Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Work of Frederick Halford, Revised.

September 28, 2013

Frugal Dry-Fly fishing in Theory and Practice.

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.

A North Carolina Evening: Bluegrass in the Town Square

April 20, 2013


My wife, and daughter, and I enjoyed a pleasant evening downtown in our community, listening to local resident Tommy Edwards (founder of The Bluegrass Experience) and Friends.  Edwards is a legendary guitar player.  And among his “friends” tonight he had mandolin player Jerry Stuart.  According to Henderson and others, David Grisman identifies Stuart as his musical hero.  That’s something.  Yep, I like classic fly fishing tackle and old timey music too.

Museums, Nature, and the Substance of the Things we Love.

April 9, 2013

A man is the substance of the things he loves. The love of Nature was passed on to me and I in turn am passing it along. Maybe in their overcrowded world my boy and girl will discover escape from the concentrations and complications of people and revel in their own outdoors.

Charlie Fox, “By Way of Introduction” (no page number), Rising Trout (Carlisle: Foxcrest, 1967).

Charlie Fox Memorial, Letort

Charlie Fox Memorial, Letort Spring Run

This last weekend, I visited Central Pennsylvania, where I used to work and live for much of each year, to attend the 66th Anniversary Banquet of the Fly Fisher’s Club of Harrisburg.  I have written about this club, founded by Charlie Fox and Vince Marinaro, before.   Being in attendance at the dinner of this second oldest fly fishing club in America is always a somewhat humbling experience, when considered in the light of the figures who attended in the past.

This year, many of those figures were honored at the grand opening of the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum (the website is not yet updated), now permanently installed at the Allenberry Resort in Boiling Springs, PA.  Of course, the museum will remain open henceforth.


George Harvey Display


Vince Marinaro Display

Visitors to the museum can enjoy the incredible displays focusing upon George Harvey and Vince Marinaro.  Both of these displays are reconstructions of these figures’ respective fly tying and rod building rooms.  In the latter, the visitor can see no less than four of Marinaro’s own, incredibly rare bamboo rods.  Between these two displays are shelves and full display cases devoted to other famous figures in Pennsylvania fly fishing history.  Of course, many of these figures influenced the development of fly fishing techniques, associated literature, and cold water conservation well beyond the boundaries of their state.


Gene Utech Display


Ed Shenk Display

For me, the highlights of the visit included seeing a shelf devoted to Gene Utech, a master of wet fly fishing techniques.  Gene was a close friend, to whom I was introduced by fishing buddy John Bechtel.  Gene, sadly, is now deceased, but I am immensely happy his love of fly fishing will live on in this museum.  A second highlight of the visit was shaking Ed Shenk’s hand.  While I have done so numerous times before, shaking Ed’s aging hand at this particular time, after viewing the display devoted to him, held special significance.  The final highlight included meeting (or renewing acquaintances with) the numerous visitors who were sharing their handmade bamboo rods, flies, landing nets, and art with the public. I was particularly impressed with the affordable (truly affordable — no lie) yet stunning nets offered by Drawbaugh Outdoors (  I will devote a separate post to them, however, as honest, affordable, handmade products deserve special attention these days.

Gene Utech's 80th, Yellow Breeches 3

Gene Utech’s 80th Birthday, on the Yellow Breeches

Any angler or lover of the outdoors (notice my avoidance of the term “nature,” the meaning of which is so very complicated) would enjoy the PA Fly Fishing Museum.  But it is equally true that such people would enjoy the literature produced by many of the people honored there.  One will find no more sincere a lover of the outdoors than Charlie Fox, who is quoted in the epigraph.  If you are a tree hugger and clean water lover — if you love the substances of this world, of which we are all made — he is your man.

Please forgive the poor quality photos.  Most of them, with the exception of the birthday party photo by Leslie Bechtel, were taken on a camera phone.  I am simply too lazy (or focused upon the present) to carry a decent camera around.

Blackfoot Country Fly

February 12, 2013

I have written before about the history of fishing in Niitawahssin — the historical territory in Montana and Alberta of the Niitsitapiiksi or Blackfoot People (the name actually means “Real People”).  Recently, I came across mention of a fly that seems to have originated there.

Not long ago, I acquired the hardbound version of the late George Grant’s book, Montana Trout Flies (Champoeg Press, 1981). This book is an amazing source of information about Montana fly fishing, written by one of the true masters of Montana’s unique fly tying styles.  This makes the book’s rarity very frustrating.  The interested person can purchase a reprint of Grant’s first edition (1971), which was self-published, from the Big Hole River Foundation.  Unfortunately, only the long out-of-print hardback copy includes colored plates of the historical flies described by Grant.


Among these is the “Duck Luck Woolly Worm.”  As most people know, Duck Lake is on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, and during certain periods (including now, I am told) it has been an amazing rainbow trout fishery.  Grant writes that the Duck Lake Woolly Worm was particularly popular among white sportfishers visiting the reservation in the 1950’s, but he does not address its origin.  As far as I can tell, fly fishing was practiced in the area as early as the 1870’s and was probably picked up by a few Blackfeet not long after.  It is entirely possible that the Duck Lake Woolly Worm was first tied by a tribal member.  Either way, it is exciting to see that a particular fly can be traced to Blackfoot Country.


After inspecting Grant’s color image of the Duck Lake Woolly Worm (unfortunately, he does not identify the maker of this particular fly), I remembered seeing several of them among my grandfather’s flies.  This makes perfect sense, since my grandfather spent a great deal of time on and near the Blackfeet Reservation.  He passed away when I was still young, however.  So, I obviously won’t be learning anything more about the fly from family sources.  If any one else has some information, please share it.  And if you are interested in fishing at Duck Lake, contact tribal member Joe Kipp, who runs Morning Star Outfitters.

Most Eloquent Insult ever Recorded in Fishing Literature.

February 1, 2013

I have been reading Dialogue between a Hunter and a Fisher, first published by Fernando Basurto in 1539.  It is translated from the Spanish by Richard C. Hoffman and can be found in his Fisher’s Craft and Lettered Art: Tracts of Fishing from the End of the Middle Ages (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997).  I have resolved to memorize the Fisher’s (F’s) first line, below.  I think I could find plenty of use for it, both on and off the stream.

F: I am not such a fool that I am not very wise next to you, for you are not wise enough to understand me, nor I simple enough to understand you.  And if I answer you from Ephesians, it is because you question me from Corinthians. And above all you say that my works are low.  If you gentlemen hunters would judge you own [works] with discretion you would see that those of the poor fishers are of more carats than those of the rich hunters.

H: You are not right to say that ….

15th century German Fishing Humor

January 21, 2013

The “burlesque” below is taken from Wie man fisch und vögel fahen soll (How to Catch a Fish), by Jacob Köbel, Heidelberg, 1493.   This version is edited and translated by Richard C. Hoffman and can be found in Hoffman’s Fisher’s Craft and Lettered Art: Tracts of Fishing from the End of the Middle Ages (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997).   I can, at least, agree with Köbel’s characterizations of the salmon, trout, and grayling.

This is a burlesque comparison of fish.

Item a stickleback is a king.  A fresh-run salmon a lord.  A carp a knave.  A pike a robber.  A barbell a tailor.  An eel a trickster.  A nose a scribe.  A roach a cat.  A dace a bastard.  A perch a knight.   A ruffe a goldsmith.  A lampern a child.  A gudgeon a virgin.  A miller’s thumb a horse nail.  A minor a grocer.  A bitterling the grocer’s helper.  A brook lamprey a piper.  A trout a forester.  A grayling a count of the Rhine.  A crayfish a digger.  A spined loach a watchman.  A burbot a thief.  A bleak a launderer.


“Religion, Sport, and Water” Syllabus

January 10, 2013

Finally, I am posting the syllabus for my seminar on fly fishing literature:

“Religion, Sport, and Water: Contemplation and Conservation

in over 500 years of Fishing Literature”


RELI 438, Religion, Nature, and Environment, Spring 2013

E-mail: (use only if you cannot contact instructor in person)



This course is an introduction to the literary history, religious significance, and cultural impact of fishing.  Students will read historically and culturally important texts ranging from those written in Ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, and in contemporary North America.  All of these texts emphasize a relationship between religious experience, fishing, and the environment.  We will explore this relationship, considering the cultural settings of each text while also learning about the overlapping aesthetic, ritual, and ecological dimensions ascribed to fishing—particularly fly fishing—by some of the most notable writers and intellectuals in European and Euro-American history.  For comparisons’ sake, we will briefly examine religion and fishing in cultures outside of the European and North American literary worlds, as well.  In addition to fishing literature, students will read relevant theoretical texts on religious experience, conservation, ecology, and “nature.”

As a whole, this course will serve as a focused study of the role that water, the environment in general, and religious practice play in the European, North American, and other cultural contexts.  Thus, the course will introduce students to literature and ways of thinking that can be applied to any implicitly or explicitly religious phenomena that are practiced in so-called “natural” places.  Moreover, the course will introduce students to the often religious significance that conservation and other ecologically informed practices play in the lives of many contemporary people.

As an upper-level seminar, this course is both reading and writing intensive.  Most of the readings, however, were originally written for a popular audience.  Also, the writing assignments will allow the student to incorporate his or her own, carefully examined reactions to these readings in his or her papers and essays.  Therefore, this class is intended to be entertaining and engaging.  Yet, it is designed for the student who is willing to consider religion within its broadest contours, who can devote concerted time to readings, and who is willing to engage in regular and thoughtful writing.  If you are not such a student, then, this course is not designed for you.



Required Books:

Swearer, Donald. Ecology and the Environment: Perspectives from the Humanities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).

Herd, Andrew. The Fly (Ellesmere,UK: Medlar Press, 2003).

Browning, Mark, Haunted by Waters: Fly Fishing in North American Literature (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998).

Walton, Izaak and Charles Cotton, The Compleat Angler, Oxford World’s Classics. (New York: Oxford University Press, USA: World’s Classics, 2009).

Luce, A.A., Fishing and Thinking (Shrewsbury, UK: Swan Hill Press, 2002).

Maclean, Norman, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

Duncan, David James, The River Why, Twentieth-Anniversary Edition (Sierra Club Books, 2002).

Other readings are listed in the tentative schedule and will be accessible online.

Films and Guest Lectures will also serve as important resources.  The films are listed in the tentative schedule, below. Informal guest lectures will be delivered by bamboo rod maker Munsey Wheby, fly tier Brad Kern (, professor and author Craig Nova (, artist Michael Simon (, and others, at dates to be announced.  Each guest will address the aesthetic and spiritual dimensions of fly fishing, from his or her perspective as an artist or craftsperson.

Please note this course is designed to help students develop their critical reading and writing skills  Specific methods of critical reading and writing will be discussed in class at opportune times.  You are also strongly encouraged to make use of the instructor’s office hours and, if necessary, of the campus writing center (



Four three-page critical reaction papers will be submitted throughout the semester. Papers should be written in a 12 point font with 1 inch margins.  Each of these papers is worth 5 percent of your total grade (5 points each).  There will be two exams, which will include short answer and essay questions.  Each exam is worth 20 percent of the total course grade (20 points each).  Toward the end of the semester, a ten-page paper, analyzing the treatment of religion in at least three of the assigned readings, or in three texts dealing with other “outdoor” practices sometimes characterized as religious (I will provide a bibliography), must be submitted.  This paper is worth 30 percent of your total grade (30 points). Ten points are reserved for attendance.  Attendance will be taken randomly 10 times during the semester; an unexcused absence during any of these days will result in the loss of one point.  See the tentative schedule, below, for due dates and exam dates.

An accumulated 93 or more total points for the course will result in a final “A” grade (“A+” and “D-“ letter grades are not awarded at UNC).

90-92pts = A-

88-89 pts = B+

83-86 pts = B

80-82 pts = B-

77-79 pts = C+

73-76 pts = C

70-72 pts = C-

67-69 pts = D+

60-66 pts = D

0-59 pts = F



All students are expected to act in accordance with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Honor Code.  Among the violations of this code is plagiarism.  Plagiarism is defined at UNC as the “deliberate or reckless representation of another’s words, thoughts, or ideas as one’s own without attribution in connection with submission of academic work, whether graded or otherwise.” In order to avoid engaging in plagiarism in your papers, you must cite all quotations and paraphrases that are not your own or that are not common knowledge.  Failure to do so, or engaging in any other violations of the honor code (including any form of cheating related to test-taking), will be dealt with through the student-administered honor system.  If you have any questions about the honor code, honor system, or specific acts such a plagiarism, please see me or contact the Office of the Dean of Students.  You can also read more about plagiarism, the honor code, and the honor system at

All written assignments must be submitted by 10:00 PM on the day they are due. Save and submit your papers in the “assignments folder” on Sakai before this time. The title of your actual document should be “RELI 438 Paper # – your first and last name” (e.g., RELI 438 Paper 1 – Jane Doe).  Late assignments will not be accepted unless prior arrangements are made or if a documentable emergency occurs.

Tentative Midterm Exam Date: March 7.

Final Exam Date and Time: Monday, May 6, 12:00 PM.



Week 1: January 10

Academic Integrity, the Academic Study of Religion, and Religion as a Lived, Social Phenomenon.

Readings: Browning, ch’s 1 and 2, Haunted by Waters; Herd, The Fly; Snyder, “New Streams of Religion (online).

Week 2: January 15 and 17

Water, Humanity, and Other-Than-Human Worlds.

Readings: Primiano, “Vernacular Religion” (online); Jackson, “Cultural Readings of the ‘Natural World,’” in Ecology and the Environment; Herd, The Fly.

Film: Prosek, The Complete Angler.

Paper 1 Due

Week 3: January 22 and 24.

Ancient and Medieval European Fishing, Monasticism, Sustenance, and Leisure.

Readings: Hoffman, ed., “Tegernsee Fishing Advice, ca 1500” (online); Berners, “The Treatise of Fishing with an Angle” (online); Herd, The Fly.

Week 4: January 29 and 31.

King Arthur’s Knights, Celtic and Anglo Saxon Fishing, and England.

Readings: Walton and Cotton, The Compleat Angler; Herd, The Fly.

Week 5: February 5 and 7.

The Enlightenment, Play, and the Escape to Nature.

Readings: Turner, “Liminality and Communitas” (online); Walton and Cotton, The Compleat Angler; Herd, The Fly.

Paper 2 Due

Week 6: February 12 and 14.

The Americas, Natural Law, and Romanticism.

Readings:  Worster “Nature, Liberty, and Equality,” in Ecology and Environment; Seecombe, “Business and Diversion” (online); Schullery, “Carlisle Mornings” (online).

Week 7: February 19 and 21.

Environmental Ethics and Fishing as Literature.

Browning, ch’s 5 and 6 (skip “Interludes), Haunted by Waters; Buell, “Literature as Environmental(ist) Thought Experiment,” in Ecology and the Environment.

Week 8: February 26 and 28.

Fishing, Religion, and Boundaries.

Readings: Browning, ch’s 7 and 8, Haunted by Waters.

Paper 3 Due 

Week 9: March 5 and 7

Fishing, Religion, and Boundaries.

Readings:  Browning, ch’s 9 and 10, Haunted by Waters.

Midterm Exam: March 7

Week 10: March 19 and 21

Fishing, Religion, and Conservation.

Readings: Luce, Fishing and Thinking.

Week 11: March 26 and 28.

Lived Religion, Map, and Territory.

Readings: Maclean, A River Runs Through It.

Week 12: April 2 and 4

Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism, and Ecology.

Readings:  Duncan, The River Why.

Film: A River runs Through It.

Week 13: April 9 and 11.

 Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism, Ecology.

 Readings: Duncan, The River Why; Nova, ch.1 (online).

Paper 4 Due.

Week 14: April 16 and 18.

Native American and other Religious Views of Water, Fish, and Fishing.

Readings: Browning, ch 3, Haunted by Waters; Tucker, “Touching the Depths of Things,” in Ecology and the Environment; Lokensgard, “One-Horned Serpents, Underwater People, and Fly Fishers” (online).

Week 15: April 23 and 25

Religion, “Nature,” and the Environment.

Readings: Taylor, “From the Ground Up,” in Ecology and the Environment; Browning, ch’s 10 and 11, Haunted by Waters

Analytic Paper Due, April 25.

Final Exam: Monday, May 6, 12:00 PM

Required Books for my Fishing Literature Seminar

January 7, 2013

Following are the required texts for my upper-level, undergraduate seminar entitled “Religion, Sport, and Water” Contemplation and Conservation in over 500 years of Fishing Literature.”  These  books will be supplemented by a few more short primary texts, and by some secondary literature as well.  I should have the syllabus completed shortly, and I’ll be sure to share it.  I have some wonderful guest speakers lined up as well — from angling artist Michael Simon to flytier Brad Kern.

Swearer, Donald. Ecology and the Environment: Perspectives from the Humanities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).

Herd, Andrew. The Fly (Ellesmere,UK: Medlar Press, 2003).

Browning, Mark, Haunted by Waters: Fly Fishing in North American Literature (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998).

Walton, Izaak and Charles Cotton, The Compleat Angler, Oxford World’s Classics. (New York: Oxford University Press, USA: World’s Classics, 2009).

Luce, A.A., Fishing and Thinking (Shrewsbury, UK: Swan Hill Press, 2002).

Maclean, Norman, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

Duncan, David James, The River Why, Twentieth-Anniversary Edition (Sierra Club Books, 2002).

Brook Trout, Boundaries, and Connections

December 11, 2012

Often, the connection between things is  not obvious to the eye, and even when it is, it can take years, if  not decades, for me to see just what is associated with what.  The events of my life and brook trout often meet at the line of demarcation between the world of the fish and the world of the fisherman, between the seen and the unseen.  This division will be the surface of a stream, which I imagine, from the fish’s point of view, as a silvery horizon, but which I see as a green sheet.  Still, the moment of illumination has often come here, with a trout taking a fly out of the boundary between its world and mine.

Craig Nova, Brook Trout and the Writing Life: The Intermingling of Fishing and Writing in a Novelist’s Life (New York: The Lyons Press, 1999), 3.


Like novelist Craig Nova, I am a great fan of brook trout.  I cannot say that they play the significant role in my life that they have for Nova — that place would probably be held by rainbow trout — but I very much appreciate the sense of connection or even transcendence that Nova describes as taking place when one catches a trout on a fly.

Brook trout are stunningly beautiful creatures, and I am almost always happy to catch one, even if I feel a bit disloyal to the cutthroat trout with whom I grew up (yes, I use the word “whom” intentionally).  As is the case with all of the fish in the family Salmonidae, the most special of the brook trout are the ones who are wild and who inhabit the streams to which they are native.  Sadly, there are fewer and fewer of these wild, native “brookies” or “specks.”

Fishing a favorite stream filled with wild brown and rainbow trout a couple of weeks ago, I ran into a fellow fly fisherman, who told me where I could find a nearby stream that not only held wild, native brook trout, but large, wild, native brook trout.  Biologist and popular author Robert J. Behnke notes that brook trout average five to seven inches in small streams and are relatively small even in large rivers and lakes, when compared to other salmonids (Trout and Salmon of North America 2002, 275).  Therefore, hearing this stream side acquaintance describe brookies of several more inches was quite exciting.


I visited this stream a few days ago with a good fishing friend, Bill Gregory (above).  We found very quickly that the man who pointed me toward this stream was no liar.  Bill and I caught many brook trout, almost all of which were an impressive size.  While I hesitate  to put words in Bill’s mouth, I daresay it was a pretty great experience and certainly one that we plan to repeat as soon as possible.


I felt that sense of connection described by Nova when I caught those brookies.  That sense of connection extended not only to the trout, the water, my friend, and the wildness that encompassed us, but also to the past.  There just aren’t that many places where one can find such special fish these days.  Catching those wild brookies, then, was almost like stepping into a time before nonnative fish were introduced to the Americas and before mining and development ravaged the Appalachian Mountains and their inhabitants.  In this sense, it was like crossing many more boundaries that the one Nova describes.

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