No Filter

Last weekend I took out a buddy new to fly fishing for some bass along the Galena River. The recent rains have not been kind to the river, and when we arrived the water was the consistency of Quik and looked about as nutritious. The New Guy was a trooper though, and since this was just as much about tuning his cast as it was catching fish it wasn’t so much of a bother that the fishing was slow.

In between my admonishment to keep the tip of his rod up on the back cast, to keep it down when stripping the fly, and repeated reminders to change the rhythm of his cast as he added more line,  the New Guy had the load of questions you might expect a beginner to have. After rolling through my thoughts on leaders and tippet, fly selection, the benefits of trying tenkara, and dreaming of far-off fishing destinations, he was quiet for a moment. Then, pausing before starting another cast, he turned to me.

“I’ve been looking a lot on the internet, and the pictures of trout on there, the colors, are amazing. Those must be Photoshopped, right?” Continue reading “No Filter”

The Bluegill Flats

The western edge of the lake was ill defined, gray and fuzzy to match the morning sky. It seemed to be a bit odd; it wasn’t fog, nor was it humid enough for haze to be a factor at a distance. It puzzled me for another few moments as the fuzziness crept down along the … Continue reading The Bluegill Flats

The Narrative of Marston Walsh

A while back I was picking through the library and pulled a copy of From White Into Red: Captivity Narratives as Alchemies of Race and Citizenship by Audra Simpson from the shelf, when a few loose pages fell from it. They were clearly older than the rest of the book, and hand-written, telling a fantastic story from the early days of the Texas frontier. I have no idea how it ended up in that book. No date was attached to it, but the letter ended with the writer’s name: Marston Walsh. I read it and realized I had something special, and tried to transcribe it as best I could. I cannot speak to its authenticity, other than to say that all stories are true to some extent. If you’re familiar with primary sources, you’ll forgive any errors I’ve made in trying to interpret Mr. Walsh’s words. Here is what he wrote.

Continue reading “The Narrative of Marston Walsh”

Old Tyme Dittys, Remixed: “Traders on the Prairie”

I love what I call “story songs”, those that have a cohesive narrative, a clear good guy and a bad guy, and some sort of conclusion to the action. None of that “let me sing about my feelings” stuff. One of the best-known story song is Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue”, and it was produced at what was probably the height of story song popularity, which was firmly entrench in the Country/Western genre. Continue reading “Old Tyme Dittys, Remixed: “Traders on the Prairie””

Dr. Killfish, or How I Learned to Stop Taking Photographs and Love Fishing

A few Sundays back I had about a hour free before the new episode of Game of Thrones dropped on HBONow, and I was too antsy to just sit around and wait for the Battle of the Bastards, so I took a detour to one of my favorite local brook trout streams to take the edge off, i.e. kill some time. I was fishing nearly naked—that is, wet wading and wearing sandals—working through the same old pools with a simple Royal Wulff. It was hot but the water pleasantly cool.

I high-stepped my way to my usual spot below a wide pool, where a pair of riffles skirt a series of sharp blocks of quartzite that usually hold some willing fish. After a number of casts I received a splashy response, and moments later I brought a brook trout to hand.

For a moment the fish was suspended at the water’s surface in the cradle of my left hand. Instinctively my right hand twitched, reaching for the smart phone and a photo op. As I looked down at the purple-and-spotted beauty, the golden rays of late evening playing off its wet skin, something clicked. My hand stopped.

I thought, Do I really need another goddamned photo?

Continue reading “Dr. Killfish, or How I Learned to Stop Taking Photographs and Love Fishing”