Category Archives: Fishing Trips

Cleaning out the inbox V: two good reads.


the pristine Jamaica of James Bond’s creator is in danger. Overfishing has imperiled the barracuda’s habitat: Fewer algae-eating fish spurs coral die-off, and the practice of fishing with dynamite has had catastrophic effects. But over the past seven years, a former record company executive has slowly built a network of conservationists to help protect the ecosystem near Fleming’s home, dubbed Goldeneye, creating a template for others in the process.


You learn about knots and water flow and snowmelt and follow the mating habits of bugs like they’re Kardashians — and how climate change means bark beetles are surviving the warming winters, killing off unprecedented acres of Ponderosa pines across the West. Ponderosa pines smell like vanilla cake. Not just vanilla and not just cake, but vanilla cake. I love knowing that, and I love knowing that you practically have to hug them to smell it. But every year I go back to Montana, I see more dying off and know the world is changing and it makes me sad.

This cynical girl from Harlem, USA, didn’t grow up with anyone who fished this way.






Summer stewardship.


Question:  I’ve seen these big fish at the bottom of the deepest pools, they’re refusing everything I throw, and I’m determined to catch one.  What do I need to do?

Answer:  It’s alright to leave them alone.

Fish are cold-blooded; they can’t regulate their own body temperature, they have to seek out environmental conditions which are best for their survival.  Most fish species don’t grow throughout the entire summer.  They have a range of temperatures which optimize growth.  Above that, they’re eating just to stay alive- taking in enough energy to maintain homeostasis.

Those big fish in a deep pool are down there because it’s the coolest, most thermally stable, most groundwater-fed portion of the flow.  They’re not eating because they’re not expending a lot of energy in still water- they don’t need to, they don’t want to, and dragging a streamer across their nose to elicit a territorial response isn’t doing them any good.  Feeding them a zero-calorie Zebra Midge and then having them expend valuable energy on the fight, the photo, and the release isn’t doing them any good.  To crib a line from John Gierach: sometimes, they need the sanctuary of deep water.

We talk a lot about values like C&R, barbless hooks, and leaving fish on redds alone.  If a fish spawns in October but dies in June from a combination of high water temperatures and angling pressure, we’re undermining our own cause.  Think about it.  Pay attention to the temperature.  Go on an overcast day.  Make it a half-day morning trip, a night trip when temps have cooled off, switch to bass or carp or gar that can stand higher water temperatures.  But know what you’re doing, and the effect it has on the fisheries you value.






Last Best Streams: #1233.


It’s been fifty years since Congress’ great idea:  federally designating the nation’s most exceptional and historic rivers and streams for the sake of posterity.

This one was among the first- the surrounding land bought up after farms and sawmills failed during the Depression, with massive public works projects to reforest the landscape and build roads, bridges, lakes, and picnic areas.

It’s dramatic, the difference between the privately-held top and bottom portions of the river and the publicly-owned middle section.  There aren’t cows wading and shitting in that middle section.  County highway departments aren’t shoveling gravel out at bridge crossings to rock small roads.  All-terrain vehicles aren’t tearing up banks and gravel bars.  Paranoid locals cry foul about Big Government and how resources are better managed at the local level…but for all the faults of the Feds, the difference between public and private is stark on a ten mile float.

How I learned to stop worrying and embrace the Tampon Fly.


I like the Meat Whistle because it has a lot of movement in the water and it sinks fast, knocking against rocks and looking reasonably like a crayfish or madtom or sculpin.  The fish only like the Meat Whistle a little.

I like the Hairy Mary because it’s easy and looks reasonably like a half-drowned dragonfly.  But the fish would only sit underneath the Hairy Mary, looking sullen, then depart.

I like the Home Invader because, aside from the lead eyeballs, nearly all the materials can be found in a farm lot.  I like the homespun look of the coyote fur collar.  I like that with pale yellow marabou, some gold and pearl tinsel flash, and barred ginger hackle you can make them look almost exactly like one of the thousands of stonerollers grazing Ozark stream bottoms.  But only dinks chased the Home Invader today.

The Tampon Fly is none of those things.  It looks like nothing; it just wiggles.  It casts like a sack of dead kittens and takes ages to reach its destination.  It’s dumb to tie.  There is no jarring strike or surface explosion.

But it works.  And sometimes, when nothing else will- that’s good enough.



Monday Video: Petite Cascapedia.

Petite Cascapédia : Devenir Guide de Pêche from HOOKÉ on Vimeo.

Ann Cartwright.




“I didn’t believe in speaking in tongues the first time I saw it, in my aunt’s church basement- scared me to death,” she said.   This was the moment I really began giving her my full attention.  “The second time I was fourteen, and I said ‘if the Lord wishes me to speak in tongues, I suppose I will become his instrument.’”

One of those early spring days where you forget the air temperature is inevitably higher than the water, when hauling out at the bridge and taking the gravel road to the car sounds better as the sun sets over high limestone ridges than wet-wading back downstream.  She had hopped out of the ditch in ratty jeans and watery blue eyes, waving profusely, asking what I’d caught and why I hadn’t kept any for supper.  In a square plastic bin on the side of the road rested five plastic milk jugs, two filled with water, three empty.  A sixth was propped against the face of a limestone roadcut, occasionally catching a splatter of water emanating from four feet plastic pipe at head height, around which a small dam of cobbles and clay had been constructed.  “

“I’m Ann,” she said, sticking her hand out of the sleeve of her sweatshirt.  “I live in the trailer down at the corner, the one with all the forsythia and quince in front, just me and my dog Gus.  Lived their four years now.  Grew up across the border near Somerset; I’ve been all around the country from West Virginia to eastern Colorado, hitchin’.  Some of those men, those drivers, they’d want me to do things and I’d have to tell them I’m not that kind of girl. I hitch all around now up to town to get my paycheck once a month, but it’s hard nowadays, hardly anyone will stop!  I had a neighbor, Frank, and he was good about driving me into town for my paycheck, but he died, so now I have to hitch with strangers and they hardly ever stop!”

“Moved down here after my husband died,” she continued, “my second husband.”  He was a mean man.  My first husband was a gem, he was a double-preacher, that means his daddy was a preacher, too.  My second husband though, he was a mean man, he worked in oil fields in West Africa and that’s where he learned black magic, that’s how he turned the kids against me.  I have six kids, all grown,” she said, looking down.  “Would you like the gift?”

We were the only two on the road forty minutes outside of town in fading light and it seemed rude not to.  So I took her hand and bowed my head as she prayed on the side of the road so that I may be blessed with the gift of speaking in tongues, all the while my cynical side thinking pray for a funnel. 

“You got to cleanse yourself with spiritual soap!” she cried, her shoulders relaxing as she finished the prayer.  That’s what he says on the television, on the tapes I buy.  Pray for him to come dig you a well, I thought.  “Do you have a church in town?”  she asked.

I thought.  I hadn’t been to church since I was twelve or fourteen.  When my father was diagnosed with cancer we spent two months visiting various denominations.  The last one pulled something like Ann had with the speaking in tongues, my father hauled us out twenty minutes into the service, and we didn’t worry about church any more.  “No,” I said.  “I’m new to town.”

“Well you need to find yourself a church,” she said.  “Wash yourself in spiritual soap!  It can be any kind of church, but you need to find one, get right with God.  The end’s comin’ quicker than you know, and you want to have your affairs in order before it happens.”

I don’t feel like I was abrupt; I feel like it was getting darker and I still had a couple miles walk back to the car.  “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to bear witness to someone,” she said, “to be His instrument, and I hope you’ll think about what I said.”  I did.  What a messenger, I thought to myself, all the way back to the car.  The single thing that made an impression that last time I went to church, at twelve or fourteen, were the two lithe young girls, a couple years my senior at the time, who smiled and said “you can come and sit with us.”  That’s the kind of messenger I want.  Fifteen years later, that’s still the kind of messenger I want- a nearly homeless seventy year old woman without income, without a car, without running water…isn’t convincing me the Lord works for everyone.

I never did join a church.  Two weeks later I did rest a blue plastic funnel on the little dam of cobbles and clay at the edge of the lane.  I still sometimes think about Ann Cartwright, especially this time of year when the evenings are cool and redbuds are swelling.  Maybe she’s better.  Or at least alright.



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