Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing Tackle’ Category

Megan Boyd and Kiss the Water

September 5, 2013

Megan Boyd was a legendary, Scottish tier of salmon flies.  As a boy, I saw a picture of her in an article about Scotland, and I have been somewhat fascinated with this amazing and eccentric woman ever since (when she was to be awarded the British Empire Medal by Queen Elizabeth II, she declined the invitation to Buckingham Palace, claiming there was no one to watch her dog).  Her life and the stories surrounding her are summed up well in her 2001 New York Times obituary.

Soon, a biographical film about Boyd will be released.  Judging by the trailer, it will be an interesting and even beautiful film about a unique woman.  The film, Kiss the Water, is made by American Eric Steel.  Steel, though not a fly fisher and having no ties to Scotland, was captivated by Boyd’s NYT obituary and, many years later, decided to make a documentary about her.  You can visit the film’s website to learn more about it and to see some of Boyd’s incredibly beautiful flies.

Abel Reels – Limited Edition Grateful Dead ® Reel

August 17, 2013

Abel Reels is now releasing a limited number of reels featuring a licensed image of the Grateful Dead’s “Steal Your Face” logo.  I am not generally a great admirer of Abel’s painted finishes, but this one is a beauty.  It does not seem to be available on every series of reels offered by Abel. Those on which it is available are beyond my current means, especially when you add the $300.00 premium for the logo.  All the same, the art is something to admire.  You can take a look at the following link:

Abel Reels – Limited Edition Grateful Dead ® Reel.

The only Abel reel in my possession actually belongs to my daughter.  A good friend gave it to me to pass on to her, when she is old enough to use it (thank you, John Henry).  I see that Abel now offers commemorative “Newborn Baby Reels.” Perhaps if we have another child I can find someone to give me another Abel.  Kidding, of course …. sort of.

Quality and Artistry

June 30, 2013

As I have noted before, I am a fan of Tim Pantzlaff’s Spey Company fly reels because of their classic styling, bullet-proof construction, and affordability. In the past months, Tim has added features to his reels such as telephone latches — most famously associated with the second generation of Hardy “Uniqua” reels, knurled palming rims, handle material resembling ivory, and more. Currently, you can see some of these features on his 4 inch “Circle Spey” reel.

Tim makes every reel himself.  While obviously a fine craftsman, his artistry also extends to music.  Tim recently created a video of his reels in production and in action, for which he also made an acoustic guitar soundtrack:

I really like my “Single Spey” reel, to which I had Tim add a new ivory-like handle.  As a possible change in location may mean that I’ll be using a two-handed rod regularly, I see one of his larger spey reels in my future too.  And if I stay where I am, I may make use of his ability to create salt-water safe reels.

Mind you, I gain nothing by drawing your attention to these reels.  I simply like to see hard-working people, who make fine art and/or other high quality products at affordable prices, succeed. As the world is increasingly occupied with plastic, disposable, soul-less materials, I feel more strongly about this every day.  That said, if you are in the market for a reel, be sure to look at the Spey Company.

Local and Handmade (You don’t Hear it often Enough): Drawbaugh Outdoors Landing Nets

April 29, 2013



I recently went to the grand opening of the Pennsylvanian Fly Fishing Museum. There, I came across some wonderful landing nets from Drawbaugh Outdoors, based in Dover, PA. These beautiful nets are made by Chad and Billie Jo Drawbaugh (pictured), who are assisted in marketing and other matters by Jack Gotwalt.

The most obvious characteristics of D.O. Nets are their beauty and quality.  The picture above, which I took on my cellphone, does not do justice to them.  No doubt, if you contact Jack, Billie Jo, or Chad, they will be happy to provide you with better photos of their products. In such photos, you will see that D.O. nets are carefully constructed in pleasing and practical forms.

The fine construction of D.O. Nets contrasts greatly with that of many cheaper wooden and bamboo nets available today.  Looking at these latter nets, you can see with your own eye that they are often glued and varnished imperfectly.  Such problems in construction are no small thing; a few years back I picked up a cheap, wooden net after traveling to a fishing destination via plane.  During my trip, I stumbled and very briefly placed some of my weight upon the net. It broke and splintered in a break that was comparable to an explosion. I’m grateful that a portion of the splintered net didn’t pierce my upper arm, especially since I was fishing alone, in a remote area, in grizzly country. Of course, imperfect construction can lead to much more subtle problems, such as premature delamination (I say “premature” because even the finest nets should be treated with at least some care).

I am as impressed by the materials used in D.O. Nets as I am by their construction.  Chad and Billie Jo can make a net of whatever suitable woods that a customer prefers. Many fly fishers interested in handmade tackle prefer exotic woods.  I can understand this preference.  To me, though, fly fishing is largely about place.  It’s about getting to know a particular place–a particular ecosystem. This knowledge is necessary to successful fishing.  But appreciating a particular place is what makes it pleasurable.  Thus, I am most interested in tackle that reflects my relationship to the places I fish.  In other words, I prefer domestic and often local materials.  Drawbaugh Outdoors makes their standard nets of such woods.

My profession is not one that typically brings great wealth, to put it mildly. As a man of modest means, I am very mindful of what I pay for fly fishing related items. It’s true, of course, that quality products are generally more expensive than inferior ones.  And it’s also true that quality products will last much longer than inferior ones. Fortunately, D.O. Nets are both high quality and fairly priced.  And while I have yet to purchase my own, I am willing to bet that D.O. nets will serve you every bit as well or better than a more expensive one.  And, if you’re like me — if you are mindful of your relationship to place — the materials used in the nets might bring you some added pleasure too.

You can contact Drawbaugh Outdoors at 717-580-5595 or at  You can also find them on facebook at  If you’re in the market for a landing net that is both beautiful and practical, get a hold of Billie Jo, Chad, or Jack.  They can provide you with a net that is suitable for landing anything from native brook trout to wild salmon and steelhead.  They offer both nylon and rubber “catch-and-release” netting material.

Jumping into the New Year

December 29, 2012


Years ago, during my first visit to my wife’s hometown of Budapest, Hungary, we celebrated New Year’s Eve at the home of a somewhat shady businessman and family friend.  Just before the clock struck 12:00 AM, he had us all stand on the couches and clutch as much money as we could find.  At midnight, we jumped off the couches and into the New Year.  The idea was that the coming months would be filled with wealth.

My wife and I now do this every year, and it has become a tradition in the rest of her family too.  Of course, one can jump into the New Year with things that signify non-monetary wealth too.  As for the shady New Years Party host, who introduced us to this little ritual all those years ago … well, let’s just say that he’d best start jumping into the New Year with a key, since he is usually locked up.

Often times, I have been lucky enough to go fishing on New Years Day (and on the Winter Solstice too, which is a much more proper start date for each new year).  I’ll be doing that again on January 1, next week; I’ll be making yet another visit to my newly discovered, enchanted brookie stream. The tackle is packed, and I’m ready to roll.  Happily, I am heading to the mountains with my wife, daughter, and dog, too.  Therefore, I’ll be jumping into the New Year doing the thing that I love and also enjoying the company of those precious to me.

Photo by Mike Sepelak

Photo of me on the enchanted stream, by Mike Sepelak

My own tradition, by the way, has been to always read Robert Burns’ classic version of “Auld Lang Syne” on New Years Eve.  I have already packed the 1920 copy of Burns Poems and Carlyle Essay, edited by George Marsh, that I have been sure to have in my back pocket every December 31, since 1992.


Eden Phillpotts, Pretense, and Fly Fishing in the 1800’s and Today

August 19, 2012
First Edition of Folly and Fresh Air, 1891

First Edition of Folly and Fresh Air, 1891

I received an email today from a very old and reputable outdoor company, with a subject line that read, “complete your look with the right accessories.”  Of course, I found this line a bit ridiculous.  I fully realize, though, that many fly fishers are more concerned about appearances than they are the practice of fishing and the other activities that go with it.

Things seem a bit different than they were, say, fifty years ago, here in the States.  Back then, most fly fishers probably would have been casting a glass rod with an automatic reel or Medalist attached.  At least, that was certainly the case in the West.  It’s also true that there were simply fewer fancy fishing clothes in which the fisherperson of the time may have donned her or himself.  That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of other gadgets marketed to fly fishers.

Still, there is a segment of the fly fishing population that has always been concerned more with appearances than fishing.  And I would be less-than-honest, if I did not admit that my own eyes are often caught be a particularly nice piece of gear, wearable or otherwise.  My tastes are a bit eccentric, however (look at the books I read!)  and not so much affected to impress any one other than a community of fellow sartorial weirdos in my head.

Regardless, one of the most amusing examples a fly fisher obsessed with appearances is a fictional one.  This is a young man, who is the central character in Eden Phillpotts’ (b. 1862, d. 1960) Folly and Fresh Air.  The book, narrated in the first-person, was published by the prolific and very successful English author in 1891.  The young man in question is rather prone to exaggeration.  He attempts to impress his family and colleagues by claiming fly fishing prowess.  Before long, he has accidentally talked himself into taking a fishing trip to Devon with his brother, who actually does know how to fish.  In Devon, the two brothers make friends with locals, find romance, and even catch a few trout.

The funniest part of the book comes toward the beginning, when the central character visits a tackle shop to gear up.  Actually knowing nothing about fishing, but trying to pretend that he does, he makes a buffoon of himself.  Following are a few passages from this hilarious scene:

Finding an admirable establishment, I entered it and asked to see some fly rods.  I said—

” I happen to want a new one.”

Note the ‘new.’  This, if properly understood, must have led the man to suppose that I owned hundreds of faithful, well tried, old rods, and now, just for the mad freak of the thing, thought about adding another to my collection.  But it was not understood properly.  The person in the shop appeared to be upset about some private concern, and answered, shortly—

“We never sell any but new ones.”

Then he dived out of sight behind his counter, and brought up a fishing-rod.  He put it together without a word and handed it to me.  I took it from him, weighed it and frowned.  Then I shut one eye and looked down the handle, as though I purposed shooting something with it.  Meanwhile the man regarded  me in stony silence.  I began to yearn for a word of encouragement from him.  Even censure would have been more bearable than the look he cast at me.  I felt as if I was doing wrong, grew nervous, and flourished the thing to show technical familiarity with it.  This action fetched down a gas globe, which should have made conversation.  I took the liberty of pointing out that anybody showing technical familiarity with a trout rod here, must destroy that glass globe every time the man renewed it.  Still his taciturnity was such that I grew foolhardy, and advised him to modify the whole scheme of his shop.  This stung him into retort.  He said any alteration would depend up the extent of my custom.  If I could limit my visits, and mention the date of them beforehand, he thought he should risk leaving things as they were.  For which intentionally rude remark I snubbed him. (19-20).

Things go on like this for some length, until the shopkeeper realizes he has a sucker on his hands.  Eventually, the young man leaves the establishment with “all the best things in the shop” (21).

No doubt, if Phillpotts’ fictional character were an actual person and alive today, he would have been mightily excited to receive the email that was sent to me this morning.  And, perhaps, after acquiring the latest zipper-crotched waders, expedition quality wading  jacket, retro trucker cap or fedora, and so on, he would have actually gone fishing, as the character in the book does, and fallen in love with the pastime.  No doubt, there are worse things than well-dressed fly fishers — well-dressed bankers, politicians, and used-car salespersons, for instance.  Then again, a lot of those well-dressed fly fishers probably are bankers.

Hardy Continues to Promote Old School Fly Fishing

July 25, 2012

Hardy Casting Cup, made by Tiffany and Co. (image from Hardy)

Hardy USA will soon be sponsoring the second annual Hardy Cup casting tournament.  They will do so on August 4 and 5, 2012 at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston, NY.  There will be many other events taking place as well, during CFFCM’s “Summerfest and Anglers’ Market.”

The Hardy Cup competition is limited to bamboo rods.  Hardy should be commended for promoting events related to classic tackle and angling; it’s one thing to sell products, but it is quite another to get involved in the community whose members appreciate those products.  And, mind you, casters need not use Hardy rods and reels.  Contact Jim Murphy at Hardy USA to enter the competition.

If you are one of those fly fishers, who thinks fish can only be caught with contemporary graphite rods and large-arbor reels, and that bamboo, fiberglass, and standard-arbor reels are obsolete, think again (know, too, that Hardy was making large arbor reels nearly a century ago).

Hardy’s Diamond Jubilee Reel, further notes

February 15, 2012

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of handling Hardy’s Diamond Jubilee Perfect, about which I wrote in my previous post, at the Raleigh Fly Fishing Show.  It is truly a dandy, even if it is priced well beyond my own means.  The 1912 checkwork is very well made.  I was particularly impressed by the delicacy of the brass “worm” that puts pressure on the spring (sorry, I forgot to take my camera).  The reel is, in fact, still available, though most potential customers will have to go through dealers.

It was nice to chat with Jim Murphy and John Shaner of Hardy, USA at the show, and it was great of them to both come down to Raleigh.  They mentioned some very interesting products that may be coming down the line at Hardy.  I hope to talk more with them about these things this weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

By the way, there was much to interest the person who is passionate about classic and antique fly fishing tackle at the Raleigh Show.  Reelmaker Ted Godfrey was there, as was Bob Selb of “The Classic Fly Fisherman.”  There were also some wonderful tiers of traditional salmon and trout flies.

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