Archive for January, 2010

Is that a golf ball in your pocket, or are you just happy to be fishing…

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on January 30, 2010 by stflyfisher

I’ve tried my best to interest my son in fly fishing, thinking it was something we could enjoy together and an avocation I could pass down the family line. When there was some interest and eagerness early on, I bought him an Orvis 6 weight rod and reel outfit, a vest, waders, and took him on a few trips but after only a few ventures out, I could tell he just didn’t have “the passion”.  All of you die-hards know what I’m talking about – the mojo, moxy, and absolute drive to excel in something so much that time itself stads still.  Chris does, thankfully, fish with me at the shore on the party boats out of Barnegat Inlet for blues, fluke, and stripers.  It’s a tradition thing mostly, a father-son “bonding” event, if you will.  But at his age, if I had a backyard pond stocked with hungry bass, as exists now just 100 yards out the back door of STFF headquarters, I’d be bank-side every evening.  Chris has yet to wet a line there.

My wife and I have stood by him in his search for a hobby that would capture his mind and heart, one that would make use of his abundant talents, and possibly turn into a labor of love.  There was guitar, lacrosse, paintball, biking, and wrestling, but all of these things were like tossing gas on a fire, producing white-hot flames that burned out fast and left no enduring embers.  And then along came golf…

Chris picked up a driver like he did a fly rod, and in no time was clipping balls 225 yards.  He has natural talent of which most of us can only dream.  I remember once casting a new rod on the lawn of a local fly shop with him, back when I was trying to cuddle him up to the sport.  The owner bluntly told me that my son, at 13, cast better than I did, 10+ years into the game.

The hills of Apalachin - from the front 9...

The hills of Apalachin - from the front 9...

So this past April we bought him a junior membership at a public course just a few hills over from where we live and ever since he started the “good walk spoiled”, a funny thing happened – I found golf balls wherever I fished.  It began with our pond, which wasn’t too surprising since Chris is constantly practicing on the lawn under our #1 ground rule, “away from the house – toward the pond”.  I’d paddle out on the pond and in the shallows, WAY down from where he’d tee off, see these white things down on the pond bottom.  Once I was fishing in the stillness of the evening, casting poppers, and nearly jumped out of the kayak when a big bass exploded only feet away.  Later, having returned from my back-yard expedition, a smiling Chris asked me how I liked his driving.

He could have been a fly fishing contenda...

He could have been a fly fishing 'contendah'...

But soon after that, more golf balls appeared in remote and very un-golflike places.  I found one in the upper Susquehanna River near Windsor where the river is secluded in deep woods and vast tracts of farmland.  I found another in the Chemung, downstream from the towering dikes that shoulder the river from the town of Athens.  I found still more in the Tioughnioga and the lower Susquehanna, and most recently, of all places, in Cayuta Creek.

Going for birdie...

Going for birdie...

I would bring them back, every one of them, as proof…

Fresh from the cool mountain springs of Cayuta Creek...

Fresh from the cool mountain springs of Cayuta Creek...

Serendipity?  Chance?  Divine intervention?  Could it be the Big Man’s way of tying the seemingly disparate fires burning deep within us together?  I’ve pondered this at length, concluding that, chance discovery or bread crumbs from above, it is indeed a sign that these two great avocations can be shared over the years.  Next time Chris hits the links I think I’ll throw my 8 weight in the back of the golf cart.  There just have to be some real hawg bass in those beautiful water obstacles…

Tight lines…

Fat Nancy’s Philosophy…

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2010 by stflyfisher

This past weekend son #2 and I took a hike to the great white north.  I’m not talking Albany, Syracuse, or Rochester; I’m talking PULASKI, which, in Polish should translate to “the place where the snow flies” (actually, the village was named after General Casimir Pulaski of revolutionary war fame).  Son #2 is a hockey player, and his Bantam Travel “B” Team was to face off against the Salmon River Storm at 11:30 am that day.  We met only mild weather resistance on the trip north, which is a rarity.  In fact, once we passed snowy Syracuse, the skies cleared up but the bright sunshine did little to lift the frigid cold.  Indeed, when we left the southern tier the temp was an invigorating -1 degree F.

The village of Pulaski is famous for two things; fishing and snowmobiling.  Situated on the western edge of Lake Ontario, it receives an average of 175 inches (over 14 feet) of snow every winter, but of more interest to the STFLYFISHER clan is the village’s location on the Salmon River.  This geographical blessing makes it one of the best places, arguably THE best place in the lower 48, to catch big steelhead, monster king and coho salmon, and huge lake-run browns.

Back before Fat Nancy came to town...

We arrived in Pulaski, took the exit off Rt 81 North, and at the top of the exit ramp, ran smack dab into Fat Nancy’s on our way to the rink, and with just one look at the interesting name (followed by “tackle shop”), I knew I had to check it out after the game.

Fat Nancy's in warmer times - an oasis of fly gear, snacks, and gas in the midst of the great white north...

We drove through the sleepy village and immediately got a sense for how much snow this part of upstate New York receives.  The roofs of houses and stores were steeped high with the stuff, and the icicles were enough to make one think twice about passing under any roof overhang.  The rink in Pulaski was colder inside than it was outside, but it made for fast ice and a great game, as the Binghamton Senators filleted the Salmon River Storm 12-5.

After the game, we were to head south to Cortland for a 5:30 pm game and lunch en route, but I took a little detour to Fat Nancy’s under the fatherly auspices of picking up a candy bar for my exhausted hockey player and filling the car up with gas in case we ever got stuck in some abominable snow drift.

The greeter at Fat Nancy's...

Upon first entering Fat Nancy’s, you’re greeted by one hell of a king salmon, although legend has it that “Fat Nancy’ is not the mother of all king salmon, nor is she some gargantuan female tackle shop owner, burly and beard-growing, complete with camel hanging out of her yap, but instead, a huge sturgeon in Lake Ontario that has eluded anglers for years.  Regardless, this big king, hanging in all its glory for all to dream wistfully of bent fly rods and backing on the reel, is just one of many Salmon River trophies mounted as testament to how truly great the fishing is on the Salmon River.

If you get gas at Fat Nancy's, make sure you pay inside!

What happens after entry into this fly fisherman’s house of pleasure is sensory overload, as this tackle shop is more like a convenience store version of Cabelas than a Citgo Mini-Mart.  While the shop does cater to the hardware guys, ice fishermen, and trollers, there is a nice stand of G Loomis, Scott, TFO, and some lesser known brands of fly rods to piqué one’s interest.  Fat Nancy’s offers a broad steelhead / salmon fly selection along with a bountiful stock of line, terminal tackle, reels, waders, and clothing.  Browsing around, I quickly spied the ultimate big river steelhead rod – a 10′ / 7 weight Scott ARC for sale at half price.  I practically had to buy a hat just to catch the slobber that drooled from my mouth.

I picked up a chocolate bar for my very patient hockey player and stood at the counter while a big upstate good-ole-boy sidled up behind the cash register.  “Is that it?”, he bellowed, jowls swaying.  “Yes”, I responded, “although I sure would like to add that Scott ARC you have on sale, but the wife wouldn’t take too kindly to that”.  I chuckled a little, thinking some sympathetic comment would soon follow.  Instead I got a brash and baritone “tough sh*t”, followed by a lambasting that chastised my manhood and, would have put my tail between my legs if I had one.  “You work for that money, don’t you?”, he scowled, “you can do whatever the hell you want with it, that’s what I say”.  I grimaced and shriveled in the face of this dress-down and soon felt like I was looking up at the counter.  “If you want the rod, buy it, and if she don’t like it, tough sh*t”.  “Riiiiiigggghhhhhttttt…..”, as Dr. Evil would say.

I slithered out of the store, hockey player in tow, and thought long and hard about “the philosophy” as we sped down 81 to Cortland.  And the more I thought, the more I realized this guy had a point.  The counter-guy’s “pep” talk had truly given me a lift.  Carpe diem, seize the day, strike while the iron’s hot, go for it – the “talk” had convinced me, if nothing else, that Fat Nancy’s was far more than a tackle shop.  That week I had a new fly reel on order, with no apologies and nary a second thought, thank you very much.

Tight lines…

2010 Goals

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on January 2, 2010 by stflyfisher

It’s been a pattern of mine for years – spending a part of New Years Day camped out in a comfortable chair – fire softly burning in the fireplace – bourbon on the rocks or a dry gin martini within arm’s reach – and putting pen to paper, inking out my plan for the year ahead.

"Let's see, goal number one, improve shelter..."

Don’t get me wrong – this is not some quick exercise completed in one sitting – it is the final draft of a plan I start formulating well before the end of each year.  I start with the big picture, or as Stephen Covey would put it, “begin with the end in mind” – and gradually break my goals down into reasonable objectives for the year ahead.  It’s a cherished process, and one that causes me to not only herald accomplishments, but recognize failures.  Best of all, it helps me, in Stephen Covey’s words, to “be proactive”.  By acting positively on past failures, I choose to respond rather than react.  Put another way, I can gripe and wail about not being able to cast well, OR, I can recognize my shortfalls and do something about them…

While I do this for all areas of my life, I thought I’d publish my goals in terms of my one and only avocation – fly fishing.  And so with great fanfare, I list them below:

1) Purchase and set up an 8 weight fly fishing rig (fly rod / reel / line) for Finger Lake and Great Lakes tribs.

2) Catch the following “firsts” on the fly; a steelhead, lake trout, and a bluefish, striped bass, or weakfish.

3) Begin fly tying – focus on the Picket Pin, Wooly Bugger, and Egg and Worm Patterns.

4) Float fish the Susquehanna; a) Binghamton to Vestal Park, b) Vestal Park to Campville, and c) Campville to Owego

5) Practice and improve my casting distance and accuracy.  Learn to single haul and double haul.

6) Purchase my PA fishing license and explore, fish, and learn PA creeks and rivers.

7) Learn and use the following knots:  Non-Slip Mono Knot, Palomar Knot, Improved Turtle Knot, and Perfection Loop.  Learn to tie my own leaders.

So how about your fly fishing goals?  Have you thought about how you could be a better fly fisherman in 2010?  Take the time now, while Mother Nature is deep in sleepy snow, and jot down a few ideas.

Can you hear the bass snoring back there???

Mull them over between swigs of whiskey if you will.  Keep coming back to them over the next few weeks and refine and rethink them, until your list is something that inspires you.  Believe me, you’ll be happy for it when 2011 rolls around…

Tight Lines, and Happy New Year…