Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing’ Category

Worrying, in Good Company

July 27, 2016



I am one of many fly fishers who pays intimate attention to snow packs, water levels, air and water temperatures, and so on. Most people do so simply in order to identify the most effective times to wet their flies. However, I have a more general concern about the survival of the very river I love to fish. No doubt, many would consider me alarmist, but I am genuinely shocked by how low the water is in my favorite Montana river this summer. This, coupled with my realization that the river is being “discovered” by a mass of people approaching a “critical” number, has me pretty sad.

Of course, I am not alone with my concerns. A recent article in the June 16th edition of The Economist confirms this fact. When the editors of a financial news magazine based in England address Montana’s low water and its impact upon fish and fishing, you can be sure things are real.  Read The Economist’s article for yourself.

North Idaho

June 15, 2016

I spent last weekend with a local friend, AJ Morris, fly fishing his favorite river in North Idaho. He has fished it for years and seems to know its every nuance. I have visited the river only a few times since moving to the region, myself, though I have enjoyed fishing there each time. Since fishing, for me, consists of more than catching trout, this means I have also enjoyed the beauty surrounding the river, the animals giving life to that beauty, the companionship of my friend, and so on.

My views are not unique. Archaeologists have confirmed that the river’s drainage has been inhabited for some 12,000 years. The Nez Perce or Nimiipuu, descendants of those ancient inhabitants, live there still. And I know that my Nez Perce friends find the area just as important to their lives as their ancestors did, despite profound changes brought by settlement, dam-building, and other damaging activities.

Author and Trout Unlimited CEO Chris Hunt describes Northern Idaho, from a fly fisher’s perspective, in Fly Fishing Idaho’s Secret Rivers (The History Press, 2014). He writes:

From a fishing standpoint, northern Idaho is defined by the Clearwater River drainage. The Clearwater itself is a legendary steelhead river, even today, with all the impediments facing Idaho’s oceangoing rainbow trout. But all the rivers and streams that come together to form the Clearwater have a fishy legacy that rivals that of any system in the state.

Hunt is the Director of National Communications for Trout Unlimited, and his words ring true. In fact, these rivers and streams really rival those found in many other parts of the world, too. The same can be said of their beauty.

Octavio Paz, the Break, and Nature

May 12, 2016


Octavio Paz besökte Malmö Internationella Poesifestival 1988, John Leffmann.

Octavio Paz besökte Malmö Internationella Poesifestival 1988, John Leffmann.

Octavio Paz (1914-1998), the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature winner, was a Mexican poet and intellectual. He served in the Mexican diplomatic service, lectured at Cambridge and Harvard, and was awarded many prizes for his writings. While I do not support some of his later political stances, I find his poetry insightful and occasionally intoxicating. Here, I share a short poem, from a larger series of similar poems, first published in 1955. It is titled “Objetos” or “Objects.” In three lines, Pas captures our tendency to objectify the world around us, in our daily lives. And he indicates how powerful it is, when we break this tendency and recognize the vitality of our surroundings, human and otherwise. For me, fly fishing and spending time in “nature” (by which I mean “places-less-influenced-by-humans”) provides that break.



They live alongside us
we do not know them, they do not know us
But sometimes they speak with us.

(this translation from the Spanish is taken from Selected Poems, Eliot Weinberger ed. (New Directions, 1984), 6.

Thinking about summer and saltwater . . . .

May 2, 2016

The International Trout Congress

March 24, 2016

Last year, I posted information about the first meeting of the International Trout Congress. That meeting had to be postponed, but it is now scheduled for October of this year. Called The World of Trout, the meeting will take place on October 2 through 6 of 2016, in Bozeman, Montana. Following is a description of the meeting from their website (featuring their logo):

trout-congress_no-bg_final_forwebNative trout are found in a variety of habitats in North America, Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. While no trout species were native to the southern hemisphere, trout have been widely introduced, and are now resident throughout its temperate zones as well. This dichotomy of native northerner and exotic southerner provides just one example of the rich fabric that The World of Trout will explore during this 5-day event, bringing together some of the world’s leading thinkers to synthesize knowledge about the species and discuss its future across the globe. At the same time, trout are the passion of non-scientists who spend time angling for them, writing about them and capturing them on canvas and on film. Probably no other species have been written about, painted and photographed more than trout. As technology has changed, trout in the blogosphere, in film festivals, and now captured on social media has allowed everyone to be part of the trout conversation. The World of Trout is organized both as a congress and a celebration.

As a congress, the aim is to assemble an international body for a series of structured lectures and discussions on the relationship between trout and humans. The World of Trout will focus its discussions on themes that include the diversity and role of trout worldwide, conservation issues, and trout in the literature, in the arts, and in the classroom. One unique feature of The World of Trout is “Trout Conversations” where discussions around a “place” that brings together all of the conference themes will be explored. There will be a number of these discussions throughout the event. A partial list of themes to be explored through invited papers, workshops, and informal gatherings included [sic]:

The rich diversity of trout
Trout in the literature…..then and now
What do trout teach us about ourselves?
The role of trout in outdoor and indoor classrooms
Conservation challenges to protecting trout
The economic benefit of trout in communities worldwide
Trout on canvas and in film – expanding artistic expression through multiple media
The role of trout in social and ecological communities
The future of trout in the next 100 years
Developing an international network for trout conservation

The International Trout Congress has issued a “Call for Sessions.” Proposals are due on April 1. Submit yours here.







John Donne on the Lures of Love in Difficult Times

March 2, 2016

John Donne was a gifted poet and reluctant religious figure. Donne was born in London, to Roman Catholic parents, in 1572. His family suffered directly from the Church of England’s repression of Catholics. Donne, himself, converted to Anglicanism, and subsequently received financial support for his poetry and even served in Parliament.  He became an Anglican priest, at the insistence of King James I. He died n 1631, just as James’ son and successor, Charles I, was experienced increasing resistance from religious and political dissenters, especially the Puritans and other Calvinist Protestants. Charles, of course, was beheaded in 1649, by the then Anglican dominated Parliament.

John Donne, c. 1595. Artist unknown.

John Donne, c. 1595. Artist unknown.

Donne lived a full life; he was well-educated, he travelled extensively, and he served in the navy. No doubt, these and other experiences, and the forced self-examination of his religious stance, contributed to the quality of his poetry. He is perhaps best known for his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. “The Bait” is an earlier poem and is written in response to Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” (1599).

Illustration of Piscator and Venator, by Arthur Rackham. From Rackham's 1931 illustrated edition of The Compleat Angler.

Illustration of Piscator and Venator, by Arthur Rackham. From Rackham’s 1931 illustrated edition of The Compleat Angler.

Donne was clearly a respected author in his lifetime, though his fame was no doubt helped along by Isaac Walton. Most of us know Walton as the author of The Compleat Angler, or The Contemplative Man’s Recreation (1653). However, he also published a biography of Donne in 1640. Moreover, Walton later included “The Bait” in The Complete Angler. In this text, his character Viator says he loves Donne’s verses “because they allude to rivers, and fish, and fishing.”  Following is “The  Bait.”

The Bait

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.

There will the river whispering run
Warm’d by thy eyes, more than the sun;
And there th’enamour’d fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray.

When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
Each fish, which every channel hath,
Will amorously to thee swim,
Gladder to catch thee, than thou him.

If thou, to be so seen, be’st loth,
By sun or moon, thou darken’st both,
And if myself have leave to see,
I need not their light, having thee.

Let others freeze with angling reeds,
And cut their legs with shells and weeds,
Or treacherously poor fish beset,
With strangling snare, or windowy net.

Let coarse bold hands from slimy nest
The bedded fish in banks out-wrest;
Or curious traitors, sleave-silk flies,
Bewitch poor fishes’ wand’ring eyes.

For thee, thou need’st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait:
That fish, that is not catch’d thereby,
Alas, is wiser far than I.

Image & Reality in the Outdoor World, or “This is Not a Lover of Nature.”

February 19, 2016

On one level or another, most of us are concerned with our image. This is natural, since it is through our image that others initially determine who we are. If we want to convey to others that we have certain interests or live according to certain principles, we may consciously or unconsciously  wear clothing, use body language, or even speak in ways that represent those interests or principles. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it is socially expedient, in that it often allows us to quickly identify our peers.

However, our image is only symbolic. It is not who we truly are. More specifically, our image is only  a representation (v. an actual presentation) of our inner selves–the selves beneath our clothes, our titles,  etc. To put it in academic terms, our image is metaphorical rather than metonymical. Precisely because it is expedient to do so, however, we often forget this. As a consequence, we have to remind ourselves that people or things are not always as they appear on the surface. To this end, we have adages such as, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  And we have famous works of art such as La trahison des images (“The Treachery of Images”) painting by René Magritte. Through this work, the Belgian surrealist tells us that a picture and the thing it illustrates are not one and the same (“This is not a pipe,” is written below the image of a pipe).


Of course, we are inundated with images these days, thanks to the proliferation of electronic media. As outdoorspersons, we can turn toward innumerable blogs and other internet destinations to see endless pictures and videos of hunters, fishers, and so on. Indeed, one would think that every contemporary fly fisher carries a “dedicated” camera or even a camera person with them on the stream.

Clearly, many of the people posting their pictures and videos online present themselves, via their images, as rugged individualists, lovers of nature and its nonhuman denizens, and so on. They symbolize this through pictures of their silhouette on mountain ridges, their expensive “technical” gear, their beards or braids, and their trophy shots of fish, fowl, or four-legged animals. Sometimes, however, the people posting these pictures are, beneath the surface, very different from their image. For instance, as many of us know, trophy pictures of soon-to-be-released fish often really depict the mistreatment of other beings rather than unity with nature. Certainly, this is the case if the pictured fish is held for more than a few seconds out-of-water.

All of these thoughts are the result of reading a February 18, 2016 Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks news release about an “outdoor marketing” and media company. You can read the entire text below. And if you happen to be one of those people, who are more concerned with image than reality, understand this: I would be suspect of even Izaak Walton, if he had taken a portrait painter with him during his fishing excursions. Also, if you are one of the many people out there continually consuming outdoor media via electronic magazines, film festivals, etc., be sure to consider what lies behind the images at which you are looking.

One last note: Don’t kill the Bull Trout in my home waters! If I see you sporting the logo of the media company described below, I’ll be viewing you with disgust.

Following is the news release. You can also read it here. Thanks to the Moldy Chum Facebook page for bringing it to my attention.

“Film Company Individuals Cited for Breaking Bull Trout Regulations and Filming illegally on Federal Lands”

The owners and an associate of an outdoor film Company, Montana Wild, were issued 38 state citations and 11 federal citations, resulting in $5,950 in fines. The citations involved violations of bull trout fishing regulations and unlawful commercial filming activity on USFS lands without valid permits.

In January 2014 Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Criminal Investigator Brian Sommers and United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer L. Kevin Arnold began a joint investigation into Montana Wild, a Missoula, Montana based company that produces hunting and fishing videos on its website and is owned and operated by Zach and Travis Boughton. Their website states the following: “We specialize in outdoor marketing, social media, cinematography, photography, video editing and a new line of apparel.”
The investigation began when Arnold received information from a USFS District Ranger about a Missoula based company, Montana Wild, that supposedly produced a commercial film about fishing for bull trout in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Arnold conducted a preliminary investigation of the company’s website and found substantial evidence that they did in fact commercially film on National Forest Lands in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. According to USFS Rules and Regulations commercial filming is not allowed in congressionally designated wilderness areas such as the Bob Marshall Wilderness. On National Forest System lands lying outside of the wilderness, a commercial filming permit is required. Further review of the Montana Wild public website showed there was significant evidence of other non-permitted commercial filming activities on National Forest Lands. There was also a possibility of further violations under Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks statutes.

Montana Wild was in fact commercially filming and fishing in the Bob Marshall Wilderness based upon the information and comments found on the videos and photographs on the website. Arnold and Game Warden Perry Brown knew the videos were from the South Fork Flathead River Drainage and its tributaries based upon their experience and knowledge gained from patrolling the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Footage on the website, specifically a teaser clip for an upcoming video to be introduced at the Fly Fishing Film Tour debuting in Missoula, showed individuals fishing for and catching bull Trout in waters that can readily be identified as not being on the main stem of the South Fork Flathead River. According to FWP Fishing regulations the active or intentional fishing for bull trout can only occur in the main stem South Fork Flathead River, and only in the possession of a bull trout catch card.

Arnold contacted Sommers and Brown and advised them of his findings and asked for their assistance in investigating Montana Wild. Sommers obtained Search Warrants for the Montana Wild business and 5 computers, 13 hard drives, 2 cell phones, and other items were seized for analysis during the service of the search warrant. Sommers found over 2200 videos pertaining to the South Fork Flathead/Bob Marshall Wilderness fishing trip that occurred in July 2013; and videos of other trips where they were intentionally fishing for bull trout on the North Fork Blackfoot River and Spotted Bear River. Numerous videos showed the Boughton’s and Anthony Von Ruden intentionally fishing for bull trout in tributaries, such as Youngs Creek, White River, Big Salmon, and Little Salmon Creeks; these streams are closed to fishing for bull trout.

Sommers notes that the fishing violations that took place on the South Fork Flathead River and its tributaries could have devastating impacts on the bull trout populations based on the over handling issue in which some fish were handled for up to 12 minutes or longer after they were in the net. In one instance a bull trout was caught, netted, handled and released (with the hook still attached) only to be fished again for underwater filming, concluding with the fish being netted, handled and released again.

“ The over handling of bull trout that took place by these individuals on this trip will no doubt have negative impacts on the bull trout fishery,” says FWP Region One Fisheries Manager Mark Deleray. Deleray added that South Fork Flathead bull trout comprise one of the strongest and most valuable populations across their range.

The joint agency investigation showed there were also numerous instances of hunting and fishing videos being taken on USFS, Tribal, Private and FWP lands without commercial use permits and these videos were in conjunction with sponsors who were endorsing Montana Wild in exchange for advertising in the videos which would be sold or showed at film tours/festivals/rendezvous.

Sommers, Brown and Arnold invested hundreds of hours into the investigation. The investigation resulted in numerous violations being found. A total of 38 State citations were issued to the Boughtons and Von Ruden in Flathead and Powell Counties for intentionally fishing for bull trout in closed waters; failing to immediately release bull trout; and failing to report a bull trout on the FWP Bull trout Catch Card. A total of 11 Federal violations were cited for unlawful commercial filming activity on USFS lands without valid permits. All three individuals entered into plea agreements with Powell County, which included Flathead County charges, and the Boughton’s forfeited a collateral for the USFS violations. Overall these three individual paid $5,950 in fines.

Warden Captain Lee Anderson stated, “While the regulation preventing someone from intentionally fishing for bull trout can be difficult to prove, it is extremely easy for the angler to follow. Every angler out there knows if they are intentionally fishing for bull trout”. Anderson further stated this investigation was a great example of interagency cooperation. He noted that this type of effort is what it takes to catch individuals who are violating state and federal laws, and the officer’s tireless efforts paid off. The outcome of this case will hopefully benefit bull trout in the South Fork Flathead drainage and other areas in the future.

Long Hallways

December 11, 2015

You’ve got to love them.

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.

 12195755_10206879307454150_3478103822401590742_n  IMG_1979

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.


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.


The Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club

September 25, 2015

The Daily Beast recently published a short article on San Francisco’s The Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club, which can trace its origins as far back as 1894. That’s a long tenure for any club. What is even more remarkable is that the club has maintained it physical location, inside of a bustling city, for so many years. Read The Daily Beast article, “The Joy of Fishing in San Francisco,” by James Joiner, for a bit more information.

(from Wikimedia Commons)

(from Wikimedia Commons)

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