the other a big goof. Despite this, her heart was pure and her calming personality made her a favorite amongst family and friends. She garnered the nickname, "Queen Riley," because she majestically took her time in everything except retrieving and water. For me, she was known as, "my girl". I picked her out on an impromptu, just to appease Mom, trip to the pet store. Later, I gave my parents a call and convinced them to go back and get her. Sometimes, those types of decisions end up working out well. 

When one embarks on dog ownership, they are entering into an agreement known as "the deal". Dogs are loyal companions who will shower you with love no matter your mood or hardship. They will always be there for you. For fourteen years, I could count on Riley happily meeting me every single time I walked through that door. When she began losing her eyesight, hearing, and became riddled with arthritis and cancer, it became apparent that it was time for our part of the deal. When they have given you all that they can, you have to make the decision to do what is best for them. 

Thanks for fourteen wonderful years girl...

Monday, September 16, 2019

On the Cape


Salt Pond Bay

The trip began as a mid-week question that I didn't have to think long or very hard about. A roommate trip to Cape Cod for several days seemed like a perfect way to ring in the end of summer. Sometimes, you just have to go for it. When adventure calls, simply answer the bell. I packed a few flies, a 10 weight, and my stripping basket. The days called for bike trips around the cape to cool little towns, their coffee shops, and the various sights that abound. Rather than bike, I played the role of support vehicle. I fished along the way and met up with everyone at each destination. Often, I'd provide a respite for tired legs or a drive back to home base. 

On the fishing side of things, I had no idea what I was doing. I'd hop in the car, peruse google maps, and head to a place to check it out. I caught a bunch of small stripers, had two keepers pop off at my feet, and had an encounter with a relatively large line sider who missed my game changer. The highlight was spotting a great white shark off a beach. I instantaneously knew what I was looking at and so did a bunch of other beach goers in the immediate vicinity. I found a massive seal colony off North Truro Beach, enjoyed the company of friends, and had my fair share of good food. More often than not, it is the spontaneous little trips that mean the most for my soul. Add this one to the list...

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Hour of the Mouse


"...this past weekend, Mark and I met to float the West Branch of the Delaware river, one of the only rivers around with consistent cold water and reliable hatches. Last August we had an excellent weekend of dry fly action in much higher flows. This weekend the water was very low. We planned to do a night float, our first, throwing streamers and mouse patterns for nocturnal browns.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Cadillac Mountain


The South Ridge Trail on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

The sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain is famous for its stellar views, easy accessibility, and most importantly, being the first place on the eastern coast where one can see the sun ascend over the horizon. A road travels straight to the mountain top and on each day of the year, one will find a crowd gathered to take in the event. In the peak of summer, the competition is fierce. I had no hope of witnessing the event with a 45 minute drive from my campsite, so I settled for other locations to take in the views. On this particular day, I planned a short circuit hike to complete my second summit of Cadillac. After a hearty breakfast and coffee at 123 Main Street Restaurant, I was able to find some relative solitude on my afternoon hike up the mountain.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Coast of Maine


Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Selected photos from the drive to Baxter State Park and the journey home through Acadia National Park. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Travelers Loop



Traveler Mountain Overlooking Mt. Katahdin

After Katahdin and a few other jaunts in the southern portion of Baxter St. Park, I embarked on the second leg of my trip. Situated in the northern section, the destination was South Branch Pond and the famed Traveler Loop. The 11.1 mile Traveler circuit bags four peaks: Peak of the Ridges, Traveler, Little Traveler, and North Traveler.  Together, they form a picturesque backdrop to the views of North and South Branch Ponds from the campground. Once on the loop, the hiker is exposed to a constantly changing landscape, vegetation, rocks, and vistas that overlook the woods and waters of northern Maine. It is a stunning hike that surpasses Mt. Katahdin in terms of difficulty and beauty. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

On The Knife's Edge


Baxter St. Park and Mt. Katahdin

Life can be an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes you just need to get away and find your equilibrium. I'd been daydreaming of a trip to Maine for most of my school year but never seriously looked into the logistics behind it. On the first day of my summer vacation, I found myself beside a fire with Murphy decompressing, or at least trying to. It was then that I just decided to go for it. I wanted the comfort of the road, a wild place, and a campsite. I pulled out my laptop and found a few locations along the eastern seaboard to book. I hit the road the following morning with my sights set on Baxter St. Park and Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  Two days later, I arrived in the buggiest place I had ever been. I was entirely alone and I wanted to do the Knife's Edge...

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Woods and Waters


South Branch Pond, Baxter State Park

Selected shots from camping in the woods and waters of northern Maine. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Lost in Time and Space


Sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

I found myself in my hammock, on the edge of an overlook, torn between taking a nap and the intermittent service on my cell phone. I couldn't withdraw myself from the very reason why I made the late night drive to the park. I sought to free my mind but I couldn't get out of my own head...


Friday, May 24, 2019

Old Rag


Old Rag

After wrist surgery to repair my TFCC tendon and several weeks in a cast, I was itching to escape. My cast was removed on a Thursday and after work on Friday, I found myself packing on a whim. Around midnight, I found myself arriving at the Shenandoah National Park entrance to find all of the major campsites booked except for one. After an hour of driving south on Skyline Drive, I arrived at the campground and was so tired, I slept in my car. I awoke at 3:30 am and began driving north again to catch the sunrise at one of the many scenic overlooks along the road. I took a few short hikes before exiting the park for the day's first mission: Old Rag. 

Old Rag is one of the most popular attractions around Shenandoah National Park and is viewed by many as a gateway hike. It is accessible for beginners but challenging enough for experienced hikers. It had been years since I climbed Old Rag and this would be my fourth summit. For me, it was just what the doctor ordered and served as a starting point for a summer filled with hikes. The rock scrambling was made more difficult because I could only use one of my hands and I had to be extra careful to not hurt my surgically repaired wrist. By one o'clock I had completed the entire loop, reentered the park, rested, and went on several more short hikes.