I am sitting on Buchanan Bank waiting for Billy Pate, who died in April (sources disagreed on whether he was 80 or 81). About 75 yards to the east is a white cross sticking out of the water, the final resting spot for some of the most famous tarpon guides in the history of the sport: Jimmie Albright, Cecil Keith, Jack Brothers—all were Florida Keys legends. This place is called “the Pocket,” a dip in the bank that tarpon are forced into by falling tides, giving a lucky fly fisherman the perfect angle to cast at those grand fish. It is the most hallowed spot in tarpon angling. Billy spent hundreds of days at the Pocket and, although not a guide, will soon be the most famous angler resting here. The memorial procession of family, friends, fellow anglers and guides is on the way. I can see dozens of boats on the horizon, all heading here.
- Photography by: Val Atkinson
Kept from public knowledge; withdrawn, remote, secluded.
- Photography by: Brian Grossenbacher
Sylvester Nemes passed away at home, in Bozeman, Montana on February 3, 2011. Best known for his classic 1975 book The Soft-Hackled Fly, he also wrote seven other fly-fishing titles.
He was born on April 2, 1922 in Erie, Pennsylvania. He grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and fished Pennsylvania trout streams. His fly-tying mentor was his barber. When he spotted several simple partridge-hackled dressings in bamboo rod-maker Paul Young’s fly shop, he was forever hooked.
That I ever ended up in the Florida Keys at all was happenstance. Catching a tarpon on the second cast I ever made to those fish, from the bow of a 28-foot cabin cruiser called the Water Lilly, no less, was pure miracle.
But that’s getting ahead of myself. First about the Keys—to be honest, in my 20s I had no interest in saltwater fish, aside from the Northwest’s salmon. I was fixed instead on the northern Rockies and learning those waters better than any trout-bumming author on the planet. My thought process was this: There are too many great trout streams in the Rockies, and too many varied hatches and water conditions, to understand many of them well, let alone to know a few completely. So, why stray?
- Photography by: Louis Cahill
- , Jeff Edvalds
- and Greg Thomas
On a may pre-dawn in 2009 i held a quivering loon in my arms. It had crawled out of Big Island Pond and onto my beach, where it sought shelter against my canoe—a bad start to the day, because loons are a recent addition to this busy southern-New Hampshire lake. When I came in from fishing it had died of plumbism.
Plumbism (lead poisoning) in wildlife is caused almost entirely by ammunition and fishing tackle. The most common victims of tackle are birds that eat fish or dabble in bottom muck. Because they lack teeth they “chew” their food with gizzards, ingesting pebbles to aid the process. Frequently they mistake lost sinkers or jigheads for pebbles; in fact, they key in on them. Even more frequently, they eat lead-toting fish that have broken off anglers’ lines.
- Photography by: Mark Pokras
Fly fishermen were shocked and saddened when eastern Idaho’s fabled A-Bar closed in 2008 [see “Last Call,” March 2010 Fly Rod & Reel] but the good news is this: The A-Bar, legendary among parched trout fishermen, road-weary travelers and rambunctious locals, was purchased by TroutHunter, its next-door neighbor, and is being refurbished with plans to reopen this summer.
“Our goal is to fix the roof, do some painting and repairs and reopen on July 4, 2011, or as soon after that as possible,” says Rich Paini, one of the A-Bar’s new co-owners. Other partners include Paini’s wife, Millie, Jon Stiehl, Allen Ball and renowned fly tier René Harrop.
Years ago Dave Whitlock, a doyen of American fly-fishing, trudged toward the beaver ponds on Montana’s Big Hole River. The glorious day promised tight tippets. As he clambered through thick brush, Dave’s elastic-tethered net snagged. He did what we all do: He kept walking, waiting for the net to pull free. It did not. He turned around just in time to receive the net between his eyes. After regaining consciousness, he gathered his spiteful net and continued on his way with two black eyes.
- By: Darrel Martin
- and Buzz Bryson
I first met sylvester nemes through his 1975 book, The Soft-Hackled Fly. It was a small book, tightly focused on its single subject: wet flies tied with bodies of silk thread, sparse hackles, rarely anything extra. Sylvester’s prose reflected his subject perfectly. It was spare, compact and didn’t stray from its subject. Which is to say, the book was beautifully written. Best to me: It was—and is, because it’s still in print under the title The Soft-Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles—one of those rare books that enthused me to immediately sit down at the vise, tie a bunch of the flies described, and rush from there to a stream to fish them.
The flies, and the methods described, worked. Sometimes they worked wonders. One of my favorite days with them came on a gloomy fall float of Utah’s Green River, downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam. Few trout rose all day. My friends and I tried pestering them to attention with weighted nymphs tumbled along the bottom, which turned out to be ineffective—and because it produced few trout, was also very little fun.
- Photography by: Dave Hughes
A few months ago, a number of Sage Z-Axis fly rods, as well as Simms G4 waders, mysteriously appeared on the sales racks at 16 Costco locations throughout the country. And, true to form, the super-big-box retailer had drastically slashed prices, knocking hundreds of dollars off the MSRP.
But, alas, it was a short-lived phenomenon. When those companies heard about their products being sold through Costco (apparently, they were sourced to Costco by different agents and accounts), both Simms and Sage snuffed out sales by actually repurchasing their own products, at retail price.
Like most of the trout streams in my life, I first saw this one from the window of a moving car. We were at right angles to each other at a narrow bridge, going our separate ways. It was just a sidelong glance: not much more than a fisherman at the wheel registering flowing water.
Farther along, the road turned to roughly parallel the stream and there were longer glimpses and then full views. In this stretch it was mostly riffles with uniform cobble bottoms, and darker slots at the bends where fish would hold. I followed it downstream as it took on feeders with unremarkable names like Willow, Spruce, Moose, Buck, Bear and Boulder creeks and grew from a creek itself to a good-size stream and finally to a proper little river.
- Illustrations by: Bob White
“DEAR SIRS,” the e-mail started, “My name is Reginald Kibugi, and I am seeking to sell you excellent-quality fishing flies.” My cursor hovered over the Spam button, but the next line made me hesitate: “My asking price is $3 per dozen.” That’s a quarter a fly. Was this a good deal? A bad deal? I didn’t know, and chances are, you’ve received similar e-mails, if not this very one, and you don’t know either.
In order to answer that question, you have to know a bit about the world of commercial fly-tying, and that means you need some history. Back in the 1970s, an American professional fly tier named Dennis Black was driving from shop to shop to peddle his wares. On one of his long road trips across the West, he had an epiphany: He might be better off supervising other tiers than doing all the work on his own.
- Photography by: Greg Thomas
There are a lot of good fly tiers in the world, but there are very few great ones.
A good tier makes flies that catch fish, but a great tier is an ambassador for the craft. He is a patient teacher and is eager to help novices learn how to tie flies. He willingly shares hard-earned knowledge and expertise with more advanced tiers so they can learn the finer points and create better patterns. A good tier develops new flies that are named for him; a great tier shows a beginner how to make a simple Hare’s Ear Nymph in one sitting so he can enjoy the thrill of catching a fish with a fly that he made.
- Photography by: Tim Savard
If there’s another piece of fishing equipment that serves as useful a range of functions as sunglasses, I am unaware of it. Good glasses defend your eyes from careening hook points and the large-caliber metal ordnance increasingly found at the end of a leader these days. They shield your eyes from the ultraviolet (UV) rays linked to such delightful prospects as cataracts and macular degeneration. Sunglasses reduce eyestrain and increase comfort in retina-searing sunlight and enhance vision on hazy or overcast days. And they allow you to see things with greater definition—important things, such as your fly on the water, the structure of the bottom, fish. Throw in the ancillary coolness factor and you have a pretty advantageous package, particularly for something that sits, largely unnoticed, on your nose.
- Photography by: Greg Thomas
The weather report was fantastic, with the news coming from no less than a sea captain on the rugged Atlantic Coast: Mary Gavin-Hughes sent blessings about incredible spring temperatures (global warming, anyone?) on the West Coast of Ireland. Yes, Mary Gavin, as in the one and only woman runner of the sea in this region of the Emerald Isle. Blue skies and hot, an early summer, no talk of rain, is what Mary said. The more Mary and I corresponded by e-mail last spring, the more I thought about bringing a 9-weight to try for ocean fish, such as mackerel and sharks and who knows what—sea bass, maybe?
Hold on—I was to visit the Great Fishing Houses of Ireland, inland, to fish tidal rivers and lakes. This was to be about Atlantic salmon. But I’ve always been drawn to the rebellious types. And along came Mary.
- Photography by: Joe Healy
I used to spend portions of each summer on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula, stomping around our family’s 17 forested acres, which front a saltwater bay and offer quick access to sea-run cutthroat trout and anything else that might bite.
Flip open a copy of Delorme’s Maine Atlas and Gazetteer and you might be amazed at all the water in the state. Probably best known for big brook trout and classic landlocked-salmon fishing, Maine has everything required to fulfill fishing fantasies. Throw in some wonderful saltwater fishing for stripers and blues along the coast, not to mention the big bluefins shouldering along the continental shelf, and what else do you need? Well, bass, for one thing. Largemouth and smallmouth inhabit areas of the state as large and varied as the trout and salmon habitat, in some spots even overlapping those salmonids.
- Photography by: Barry Beck
- , Val Atkinson
- and Cathy Beck
Everyone knows that bass love weeds, but to cover big weedbeds efficiently, you often need a boat (although not necessarily a sparkly one). Unfortunately, and most noted in the South, the lake bottom around most weeds is mucky, with a thick layer of decaying vegetation on top. But in cooler climes—the northern tier of the country and at higher elevations—sandy or rocky lakebeds allow wading anglers to get in on the action. And because fish often bury themselves too deep in the weeds for boaters to reach, in some situations wading anglers may have advantages over their floating brethren.
- Photography by: Scott Sanchez
- Illustrations by: Fred Thomas
I enjoy mike savlen’s paintings for the same reasons I like the man: The artist and his work are bold, honest and colorful.
Savlen grew up near the water, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and began to fish with his father at the age of two. Since then, he says, water and fish have fascinated him. His interest in painting began at about the same time, when he found a can of house paint in the trash and decided to re-paint the family car. “I guess,” Savlen says with a grin, “that my parents didn’t quite understand my artistic vision!”
- Photography by: Bob White
My son-in-law called a few years ago, wanting to go bass fishing. I told him about a few bass ponds near Boulder, Colorado and we decided to meet that afternoon. Imagine two identical boxes: one full of bass bugs, the other with big dry flies I use in Labrador. Neither box was labeled. I grabbed the Labrador box by mistake. Imagine my surprise after I strung up my rod and opened the box. Nothing but size 2 Royal Wulffs and some huge caddis imitations. The big Royal Wulffs worked so well on two- to three-pound bass that I had to give some to my son-in-law. A lucky mistake.
- Photography by: A. K. Best
Going fishing is an adventure, and no matter how long you’ve fished, you never know what awaits you. And this is part of the thrill, sometimes.
Once, on a flight to Belize, I looked down and all I saw were whitecaps, even on the shallow flats. A few minutes later we were on the small island of Ambergris Caye; the wind that met us had to be over 20 miles per hour, with stronger gusts. This was not good for any kind of fishing, but for a group of fly fishermen looking for bonefish, it was terrible.
That evening I gathered the small group before dinner and suggested they think of fishing some of the creeks and rivers in the area. They offer great protection against the wind and a variety of fish species to chase. But the group was set on bonefish. They had thought about bones for months, and they couldn’t give them up. I understood.
- Photography by: Louis Cahill
- and Chico Fernandez