I must have been eight years old when I first witnessed a fly fisherman, plying the placid waters of New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee. I watched in amazement as his line danced through the sky and his casts landed eloquently with the precision and purpose. I quickly asked my father what the man was doing and was told that he was fly fishing. I was truly intrigued and, in my vigor to learn, asked my father how the man was able to catch the flies he was using for bait. With a strange look, my father simply shook his head and walked away. Thus began my romanticism with feathers, flies and all things unimportant to the rational world.
As a young man, I was ready to take on fly fishing full steam. My father purchased a cheap combo from the local department store, assuring that if the wand or my spirit had broken early in the foray, he wouldn’t be out a significant sum of money. My flies consisted of poorly tied blobs of fur on a hook, little foam spiders and a few of my own creations, which were nothing more than sewing thread hanging off a hook. Needless to say, between my belabored casting technique and my fly selection, fishing became more of an attempt not to hook myself or anyone else within casting range.
I was blessed to grow up on the banks of the Passaic River, at the time the ninth most polluted river in the United States. The fishery was diverse, with carp, catfish and car parts as my quarry. Although I could not get any of the behemoths to take my flies, I did occasionally slip a piece of crusted bagel on the hook to entice fish to look at my offerings. This was fly fishing at its finest.
Next came the finer points of entomology and the three main classes of aquatic insects; mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies. Well, not to get ahead of myself, my classifications were more loosely defined as green bugs, brown bugs and black bugs. When in doubt, a combination of all three was thoroughly explored.
My thirst for knowledge was boundless and I sought out the writings of greats like Art Flick, Joe Brooks and Lee Wulff, all who seemingly could go into great detail about which goop would allow your fly to float the highest or sink the deepest and which color fly line would deter or attract the greatest amount of fish. And I thought fly line color was all about personal preference.
Then came the feathers….those magical materials that cost so much but could be found near every duck pond in New Jersey. There were necks and capes, roosters and hens and flanks aplenty. Then came the grades.
I did fairly well in school and knew that a grade of A was certainly better that of an F. I also knew that I was rewarded when the grades on my report card came back higher than anticipated but found this logic flawed when it came to feathers. Those D grade feathers that littered my bag seemed much friendlier to my wallet than the snobbish A grade feathers hung so high up on the shop’s wall. Perhaps they were like the rare A plus I brought home on one of my many math tests, which hung high on my parent’s refrigerator so proudly for many years. In any event, I was happy to have my mallard feathers, goose quills and dog tail, a proprietary shop mixture, to adorn my hooks.
Somewhere along the journey, my technique was refined, insects were identified by their Latin names and goop became dessicant powder. My flies began to take on more of the size and shape of the naturals and I even had a few fish willing to grace me with their presence.
In near 30 years of fly fishing, I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful equipment and stand on some majestic banks of a few famed rivers. I have caught some grand fish and lost more than I care to remember. I have met some wonderful friends and mourned those I have lost silently out on the river.
All those years ago, I took up fly fishing as a way to become a better fisherman, to challenge myself, test my abilities, my patience and my sanity. All these years later, I realize that fly fishing has made me a better man. It has taught me to appreciate what I have, it has made me realize that catching the fish is not the sole objective, it has reminded me that all living things around us have meaning and purpose and has taught me to be humble and accept what life has to offer.
Some of my fondest moments were trying to take random knowledge, mismatched materials and salvaged tackle to have some fun and catch a few fish while doing it.
My life is still filled with feathers, flies and many things unimportant but it is also those very same things that remind me what is.
Enjoy your passion and find passion in what you enjoy.
Like a blink of an eye the 2015 summer lip ripping session has come and almost gone. A solid year of bass, trout, beers, and bonfires. Lets take a few minutes to highlight some of our favorite moments.
(Also 2 ice fishing pictures that never made it into the mix yet, and, not to brag, are my first 1 of each fish caught!)
Starting out we turn to Maryland for the shad run. Accompanied by my good MKFF buddies Mark and Dave, we truly made an impact on the fishing scene; The river and the bars.
The following weekend was also spent in Maryland, while we prepared the family boat for the upcoming warm weather sailing season. Dave and I set-up behind the boat with some hot dogs on the lines and sat and waited. Here are the results.
Maryland out of the way we can focus on some close to home fishing!!
We head to Lake Hopatcong with some fun hybrid striper fun with my buddy Mark and his son Mark. Here’s our outcome!
And onto some local fishing with a local pond and beautiful Paulinskill river!
Now let’s head to some deeper water with an unexpected, typically cold temperature, guest! Off the tip on Montauk we took our friends boat out a little bit in search of Stripers! Unfortunately, we came up shore but we got a few surprises instead!
Now, the finale, those two new fish promises! Introducing for the first time ever by this blog, and this angler in particular….
So, this concludes a quick update of the ventures and fish caught by the MKFF crew. Hope you enjoyed viewing them as much as we had catching them! Come on back soon for some more updates, pictures, and good times!!
Some upcoming blogs will cover the Pulaski Salmon run in October and another awesome trip to Sanibel Island!
There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.
I do a lot of both. But standing around looking like an idiot is typically how I catch most of my fish. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
If you ask certain members of my family about me, they will tell you that I came out of the womb with a fishing pole in one hand and a beer in the other. The beer part, I’m not sure about, but also wouldn’t doubt. The fishing part, however, is stretching the truth just a little.
This is Pop and I. Pop, known to most people as “Randy” and to a few as “Floyd,” was the greatest fly fisherman to ever live. I love the members of Moose Knuckle Fly Fishing, I grew up with most of them. But despite their talents, no one can cast like Pop. Some people describe the particular cast used in fly fishing as an art form. If that is the case, then Pop’s cast could have been in the Louvre, right next to “Mona Lisa.” And he was lucky. Luckiest man I knew. Being lucky and being a fisherman can be a deadly combination. But whether it was a scratch-off lottery ticket, a Ducks Unlimited Silent Auction, or a fishing competition, Pop always came out on the winning side. He is the reason why a lot of my family members, myself included, love fishing. And because my mom and I were the favorites, we inherited his very large tackle box when he passed away in 2008. My dad refers to it as “The Suitcase.” And it is pretty much just filled with magic and awesomeness. Rubber worms, top water plugs, flies, semi-floaters, shad darts, hoolapoppers; you name it, its in this box. I will even admit that there are some things in the Suitcase for which I do not know their purpose. But I intend to find out.
I’ve always loved to fish. Dad and I would go every chance we got when I was younger. Then, as horrible as this may sound to the outdoorsmen/women reading this, we both became busy. Too busy to fish. But this summer, I have all the time in the world. And so does Dad. I graduated from college this past December. And after moving home, applying to 67 jobs, not getting any of them, and coming to realize that, financially, I would be fine, I decided to take the summer off before starting law school this fall in Syracuse, New York. And Dad and I have been hitting the ponds every chance we get. So, like, I said, I’ve always loved to fish. But this is the first year that I’ve really started to document it.
I’m not big on the selfie craze…unless I can take a selfie with a bass.
Pictures of my dad catching huge fish? Definitely a favorite of mine.
And being on the right lake at the right time of day? Also a favorite of mine.
Now that I’ve filled you in, its time for the real story. About how I caught a hog bass, weighing in at 7.4 lbs, while I was standing around on the dock looking like an idiot.
The Tale of the Tail
It took me a really long time to write this story, because time writing was time I actually wanted to spend fishing. You can’t tell me that you, the reader, has never come down with the “Fever.” You know, after you catch that monster fish? You pretty much just want to set up camp on the dock, bank, or in the boat, and you want to bring in enough provisions for a small army so that you never have to stop fishing. Because you just want to catch a bigger fish than the monster you just reeled in. Well, I’m slowly getting over the “Fever,” but recovery is slow going.
When Dad and I started fishing this summer, we were reeling in one and two pounders left and right. Every cast we threw off of the dock produced a bass at the end of our pole. No matter the size, Dad and I always catch and release. This may be the one thing we have in common when it comes to fishing. Otherwise, we’re quite different.
For example, Dad does research to find out what other fishermen are having success with when it comes to fishing tackle. I, on the other hand, typically either buy the last bag of whatever color rubber worms are on the shelf, assuming that if its working for other people/selling out that it will work for me, or I just buy the ones that look the coolest. As a matter of fact, my monster of a bass was caught on super cool purple worm with blue glitter, made by YUM and costing a whopping $2.68 per bag. And I bought them because they looked super cool. Dad likes to reel his fish in, take them off the hook(s), and throw them back. I talk to my fish, I name my fish, and I make Dad say “hello” to my fish before I throw them back in the pond. This last part tends to frustrate him, especially when he’s got a fish on his own line, he’s trying to steer the boat, or he’s packing a lip. Or better yet, when all three of those things are happening at the same time. But, we always agree on a catch and release policy. Its not about how many scales we can mount on our wall or feeding our family. And its not about the number of fish we catch in general. Its about the fun of the sport and the time that he and I get to spend together.
It depends on the day as to what works. I usually start out with my Rapala CountDown lure, dubbed “Old Faithful,” because whether its a sunny or a bass, I always catch something when I throw it out.
Dad seems to love using Zoom lizards, sticking mostly to either the chartreuse pepper or the pumpkin color.
But as far as worms go, it not only changes by the day, but by the minute. I could start with a watermelon worm with a black spec and catch five or six fish. A few casts later, after not even a nibble, I’ll switch to a watermelon worm with no spec, but silver glitter, and catch another five or six fish. Or it may be a more drastic change, like a bright purple Gulp! sinking minnow. But either way, its usually a trial and error process. We just keep trying to see what works. Now that we’ve been using the boat more and, therefore, casting in towards the bank, Dad has been experimenting with top water plugs/jitterbugs. Some days those work and some days those don’t. Like I said, trial and error.
Now, onto the tail…
The date was June 3, 2014. For the past week or so, the little guys had been eating our worms alive. So, on my third trip to the bait shop in five days, I decided to try out a cheaper brand of worm. Especially if the fish were going to continue biting like they had been. That’s when I found my super cool looking purple worms with blue glitter from YUM. More specifically, YUM Dinger, Color: Junebug.
The day before hadn’t really been that great, even on the boat. So after catching the tiniest bass I had ever seen (who I named Archimedes), I didn’t really expect to catch anything, let alone the biggest bass anyone I knew had ever seen.
After picking up some cheap worms, and other essentials like hooks and swivels, I headed home to wait for Dad’s F250 Diesel to roll in the driveway and pick me up. Decked out in my Syracuse Law t-shirt and and Dad in his Binghamton University t-shirt, we headed to the pond.
About 10 minutes had gone by, and the catch had been the usual. Nothing to report. Then, what happened was nothing short of a miracle.
As I said, the day before hadn’t really been anything magical, for me anyways. Dad had caught some decent sized fish, but I was reeling in the little guys. I know I said that size doesn’t matter and number doesn’t matter. But every once in a while, Dad and I become slightly competitive. So after his third 3.5-4lb fish, accompanied by a “Sarah, look at my fish!” comment, I got a little frustrated. And said to Dad, “How much you wanna bet Mom and Pop are both up there right now laughing at me? Heck, they’re probably the ones who keep sending me the tiny fish so you can reel in the big ones. Whatever, Mom and Pop. Have your laughs and be done.”
But on this particular day, I was rewarded. Mom and Pop had had their laughs up there on their clouds, and now it was my turn to catch the bigger fish. After switching from “Old Faithful” to a Junebug, I felt a tug on the first cast. This tug was a little bigger than most tugs I had felt, but I was also using a lightweight pole with six-pound line on it, so even a sunny feels like the Great White Whale. It wasn’t until he jumped that I realized that I had a fish of “proper” size on the other end of my pole. I reeled him in, had my usual conversation with him, then put him on the scale. 5.3 lbs!! Score! Finally! What a fish…compared to Archimedes at least.
Next came Dad’s fish. He too, using a lightweight poll, had no idea what he was in for until the fish jumped , hook in lip, about ten feet from the dock. After reeling him in and getting him on the scale, we recorded a good 6.2 lbs. Dad looked at me with a gleam in his eyes that reminded me of Christmas morning and said, more like screamed, “THEY’RE GETTING BIGGER.”
What a day. We’d been on that dock for maybe 15 minutes. Oh, by the way, did I mention that these monsters were caught from the dock? Yeah. That’s right. I couldn’t believe it either.
Thinking that this was the highlight of the day, Dad and I began to relax. I started being my usual goofball self, acting in a way that some people, particularly Steve Wright, may have categorized as standing on the dock looking like an idiot. Then, my life changed forever. Or at least until I catch a bigger fish.
I felt the tug, I waited just a moment, I set the hook, and began to reel. And then my face went as white as the White Pilgrim’s tomb stone (which, if you’re not from around these parts and/or have never visited it in the Johnsonburg Cemetary, is white). Dad brushed it off, saying “everything feels heavy on a lightweight pole, remember?” But all it took was a look. I turned my head towards my father, with my rod tip up and my reel clicking away, and he realized that I had hit the jackpot. It felt like I had been reeling forever. And ever. And ever. Until finally, the fish reached the side of the dock and rolled in the water. “Holy fish, Batman!” was the only thing I could think of to say. Because of my excitement, and my hootin’ and hollerin’, and my jumping up and down, Dad took the fish off of the hook, and when he held him out for me to lip him, it required more than one hand. I had caught a monster bass. The biggest my father, 66 years young and raised in the Catskill Mountains with stories of fishing out the wazoo, had ever seen. When placed on the scale, I thought the needle would never stop. But it did. At a whopping 7.4 lbs.
After that, nothing could wipe the smiles off of our faces. That had been the greatest fishing day we had all season. Not in the quantity of fish, but definitely in the quality. I know I made a big deal about the size of these fish, mostly because I still can’t contain my excitement. But it really wasn’t about the weight of the fish. And it still isn’t. Fishing means a lot of things to a lot of people. You feel a lot of different emotions while you’re fishing. Frustration, joy, sadness, anger, anxiety, hope, longing, loss, excitement, terror, and the list goes on and on. Fishing isn’t about the quality or quantity of the fish. Its about the quality of the time you have while fishing. Its a wild ride.
Steve Wright believes that there’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the dock looking like an idiot. But as far as I’m concerned, looking like an idiot is a big part of fishing. Whether its a big floppy hat, or your favorite t-shirt, fishing line and worms pouring out of your pockets, hands covered in a combination of scales, fish goo, and possibly some fish blood, hootin’ and hollerin’ and jumping all around when you catch a fish, yeah. We all pretty much look like idiots when fishing. But as far as I’m concerned, there is no line between fishing and having some of the best days of your life.