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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As if it needed confirming, I just confirmed a quirk in my personality that didn’t need confirming – I hate sitting still.
This revelation came about because I injured my back pretty seriously the other day and the chiropractor who worked miracles on it in the past insisted that I give it three days of near total rest interspersed with grueling stretch routines in order to get things back in alignment. So, all day Friday, I lay there with the heating pad on high, grimacing and staring at the ceiling until a little timer would go off indicating that it was time for me to roll carefully off the bed and force myself into these awkward positions that eventually got everything back into the proper alignment and proved to the neighbors that I have an almost unlimited repertoire of “colorful metaphors” at my disposal.
Now lying in bed all day might be a dream come true to some, but it is torture to me. It is even more torturous if the sun is out. Despite the current popularity of vampires and werewolves and other so-called night people, daytime always has and always will be the right time for me.
Nevertheless, I followed the docs orders and heeded my wife’s threats and stayed put.
However, by day two, I figured out a way to position my computer so that I could check e-mail, work on some articles and even surf the net while maintaining the ever important flat back position.
It was one of my little “surfin’ safaris” that led me to discover a highly entertaining series of fishing videos on YouTube. I had typed in some different phrases centering on the word “fishing” and eventually stumbled upon Matt Hayes, Mick Brown and the Great Rod Race.
The clips appeared to be segments from a British series in which these two affable English blokes raced along the length and breadth of the UK, in a van reminiscent of the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo, in an effort to catch (and release) some thirty-five different species of fish in under thirty days. The target species ranged from the diminutive Stickleback to massive Salmon to Eels to Carp. They employed cane poles, baitcasting rigs, spinning rods, sling shots, pounds of dog food, tons of tackle, some funky things called bivies and, of course, fly rods.
Along the way, we were introduced to the oddly charming, somewhat eccentric but thoroughly British way of angling.
All in all, I could think of a thousand different, less educational ways I could have squandered my down time. So, aside from distracting me from the annoying throb in the small of my back, these sort videos taught me a ton of technique and tricks to use on those difficult days and… helped my stay still.
Perhaps the biggest lesson though was the fact that the Brits are total “gearheads” when it comes to angling. I thought I had too much stuff! My equipment inventory looks like the bargain bin at a second-hand store compared to the plethora of gear employed by our angling brethren across the pond. Wow!
It’s been twenty years since I last went to England. At that time I was more interested in wandering the halls of the Natural History Museum, climbing the steps of St Pauls Cathedral and sampling Guinness from the tap than perusing the aisles of the local Bait and Tackle but priorities change and it now appears that some lengthy conversations with the Secretary of the District Angling Society while leaning on the counter of a village Tackle Shoppe might be a great way to really connect with the heart and soul of the Island.
Next time you are down for the count…or just snowed in and wishin’ you were fishin’, check out Matt & Mick and then be sure to bookmark a segment so that when the Visa statement arrives and the Sweetie complains about the amount of hard-earned spent on “silly fishin’ stuff” you’ll have something to use in your defense.
If you have not yet had a chance go down to Costa Mesa and check out His & Her Fly Fishing Shop, you are really missing out. The owners Frank & Beverly Selby are two of the nicest people that you will ever meet, and Frank is a well renowned Fly Fisherman. They offer Private and Group Fishing Lessons, Fly Tying Classes, and have great fishing events. So if your looking for a class, need to pick up some gear, or just want to chat with some great people check them out at His & Her Fly Fishing.
I have been wanting to become a member of a group involved with the environmental aspect of Fly Fishing. So I talked to some guys and I searched around, and found out about Trout Unlimited. This is a group that has chapters all over the US and is highly involved with sustaining and improving the quality of Trout waters all over the country. So if you want to get involved with this great organization go to Trout Unlimited. They have a special offer for a yearly membership for $35 you get a TU hat, a couple of great flies, a one year subscription to Trout Magazine, and a 16 month calender (which all together is worth alot more than $35). Below is a promo video for TU’s awareness raising show TU On The Rise. Watch it on Outdoor Channel.