Sunday, October 31, 2010

The naturalist's bookshelf

Today, instead of fishing, I built a bookcase. I would much rather have been fishing. This is not to say I don't enjoy carpentry, because I do. It is one of my favorite creative pursuits. I've built all sorts of things for myself... including my own portable fly tying bench, but I'll tell more about that little project some other time. The bookcase has me thinking a lot about my ever growing collection of books. My personal library is probably the most outward physical representation of who I am as a naturalist and a fly fisher.

I haven't tried to count my books lately, but there's somewhere around 2,000 titles. A large portion of my books are related to herpetology... amphibians and reptiles... my first passion as a naturalist. I also have titles on general biology, zoology, evolution, ecology, birds, mammals, insects, fish, and of course fishing.

Lately, fly fishing has been one of the fastest growing areas of my library. I have recently acquired several interesting volumes including an original 1912 copy of Practical Dry Fly Fishing by Emlyn Gill. This book is one of the first (if not the first) American titles dedicated to dry fly fishing. I have a good number of other old titles, and I am always amazed at how little has truly changed in the last hundred years.

My books have been the real source of my education in fly fishing (among other things) and I would not be who I am today without them. I am grateful to all of my teachers who chose to publish their ideas in printed and bound form... Joe Brooks, Lefty Kreh, Dave Whitlock, Vincent Marinaro, Lee Wulff, Jim Quick, Gary Borger, A.J. McClane, Gary LaFontaine, and so many more. Here's just a sample of my library:

One of my most prized possessions is my copy of the L.L. Bean Fly Fishing for Bass Handbook by Dave Whitlock. It is special because I met Mr. Whitlock at a fly fishing expo and asked him to sign his book... I never expected such a beautiful and personal effort put into a book inscription. I told him that his book had taught me pretty much everything I knew about fly rodding for bass, and we discussed our shared passion.

My books... even more than my fly rods... are part of who I am.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cypress Creek Longears

I spent the better part of my evening cleaning my 125 gallon aquarium in my living room. It is an appropriate fisherman's aquarium. No happy community tank full of Neon Tetras, Mollies, and Fancy Guppies for me. My tank contains what I consider real fish, including some of my favorite fish to catch on the fly: Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis). In my humble opinion, they are as beautiful as any trout.

The two Longears that I have in my tank were caught on Zebra Midges in Cypress Creek in Florence, Alabama- one of my favorite places to fly fish. For a naturalist, Cypress Creek is a magical place. The biodiversity is incredible and the creek is teeming with life. I often find myself distracted while fishing in this place... looking for turtles, watching a crayfish, observing a darter, or being hypnotized by a damselfly that has perched on my fly rod.

Cypress Creek flows into the famous Pickwick Reservoir on the Tennessee River. Many Smallmouth Bass trophy anglers believe this lake will give up the next world record. Understandably, Cypress Creek has an excellent Smallie population, but it also holds plenty of Largemouth and Spotted Bass as well. Although each species of fish that can be caught in Cypress Creek fills its own niche, and can be predictably pulled from its preferred microhabitat, you really never know what you might catch on your next cast. The surprise of each hookup is what makes fishing this creek so much fun.

I would rather be fly fishing at Cypress Creek than cleaning an aquarium... or pretty much anything else for that matter.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Lost World of Mr. Hardy

I recently won a photo contest thanks to a bat... the flying mammal kind... Order Chiroptera... in case you were wondering. True story. Check Wind Knots & Tangled Lines if you don't believe me.

The contest prize was a DVD of a film about which I was totally unaware until the contest. It turned out to be quite an interesting film. Watching The Lost World of Mr. Hardy hit close to home for two reasons.

First, I broke one of the tips on my prized bamboo fly rod "Darcy's Mercury" (I have no idea what the name means, but it's the only marking on the rod... more about that some other time) on Sunday, and watching the section of the film on bamboo rod making at the House of Hardy really made me want to get my rod fixed. I think it's really going to come down to making an entirely new tip section. The rod is pretty unique because it is two-toned (alternating flats of dark and light cane)... I have only seen one other similar looking rod... and as such I expect it might be fairly expensive to replace even if I can find a willing builder. So, that will have to wait.

Second, I felt a real connection to the film because I do own one piece of Hardy's equipment... even though it is not labeled as such. The only obvious clue is the "Made in England" stamped on the back of the reel. My reel is a L.L. Bean GQS Disc 4/5 which I have come to learn is actually an older Hardy Marquis Disc reel in disguise. It is my favorite trout fishing reel, and it is extremely well made. It has a reliable smooth drag, a nice sounding Hardy "check" mechanism, and classic Hardy styling. If I get a chance to own another one, I won't likely pass up the opportunity. I really would like one in an 8/9 for bass fishing... I lost a serious bidding war for one almost a year ago on Ebay. I am always on the lookout for these reels on Ebay, but I have only seen a few in the last 5 years.

It may not be the nicest fly reel Hardy ever made, and it certainly isn't the most expensive, but it has given me a little taste of why Hardy has been called the "Rolls Royce of fishing tackle." In my humble opinion, a well deserved moniker.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The meaning of "angle"

"Angle" is one of those special words in the English language with multiple definitions...

As a noun:
  1. a corner whether constituting a projecting part or partially enclosed space 
  2. a) the figure formed by two lines extending from the same point; b) the measure of an angle
  3. a) the precise viewpoint from which something is observed or considered;  b) a special approach, point of attack, or technique for accomplishing an objective
  4. a sharply divergent course

As a verb:
  1. to turn, move, or direct at an angle
  2. to present from a particular point of view
  3. to fish with a hook
  4. to use artful means to attain an objective
I hope to explore the full meaning of the word "angle" in this blog... and hopefully this blog will "use artful means" to communicate the perspectives... or should I say "angles" of a fly fishing naturalist.