When Things Fall in Line

Today was a big day. 
Kevin and I had plans this week to spend Sunday fishing the Eastern Shore for redfish, but the wind and waves had other plans. The local waters were going to be too rough for us, so it was back to the drawing board.

Last night I sat down to decide if I could make a last minute trip to the Mountains. It is a little over three hours drive one way, so, it is a bit of a commitment for a day trip, and there is always that little voice in the back of your head that whispers, “It could be a bust. You could catch nothing. Are you sure the drive is worth it?”
Well, today, it was worth it. 
I happened to have a recent copy of the Blue Ridge Outdoor magazine handy (check out their monthly Trail Mix – Music), and there was an article written by Jack Murray (brother to one of my buddies and cousin to The Man in the Striped Pajamas) that gave a few local suggestions. I found the one that looked accessible and within my 3.5 hour travel range and decided to give it a go. 
I was streamside at 9:45 and water temp was around 50F.  Air temps were in the mid 60s or better and the sun brought out the bugs. We had beatis, midges, beetles, and a couple types of caddis. Needless to say, this put the fish in a feeding frenzy. By early afternoon, water temps had risen about 4 or 5 degrees. 
I tried to count how many 3-5 inch brookies, I caught, but I gave up after I caught 20 in about 30-45 minutes. I was covering a lot of water and the tenkara rod was helping keep things simple. I figure my numbers were around 60-70 fish total, and, honestly, that feels like a modest guess. It was absolutely insane. I missed a couple bigger fish and had a 7 or 8ish inch fish on that I lost due to fumbling with the net. Having not caught many bigger brookies in the Blue Ridge area, I felt pretty good about these close encounters. 
By 2:30pm when I thought things couldn’t get any better, I ran into about an hour block where I landed 5 fish about 7 (+/-)  inches and one that was a solid fish possibly pushing 10. It was phenomenal. 
After the run of big fish, I decided to start heading back and quit while I was ahead. I had another 8 or 9 incher on that I lost, and caught another handful of smaller fish on my way back to the car. 
I capped off the trip with a stop at BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville, Va for some good eats and to pick up some fancy cupcakes for my lady who was waiting for me at home. 

If I build it, I will surf.

Flipping through one of my wife’s magazines led me on a tangent that lasted all summer. I read a one-liner about Jack Johnson’s brother making traditional Hawaiian surf boards from reclaimed wood. This turned into a few online articles, followed by one misleadingly simple youtube video, which turned into a garage full of sawdust and polyurethane crusted fingernails. (I was a bit stubborn about doing most things by hand, initially. That made it a much slower, albeit enjoyable, process).

Finally, it has led to a day on the water learning how to surf. Having never done so before, I think I am blessed to not know how easy a foam board would be. Somehow, it makes the goal of standing on my heavy, wooden board seem more attainable.

Here are the photos from the summer.
Wood: Bass planks. Initially 1″ x 6-8″ x 8′, Cedar strips also 8′
Bought from Yukon Lumber Company.
All tools provided by B. Murray, cousin of The Man in the Striped Pajamas
My board’s final dimensions: 7’8″ in length, 1″ deep, 21.5″ wide, finless
Anthony’s board is more conventional with his last name spelled in Hieroglyphs. He added a fin and a leash. It is very nice.

On my first outing surfing, I crouched on one wave for about 3 seconds. I body boarded a bunch in, but then the waves became a “kiddy pool,” so I was told.  I’ll have to go back when there is enough power to lift me.

Picking it up.
bring it home.
clamps
ready for wood glue

sanded and shaped with the design burned in

polyurethaned

anthony playing catchup

looking pretty nifty
dead man walking

waxed and ready

I learned that shirts aren’t just to protect from the sun and cold water,
but also from serious chafing… my nippys hurt.

It was so awesome. Can’t wait to go back.

Maybe someday soon I’ll talk like this guy…… and get soooo pitted.

The Blitz: Fly Fishing the Atlantic Migration

What makes a good coffee table book? Is it the diversity of content? The beautiful photographs? The witty quips? To answer this question, I always defer to Kramer.

That being said, I personally am a sucker for big photographs of wildlife, musicians, or fishing. For example, I love a candid black and white of Lennon and McCartney backstage or a grazing moose in Denali.

While fishing last week with Brad, a buddy of mine from Virginia, he lazily spoke in between backcasts about a new book he got from his cousin.  Not only was it a coffee table book, but it was also about fishing. He had my attention.

The book is a photo journal of sorts from two guys who spent an entire year fly fishing the coast from Maine down through the Carolinas.

Since flipping through the first few pages, I can’t get The Blitz out of my mind.

Author Pete McDonald and Photographer Tosh Brown spent a year writing, photographing, filming and fly fishing the great Atlantic migration of several saltwater species. Along their way, the met up with guides, local clubs, and fly fanatics who showed them the ins and outs of their passion for saltwater fly fishing.

The book is just over 200 pages and probably 4/5ths of that is photography. The rest is a casual narrative reflecting on the people, places, and amazing resources dispersed along the Eastern Seaboard. The discussions cover a wide range of topics including local food hot spots, difficult barriers to meaningful conservation, history, ecology, and of course, fly fishing. There are Bonito, Bluefish, False Albies, Striped Bass, Red Drum and Tuna. Additionally, in the ever expanding online community, even a newbie to the coast and saltwater fly fishing discovers that several of the key players in The Blitz are familiar.

When McDonald and Tosh make their way down to NYC and connect with the Salty Flyrodders, one of the locals they meet up with is Mister Nick Murray.  Wait a minute… Mister Murray? The Man in the Striped Pajamas? Well, now the dots are connecting. Brad, the guy I was fishing with (who gave me this book), is the cousin of Nick Murray. So that’s how he got his hands on a The Blitz after it had only been in print for less than a month.

Later on, the two head to the Tidewater area of the Chesapeake and run into fly fishing guide Capt. Chris Newsome. Do you remember him? He was the guide who taught Sara and I how to make Stripers fall like Dominos.

If you have been fishing the coast for any substantial amount of time, I’m sure the names of people highlighted will be familiar to you. And that just makes this book all the more enjoyable.

As they state in the beginning, this isn’t a where-to-go, how-to-catch fishing book. In fact, this book reminded me a lot more of Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. In that book, Heat Moon traveled the US Highway system capturing in time the small towns and interesting people he met along the way. (This was when the Interstate system was being put into place).

The Blitz captures in time the locals who live for the months when the stripers flood or the bluefish start busting the surface. I think this book will too last as a snapshot of what costal fly fishing was like in 2010 as they name drop contemporary trends and topics like “The Situation” from Jersey Shore, President Obama and family vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard and snapshots of weather maps on iPhones. These details make the book specific to the now.

For a video chronicling the trip, watch below, but rest assured, it doesn’t even come close to comparing to the awesomeness of the hardback. The book is a wonderfully put together photographic editorial that deserves to be in any saltwater (or freshwater) fly fisherman’s book case.  Or, maybe more appropriately, it deserves a spot on their coffee table serving as a reminder to why we fish.