Archive for January, 2014

The Salmon River Conversion to Darn Tough Socks

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Gear, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on January 19, 2014 by stflyfisher

In a scene from the movie “Forrest Gump” – a Southern Tier Fly Fisher favorite – Forrest and his good friend Bubba are introduced to Lt. Dan Taylor, their platoon leader. Lt Dan, as he is referred to by Forrest, is a pretty straight-forward type of military leader who instructs his “FNG’s” in a few basic essentials on his way to visit the hooch. Among his words of advice is the following:

“There is one item of G.I. gear that can be the difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt. Socks. Cushioned sole, O.D. green. Try and keep your feet dry. When we’re out humpin’, I want you boys to remember to change your socks whenever we stop. The Mekong will eat a grunt’s feet right off his legs.”


Most of us anglers have some idea of the importance of Lt Dan’s advice. Socks can make a huge difference to the fly fisherman, particularly in cold weather. For soldiers in combat, proper foot-wear is even more critical. Trench foot may be the best example of what happens when soldiers don’t take care of their feet in the field. Caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions, it can be prevented by keeping the feet clean, warm and dry. Trench foot was first noted during the retreat of Napoleon’s army from Russia but it was the horrid conditions of the trenches in World War I that brought it to the attention of the medical profession. A key preventive measure that was implemented during that time was regular foot inspections by officers. It was also encountered in WWII, and in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Trench foot even made a reappearance in the British Army during the Falklands War of 1982. The causes were the same: cold, wet conditions and insufficiently waterproof boots.

A WWII GI with a bad case of trench foot.

A WWII GI with a bad case of trench foot.

So feet, it turns out, are of high interest to the military to this very day. A work colleague of mine recently told me of his time in the Marine Corps – where he and his platoon would do forced marches and then be told to sit down roadside and remove their boots and socks for a foot check by a navy corpsman…

uncover... feet!

Foot inspections – a preventive measure…

The lesson learned through all of these wars is the same: take care of your feet by wearing good quality socks and change them as often as necessary…

When it comes to good quality socks, there’s a pretty big selection out on the market these days. One could purchase a pair of authentic Vietnam-era socks, the very socks Forrest Gump would have worn in the Mekong Delta, for example.

Straight from ebay...

Straight from Ebay…

The socks pictured above are the real deal – original unissued Vietnam era olive drab green, wool cushion sole socks made of a mixture of wool, nylon & cotton material and available on Ebay for the nostalgic fly fisherman. While wool is a great material for its wicking and drying capabilities, the use of cotton these days is a big no-no. Cotton tends to absorb moisture, saturate quickly, and dry slowly – a perfect recipe for blisters and worse!

Forrest, Bubba, Tex, Cleveland, Phoenix, Detroit, Dallas, and Lt. Dan would have been a whole lot better off with today’s sock which include advanced synthetics and fine grades of wool, such as merino (click here for some good writing on the topic of merino wool and here for the general topic of dressing for cold weather).

So what would I recommend to these men or anyone venturing forth in the cold and damp? Darn Tough is the brand of sock I like. I was sold on them after spending a rather bitter winter afternoon watching my son play hockey up in Pulaski, NY, where the indoor rink temperature seemed colder than it was outside! I stood there in full shiver along with the other hockey parents – all of whom were doing the same – with one exception. Rich, who works as a NYSEG Lineman, seemed unaffected by the arctic air. He watched the game without one shake from the cold. By the end of the first period, stepping out to the concession area for hot coffee, I had to ask…

“I always used to get cold feet” he confided to me  when asked why he appeared Eskimo-like in the midst of Frigidaire conditions. As a lineman, he explained, he was frequently up in the bucket in some pretty bad weather. And he was tired of being miserable because of his feet. He searched a while for a better sock, and found them in Darn Toughs. He added that they were pricey, but the company claimed free replacement for any reason, forever. He’d yet to have to take one back – they were as hardened to wear as their label suggested.

Needless to say, I decided to give these socks a try, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I’ve been a loyal customer ever since, even buying them for my daughter who often tends the playground in Syracuse winters as a teacher’s aide. There are other brands out there, such as SmartWool, Under Armor, and Icebreaker. These are good options, but I happen to like Darn Tough’s just fine. The price tag is on the hefty side for a sock, but it’s nice knowing they’re the only sock you’ll ever need to own. Your feet will surely thank you.

Ever since my Salmon River conversion, I always let my friend Rich know how darn good his Darn Toughs are. He just smiles, asking if I’ve hooked anyone else on the brand. Turns out he finally wore a pair through. “They took them back and replaced them free of charge, just as promised”. Try a pair – they may just be the only pair of socks you’ll ever need.


2014 Goals

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , , on January 11, 2014 by stflyfisher

“A goal properly set is halfway reached”

Zig Ziglar

I never met Zig Ziglar during his lifetime on this good earth. Known best for his southern charm, zany quotes, and unending enthusiasm, he became successful as a salesman and then took off on his own as a motivational speaker, spreading the good word of “Zig”. I came to know of him courtesy of a co-worker named Lee back in the days when I worked for Texas Instruments. Lee introduced me to one of Zig’s foundation books, “See You at the Top”, and would often preach Zig’s message on success by quoting him throughout the work day. His sayings sometimes seemed corny, indeed, but they stuck to the point where I can still recite the likes of: “Don’t become a wandering generality, be a meaningful specific”, “You can have anything in your life, if you help others get what they want”, and “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine you altitude”.


It took a while for me to buy the message, to be honest. I was a little on guard – some of it seemed almost too ‘over the top’ and even Ned Flanderesque, but after reading the book and digesting it gradually, I began to like what I read and found that much of it rang true. These days I’m more a student of Dr. Stephen Covey, but Zig still occupies my heart and soul for his good hearted fire. It’s sad to say, but both Zig Ziglar and Dr. Stephen Covey passed away in 2012. They each left indelibly good marks on the world.

Dr. Covey and Zig Ziglar both believed in goals. And I obviously do too. In my last post, I promised the unveiling of my 2014 goals. I finished 2013 on an OK note in terms of goal completion, but vowing, I’ll do better…

And here they are:

1) Become a better nymph fisherman. Study the works of Dave Hughes (author of “Wet Flies”), Sylvester Nemes (author of “Soft Hackled Fly”), and George Daniel (author of “Dynamic Nymphing”). Buy better nymphing tackle.

2) Catch one of the following saltwater game-fish on the fly: a bluefish, striped bass, or weakfish.

3) Improve my fly tying. Focus on perfecting three patterns, with a goal to catch fish with these patterns:

a) Sulphur Soft Hackle

b) Caddis Sparkle Pupa

c) Murray’s Nymph

4) Donate a box of my own tied flies to the Annual Al Hazzard TU Banquet.

5) Float fish the Susquehanna; Campville to Owego.

6) Practice and improve my casting distance and accuracy.  Make perfect casting practice a habit.

7) Fish with friends – enjoy their company and learn new skills and places to fish. 

8) Learn to tie one new fishing knot. 

9) Fish the tributaries.

10) Night fish for trout. 

Absent from the list this year is ‘Catch a Lake Trout on a fly’. I pulled this one off the list as it is a hit or miss goal – a hard one to achieve. Instead, I added ‘Fish the tributaries’, which could result in catching a laker, brown, steelhead, or landlocked salmon. If I do better at fishing the tribs more often, I’m sure to meet Mr. Laker one of these days. I also added “to become a better nymph fisherman” as it is something I love to do, and I met some good success in 2013 focusing on it.

I’ll close by wishing everyone a successful fly fishing year in 2014, however they may define it, and leave with the following ‘Ziggish’ quote of LCDR Harry G Ulrich, III, Executive Officer of my beloved USS Stark (FFG-31), who often exhorted his junior officers with the following:

“Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best”

2013, going, going, gone…

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on January 3, 2014 by stflyfisher

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.



When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.



Last year was not a great writing year, and for that I truly apologize. As we all often do, I started the year with good intentions, but putting pen to internet paper was a struggle in 2013, partly due to another posting obligation on my site, partly due to fishing, and partly due to the added time of my long distance work commute (no, I don’t write for a living just yet…). I promise, with hand placed on the good book, that you’ll see many more posts on my beloved blog in 2014 – certainly more than the woeful eight that I sent out to the blogosphere in 2013.

While my blogging was pretty pathetic, my completion of 2013 goals was at least somewhat better. Most of my followers know I try to start the year setting some fly fishing goals and then end the year with a look back on how well I did. I’m a big believer in goals, not so much to be able to tout achievements, but to make me think about how to improve as a fly fisherman, along the lines of the late President & General Eisenhower, who once said:

In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.


Goal-setting, after all, requires planning, and the act of planning, in turn, makes one think about what, where, and how to improve. Having said that, it’s still nice to look back and see if one did improve the way they planned and hoped.

For 2013, I’ll rate myself a 4.5 out of 10 for completion on the goals I posted. Here’s the detail on my accounting:

1) Catch a lake trout on the fly – lake run or from the lake. Never happened.

2) Catch one of the following saltwater game-fish on the fly: a bluefish, striped bass, or weakfish. I did catch blues and stripers, including a few dandies, but not on a fly.

3) Begin fly tying – focus on perfecting three patterns, with a goal to catch fish with these patterns. Here’s a goal I did achieve. I began fly tying in earnest and tied the following patterns:

a) Wooly Bugger – I caught quite a few largemouth bass and smallmouth bass on the bugger patterns I tied. I experimented quite a bit with color and added features such as weight, flash, and even rubber legs.

b) Picket Pin – My first fish of the season, and the first on a fly tied with my own hands, was a fat brown from Cayuga Creek that slammed the fly as it drifted through a nice run. I caught a lot of trout on my own version of this venerable pattern.

c) Maribou Streamer – I LDR’d a nice brown with this classic pattern. I’m feeling generous to myself (shouldn’t we all be, after all?) so I’ll count that as “catching” a fish on the fly…

4) Float fish the Susquehanna; Campville to Owego. I did not float the Susky once, and probably fished it only a half dozen times, at most, due to very high water over much of the summer. I’ll keep this one on the list for 2014.

5) Practice and improve my casting distance and accuracy.  Learn to single haul and double haul. Here’s another goal I achieved. I learned to single and double haul and I’m a better caster overall (sounds like a Dr. Suess rhyme!), but still retain some bad habits. I’ll keep a casting improvement goal on 2014’s goal list.

6) Fish with friends – enjoy their company and learn new skills and places to fish. I’m proud to say I did well with this goal, managing to dedicate 8 outings with friends & family. I also enjoyed meeting and fishing with a few good fishermen while on the water.

7) Learn to tie one new fishing knot. I perfected the non-slip mono knot and came up with a variation of it that works quite well in my opinion.

8) Fish for steelhead. I’ll take 50% credit for trying on this goal. I intended to venture forth twice for steelhead with my good friend Dan, but both times the weather canned the trip. I’ll keep this goal for 2014.

9) Fish Handsome Brook. Nope – this one got away on me…

10) Night fish for trout. Didn’t happen but I’ll keep this for 2014.

I projected last year that if I could accomplish 6 to 7 of these 10 goals, it would be a good year. Accomplishing 4.5 would therefore make it a marginally OK year, but again, it’s not so much about the goals, but the act of becoming a better fisherman in all ways.

I’ll soon be revising my 2014 goals based on the above and possibly add some new areas for growth as a fly fisherman. Stay tuned for that post as well as one on 2013, where I’ll make a ‘year in review’ post…