IT’S GOTTA BE A SO CAL THING

By , October 17, 2010 10:38 pm

Late last week, my fishin’ buddy, Sean sent me a text about an hour after I had had the same thought: “smmr nd ner, bttr hit LAr this wknd or 2 L8” which translates to “The end of the Summer fishing season is near, we better hit the L.A. river this weekend or it will be too late.”

Perhaps it was some unconscious thing we each felt from years of watching for the subtle changes in our seasons or perhaps we had each felt the constraints (read that as anxiety) that comes with shortening days, but in any event, we both seemed to sense that change was in the air and we might not have another chance to brown-line the Los Angeles River before the first rains of the seasons flooded the channel — changing the bottom terrain and washing fish and vegetation downstream so as to render unproductive the spots we had worked so hard to learn.

That being said, I texted back, “Sun aftr 3rd” which translates to “ Let’s hit the river on Sunday afternoon after church.” (more or less).

Sunday couldn’t have cooperated any better. The air temp was pleasant. The winds were light. The lush summer growth of saplings on the sand bars provided plenty of shade and, best of all, there were virtually no other anglers at our target site. In other words, urban fly fishin’ at its best.

We both eagerly headed upstream, rigging our 8-weights as we walked.

We hop-scotched the various pools where we had each had taken fish on previous visits and we fished hard…but with no success.

The lengthening shadows from the lowering sun added to the beauty but also increased our anxiety and desire to find the fish before it got too dark.

While we fished, long, noisy v-formations of Canadian Geese began to fly in overhead before dropping down to the smooth water out toward the middle of river.

Despite the intensity of our quest, it was one of those moments that truly takes the breath away and the few pictures we were able to snap betray the shakiness of our hands as we watched in awe. We were after all, and as I’ve said before, standing in the geographic center of some tens of millions of people and roughly eight minutes from the very heart of Los Angeles.

It was utterly amazing. The only thing lacking were the fish.

As the shadows grew deeper we reluctantly turned and began making our way back toward the car. Normally at this point of the day, we would hump it up the steep sides of the bank and walk along the flat portion at the top of the channel where we would be less likely to trip or slip. This day, however, neither one of us seemed willing to concede to the River so we fished our way downstream, back over the water we had already covered.

I have no idea if it was dumb luck, sheer desperation, acquired skill or a combo of all three, but some little tickle in the back of my skull told me to switch flies to a bright yellow egg pattern. I fumbled around in the gloom and took twice as long as usual to tie on my fly and after a seeming eternity, finally made my cast in the proximity of a large flotilla of paddling waterfowl.

And, just like in the movies and all the really good books, my line went tight, droplets of water sprayed, my rod doubled over and…I had my fish.

Not just any fish mind you, but a decent size Carp – a “Barrio Bonefish” that had sucked in my offering and then in a split second had stripped three-quarters of the line off my reel in an insane dash toward the deeper middle parts of the river.

And suddenly, right there amidst the green slime and bits of trash and discarded Styrofoam coffee cups and graffiti and broken beer bottles – I was back in church, if you catch my drift.

Now, just so you know, I get just as excited as the next guy but I rarely yell and scream. That day however, and for that fish, I yelled and screamed. So much so that it set a considerable number of geese off in an explosive though short-lived panic flight.

My fishin’ buddy Sean, who was yelling and screaming too (after all that’s what fishin’ buddies do) was there with the net when I finally brought my fish in and he was also there with camera ready when said fish was finally in hand.

After the obligatory pics and after I thanked said fish for a good fight and after I sent him off to fight again another day, we made our way up the steep sides of bank and onto the flat portion at the top of the channel.

It hardly took any time at all to get back to the car. “Smmr nd ner, bttr hit LAr this wknd or 2 L8”.

 I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.

 

BIG BEAR FISHING ADVENTURES

By , October 13, 2010 9:20 pm

My wife and I had a chance to sneak off to the cabin up in Big Bear the other day so I naturally utilized her penchant for sleeping in late to squeeze in some early morning late season fishing.

The thermometer outside the kitchen window hovered around the 35 degree mark so I threw on my favorite heavy flannel fishin’ shirt, steeled myself with a large mug of extra strong Java and headed off toward the Lake.

My destination for the morning was Grout Bay so I wasted no time heading over that way.

Construction on the new dam is in full swing so I chose to take the north shore route. As I drove through Fawnskin, I noticed a new sign neatly lettered on the window of the North Shore Trading Company (canoe and kayak shop) which read, “Big Bear Fishing Adventures – Spin & Fly Shop”.

After neatly recovering from a potentially nasty swerve, I made a mental note to go back and check things out at a more reasonable hour of the day.

Unfortunately, Grout Bay was a little lower than anticipated and a little weedier than anticipated so my dreams of a full morning of pulling in record size fish quickly evaporated with the morning mists. I tried a few other spots but to no avail. Fortunately, fishing the lake whether successful or not always builds a great appetite, so a big breakfast when I got back to the cabin almost made up for the disappointing catch rate.

Later in the day however, I did return to the North Shore Trading Company and I did get to chat with them and I found out that they are indeed partnering with Mike and Susan Tuttle to bring a more prominent flyfishing presence to the Lake  — not that I don’t appreciate the always sound and friendly advice from the guys at Big Bear Sporting Goods. It was just kinda nice to be able to wander into a local fly shop and “speaka da same dialect”, if you catch my drift.

I learned that the Tuttles have over fifteen years of guide experience and run one to three day trips out of Captain John’s Marina. They will also customize trips to the various local creeks and streams.

For more info you can contact them at Big Bear Fishing Adventures or at 909-436-8882.

Now as long as the weather holds, my beautiful bride and I will probably try to squeeze in another quick trip up the Hill. She will probably want to sleep in late and I will probably be out on the Lake as the sun peeks over the eastern edge of the Valley. I’ll probably have to wear the heavy weight flannels and I’ll probably need another oversize cuppa Joe to fortify me against the early morning mountain chill.

What is a certainty is that I will be paying another visit to Big Bear Fishing Adventures Spin & Fly Shop where I can pick up a few flies, catch up on the local news, swap stories and support another local business.

I love this addiction called urban fly fishin.

 

JOIN THE CLUB

By , September 14, 2010 10:47 pm

There was a time, not so long ago, when I would laugh and roll my eyes at my parents and assorted relatives during family gatherings and such because the conversations would invariably turn to health issues.

I could recite the medical history for my dad and my uncles at least as well as their respective physicians (much to my dismay and occasional revulsion) and I had a pretty firm grasp of what they each had in their medicine cabinets — all from just sitting down amongst them at the holiday luncheon.

Recently, though, I’ve caught myself more than once making small talk with our clients by discussing health related topics with them.

I’ve found myself excitedly scribbling down the address for some health related website or the name of a joint supplement or digestive formula that they discovered when I’m supposed to be settling up their bill or filling a prescription for their cat or dog.

It’s rather frightening.

I am close to becoming the very thing I used to mock — Who said God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

So… I won’t be describing assorted and sundry aches and pains to y’all nor will I be whining and griping about failing body parts. I don’t want to be one of “those guys.” — You know who I mean; the guy with the tackle kit so crammed with potions, lotions, concoctions and pills that it looks more like a paramedic’s bag than a fishing tackle box … The guy who grunts, groans, moans and creaks so loudly that he scares away even battled-hardened urban Carp … the guy nobody wants to bunk with on fishing trips because the night stand next to his bed is so loaded with meds that he looks like he’s a drug dealer and he takes forty minutes to swallow all his meds before turning the lights out…the guy who both pitches flies and pees with the intensity of a flashlight left on overnight…you know …one of “those guys”.

So, I started researching and looking for better ways to take care of myself and keep my competitive edge in the “no-holds barred world of man vs. fish” and I’ve come across some very interesting tactics.

Take my latest acquisition, for example: Indian Clubs.

Indian what? Indian clubs. They look like skinny bowling pins or those juggling clubs the guys down on Venice Beach toss around to entertain the crowds (and make money). They are definitely low tech but don’t let that fool you. Fitness gurus say these simple clubs have a two or three thousand-year pedigree behind them. In the United States, they were THE fitness tools of choice from about the 1880’s until the 1930’s. They seem to have fallen out of vogue after the introduction of various (and complicated) weight machines and such.

Most people today are not familiar with them except perhaps from seeing them in old movies or portrayed in old ink drawings. You might have dismissed them as a throwback to the classic days of physical fitness but let me tell you, boy, do they work!

I started researching them after I saw them in a fitness catalog. I google-searched and I you-tubed and I checked out a few websites and I became more and more intrigued, so I went ahead and ordered a set along with an introductory dvd. 

I watched the video and read all the stuff I could and started slowly – about ten minutes a day. It’s been about three weeks now and I can honestly say that there is a noticeable difference in how my shoulders feel and how much looser my neck and upper back are after a day on the water. I also feel like the movements have strengthened my wrists while adding flexibility.

Seriously.

If you take the time to learn the various patterns correctly, you will begin to notice the “flaws” in your movement and you will begin to see how consistent work will iron those out. After all, we may fish in the ghetto but that doesn’t mean we want to cast  “ghetto” (as the kids are fond of saying).

Anyway, I am amazed at how simple and enjoyable using these clubs has been. I am amazed at how much better my shoulders and back feel and I am amazed at the improvement in my casting technique – “who’d have thunk”.

So convinced am I in the value of these simple yet elegant fitness tools as effective aids in improving strength and developing smooth shoulder movement (and thus our ability to fish better) that I was able to talk my fishin’ buddy, Sean into linking this website to the site that offers these clubs, Dragon Door.com. If you do decide to invest in a set of Indian clubs, go slow, have fun and recognize that you will be well on your way to NOT becoming one of “those guys”. You’ll also be well on the way to making sure that you too can practice this addiction called urban fly fishin’ for a long, long time.

DRESSED FOR SUCCESS

By , September 8, 2010 11:16 pm

Many years ago I worked at a public aquarium that was just a short walk from a public fishing pier. About three years before I left that position, I started noticing this guy walking down the road toward the pier at about the same time I was arriving for work each morning.

The thing that made me notice this guy, aside from the half-dozen rods slung over his shoulder, was the fact that he always wore a navy blue sport coat and always looked like he was singing.

I never spoke to him directly but I always thought he also looked pretty happy. Now, maybe he was happy because he had retired from some dull office job and got to spend the rest of his days fishing or maybe he was happy because he had just had a really great breakfast – We’ll never know. But the one thing I do know, is that he always reminded me of a rather famous fishing photograph that still manages to catch my attention even though I’ve seen it literally hundreds of times. It is a picture of Leigh Perkins holding up a small tarpon while wearing one of Orvis’s trademark hopsack sports coats.

And the reason that picture catches my attention is not because I fish in a sports coat – get real – but rather because it exemplifies the idea of what urban fly fishing is really all about — being able to squeeze in a few minutes of fly fishin’ whenever and wherever the opportunity presents.

So, while I haven’t fished in a sports coat, I have stopped to fish an urban lake after a job interview, on the way home from work, before college classes, during lunch, between appointments, after church and while on the way to the hardware store.

I’ve fished in jeans and tee shirt, slacks and dress shirt, shorts, leather dress shoes, flip flops, Hawaiian shirts, turtlenecks, polo shirts, khakis, coveralls, boots and sneakers.

I’ve been asked if I was modeling for a new line of clothes (seriously and hilariously), if I was working a police case, if I was undercover, if I was a tourist, if I worked for the mayor’s office or if I was filming a television show.

The truth of the matter is I’m just a guy who likes to fish and doesn’t have a whole lotta free time to do it and as such, I tend to put substance (read that as, catching fish) over style- if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I sometimes suspect that all the push on specialized clothes that are only suitable for specific tasks and all is as much marketing and advertisement driven as it is practical reality.

Consider, for example, what the history books say on…oh…the American West and cowboys and you will learn that nearly as many “cowboys” simply wore Bowler hats as they did ten gallon Stetsons. Real cowpokes just made due with the gear at hand.

I’m guessing that like so many other things though that the image can tell the story and “the-man-with-no-name” would not have appeared nearly so macho in all those spaghetti westerns had he been decked out in East Coast city duds as opposed to weathered serape and a “real” cowboy hat.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not against practical functionality – waders are a blessings as are many of the fabrics and clothes that wick away sweat and dry quickly and repel insect and so on and so. I’m just sayin’ that when opportunity knocks, I’m answering the door even if I’m wearing Brooks Bros. and a silk tie.

And that’s my point, urban fishin is all about striking when the time allows.

As if to be a subtle reminder that my line of reasoning is not so far-fetched, I flipped open a fishing catalog the other night and there was a picture of Tom Skerritt portraying the Reverend MacLean from the movie version of “ A River Runs Through It”. Lo and behold, his character was wearing a three piece suit (sans jacket) while flyfishing. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Though the image was taken from a movie, it was based on reality and, frankly, it was a reality that we ought to get used to if we deem ourselves urban fly guys (and gals).

So all that to say, the next time your out on the water and you see a guy decked out in brilliant blue, flowery Hawaiian shirt casting his 5-weight merrily away, don’t assume he is some newbie or poser. Just tip your hat and smile and recognize that he is probably a guy who, like you and me, loves this addiction called urban fly-fishin’.

BETTER THAN “OTC”

By , September 2, 2010 7:03 pm

Sitting in hospital waiting rooms and doctors offices has to be one of the least pleasurable ways to spend ones time. However, due to circumstances beyond our control, that is exactly where we have been for much of the last few weeks.

So, as I sit in these places, I am left to ponder some of the great mysteries of modern health care and am left to conclude that it all just doesn’t make much sense.

How is it that I can perch my backside on a pointed piece of granite jutting out from a muddy river bank which plummets at a forty-five degree angle into icy water but I can’t find a waiting room in all of SoCal that has reasonably comfortable chairs?

How is it that I can hold an algae covered size sixteen Pheasant tail between my teeth and never even trigger a gag reflex but feel the immediate urge to hurl as soon as some sugar-hyped, whimpering, green-nosed toddler wipes his face on the chair next to me?

How is it that I can follow detailed tying instructions and produce a reasonably good imitation of a carp fly, or follow questionable directions to a new fishing spot scribbled on the back of an In-N-Out receipt, or manage to figure out increasingly convoluted state fishing regulations but can’t seem to fill out one of those stinkin’ hospital forms in a meaningful way?

How is it that a cafeteria that employs scores of highly educated and well-trained professional nutritionists can’t produce a palatable meal for someone who’s not that picky — someone who willing and regularly chooses to dine on jerky, cheese sticks and canteen water without complaint?

How is it that navigating the hallways, red tape and front desks of our health care system is more vexing then the worst wind knot or bird’s nest ever encountered?

Yeah, how is all that.

Needless to say, the modern healthcare system can be an exasperating experience, however, I would like to think that I’m a silver lining kind of guy (after all, my chosen passion is “brown-lining”) so apart from ranting against healthcare I’d like to “prescribe” a far more effective therapy that doesn’t involve paper gowns, IV’s, hypodermic needles or insurance forms. Yeah, you guessed it — urban flyfishing.

You see, after far too many hours spent trapped inside medical offices, I fairly screamed to my beautiful and long-suffering bride that we needed some outside time – yeah, outside where the temperature was not regulated and the lighting was not fluorescent and where you might get dirty and where – if you chose carefully—the sound of rushing water drowned out most other noises and… well, you get the picture.

And much to my delight, my lovely wife agreed with me. So within short order we found ourselves at a local park with fly rods in hand, casting black and olive wooly buggers toward likely looking cover as the sun slipped low on the horizon.

And, as anticipated, my chosen form of “self-medication” began to help the clenched jaw and gritted teeth to relax and the shoulders to unknot and the furrowed brow to unwrinkle and the rhythm of my breathing to slow down and things to slowly, gently return to the form of normalcy that had left for a while.

So all that to say, if it wasn’t clear before: I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.

SPLASH

By , August 11, 2010 10:36 pm

Never underestimate how closely you are being watched.

That warning is especially true if kids are around. Sure, they might not LOOK like they are paying attention, but you had better quickly drop any misguided illusions that they aren’t.

If you’re doubtful, try this little experiment: Say something derogatory about something like a particular brand of product when the kids are within earshot and then go shopping with them.

Deliberately put the aforementioned item in your shopping cart and watch what happens.

You are being watched.

Now, the upshot to this is that through careful mentoring and guidance, you can instill your love of the outdoors and fishing and such into those same malleable kids who would unwittingly pass along any disparaging remarks you made about the neighbor during dinner one night to that very same neighbor during your annual summer block party.

Since you are being watched, I say – use it to your advantage

Case in point: our God-daughter has heard me talk long and lovingly about fishing since she was old enough to understand the meaning of the word. By carefully encouraging her and coaching her on the virtues of fishing (there are some!) she naturally now wants to go fishing with her Uncle Dan. I have even given her a pink Barbie pole and tackle box just to let her know that fishing can be chic and stylish. I carefully and deliberately model my behavior and speak enthusiastically about the “benefits” of things like hooking yourself, and getting spined and stepping in duck droppings and using porta-potties that are long overdue for emptying and…well, you get the picture and, as far as my God-daughter is concerned, all those things are part of fishing and are somehow part of the fun – though sometimes she is not quite sure if I truly understand the definition of “fun”.

Nevertheless, she likes fishing and always wants to know if I still like fishing even after a fishless expedition.

I know I am being watched.

So a couple of weekends ago, I had an opportunity to once again expand my God-daughter’s idea of what constitutes “fun” when it comes to fishing.

Through a series of convoluted scheduling changes I was able to spend the afternoon at Downey Wilderness Park with her and our fishing gear. I hadn’t read of any recent fish plants so I knew the odds of actually catching anything there were already pretty slim but it was the place with the easiest access within the time frame we had.

With this information already in the back of my mind, I decided to put the emphasis on technique and style. I rigged her pole with a fairly heavy egg sinker and I let her pick the color of Power Bait (despite my dislike of bait-fishing). We settled on neon green which I dubbed “booger bait” much to my protégé’s delight. I baited her hook, pretended to lick the leftover “booger bait” from my fingers, again to her delight and disgust, then reviewed proper casting technique and finally just let her go for it.

Sure enough her first cast sailed halfway across the narrow section of the pond I had deliberately chosen and her confidence level soared. Anyone within earshot surely heard how amazing that first cast was. Then, after untangling the ensuing birds-nest and re-reviewing the intricacies of spinning reels in kidspeak, I set up shop next to her.

I intentionally choose the fly reel with yellow floating line and tied on a big, gaudy dry fly despite the slim chances of anything actually making a surface hit. I then made sure to make my first cast near to her line so that she could immediately brag that her casts were farther and better than mine.

Everything was going pretty much according to plan…then the mosquito fish showed up.

Now, I should have remembered from previous trips that in the eyes of a seven-year old, fish of any size are likely targets. So when a swarm of mosquito fish hustled up to the bank in front of us in the hopes of picking up some scraps of our lunch, suddenly the objects of our pursuit seemed all the more real and attainable – so real, in fact that the bait on the end of a certain Barbie pole rig lost some of its appeal and catching mosquito fish grew in importance.

So much so, that a certain young fisher-girl raced excitedly up and down the bank shouting out questions about mosquito fish as they alternately fled and followed her.

I answered a multitude of questions about mosquito fish. More questions than I knew I could be asked about mosquito fish. I made mosquito fish sound like the absolute best harbingers of big fish that one could come across.

And then it happened.

In the excitement of the moment, a certain young fisher-girl misjudged the uneven terrain between grass and concrete and within a split second was suddenly sitting in six inches of lake water.

The look that followed was a mixture of shock, mild fear, a little pain and embarrassment. I knew that I had to think up a positive spin on the situation and I had to think one up quick.

I knew that she wasn’t hurt and I knew from the way she was sitting that she wasn’t in any danger but I also knew that I only had one chance to save seven years of careful and deliberate work.

“Oh my gosh!” I blurted out. “ You did it. You actually did it. And year’s ahead of schedule even.”

The change in facial expression from near tears to puzzlement told me my ploy was working.

“You have accomplished in one afternoon what it takes some fisher-folk decades to do.”

“What did I do?” She asked with a slight whine and a little tremble in her voice while climbing slowly out of the water.

“You have learned the all-time greatest secret of fishing.”

“I fell in the water and got my shoes wet and my pants are dirty and …”

“Shhh.” I hissed, with a silencing wave of my arms and furtive glances about, “Don’t say another word or you’ll reverse everything. This is great! This is newsworthy. This is a proud day in fishing history. Come over here and I’ll take off your shoes in the special way so we don’t waste what just happened.”

Intrigued, my soggy fishing buddy dutifully squished her way over to me. Kneeling down, I gently removed one shoe, held it up ceremoniously and poured out the collected water from inside. I then did the same with the other shoe and also with each sock.

“You have now entered the Society of Tried and True Fisher-folk. Fish will forevermore fear you and your trusty Fishing Pole of Victory. You came to the park today thinking we were just going to have some fun, but you leave a full-fledged fisher-women. Congratulations.”

The smile on her face spoke volumes. Her posture straightened, her head lifted, her eyes sparkled. Her soggy pants didn’t seem to matter quite so much.

“Can we tell Mama? Can we tell Papa?”

“Oh, absolutely. In fact, we must tell them and we must document this great day with pictures. Go stand by your tackle box.”

And just as quickly as it began, the crisis was averted and we ended up spending another hour pleasantly moving around the lake chasing the ever elusive “monster fish that lurks in every pond where mosquito fish are found”.

Yes, you are being watched and if there is any lesson at all to this little story it is that we veteran fisher-folk can model positive behaviors and help the next generation (one that is generally becoming less and less attuned to the realm of nature that we so much enjoy) develop a keener, finer sense of the great outdoors…and maybe a sense of humor to boot.

However, should you doubt the conclusions drawn from this episode, Let me offer you a little proof from the other day: Just two weeks after the great “splash down”, my God-daughter enthusiastically invited herself to accompany me and my fishin’ buddy, Sean on an impromptu afternoon getaway at a local lake.

Once we arrived at our chosen lake, she happily cast away between us as we worked our way around the perimeter, never once shying away from the water’s edge. She even agreed to pose for a picture while lipping one of the small Bass Sean managed to pull out with one of his custom shrimp flies.

The three of us had a great summer afternoon enjoying the sun, the sounds of ducks and kids, the sparkle of the water and the occasional zing of a tightening line.

Yeah, I am being watched and hopefully I am making it clear that I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.

JAWS REDUX

By , July 27, 2010 11:09 pm

Most of our regular readers know I have a deep and abiding interest in all things related to fish — which partially explains my love of fishing, the ocean and aquatic things in general. (The other reasons would undoubtedly fill chapters in psychology textbooks, but have little bearing on this discussion, so we will ignore those for now.)

As you can already surmise, I am fascinated by fish behavior, anatomy, biology and so on and so forth. This life-long fascination has led to a degree in marine biology as well as further certificates in wildlife management, forestry, conservation, aquaculture and even study in aquatic medicine.

(I don’t tell you these things to brag, but rather to give you some insight into where I am coming from.)

By the time I was in Jr. High, I had firmly made up my mind that I would study science and particularly marine biology.

Then the movie, Jaws, came out.

I vividly remember sitting in the theater, mesmerized yet scared out of my mind, watching the drama of that story unfold.

I remember the famous scene where Quint says, “You go in the cage? Cage goes in the water?… Shark’s in the water”…(then begins to sing) “Farewell and adieu me fair Spanish ladies, farewell and adieu, me ladies of Spain….”

Ironically, I saw the movie on a Friday night and the next Monday we were scheduled to take a two-week summer vacation trip up the coast to Vancouver. All along the way, my family planned to camp at the many wonderful beaches of the West Coast – right in the heart of the Red Triangle, the section of the U.S. coastline where the most cases of documented White Shark attacks had occurred over the last 100 years or so.

Needless to say, I did very little swimming, but a whole lot of watching.

But, besides giving me nightmares for a month, the other thing that movie did was transform my morbid curiosity about sharks (remember I was transitioning from Jr. High to High School) into a life long and sincere interest in them. If I had made up my mind prior to the movie to study marine bio., there was no doubt after the movie that I would study marine bio.

All that to say, that even today sharks hold a huge interest for me. I have two, possibly three whole bookshelves devoted solely to books on sharks. “Shark Week” is almost a reason in and of itself to get cable.

 

I like sharks.

Perhaps a better term would be respect and fascination with sharks. I look upon them as design perfection in action.

But, getting back to the movie. If you recall it at all, (I admit, I watch it every July 4th) there is a scene where the characters, having gotten drunk during dinner, are comparing scars acquired over their respective lives.

Hopper points to a bleached out spot on Quint’s arm where a tattoo used to be and says, “Let me guess….Mother.”

Quint gets serious and says, “That, Mr. Hopper, is the U.S.S. Indianapolis”.

Hopper quickly gets serious and we, along with Chief Brody get a quick, graphic history lesson about the U.S.S. Indianapolis and one of the most terrifying and tragic incidents in U.S. Naval history.

It is a riveting scene and based in reality.

I firmly believe that, as I went off to college and began working with professors and grad students who were studying sharks, every one of them had been affected by the story depicted in that scene (we all knew about it) and what it represented. I also believe that many were driven, in part, to study what they did because of that story. For many of us going to school in that time period, marine biology was synonomous with the study of sharks.

Now, as many of you may already be aware, one of the hottest trends in saltwater fly fishing right now, at least on the “Left Coast”, is kayak fishing for Mako sharks. And there is arguably no more knowledgeable or skillful shark flyfisherman than Conway Bowman . He has introduced countless individuals to the excitement, thrill and challenge of catching sharks on the fly.

He has systematically built a solid reputation as a fly fishing guide, shark expert, and conservationists and he has renewed public awareness of sharks.

Sharks are once again, hot ticket items – charismatic megafauna, as we say in the Zoo and Aquarium trade and they are spawning a whole slew of techniques, equipment and related travel categories centered around catching them.

Everybody seems to be talking about shark fishing.

So imagine my surprise the other day when I turned on the radio and came in on the middle of an interview with one of the survivors of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.

Suddenly all of the giddy delight about sharks and shark fishing and catalogs with new gear and package deals and such all fell by the wayside and I was taken back to that long forgotten Friday night in the crowded theater watching Quint tell the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the fate of the men who served on her.

In the interview, Edgar Harrell, USMC related that out of the approximately 900 men that went into the water (out of a crew of 1196) at 1204 am August 1, 1945 he was one of ultimately just 317 survivors.

Just like Quint, he described the many horrors of being lost at sea. Only, when he recalled the terror of sharks attacking and killing scores of men during the four days that they drifted, helplessly at sea, you knew it was from the perspective of eyes that would never forget and that could still see those moments even if tightly shut.

After listening to his interview, I knew I had to get his book, Out of the Depths.

I did and I just finished reading it. It will make you proud of and grateful to the men and women who gave and are still giving their all for this country.

It is an unashamedly Christian book. If this bothers you, don’t read it. However, you must know that you will be missing out on one of the greatest stories of hope and survival you may ever have the privilege of reading.

Yes, it is a book about sharks, but it has a much, much greater message to tell and I can’t recommend it too highly.

Oh, and later this week, when July 31 and Aug 1 pop up on the calendar, take a moment to count your blessings and know that because of guys like Edgar Harrel and his shipmates and many, many others we have the freedom to engage in our favorite pastimes in one of the greatest countries on the planet.

I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.

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