Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing Tackle’ Category

Fly Fishing, en Vogue

June 2, 2017

Vogue Magazine recently featured an article on fly fishing in its “Living” section at Vogue.com. The article, authored by Etta Meyer, is titled “Fly Fishing through India’s Final Frontier.” For those of us who know Vogue only as a fashion oriented magazine, it seems odd to see such an article from them. However, the magazine and other periodicals published by Condé Nast provide coverage of many topics far removed from fashion and style. In fact, a glance at Vogue.com reveals article on politics, literature, film and more. The article by Meyer describes a trip the author made to India with her mother and some other women to fly fish for mahseer (Cyprinid fish belonging to the genus Tor).

Many fly fishers think of mahseer as one of the fish targeted by European colonialist fly fishers, in the era of the British Raj or Crown Rule in India. Indeed, the revered British tackle company, Hardy, manufactured numerous tools marketed specifically to those Europeans seeking these fish. A faint hint of the romantic attitude sometimes held by colonialists can be identified in Meyer’s piece. For instance, the reference to a “Final Frontier” in the title of her article–a title most likely assigned by an editor, to be fair–implies an attitude of discovery and conquest. This attitude toward the land traveled by Meyer and her companions is certainly not shared by those who actually live there. On the other hand, Myer highlights the fact that her guides and trip organizer, of The Himalayan Outback, are Indians themselves. She also writes respectfully of the many locals she meets. And, the truth is that a little romance may be an unavoidable result of the wonder that we all feel, when encountering new places and experiencing new things.  All in all, the short, well-written article is worth a read. You can find more of Meyer’s work at her website, ettadynamite.

Hardy advertisement, page 98 of The Mighty Mahseer and Other Fish; or Hints to Beginners on Indian Fishing (Madras: Higginbotham & Co., 1903) by Cecil Lang [Skene-Du]

While I don’t necessarily recommend it, you can find a more stereotypically Vogue take on fly fishing here. By following the link, you can read about a 2009 fishing-themed photo spread by photographer Tom Munro, that was featured Vogue China. The models wear leather fishing waders by Prada, among other things.

Photograph by Tom Munro. “Fishing Day,” Vogue China, October 2009.

Ruth Sims and Fly fishing, via Filson Life

May 4, 2017

Filson recently posted a great article in their Filson Life blog. In the story, “Navajo Fly Fisher: A Journey Towards Understanding” (May 1 2017), author Ruth Sims describes her discovery of  fly fishing and how it relates to her identity as an engineer and Navajo woman. She writes, “My love for our land and water goes beyond fly fishing, I consider it my calling in life to help take care of our earth…its just that fly fishing happens to be a beautiful bonus.” Sims’ article is a nice piece of writing, and photos by Megan Taylor complement it well.

Photograph by Megan Taylor.

Fishing is a central part of many Native American cultures, particularly in the Northwest (and there is some evidence that fly fishing existed historically, alongside spear fishing, dip netting, and so on). Not surprisingly, Sims explains that her introduction to fly fishing came from friends belonging to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai (and Pend d’Oreille) Tribes of Montana, who have fished for centuries

Filson, as most readers know, is a well-established Seattle-based manufacturer of outdoor clothing and gear. They have long offered some basic fly fishing items, such as vests and wading jackets. I personally love my Filson fly-fishing gear, particularly my strap vest (now discontinued), and it has held up very well. While not cheap, these items are so durable that they have proven to be a good investment. Filson expanded their fly fishing range for 2017, adding some nice items. Ms. Sims wears some of them in photos accompanying her story.

Unfortunately, Filson’s newest offerings are priced so extravagantly that they unaffordable to those of us who spend as much time on the water as we can. This contradicts the image that Filson  promotes of itself as an outfitter to miners, loggers, and others, who live and play hard outdoors. With few exceptions, those of us who prioritize living close to the land, sacrifice any possibility of greater income to do so.

Still, some Filson items remain reasonably priced, and the company’s aesthetic can be enjoyed for free via its blog. Of course, Ruth Sims story stand alone as an interesting bit of writing. So, give it a read at Filson Life, and check out some of the others pieces of writing as well.

Maclean Family Rods featured in Montana Fishing History Exhibit

March 27, 2017

The Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena, MT, currently features a special exhibit titled “Hooked: Fishing in Montana.” The exhibit is located in their hallway gallery and will run until early 2018. Items displayed in the survey of all sorts of fishing practices range from a mid-nineteenth century Nez Perce dugout canoe to fly fishing tackle. Among the latter are numerous items associated with Norman Maclean, author of beloved A River Runs Through It and other Stories (Chicago, 1976). These include a Granger “Champion” bamboo rod fished by Norman, as well as a Leonard rod fished by his father, the Reverend John Maclean. Anyone passionate about the history of what we now call Montana and, of course, anyone passionate about the history of fly fishing, will enjoy the exhibit.

Maclean Family Fly Rods

In general, the MHS Museum is excellent. Fishing aside, the museum is worth a visit for the exhibit of Charlie Russell (1864-1926) artwork, alone. Another exhibit “Neither Empty nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark” is also very well done. Notably, the representation of Indigenous peoples, coordinated with tribal representatives, is prominent.

“Indians Discovering Lewis and Clark” C.M. Russell, oil, 1896. Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection. Public Domain

Montana Fishing Exhibit

February 23, 2017

http://mtstandard.com/lifestyles/montana-s-fishing-history-displayed-in-new-exhibit-at-montana/article_48a9f397-1e99-5ec4-8c6d-845d83cdcf64.html

Patagonia, Nimmiipuu, and the Columbia River Drainage

February 6, 2017
Photo by Wingspan Productions, featured in The Cleanest Line

Photo by Wingspan Media Productions, featured in The Cleanest Line

It is great to see Nez Perce/Nimiipuu treaty rights and efforts to protect the fish of the Columbia River Drainage featured in Patagonia‘s blog, The Cleanest Line. The post, “Free the Snake and Restore Salmon to Honor Treaty Rights” is authored by Julian Matthews, director of “Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment.” This grass roots Nez Perce organization works closely with Friends of the Clearwater and many other regional conservation groups.

The Nez Perce Tribe and other members of the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission and the United Upper Columbia River Tribes engage in a great deal of restoration, native fish protection, and education regarding their traditional “salmon culture.” Some Nonnative sportspersons in the region do not support the tribes’ subsistence rights, established in numerous treaties and executive orders; I suspect some of these people may not realize just how deeply engaged in fisheries protection and restoration the tribes, particularly the Nez Perce, are.

The photos in the Patagonia story feature images of the Free the Snake River Flotilla. A popular event (previously featured in The Cleanest Line) held annually by opponents of four Snake River dams. Prominent in the pictures is Sammy Matsaw, a graduate student at the University of Idaho, who is doing some great work on the intersections of Indigenous and “Western” sciences. Sammy is Shoshone-Bannock and Oglala Lakota, but he has many Nimiipuu and other Native peers at U of I and neighboring Washington State University, who are also doing great work.

PEETZ Fly Reel, featuring Kwagu’ł Art

November 30, 2016
I have written previously about the PEETZ reel company, located in British Columbia, and their collaboration with First Nations Kwagu’ł artist, Jason Henry Hunt (see “Kwagu’ł Hand-Carved Reel from PEETZ” and “More First Nations Artistry from PEETZ”). PEETZ makes traditional Nottingham style reels, so named for their association with Nottingham, England reel makers of the late 1800s and early 1900s. These reels are used in many styles of fishing, though PEETZ makes two that are specifically marketed to fly fishers.
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Not long ago, I received an early edition of a new 3.5 inch fly reel, engraved with the traditional coastal image of a trout designed by Hunt. This is my second 3.5 inch PEETZ fly reel. I am very happy with both reels and with the service I’ve received from PEETZ. The reels balance several of my bamboo and fiberglass fly rods well, and I also use one with an LL Bean “Trolling Series” fly rod.
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Father, Daughter, PEETZ.

I am attracted to the aesthetic of these reels, but I am also very happy with their performance. Made in BC from brass and sustainably harvested mahogany, they are as solid as can be. The 3.5 inch reel has plenty of room for backing, and the large arbor makes retrieving that backing and the fly line easy. The check helps prevent overspooling.
For me, the simple pressure drag system is usually adequate. For those occasions when more drag is needed, there is plenty of exposed spool to palm. You can also exert drag by pressing the line guard against the spool. This is a practice that the inventor of this type of line guide, Charles Henry Cook (pen name John Bickerdyke), recommended in his 1898 book Practical Letters to Young Sea Fishers.

Many anglers, including myself, had found that it was more pleasant to check the reel by pressing the wire line guard than by placing a finger on the circumference of the reel. Captain Barton has gone a step further. In the Andaman Islands the fish ran so strongly and wildly, that the ordinary check was of little use, the reel frequently overran, and his line was broken. He tried placing his finger on the rim of the reel, with the same result as it if had been place in a piece of red hot iron. This was when fishing for the cavalla. He then  worked out a very simply and effective brake. To the  upper crossbar of the Bickerdyke guard, he sewed on the end of a piece of webbing about 8in. or 9in. length, and a trifle less width than the crossbar.  The  other end of the webbing was whipped on to the rod above the reel, the webbing being kept fairly taught. The rod thus fitted is held with the hand above the webbing. When a check is required, the hand is slid down over the webbing, pressure on which causes the guard to press against the rim of the reel as strongly or lightly as the angler may wish. Letters, 311.

In short, I love these reels, and every interaction with the people at PEETZ has been very positive. I am particularly happy to promote First Nations art, with the acquisition of this latest reel. The Kwagu’ł and other First Nations of Canada and the US have been fishing for salmonids for centuries, and their respect for these fish is integral to their cultures. The PEETZ Artist Series reels serve as a reminder that we should all cultivate more respect for the non-human inhabitants of our environment.  And not only does PEETZ recognize First Nations cultures, they also help support the conservation efforts of  the Pacific Salmon Foundation. For all these reasons, I recommend looking into PEETZ reels.

Art, Friendship, and Dan Klein’s Flies

November 15, 2016

Dr. Dan Klein is a legendary Montana fly tier. A story that carries his legend transpired decades ago, but he was well known even before then. The story is recounted by Geoffrey Norman in a March 1982 Esquire article titled “The Sporting Art of Tying Flies.” In the article, Norman mentions numerous fly tiers of fame, but states that, of the flies he owns, he values Dr. Klein’s the most. He continues:

Klein’s hopper is what people in the trade call “imitative,” as opposed to “suggestive.” That is to say, it looks exactly like a grasshopper, right down to the eyes and antennae. The things are eerie, and they catch fish. Klein ties them from unorthodox materials–surgical tubing and things like that–but they are not sneered at by insiders. To the contrary, they are prized, and prized very highly. One of the best rodmakers in the country traded Klein a cane rod, made to Klein’s specifications, for five of those hoppers. If you cold persuade him to take your order, he would charge you a thousand dollars or more for building a rod like that. When they decided to trade, Klein and the rodmaker asked other fly-fishermen to establish the terms. Three celebrated anglers studied the problem and then calculated what was fair. 132.

The rodmaker mentioned by Norman is the late Gary Howells. His bamboo rods remain among the most acclaimed and obviously cost much more now than they did in 1982 (I see several listed for sale online at prices between two and three thousand dollars). The famous trade is recounted in greater detail by Joseph Beelart, Jr., in his 2013 biography of Howells, titled “Howells: The Bamboo Fly Rods & Fly Fishing History of Gary H. Howells” (Whitefish Press).

Klein's Hopper

Klein’s Hopper

Dr. Klein achieved his renown when he lived in Idaho and fished the Henry’s Fork regularly. In 1976, he and his family moved to Helena, Montana. His youngest daughter began second grade that year a bit late. I joined that same class just days earlier, having recently moved with my family from Dillon, Montana. We have been close friends ever since, sharing similar paths in life, personal views, and so on.

Dr. Klein’s daughter blessed me recently with the gift of a hopper tied by her father. The personal connection–a connection I do not have with the other collectible Montana flies I own, such as those tied by the amazing Jack Boehme–makes the fly particularly special. Like Norman, however, and like Howells and many others,  I also view the hopper as a genuine work of art. And I happen to believe we need more art in our lives right now, and the beauty art so often conveys, no matter how small and mundane that art may seem.

Dr. Klein and his flies, in Beelart's book.

Dr. Klein and his flies, as pictured in Beelart’s book.

More First Nations Artistry from PEETZ

June 28, 2016

Last year, I wrote about the 2015 “Artist Series” Nottingham-style reels sold by PEETZ, which featured the work of artist Jason Henry Hunt. A descendant of the Kwagu’ł First Nation on Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Hunt is part of a large family recognized for their mastery of traditional art forms. PEETZ commissioned Hunt to carve 90 signed and numbered 5-inch Evolution reels (these reels feature a one-way drag system and are not the “knuckle busters” they may appear to be). The result was the beautiful “Circle of Life” reel.

PEETZ, based in BC, commissioned Hunt to carve their 2016 series as well. This year, Hunt’s design is called the “Orca, Salmon, & Moon.” According to PEETZ, it features “an Orca hunting salmon under a full moon.” As you will see below, it is simply stunning. Just as they did last year, PEETZ will donate a portion of the proceeds generated by the sale of these reels to the Pacific Salmon Foundation. Purchasers thus help support a Native American/First Nations artist, salmon recovery, and a venerable old company that still produces hand-made wooden reels. All three of these causes are immensely worthy of attention.

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“Orca, Salmon, & Moon,” as shown on the PEETZ website.

Of course, it is important to note that besides looking wonderful, PEETZ reels function perfectly. I have their 3.5 inch fly reel, which I enjoy very much. Most recently, I have spooled it with a 150-foot full sink level line and fixed it to LL Bean’s “Trolling Series” 6/7 weight fly rod. With this outfit, I troll streamers in a lake, behind a canoe. I normally fish dry flies there, but the trolling set-up is great to use when paddling from place-to-place or on those days that the trout simply cannot be coaxed to the surface. Incidentally, fishing flies this way is far from unique. For instance, a 2007 New York Times article describes the traditional practice of trolling for landlocked salmon in Maine. As for the PEETZ fly reel, when the center drag-adjustment screw is loosened, it is easy to unspool line. And the large arbor makes it easy to retrieve all that line once a fish is hooked.

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Be Grateful for the Little Things, too.

November 26, 2015

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Fiddles, Fly rods, and Fall

November 11, 2015

I was able to spend a few days at our cabin last week. I passed part of the time there reading A Thousand Mornings of Music: The Journal of an Obsession with the Violin (Crown Publishers, 1970),  by Arnold Gingrich. Of course, I spent time enjoying my family and fly fishing, as well.

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I have long been a fan of Gingrich’s writings, especially of The Well Tempered Angler (Alfred A. Knopf, 1965). In A Thousand Mornings of Music Gingrich writes about a passion that paralleled his interest in all things fly fishing–a passion for violins, which he playfully calls “fiddles” throughout the book. If you have read his angling books or Toys of a Lifetime (Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), you know that he had the tendencies of a collector. In A Thousand Mornings he describes those tendencies, as they were directed toward violins over a period of several years. At the end of that period (and at the end of the book) he had acquired violins made by some of the most respected luthiers in history. Among them was one made by Antonio Stradivari of Cremona (now a of part of northern Italy), in 1672. Gingrich named this violin “The Gudgeon,” after its second owner.

Gingrich’s Stradivarius was played for a period by Hungarian born virtuosa, Erna Rubinstein. Gingrich, himself, during his tenure as a collector, renewed his own studies of violin playing. For a time, he even spent early morning at the Rembert Wurlitzer offices,  playing celebrated, rare violins that passed through the company’s hands.

Gingrich

It is no surprise that Gingrich loved both violins and bamboo fly rods. Many people have made comparisons between them, emphasizing the care that must be exercised in forming both, the importance of varnish, and so on. Indeed, I know more than one fly fisher, who collects violins. That said, the work done by luthiers is certainly much more extensive than that done by any fly rod maker.

I recently came across a video that shows a French luthier, Dominique Nicosia, engaged in his craft. The video was made by Baptiste Buob and filmed at the Musée de la lutherie et de l’archèterie françaises de Mirecourt. No doubt, Gingrich would have loved such films. Yet, I hope that neither music nor his interest in instruments would have kept him away from the beauty that we find while fly fishing, a beauty that far exceeds that produced by of any violinist, luthier, or rod maker.

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