Steelheading: A Tragedy in Several Acts

“Steelheading: A tragedy in several acts” first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of The Drake. The photo here is different from what accompanied the piece in the magazine, and this is my original text, rated R for some adult language. What if The Bard wasn’t writing about Danish princes, Roman emperors, and star-crossed Italian lovers? Let the curtain rise on…

Steelheading: A Tragedy in Several Acts

If there is another angling endeavor that matches the rapturous highs and soul crushing lows of steelheading, I’ve yet to experience it. One day, you are the Most Exalted Ruler of the Kingdom of Chrome. The next, a lowly knave scraping in fishless dirt. That you willfully participate in this theater suggests that you are either a masochist, an addict, or at the very least, innately damaged. William Shakespeare understood. Even if he never wrote a scene about losing a fifteen-pounder fresh from the lake.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  Hamlet

It’s a river. Some days it is blown out. Some days it is perilously low. There are steelhead in the river. Some days they eat. Others, they do not. I’ve blanked on perfect days and hooked immodest numbers of fish in water the color of mocha java. The river doesn’t hate you. Nor do the steelhead or the weather. You have no control over any of it. Try to stay positive.

~

“Sit you down, father; rest you.” King Lear

I took my nine year-old steelheading for the first time. In the days leading up to the trip, I hectored him: It’s not like when we go to Day Pond to catch bluegills. It took daddy forty hours of fishing to land his first steelhead. You will hook them, son, and you will lose them. A half-hour into the trip, Cam ties into a twelve-pound chromer and proceeds to land it. On four-pound test. He has zero experience with any fish that size, let alone an alcohol-fueled dragster of a fresh steelhead. On the outside, I’m cheering wildly. On the inside, I’m trying to calculate how many extra hours of yard work that little punk will be doing come spring.

~

“But, soft! what light though yonder window breaks?”  Romeo And Juliet

For a dedicated steelheader, rising with the sun is sheer fantasy. If you’re fishing popular water, you’re up and out long before daybreak. You’re not the only one doing this. For proof, check the alarm clock in your room at the cabin next time you’re there. Bet it’s set for five a.m. – or earlier.

~

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”  The Tempest

How agreeable it would be if everyone you met on the river were Roderick Haig-Brown incarnate. Many anglers are indeed pleasant and welcoming. Others, not so much. See if any of these characters sound familiar: The bozo who wades in so tight you could take his eye out with your rod tip. The jamoke who dashes into your spot as you battle a fish downstream, then glares at you for wanting your place back. The douche bag who keeps his line in the water while your fish roars past, oblivious to your screaming reel. The lout who drops drift boat anchor on the exact coordinates you’ve been casting to. Damn them, every last one.

~

“Now is the winter of our discontent.”  King Richard III

If you’ve ever stood in a river in sub-freezing temperatures and swirling lake effect snow for three consecutive days without so much as a single fucking touch, well, you know from whence I speak.

~

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Romeo and Juliet

There must be some mischievous spirit tasked with devising cruel and unusual ways of making you lose steelhead. How else to explain a 3x strong hook that snaps at the bend; a leader that tangles on a drift boat’s anchor rope; line that wraps around a reel handle mid-fight; a good Samaritan’s clumsy technique with a landing net? All resulting in lost fish. All in the space of two hours. I’m trying hard not to be bitter. Really, I am.

~

“Things rank and gross in nature.”  Hamlet

You don’t ever get used to the pernicious stench of decaying salmon flesh. Or the realization that the squishy thing spewing unholy pinkish-gray plumes from under your boot is a rotting carcass.

~

“Men at some time are masters of their fates.” Julius Caesar

You’ve been at this spot since before sunrise. You were rewarded with the prime lie, but there was no first-light bite, and now it’s close to nine a.m. Do you wait for steelhead to arrive? Or do you roll the dice and head elsewhere? Assuming the bite is on, how do you know if there will even be room to fish? Whatever you decide, know this: there is a strong probability that you will be wrong.

~

“The deep of night has crept upon our talk, And nature must obey necessity.” Julius Caesar

I relish the bonhomie of the evening scotch-and-bull session as much as anyone. But I’m wiped out, guys, and I want to be fresh for tomorrow’s ass kicking. Good night.

~

The nicest thing I can say about this particular day is that I got a decent photo.

Christmas 12:13

 

Shakespearean Steelhead in the Fall 2015 Issue of The Drake

A little angst and black humor, something any steelheader can relate to. It’s called “Steelheading: A Tragedy in Several Acts,” and you can read it in the current issue of The Drake. It makes the supposition that Shakespeare may not have really been writing about Danish princes, Roman emperors, and star-crossed Italian lovers….

Did Shakespeare chase chrome? Let’s find out.

Drake Cover Fall 2015

Fall appearances, articles, and other currentseams-y stuff

Hard to believe it’s September. Especially with this heat. We need rain, we need cool, and we need it soon.

In the meantime, here’s what’s on the fall calendar. As you can see, we have lots of “The Little Things” options all over southern New England. You don’t need to be a TU member to attend, so stop by and say hi.

“The Little Things” Presentation to TU Narragansett 225, Wednesday, September 30, Elks lodge, Coventry, RI. For directions and times, visit narragansett.tu.org.

“The Little Things” Presentation to TU Mianus, Tuesday, October 13, Waveny Mansion, New Canaan, CT. For directions and times, visit mianustu.org.

“The Little Things” Presentation to TU Farmington Valley, Thursday, October 15, (I believe it’s at the Whinstone Tavern at Stanley Golf Course, New Britain, CT). For directions and times, visit fvtu.org.

On the writing front, I’m told that my steelhead piece will be in the fall issue of The Drake. I’ll let you know if that’s the case, and I don’t mind saying that I think this is one of the better (not to mention funny) concept stories I’ve written. Look for a feature on striper soft-hackles in the next issue of American Angler. And, as I look over at my writing projects list, I see seven items. I suppose I’d better lock myself in my lonely writer’s garret and hop to it.

Only two more days till the 300 Followers contest closes! If you haven’t already, no better time to enter than now. And wow, just like that we’re up to 320.

Here’s to a tremendous fall season for everyone. (Fish included.)

October Brown 2014

What’s going on around here?

Much. Here are some details.

Radio/Podcast: I just recorded a segment on fall/summer fishing the Farmington with John Kovach’s Yankee Fisherman show on HAN radio. I’ll post the link when I get it.

Magazine articles: Look for upcoming articles in the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (Salmon Fishing for Stripers); The Drake (W/S Caddis); Fly Fish Journal (The Streak, a 12-month striper odyssey); and American Angler (tbd…this will motivate me to get those story ideas to the editor).

Web articles: Last night I started my 2014 Block Island Diary. I promise it won’t suck. I have a few interviews with Ken Abrames to sort through — currentseams.com exclusives. And of course regular fishing reports and tying articles/videos.

Appearances: Yup, it’s that time of year. I’ll be presenting Wet Flies 101 at the TU Croton Watershed meeting on Thursday, September 18th. You can find directions at cwctu.org. I’ll be presenting Eastern Brook Trout at the TU Naugatuck Pomperaug meeting on Wednesday, October 1. You can find directions at tunaugpomp.org.

I also see currentseams is approaching 200 members. I think we’ll have to do another fly drawing to celebrate.

We’re not quite yet to this point. But make no mistake — fall is here.

Leaf 10:13

Appearances, articles, and other nifty stuff

April is shaping up to be a busy month at currentseams. Fishing-wise, winter looks like it’s finally decided to vamoose, the stripers are on the move, and before long, we’ll be hearing rumors of sightings of those big mayflies with the three tails.

I have three more appearances scheduled this month:

Wednesday, April 9th, I will be tying at the CFFA Tying Roundtable. 7pm, Veterans Memorial Clubhouse, 100 Sunset Ridge,  East Hartford, CT.

Tuesday, April 15th, I will be presenting “Wet Flies 101” to the Thames Valley Chapter of TU. You can get details at thamesvalleytu.org.

Thursday, April 24th, I will again be presenting “Wet Flies 101,” this time to the CT/RI Coastal Fly Fishers. While the presentation is freshwater-centric, many of the rigging and presentations cross over nicely to striper fishing. connri-saltfly.com

Not yet. But soon.

Image

My Word-o-Matic article writing machine has been going full bore. Look for a piece on matching the hatch with wet flies in the next issue of American Angler, one on the Farmington River Survivor Strain in the spring issue of The Drake, and a small stream wet fly article in an upcoming Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide.

Lastly, many thanks to those of you who have asked me to be your guide. With two jobs, two kids playing on a total of four travel sports teams, and a spouse who travels for business, my schedule is under constant attack by the time-space continuum. Thanks for your patience, and I’ll do what I can do to make things work.

Dispatches from the writing front (and other destinations).

My keyboard has been getting a workout this winter. Lots of articles in the pipeline right now that will be appearing in 2014. Among them:

Matching the Hatch with Wet Flies (American Angler)

Downstream Wets in Small Brooks, Building a Wet Fly Team, Salmon fishing for Stripers (Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing guide)

Bugs Department and Farmington River Survivor Strain (The Drake)

A story/essay on a year-long striper adventure (FlyFish Journal)

Not to mention the regular, wonderful (it doesn’t suck, does it?) content featured here on Currentseams.

Anyone else bloody tired of winter? Stand by. Spring is coming.

Image

Speaking of soon-to-be regular (I hope) content, I just completed my first successful tying test video last night. I’m hoping to do a bunch of these this year. Stay tuned for the first one, coming soon.