OK. At the time of this writing, I am sitting at my in-laws computer in western Ohio. The air temp outside is hovering around 25 degrees. The wind is blowing somewhere around 20 miles an hour which means the windchill compensated temperature feels like about 11 degrees Farhenheit.
Most of you already know I am a SoCal boy born and bred. Though the sun is finally shining, the world on the other side of the double insulated glass is … shall we say, stinkin’ cold and disorienting to a guy like me.
The sun is out, it should mean shirt sleeves and wet wading, right?
Between the in-laws house and the hotel where my beautiful bride and I are staying there are several small, interesting rivers. As we drove over them today, I glanced at the dark, swirling waters and my thoughts were not of potential Trout nestled up in the eddies and holes behind the bridge abutments but rather, images of Clarence, the angel character from the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, flashed in my mind. Instead of picturing myself landing a massive Brown Trout, all I could see in that brief instant was me in water-filled waders flailing helplessly, screaming for help and hoping that a man of George Bailey-like character was nearby.
It was a sobering image.
After a hardy Ohio style breakfast of eggs and bacon (yeah, I know, but it is Thanksgiving weekend) complete with ketchup (appearantly there are only three spices in Ohio kitchens: salt, pepper and ketchup) I felt a little better and went outside in an effort to come to grips with this new-to-me phenomenom called stinkin’ cold.
I was doing alright until I ventured over to my father-in-law’s pond and saw his fish swimming beneath a sheet of clear ice.
I retreated back into the family home, grabbed the biggest cup of hot, black coffee I could wrap my numbed fingers around, waited for my earlobes to regain feeling and sat down in the comfort of the computer room.
Whilst thawing, I came across an interesting article written by a fly fishin’ Buckeye (that’s how folks from Ohio refer to themselves) which included a nice summary of fly fishin’ etiquette.
After noting the condition of my sister-in-law returning from her Black Friday pre-dawn shopping raid (rural America can be brutal), it seemed only appropriate to pass along such a timely article on the fundamentals of human behavior as it relates to our chosen passion.
Now I realize that this set of guidelines doesn’t include tips on what to do in the urban setting like what to do if you stumble across a drug deal or how to safely skirt a cultic altar or how to disguise your car to look like a homeless encampment rather than a mode of transportation but it is a useful set of rules that we, as fly folks should always strive to practice.
So, with that in mind
By The Fly Fish Ohio Curmudgeon-in-Residence
Below are some of the traditional rules of stream etiquette:
1. When wading a stream, the fisherman wading upstream has the right of way. If you are fishing downstream and approach a fisherman coming upstream, get out before you kick up lots of mud (about 100 yds upstream) and spoil his fishing. Walk around and get in well below him. If the density of stream side vegetation or local laws make it impossible to go around, ask him which bank he would like you to wade by him on and stay as close to the bank as possible. Reel in and DO NOT cast to a rising fish in his vicinity.
2. If a fisherman is sitting on a log or standing near the bank in front of your favorite hole, he is resting it and it is his to fish. Suffer in silence and move on!
3. Don’t trespass. If there is no easement along the stream, don’t get out and walk through some farmer’s field for a short cut! Morons who behave like this cause the rest of us to lose fishing rights.
4. Don’t litter (cans, candy wrappers, tippet material, etc). If you can, pick up other peoples litter that you find and carry it with you.
5. Don’t be a kiss and tell fisherman. If someone reveals a secret spot to you, do not reveal it to anyone without his permission. If you find a great spot, only reveal it to a limited number of trusted friends. Many great streams have been destroyed by passing out too much of this kind of information. Do other fishermen a favor and allow them to actually learn something for themselves.
6. Obey fishing regulations and catch and release whenever possible. If you must keep fish, limit your kill. Leftover trout are as tasty as cold tofu!
7. If you are floating a stream and approach a fisherman, reel in and don’t fish until you are well past him. Ask on which side you should pass, and make every attempt to be as quiet as you can when passing. If possible, stop paddling until you pass. If you are in an aluminum canoe, good luck at being quiet!
I Would also like to add a few “curmudgeon” rules of stream etiquette.
1. A trout steam with any significant current can be a noisy place. Don’t stand in the stream screaming at the top of you lungs trying to communicate with your buddy 50 yards from you! Fisherman are not only there to catch fish, but also to enjoy the peace and solitude and commune with nature. Therefore, shut your pie hole and save it for later, or learn to use hand signals.
2. Don’t be like a “chatty Cathy” doll when approaching strangers. They may there to fish and enjoy the peace and solitude, or they may be there to make new friends. Try to determine if they look like they want to talk before asking a bunch of question about what they caught and what fly they are using.
3. Don’t go to fish a small stream with a big group of people. Split up and go to different locations on the stream and limit the group size considering the available water to fish. Don’t assume your group will have the whole river to fish. Think of the poor guy who used a week of his vacation to come and fish this river, only to find you and an army of your fellow club members at all the access points.
There you have it. Though our urban settings may a long way away from the dark, swirling waters of Ohio and though we, urban fisherfolk, may have to add and subtract as relevant, it is still a good set of rules and a good reminder of why I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.
One of my best friends when I was growing was a diehard fan of the rock group, Chicago. It may have had something to do with the fact that he was part of a drum and bugle corps and had a thing for horns or maybe he just liked their vibe. Either way, he always seemed to be playing their music whenever I dropped by his house to hang out.
Not that anyone really had to make much of an effort to hear a Chicago tune back then since they got a lot of airtime on the radio.
In any event, I can’t say that I was a diehard fan like him. I was struggling just to pick up the nuances of pre-algebra so it seemed like a waste of brain power to memorize concert dates and useless trivia about the kinds of foods various band member liked and so on and so on. Rather, I remained just an ordinary kid who liked some of their songs and would usually sing along to the ones I liked — provided certain young ladies weren’t around.
Anyway, one of the Chicago songs that I liked (and still do) was, “Saturday in the Park”.
Now, I am just old enough to remember going to some of the parks around L.A. and seeing the balloon venders walking around with, what seemed like, hundreds of bright, helium balloons swaying in the breeze and I am also just old enough to remember the organ grinder guys standing near the merry-go-rounds cranking their tinny sounding hand organs and “singing Italian songs” while their little dressed up monkeys did tricks and then approached you with a tin cup to collect loose change.
I can also remember family outings in the park when we would by ice cream from the man selling it out of a little rolling cart and I remember playing baseball, rolling down the grassy hills just for fun and watching old men argue over Bocce ball and horseshoes. I can even remember rowing around one or two of the lakes – lakes that I now fish – in a rented rowboat with my Dad.
I guess you could say I like that old Chicago song, ‘cause I lived it, even if only for a brief (but happy) period in my young life.
So, you can probably already guess my serendipitous delight, when my fishing buddy, Sean and I encountered a “Saturday in the Park” scenario the other day when we shot over to Heartwell Park in Long Beach to fish the little pond there.
We both had had a very busy week and the weekend was fast slipping away. We both had also wanted to get in some late season fly fishin’ before the start of another equally busy week however morning obligations which then turned into a leisurely lunch with our beautiful brides meant we had to pick a place really close if we were going to get in any time at all on the water before dark.
Heartwell seemed like the obvious choice – not just because of where we were but also because my annual pass to El Dorado Park had just expired.
Sean had scoped Heartwell Park out a couple of weekends ago but despite the fact that I drive by it all the time, I had never actually been there. Upon arriving at the park, I was immediately (and nostalgically) charmed by the well-tended little pond, the trees, the thoughtfully placed benches and the meandering paths. As we rigged our fly rods up and walked towards the little pond, the lowering sun cast long shadows across the wide expanses of grass and also turned the pond water a rosy pink color. I noticed couples of all ages and description sauntering arm in arm along the paths around us talking and laughing. I noticed a young man playing his guitar off in the distance and a couple of kids dancing to the music in their heads. I also noticed a veritable smorgasbord of dog breeds parading past with their owners in tow as we worked our way around the concrete bank. It was a scene that I hadn’t seen in a long time — a real celebration.
Charmed as I was, I didn’t forget the purpose of our little expedition and I managed to hook onto a small Bass on my third or fourth cast while Sean tied on to a couple of sunfish straight away. We each continued pulling in small fish while curious families stopped to watch for a moment or two but then went back to whatever game or activity it was that they were involved in and left us to our fishing.
Eventually, a gentleman did approach Sean and, as fishermen are prone to do, they got to talking. They back and forthed about different places they had each fished and different techniques the had each used and then this generous stranger shared a little history about the pond we were standing at that he had garnered from watching it being drained and cleaned a few years ago.
He wished us well and continued with his late afternoon stroll. We immediately positioned ourselves to take advantage of this new-found intel and within moments Sean had hooked on to yet another fish. I was several yards away, working a corner under a large tree but when he threw his net on the ground, (sort of our unofficial signal for help), I laid my rod down and scooted over to where he was successfully bringing in a fat and sassy twelve-inch largemouth Bass who had fallen for the tried and try black wooly bugger pulled along at a fairly quick clip in short strips of line.
Now, with all of the excitement this fish generated from the two of us and with all the subsequent flash from Sean’s camera lighting up the twilight like fireworks you might have thought our afternoon in the park “was the fourth of July”.
Can you dig it?
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
Fall (Autumn) call it what you may, it remains my arch nemesis. What kind of season is this? We have to fall back on time, and lose so many precious daylight hours. But the worst is the wind (let’s just say that I would never be able to survive in Chicago). I despise it, loath it, and I hate it with a passion!
Not wanting to sucumb to my internal instics and put all of my fishing gear away for the season. I headed out this last Saturday morning to get in a little Urban Park Fly Fishing. The whole drive to the park I just kept thinking to myself that I cannot stand the wind and trying to convince myself to head back home and hit the snooze button for a few hours. But, I am a Fly Fisherman at the deepest portions of my heart and the urge to fish won over.
Let’s just say that I’m glad that I listened to that little Fishing Voice in my head.
The Green Sunfish showed up in full action, and I got to hone a new Fly Fishing Skill. The Sunfish get weary about this time of year, and the littlest movement or shadow of any kind spooks the living daylights out of them. So you have to fish the hole under the concrete bank that they hide in, and then set that hook as soon as they poke their head out for a peak.
I tied on my “Fenner Bugger Special” a small heavily weighted Woolly Bugger that works a lot like a bass jig to lure my quarry out of hiding, and lure them out I did. Within about 2 hours I had caught more than I could count, and lost even more than that.
So, I guess the moral of the story is for me to stop being such a baby about the wind, and get out there to do some fall fishin. But, I’m just sayin the wind sucks.
I’m so glad I grew up, and have spent so much of my life in Southern California. Just a couple of months of this crappy weather and it’s back to good ol’ Sunny So Cal.
OK, so it’s no big secret that I have trouble sleeping.
It’s not that I don’t want to sleep. It’s more like I seem to lack the switch that tells my brain to shut up, shut down and recharge for the night. I can lie there and ponder and ponder and ponder until the first grey streaks of dawn peek through the window blinds and then I get so annoyed with myself that I couldn’t get to sleep even if I wanted.
Lately, the “ponder gene” has been in overload.
So, the other night when it became obvious that sleep was going to allude me yet again, I slipped out of bed, crept into the living room and popped a DVD that my fishing buddy, Sean had received in the mail from one of his numerous (and generous) contacts and which he had kindly forwarded to me to review.
It was called Eastern Rises and it followed a tight knit group of intrepid flyfishermen as they sought to fish some of the last uncharted waters in the entire world – the Kamchatka Pennisula of Russia.
Seriously. This place is so remote that it still has speculative parts on the maps and charts and the only way in is via WWII vintage Russian-built helicopters of questionable soundness piloted by almost WWII vintage Russian-built pilots of even more questionable soundness.
Rick Steve’s European vacation this ain’t.
Now, the fact that one of the guys looked, acted and sounded like my nephew was reason enough to keep me watching. But as I watched, I found myself fully absorbed in this story of adventure, discovery and…fishin’.
My heart ached at the sheer beauty of the place these guys had chosen to visit and my pulse raced as they fought some of the most incredible members of the trout family I have ever seen. (Yeah, probably not the best choice of videos for trying to fall to sleep but that wasn’t going to happen anyway.)
As I continued watching, I couldn’t help but think of how excited I get when I discover some hidden pocket water or stream divert that others have nothought to fish and I could imagine how deeply those guys must have reveled in the sheer joy of fishing water that NO ONE had ever fished before and taking fish that had NEVER seen an artificial bait before.
I laughed (quietly) at the ridiculous proportions of the “flies” they were able to use (think ghetto rats) and I studied carefully their techniques for fighting and landing insanely huge, very ticked-off, no-doubt-about-it, top-of-the-food-chain predators.
Now, this neat little film did have it’s questionable moments, like every documentary does, though I guess you could say that it does serve as a fairly serious public service announcement regarding the wisdom of imbibing vodka produced in some Russian backwoods still thousands of kilometers from civilization (read that as medical assistance) with women of questionable ethics who have been drinking the stuff since their mamas put it in their baby bottles.
But all that aside, this video was a stunningly beautiful look at one of the last truly wild places left on this ever shrinking, little blue orb we call home.
It was an astonishing glimpse at possibly some of the last truly wild Salmonids in the world.
And it was just the kind of mini-vacation I needed amidst the turmoil of a very busy week. And though it would never equal the feel of actually having a fly rod in hand and actually being out on the water, even if only a less than pristine urban body of water, it was still a vivid reminder of why I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’
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