Category Archive 'Fly Fishing'
09 May 2018

Russell Chatham: “I’m not a Businessman. If Any Money Crosses my Path, It is Gone Faster than Butter in an Oven.”

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Steve Bodio linked this two-year-old Charles Schultz interview with the great Sporting author/painter Russell Chatham. Chatham has interesting things to say about money, art, and fly fishing.

[Money:]

Charles: You mention Monet in your “Advice for a Young Artist.” Most of his life he was miserably poor.

Russell: When I started painting as a kid, you have to remember there was no T.V., there were no diversions. Down on the ranch, we didn’t even have a radio. I just loved painting, and never thought of it as a profession. When I began to think, “This is what I am going to do,” I had to grit my teeth and accept that I was going to be dirt poor my whole life. “If that is not okay with you, you better not do this.”

Charles: This idea that if you want to have integrity you have to prepare to be poor is lost, more so somehow as the economy declines. Arthur Miller said the Great Depression made everyone more voracious. The less there was, the more bitter the contest for it.

Russell: No, they’re not prepared to be poor. And, quite frankly, it was an absolute fluke in my case. I’m not a businessman. If any money crosses my path, it is gone faster than butter in an oven. I have no savings, no retirement. I have whatever’s in my wallet. To a lot of people that would be frightening. …

[Art:]

Charles: Tell me about Robert Hughes. He is sometimes regarded as an opponent of contemporary art, but he really wasn’t.

Russell: He was contemptuous of phonies. You know anyone can do anything they want, as long as they believe in it. That’s the key. Insincerity is the ultimate sin. The problem is the contemporary art world lends itself so much to insincerity.

Charles: Fairfield Porter writing for Art News back in the ’40s and ’50s made a point about art requiring two elements: that it communicate and that the artist have a moral commitment. I think back to what you said: “They have to believe it.”

Russell: It’s your own personal code of ethics—your honesty with yourself. You don’t confront that very much in the mainstream art world/media complex. They don’t talk about that, especially about any artist who has been pumped up to the point that they are being sold for millions at auction, an auction that is supposed to reflect the value of that work of art. But at that point they aren’t interested in a critical assessment of artistic merit. Where there are hundreds of works by an artist, perhaps living or more probably dead, which are worth half a million dollars or more, there isn’t going to be a critical discussion. There is too much money involved.

Charles: Hughes said this created a “blinding effect” that prevented one from seeing the object because of its monetary value.

Russell: That’s a good way to put it. People are so impressed by money, the price of things, that they are blinded. Somebody wrote a check for that?! I saw something, oh, 15 to 20 years ago in Chicago, when they used to have a big show at the Navy Pier. Artists came from all over the world. I used to go to Michigan to hunt with Jim Harrison, but I always stopped in Chicago for this show. Well, for a couple of reasons: the Art Institute, and Midwesterners. You can’t sit down in a bar there for more than 30 seconds before one of these guys is talking to you and asking who you are. They are curious people, and there is great food and music. But the Navy Pier show would have plenty of good things, and some not so good. A mix.

Anyway, I’m walking down this hallway and this guy has got his booth. He’s got a gallery in Chicago I think, and he’s got this painting, maybe five or six feet square. It was just this completely nondescript abstraction, and not a known artist—not that I know everybody—but not a famous artist at all. There was a woman standing there, and the guy who had the booth is explaining why this was a great painting. I thought, “I gotta hear this.”

I pretend to be looking at something else, while he goes on and on and on. And I am thinking, “You gotta hand it to this guy: this bullshit is really pretty convincing.” He is talking about its museum-quality status, and it is the dumbest painting I’ve ever seen. Well pretty soon, this lady is putting down her purse, taking out her checkbook, and she is writing a check. Oh my god! So they complete the transaction, and go off and sit down together at his desk. And I went up to the painting and looked at the sticker: $600,000.00. Boy, he had the gift, I tell ya.

Charles: Haha!

Russell: You could buy a Winslow Homer for less than that! …

[Fly Fishing:]

Charles: I have a friend in upstate New York who is a painter and a fisherman. When I asked him about you years ago, he immediately said that you were the first to write about fly fishing with libido. Not, “Oh nature is so beautiful, how peaceful I feel,” but a hard-partying bunch of guys fishing.

Russell: It is funny. There is a whole fly fishing world and a lot of people write about it. But it is a pretty dipshit thing when you take it apart. There are aspects to it that are nice, but it can really get touchy feely. You know, “Oh, I just like to be out there all day and listen to the birds and smell the roses in the air.” Fuck that! I’m out there to catch fish. If I’m gonna go bird watching, I’ll take my binoculars and go bird watching. I’m not gonna go fishing. When I’m fishing my mind is on one thing and one thing only, and that is where my fly is.

Charles: This same friend hated a film from the early ’90s, not on its merits necessarily, but that it caused a phenomenon. Every banker in New York City put a “Trout Bum” sticker on the back of his Lexus, drove north and invaded all of his streams.

Russell: It changed the face of fly fishing. It was called “A River Runs Through It.” It was based on a very good book by a guy called Norman McLean, who was from Montana. The movie was filmed in Livingston while I was there. It created a fly-fishing hysteria. Suddenly, this thing that was pretty personal—nobody went fly-fishing unless you were crazy—now, as you said, every stockbroker was a fly fisherman. It crowded things up pretty good. When I saw it, I couldn’t believe it. These people really don’t understand fishing. They aren’t naturals who started when they were 8 years old. They haven’t been crazed and insane about it their whole life.

On the Madison River, where I normally didn’t fish, didn’t need to, I drove over one day and couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw, on a stretch of maybe 20 miles, a thousand parked cars. The guys were fishing as close as from me to you, five, six feet apart. Not only that, but most of them had hired guides. So there are two guys—the guy and his guide! And the guide has a boat, which bounces down through the rocks, and then they stop and fish. That’s not fishing. Nobody’s catching anything, or when they do, it is tiny. Do they actually think this is fishing? Fishing is a solitary activity. It is a big deal. This ain’t it.

Charles: What about environmentalism? We accept industry and empire as given, and then weep over trivia.

Russell: They’re not environmentalists—they’re assholes. You could blame that criminal destruction of the oyster farm on this “environmentalism.” A lot of these people live in cities, and drive out to the country once in a while. They don’t know what is going on here. They look at nature out of the car window as they are driving by it. That’s just another form of watching T.V.

All this talk about the restoration of creeks and rivers, restoration of salmon: it is never going to happen. For example, the wine industry dried up the Russian River. Are we going to reverse the wine industry? They have too much money and are too big. The wells have dropped the whole water table. When you do that in a valley, you drop the water table up at elevation, too, which causes your tributary streams to dry up. And that is the end of your steelhead and salmon.

They had this problem on the Eel River. The dope growers dried up the whole river. Nobody could believe it. It is an “illegal” activity, but nobody is doing anything about it. There is no enforcement. Of course, they were also focused on how “bad” marijuana is. Nobody ever O.D.’ed on it.

RTWT

01 Feb 2018

Catching Monster Browns In Town in Sweden

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06 Jan 2017

The Story of the Adams

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“I’ve been tying flies since 1917. I haven’t caught a fish on a baited hook for the last 35 years. I use the fly only.”

— Len Halladay

Where I come from, we never used Golden Pheasant tippet fibers for the tail, only mixed hackle.

Adams Pattern:

Tail: Grizzly and brown hackle fibers mixed.
Body: Dark gray fur dubbing.
Wing: Grizzly hackle tips.
Hackle: Brown and Grizzly mixed.

02 Aug 2016

New Garrison Book

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EverettGarrison
Everett Garrison, 1893-1975

Everett Garrison was an exceptionally-admired maker of custom split cane fly rods. Trained as an engineer, Garrison designed his rods using rigorous mathematical stress formulae. He produced relatively few rods. His total lifetime production is estimated as around 650. But his strikingly simple aesthetics and their superior function made Garrison’s rods popular with the angling community centered around Wall Street and the Anglers Club of New York City. Garrison rods are much in demand and fetch extraordinary prices, these days ranging close to five figures for the most desirable and perfect examples.

The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum has a collection of letters to Garrison, which have recent been edited into book form by Kathy Scott. There is an introduction by Hoagy Carmichael.

The book is not currently on Amazon, and the Center does not have a functioning book sale web-page. I guess the only thing one can do is send them an email to ask the price.

UPDATE:

I tried phoning again: (845) 439-4810, and got through. It’s only $20 with shipping, and they do take credit cards.

10 Jul 2016

Fly Fishing in the Catskills

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Larger video

06 Apr 2016

Haslinger Breviary

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HaslingerBreviary

Maggs Bros. Ltd., a London Antiquarian bookselling firm established in 1853, recently made a rather sensational find: a manuscript breviary belonging to one Leonardus Haslinger, a parish priest resident at Thalheim bei Wells in the Traun Valley of Upper Austria, written in the 1450 and 1460s, which contains on the last pages, following the devotional text, a couple of pages listing artificial fly dressings, recipes for bait, and other fishing instructions.

The Haslinger Breviary fly patterns predates the patterns listed in both the Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle (1496) and the Tegernseer Angel- und Fishbucklein (1500), the two earliest sources of artificial fly patters post Classical Antiquity, which featured Claudius Aelian‘s description of the use of an artificial called the Hippouros on a trout stream in Macedonia.

This important item was scheduled to be offered for sale at the shortly-upcoming New York Antiquarian Book Fair for $185,000, but it was snapped up in advance of the event by an as-yet-undisclosed institutional library.

In consolation to the public, the Haslinger Breviary was exhibited yesterday at a special meeting of the Anglers’ Club of New York for those willing to pay an entrance fee of $75.

The American Museum of Fly Fishing will be publishing a translation by Richard Hoffman in the Spring issue of American Fly Fisher.

HaslingerBreviaryMaggs375

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19 Feb 2016

Winslow Homer: Fly Fishing Saranac Lake

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WinslowHomer

From Tyler Cowen via Frank A. Dobbs.

24 Feb 2015

Looking Forward to Spring

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A Western Fly Fishing video devoted to Ralph Moon, author, fly tier, bamboo rod builder and conservationist who lived on the banks of the Henry’s Fork River in St Antony, Idaho. He passed away in 2011.

11 Mar 2013

Trout Season Near at Hand

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The young, pre-WWI Ernest with his first model Colt Woodsman in a shoulder holster and a large catch of tiny trout.

Ah! A pre-season look forward to impending trout season written by Ernest Hemingway for the Toronto Star in 1920.

Not a great piece of writing, and no expression of dry fly purism either. But in one short passage of two sentences, there is a glimpse forward to the masterful Big Two-Hearted River. And we are reminded of the old days, when steel fly rods were the hot new cutting-edge of fishing technology, and the fly fisherman fished a couple of wet flies on a dropper.

[A] vision of a certain stream… obsesses him.

It is clear and wide with a pebbly bottom and the water is the color of champagne. It makes a bend and narrows a bit and the water rushes like a millrace. Sticking up in the middle of the stream is a big boulder and the water makes a swirl at its base. …

A snipe lights on the boulder and looks inquiringly at the fly fisherman and then flies jerkily up the stream. But the fly fisherman does not see him for he is engaged in the most important thing in the world. Deciding on his cast for the first day on the stream.

Finally he bends on two flies. One on the end of the leader and one about three feet up. I’d tell you what flies they were, but every fly fisherman in Toronto would dispute the choice. With me though they are going to be a Royal Coachman and a McGinty.

The fairy rod waves back and forth and then shoots out and the flies drop at the head of the swirl by the big boulder. There is a twelve-inch flash of flame out of water, the flyfisher strikes with a wrist like a steel trap, the rod bends, and the first trout of the season is hooked.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

14 Mar 2011

The Maritime Ape

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Matthew Ridley
, in the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Review, takes the occasion of the recent finding of an array of a very sophisticated chipped-stone fishing implements on Southern California’s Channel Islands to propose the idea that it was exploitation of maritime food-gathering opportunities that really constituted the evolutionary leap that made mankind human.

Last week archaeologists working on the Channel Islands of California announced that they had found delicate stone tools of remarkable antiquity—possibly as old as 13,000 years. These are among the oldest artifacts ever discovered in North America. To judge by the types of tool and bone, there was a people living there who relied heavily on abalone, seals, cormorants, ducks and fish for food.

This discovery fits a pattern. From the stone age to ancient Greece to the Maya to modern Japan, the most technologically advanced and economically successful human beings have often been seafarers and fish-eaters—and they still are, as the latest tsunami reminds us. Indeed, it may not be going too far to describe our species as a maritime ape.

Ridley might have put it slightly differently. He might have suggested that it was the discovery of fishing that made mankind human, and he could then have gone on to expand that theory by noting that the invention of the fishhook directly paralleled the invention of the arrowhead and proceeding to argue that it may have been the intellectual challenge resulting from our more northerly contact with the salmonids that deepened our intelligence, leading to the creation of artificial lures and fly fishing. The maritime ape ultimately evolved into the cultivated and civilized man and the dry fly purist.


Ogden Pleissner, Dry Fly Fishing for Salmon

27 Feb 2010

Robert Traver’s Cabin and Pond in Winter

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Cameron Mortenson, who (there’s no accounting for tastes) actually likes fiberglass fly rods, has a posting (with a slideshow of photos) on the late Robert Traver (John D. Voelker)’s camp at Frenchman’s Pond in winter.

He quotes Voelker, describing a childhood visit in winter to the camp:

I went along on a few of those outings as a kid, and usually wound up skiing around outside while the laughter echoed out of the cabin. I would busy myself by looking at the pond and surrounding woods. Even in the dead of winter the pond would never freeze completely over. Open spots would reveal where a spring bubbled up from below. I would mark those spots in my mind and revisit them on the hot days of late summer. There I would throw hopper patterns with my 8’glass Fenwick six weight that my Grandfather bought me at the local sporting goods store. On occasion, I would be rewarded for my craftiness and provoke a swirl from a large Brookie that had claimed the spot to fin in the cool water.”

Hat tip to Brad Reiter.

25 Dec 2009

Night Before Caddis

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Via a bamboo fly rod list:

T’WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CADDIS
BY
RICHARD FRANK

Twas the night before Christmas when down by the stream
The full moon looked out on a chill winter scene.
A lone trout was sipping a midge in his brook,
Untroubled by worries of fishers with hooks.

Then from above a small sleigh did appear
Pulled by a brace of eight tiny reindeer.
It swerved of a sudden and down it did glide,
Settling its runners along the streamside.

The fat, jolly driver dove into his sled
And emerged with his three weight held high over head.
“Thank you my elves for this wand smooth as silk.
This break will be better than cookies and milk.”

So saying, he jumped from his sleigh with a chuckle,
Hiked up his boots and cinched up his belt buckle.
Santa meant business that cold winter’s eve.
A fish he would catch – that you’d better believe.

Looking upstream and down, he spotted that trout,
Then he open his flybox and took something out –
“Size 32 midges are only for faddists
I’ll go with my favorite tan reindeer caddis.”

So he cast out his line with a magical ease
And his fly floated down just as light as you please.
And it drifted drag free down the trout’s feeding lane,
But the fish merely wiggled a fin of distain.

“Oh Adams, oh Cahill, oh Sulphur, oh Pupa,
Oh Hopper, oh Coachman, oh Olive Matuka!
I’ve seen every fly in the book and the box.
I’m old and I’m wary and sly as a fox.

To catch me you’ll need an unusual gift,
For a present this common no fin will I lift.”
Old Nick scratched his head for his time it grew short
The reindeer behind him did shuffle and snort.

He looked once again in his box for a fly
When a pattern compelling attracted his eye.
“The Rudolph!” he muttered and grinned ear to ear
“Far better to give than receive, so I hear.”

So he cast once again and his magic was true,
And the trout it looked up and knew not what to do.
“This fly has a body of bells don’t you know,
And if that’s not enough there’s a shining red nose!

I know it’s fraud and I know it’s a fake,
But I can’t help myself. It’s I gift I must take!”
So he rose in swirl and captured that thing,
Flew off down the stream. Santa’s reel it did sing.

“Ho!” shouted Santa, “You’re making my day.
If the heavens were water, you’d be pulling my sleigh.”
So, Santa prevailed and released his great rival
First taking great care to ensure its survival.

He then mounted his sled and he flew out of sight
Shouting, “Merry Caddis to trout and to all a good night!”

Hat tip to Wilmer Price.

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