The striper grandmaster talks about Tuesday Nights, the rhythms of earth and ocean, and love.
Ken Abrames is one of the most revered names in saltwater fly fishing. He is the creator of the modern flatwing streamer, presentation-style flies that can imitate everything from clamworms to menhaden. His books Striper Moon and A Perfect Fish belong on the shelves of anyone who is an aficionado of traditional New England striped bass fly tying and fishing methods. Besides being a world-class angler, Ken is also a rod designer, author, poet, and artist.
For me, though, the coolest thing about Ken isn’t that he’s supremely talented on so many levels, or his mystical insights into the natural order. It’s that you can go to Rhode Island on Tuesday nights and meet him. Talk to him. And fish. There’s no club, no membership dues, no fee, no appointment. You just check out the forum on his website to see where the group is meeting, show up and have fun. Tuesday Nights in 2014 start next week, April 22, in Matunuck, on the beach to the west of Carpenter’s Bar.
When Ken talks, you tend to listen. Tuesday Night, Quonny Breachway, September 2012.
Currentseams: How long have you been doing Tuesday Nights?
Ken: Since 1984.
Currentseams: What made you decide to start them?
Ken: Around that time, I met a fellow named Armand Courchaine, and we started to fish together. We got the idea of starting Rhody Flyrodders back up again. Bang! The club started to grow – in less than a year we had over 100 members. One Saturday, I put together a fishing gathering in Newport. A bunch of people came, but I wasn’t satisfied. I began to ponder and imagine, what night of the week is most available to most people? I came up with Tuesday, because it’s a good, neutral night.
Currentseams: What was the fishing like in those days?
Ken: From the time I was a boy, to around 1984, shore fishing in Rhode Island had really fallen into a sad state. People didn’t know the places anymore. Very few people were walking the beaches. There were a lot of famous spots in Rhode Island that people didn’t know how to get to. But I knew the places, so Tuesday Night was a way to show people where to fish, and how to fish them, so they would have the wherewithal to go out on their own. Rights-of-ways had fallen into disrepair, and some of them had been encroached upon by landowners. So I had people going around and cleaning up these right-of-ways. And they weren’t just fishermen. All kinds of folks came. Everything we did was like seed to enhance access and fishing. People warmed right up to it.
Currentseams: People who don’t know about Tuesday Nights often ask, “Can anyone come?” And of course, the answer is yes.
Ken: Yeah, there is no membership, and there is no hierarchy.
Currentseams: And people want to know if it costs anything, and the answer is no.
Ken: No, of course not. Fact is, you probably end up going home with more than you came with.
Currentseams: How do you decide where to go?
Ken: I close my eyes…and feel. I don’t use any kind of science. Always go to inner silence when you need an answer. Then you’ll know.
Currentseams: What are your thoughts on the weather we’ve had this winter? It’s been pretty cold…
Ken: When I was a boy I used to always go ice skating on Thanksgiving. So tell me about how cold it is. Things have changed. I see different birds up here now that I never used to see.
Currentseams: Do you think things will be late this year?
Ken: When was the moon in relation to the equinox?
Currentseams: New moon is Sunday, March 30th.
Ken: It’s kind of like the first flower of spring. The first flower of spring comes before the second flower. That’s the order. So the first thing that shows up will tell you what the order of the year will be.
Currentseams: I keep track of things in my garden…
Ken: Yes, that’s right, that’s exactly what you were supposed to say. Is the skunk cabbage out yet?
Currentseams: Not here. I looked at my records, and in 2011 I had crocuses blooming on March 5. I don’t have any flowers yet (March 28).
Ken: So, there’s your answer. Everything happens in order. The ocean is the same as the land. So, you look for the first thing that shows up. And that will tell you what the second thing is going to be. You have to feel. It’s like dancing with a beautiful woman. You can’t do it out of the pages of a book. You have to just hold her, and move with the music. It’s the same thing with this world. It’s alive, and it has a pulse, and a rhythm, and an order. But it doesn’t tell you what those are ahead of time, because reason has no power over the earth. None.
Currentseams: So now, in 2014, what would you say Tuesday Night is all about?
Ken: It’s all about love. It’s that simple.
Ken: I love the earth, I love fishing, I love the people who come fishing. And that’s what they get when they come.