New Year’s Survival Tip: Wipe the slate clean

Ah, January first. This is the one time of year we can flush away regrets of the past and begin anew. As 2010 becomes a thing of the past and we look ahead to a New Year, many of us resolve to make changes for the betterment of our lives. I don’t usually write down actual New Year’s Resolutions because the formality of doing so just leads to measurable disappointment when I fail to make good on those promises to myself. That, and I hate lists (much to the dismay of Mrs UA). Instead, I may just think of things I can do to improve the quality of my being, and if I don’t make good on those things it’s no big deal because it was just a passing thought. Having said that, I think one thing we can all do is be better prepared for emergencies.

Anyone who spends any amount of time in the outdoors knows how critical a basic survival kit can be, and an essential part of any angler’s survival kit is, of course, Toilet Paper.  Outdoor adventurers understand that when nature calls there’s nothing that can be done to ward off the need to lighten one’s load. And while it may be perhaps an inconvenience, laying cable in the woods is not the end of the world, though it may seem so should one run short on TP while engaged in the act. Therefore it’s always sound practice to ration the supply. However, one need not despair should they find themselves running low.

This critical information won’t be found in any Boy Scout handbook, nor will it help if you find yourself up Shit Creek without a paddle, but thanks to an old family tip passed along to me by my grandfather there’s no need to panic when you find yourself with nothing left butt a single piece of TP. That’s right: a single square can save the day if you simply follow these easy step-by-step instructions:

Step #1

1. Square One: your last piece of TP.

Step #2

2. Fold the square in half.

Step #3

3. Fold once more in half. Be careful to note the center corner of the folded edges.

Step #4

4. Having carefully noted the center of the folded edges, tear off a very small piece of the TP. Do not tear off too much!

Step #5

5. Unfold the TP. Set aside the small piece you just tore off. Do not discard the small piece.

Step #6

6. Select the hand with the best dexterity. Insert middle finger gently through the hole in TP. Use only the middle finger.

Step #7

7. Insert finger. Wipe.

Step #8

8. Carefully slide TP upwards (use your other hand for good measure), pinching the TP tightly to middle finger so it cleans as it is lifted. Take your time – be very thorough. Properly disgard of the TP according to backcountry rules for personal waste.

Step #9

9. Use the little piece you tore off earlier (and hopefully saved) to clean under the fingernail on the middle finger. Again, discard of properly.

Step #10

10. Resume fishing.

Happy New Year!

December 26th: The Day of River Panties

In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas everyone is busy preparing for the big day by shopping, running errands, tending to honey-do lists and generally being in such a constant state of motion that there’s little time to just sit and do nothing. Then the day is here and gone in what seems to be an instant, and what follows is a strange sense of calm and a certain feeling of emptiness.

When my kids were little the excitement of new toys spilled over into the days following Christmas: Hot Wheels tracks were laid out on the family room floor with races taking place every hour; GI Joe was deployed on countless missions that often involved scaling the fireplace rocks or patrolling the makeshift waters of the kitchen and hallway; and the Barbie motor home embarked on an extended camping tour of every room in the house. All manner of loud games were played with a level of frantic enthusiasm and resulted in the inevitable emotional meltdown of young children who were over-stimulated, sleep-deprived and strung out on too many Christmas cookies. All that hustle and bustle ensured that there was very little peace and quiet on the day following Christmas. Now that my kids are more or less grown, things are a lot quieter around our house. It’s kinda boring actually—a bit of a let-down.

And so it was on this lazy morning after Christmas that Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler  and I found ourselves essentially alone. As teenagers are prone to do, both kids were still sound asleep as we enjoyed a cup of coffee while admiring our new slippers and discussing what to do with ourselves. There really wasn’t anything we had to do, and in fact getting dressed wasn’t even on the radar: We wouldn’t be going anywhere, and certainly nobody would be stopping by to visit. And then the doorbell rang.

Lo and behold who should it be other than my buddy Marck, who readers of the Unaccomplished Angler have come to know as the one with whom I fish on a fairly regular basis. He’s the guy who, by virtue of the fact that he is one seriously fishy dude, is inadvertently responsible for my low fishing self esteem. Don’t get me wrong–Marck is an amiable fellow so fishing with him isn’t socially unpleasant by any means, and he does own a drift boat so he’s got that going for him as well. But whenever we fish together, the results are always the same: He catches many and sizeable fish from the same waters that yield small fry and often a skunk for yours truly. I’d be better off fishing alone save for the matter of his boat and the fact that I get to be witness to angling greatness from time to time.

So there was Marck, on our doorstep on the day after Christmas, to bring us tidings of good will and reminders of my shortcomings as an angler. The spirit of Christmas still hung in the air so I couldn’t very well turn him away, and besides that he came bearing gifts and I am not above admitting that I like receiving gifts. He had apparently done a little bit of shopping at the local drugstore and I was the lucky recipient of a bottle of Beano, which Marck and others have been begging me to try recommending for years.

He had also dropped a bit of coin online at The Fly Shop so I was also the recipient of a few flies, including but not limited to, the Thing from Uranus and one known as the The Pellet Fly, which may be just the ticket for catching hatchery steelhead.

But without a doubt the best gift of all was the pair of “Wet Wading Briefs” (which really deserve a better product name than they’ve been given).

No longer will the day after Christmas be considered a day of let-downs.  Thanks to Marck, the day after December 26th will forever be known as the day I received my first pair of River Panties.

Everybody needs a fishing buddy like Marck.

Christmas is not about fly fishing.

During this most wonderful season of the year we are given the gift of a reprieve from the often hectic routine of our day to day lives. It is an opportunity to reflect on all the good fortunes we have, which hopefully include health, happiness and the love of friends and family. If only for a single day we should be mindful of all that is truly important as we set aside shallow and meaningless indulgences such as (gasp) fly fishing and share the joy in our hearts with others. Just as there’s more to fly fishing than catching fish, there’s more to life than fly fishing. We should all cease with thoughts of selfish endeavors and get our priorities straight. It’s Christmas, folks – put away the tying materials and hang up the waders. Purge all thoughts of fly fishing as you gather ’round the tree with loved ones, sip some cocoa and sing some carols and remember what this time of year is really all about (and no, it’s not winter steelhead that define the season). Christmas is no time of year to be distracted by thoughts of fly fishing.

So it is with a heart filled with joy and a mind devoid of all fly fishing thoughts that I wish a very Merry Christmas to all 8 of my loyal fans followers.

PS- Have you ever noticed that Thingamabobbers bear an uncanny resemblance to small Christmas tree ornaments?

I’m appointing myself Ambassador

The December 2010 issue of Angling Trade touches on a topic of great importance to those involved with the business side of fly fishing: attracting new participants to the sport. Editor Kirk Deeter talks of some ways people in the industry can grow the sport, and suggests 7 things that must happen in order for this to be successful. I won’t go into detail with the 7 things here (if you want to read all about it, sign up to receive your free subscription (it’s quite good, and an interesting point of view to get a take on the world of fly fishing: from the inside out). But Deeter has some good ideas that include: ensuring the success of next year’s IFTD in New Orleans; aligning the fly fishing world more closely with the American Sportfishing Association and putting the “fishing” back into fly fishing; reconnecting the fly fishing world with the Outdoor Industry Association; doing away with the perception that fly fishing is a difficult endeavor with a learning curve that’s too steep for beginners; increasing on school-based programs such as TU’s Trout in the Classroom and Fly Fishing in Schools Program (which I am embarrassed to admit I wasn’t even aware of until Deeter’s mention of it, which means it’s clearly not promoted enough); reaching out to the bass nation; encouraging fly fishing retailers to talk with one another.

On the last page of the issue, contributor Tom Bie goes on to suggest some other ways that the fly fishing industry might effectively grow the sport. For those who don’t know, Bie is the editor of The Drake magazine, which is regarded by many to be one of if not the coolest of the print magazines serving the fly fishing world. At any rate, Bie voices doubt that reliance on a professional organization or trade group will result in what is needed to really attract new folks to the sport of fly fishing. Instead, Bie says this:

“Also, adding to Kirk’s (Deeter, not Werner, FYI) list in his editor’s letter, there is one thing I’d like to see happen: Since fly fishing has 10,000 freelance writers, all of whom have apparently written a book, I’d like to see these authors start focusing their flyfishing pitches toward some non-flyfishing publications. I’m not suggesting writers stop sending queries to Kirk Deeter, Frank Amato, Joe Healy, Andrew Steketee, Ross Purnell, Steve Probasco, Steve Walburn, Tom Bie or any other flyfishing editor. I’m just requesting that you also query some general interest magazines to see if we can place a few flyfishing stories in front of people not in the choir…let’s bombard them with some flyfishing destinations and see what happens. And if you really love the taste of rejection, send something to Mens Journal or Outside or Esquire. True, they’re a lot harder to get a story in, but if you can pull if off, a half million people will see it. And that would be cool.”

Lately I’ve been struggling with what I want to be when I grow up, but Bie’s words have motivated me.  It’s like he was talking directly to me because ironically I’m one of those writers he mentioned–you know, one of the 10,000 who has apparently written a book (actually three). At first I wondered how he could possibly know who I am, and then I remembered that way back in October 2009 I sent him an email inquiry about possibly submitting some work for The Drake. I never heard back. 😉

Well, since I know the taste of rejection (it’s similar in flavor to that of skunk, which is something I’m all too familiar with), I’ve decided to take Bie’s advice and hit up some outdoor magazines that are not flyfishing related.  Surely I can demystify the notion that fly fishing is a difficult sport that’s too challenging for beginners.  If someone like me can learn to fly fish, anyone with the intelligence of a Labrador Retriever and the dexterity of a gorilla can learn it. Maybe it is The Unaccomplished Angler who becomes the ultimate ambassador of fly fishing to the outside world: someone who is a nobody in the fly fishing world–just a regular, Budweiser and BBQ’d ribs kinda guy. My mantra will be, of course, that thankfully there’s more to fly fishing than catching fish.

So fair warning to you editors of outdoor-related, non-fly fishing  magazines: The Unaccomplished Ambassador of Fly Angling will be knocking on your door. Please be gentle with your rejections.

Spey fishing is a fad

As I mentioned in the previous Weekly Drivel, I received comments from a reader suggesting that fishing with a Spey rod is “like Tai Chi”. Another interesting comment was also made:

“I find the whole fad a little curious…”

For the sake of argument let’s just agree that this statement is inaccurate. Fads are short-lived crazes that gain widespread popularity and then quickly and thankfully fade away (fad = fadee).  Yes, sometimes they tend to linger like the smell of dead fish but eventually they go away and become nothing more than laughing stock for future generations. Nearly always we will look back upon fads and feel ashamed of our participation.

The way of the Spey has been around for a very long time. It may have seen a more recent spike in popularity in some areas as folks have come realize the merits of the two-handed rod and Spey casting techniques, but this gradual discovery seems to me more like enlightenment than fad.  The Pet Rock didn’t last long and thankfully neither will Justin Bieber. Let’s look at a few other fads from recent history just for giggles:

  • TV trays
  • Bean bag chairs
  • Leisure suits
  • Streaking
  • Disco
  • Sea Monkeys
  • Yahtzee
  • Shag carpet
  • Tang
  • Space Food Sticks
  • AMC Pacer (and Gremlin)
  • Pop Rocks
  • Earth Shoes
  • Pukka shell necklaces (someone please tell Kenny Chesney to let it go)
  • Water beds
  • Swatch Watches
  • Izod shirts (collars flipped)
  • Leveraged buyouts
  • Parachute pants
  • Gigapets
  • The Clapper
  • Reality TV shows (like a kidney stone, we pray that soon they will pass…please, God)
  • Crocs

Well, you get the idea. I am neither a historian nor an accomplished Spey angling person, so I thought it best to consult some pedigreed anglers bring in a couple of the big guns from the world of Spey for their thoughts on the matter.

Simon "Speybro" Gawesworth

Simon Gawesworth needs no introduction. He is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on Spey casting and has taught and demonstrated Spey casting around the world. Simon’s thoughts on the “fad” are as follows:

“According to my dictionary, the definition of “fad” is: ‘1.  an intense but short-lived fashion; craze , or 2.  a personal idiosyncrasy or whim.’ Many of those that indulge in the art of Spey casting do so with extreme intensity, that much is true, but considering that the roots of Spey casting date back to the mid 1800’s, it is most definitely not ‘short lived’. The duration is irrelevant, even if Spey casting had evolved from the 1990’s the tremendous advantage that anglers have with Spey casting techniques – both in fishing and casting disciplines – ensure that this is an integral part of the sport of fly fishing, and long will remain so.”

Mike Kinney, the "The Skagit Godfather" (photo by Rich Schaaff)

Mike Kinney, a legend when it comes to fly fishing, has been at the cutting edge of fishing with a Spey rod in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years.  During that time Mike has become highly respected for guiding, instruction and rod design. When asked his thoughts on the matter of Spey casting being a fad, Mike had this to say:

“I started over twenty years ago. It became popular over ten years ago here in the US and has been around over 150 years in the UK. A fad usually does not last 150 years. While certain trends in two handed rods, spey casting, and spey fishing will probably go away over time the actual use of long rods for change of direction dynamic roll casts and enhanced line control will definitely gain favor as time goes on.”

There seems to be a common thread here, and if I were an authority on the Way of Spey I could not have said it any better myself. Thanks, gents, for weighing in with your thoughts on the matter. In my less-than-experienced assessment, the Spey thing is less like a fad and more like evolution of fly fishing (something Charles Darwin would have embraced).

To cite an article by Rob Kolakowski in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, “Spey casting is not just a passing fad, it’s around for good.”

Case closed. No further arguments.