Monday, November 26, 2012

20 Questions: James R. Babb

James R. Babb
I first read River Music: A Fly Fisher's Four Seasons in hardback shortly after it was published in 2001--I was still something of a fly fishing hack, more enamored by "place" than I was by the trappings that come with the full-on infatuation with the craft. 

At the time, I had a single fly rod, and the tip-top of that rod--an Orvis Clearwater, 9-foot, 5-weight my wife bought me for our fourth wedding anniversary all those years ago--snapped on me on a little creek in the eastern Idaho backcountry a week before I picked up the book. I'd managed to hook a willow with my backcast, and the tip broke as I cast the line toward a tight spot just below a little plunge in the creek. 
I was devastated. And I was frustrated. For a time, I even contemplated abandoning the pursuit in favor of something else... anything else. Then I cracked the cover of River Music, and two chapters in, I found myself at the local fly shop in Pocatello, where I presented the pieces of my trusty stick to the proprietor. He did some minor surgery with a glue stick and a new tip-top, and my 9-foot rod was transformed into an 8-foot, 10-inch rod.

"You'll never notice the difference," the proprietor said. He was right. I didn't.

On the Madison.
I can thank Jim Babb, the author of what remains my favorite fly fishing book to this day, for inspiring me to keep fly fishing. And I have him to thank on a fairly regular basis--frequent readings from the book's tattered pages remind me that fly fishing is a fairly simple pursuit, that a fellow with a 20-year-old fly rod with a glued-on tip-top can get as much out of it as the guy with $800 invested in the graphite he totes to the same damn creek. It is about place ... it is about feel. When I get caught up in the hoopla of the pastime and the hype of "the next big thing," I know I can pick up my old copy of River Music and find the energy I need to rearrange the furniture in the attic.

For those of you who don't know of Jim, he's the editor of Gray's Sporting Journal, perhaps the last great example of truly good long-form outdoor writing left in America. Thankfully, Jim contributes frequently to the publication--it would lose some luster if he didn't. While a subscription to Gray's ought to be atop your letter to Santa this year, you ought to first check out Jim's books, starting with my favorite, River Music.

On with the questions:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Weekend 10: Thanksgiving Edition

'Tis the season to be thankful, and as the house starts to smell of roasted fowl and all the trimmings, 'tis the moment to be grateful for all the blessed folks in my life who make it pretty damned special. To my family, I'm thankful for the smiles and the laughs and the hugs and the kisses--they make walking out the door each day difficult, but coming home oh, so easy. To my friends, spread like buckshot all across the world, I'm grateful for the encouragement and the ease to which we can fall into a conversation, even though months may have passed between our last meeting.

And, since this is a fly fishing blog, I'd be remiss if I didn't single out a few blessings for which to be thankful on this, the most thankful of days. So, in no particular order, let's get started:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gear I Love: Redington's form game rod

The daughter instructs the son.
I got my hands on Redington's new form game rod, a great little tool designed to keep the cast in shape when you can't actually be on the water, or, if you're a 14-year-old girl, something you can use to lord it over your little brother while you "instruct" him on the finer points of fly casting.

The two-piece rod comes with 30-feet of custom RIO fly line, some simple instructions and a few basic tips for beginners. Within five minutes of opening the box, the kids and I were on the front lawn trying to cast the yarn "fly" at the end of the custom fly line into the mouth of a bucket about 25 feet away.

Monday, November 12, 2012

20 Questions: Phil Monahan

Phil Monahan
I think you could probably count on one hand the number of people in the fly fishing industry who are honest-to-God wealthy ... who, if the urge hit them, could figure out a way to take a bath in hundred-dollar bills.

But I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who's worked a lifetime in the industry who isn't, in some fashion or another, rich. I think Phil Monahan is one of the latter (although I suppose he might have ridden the tech bubble for all it was worth in the late 90s--what do I know?). 

Forced into the publishing business years ago by the need to rub a couple of nickels together at the end of every month, Monahan started out at Outdoor Life after stints as a guide in Alaska and Montana, and then ended up editing American Angler for a decade. Now he's the chief cook and bottle washer at the Orvis fly fishing blog. Phil's life in the fly fishing business has been an enviable journey--I challenge you name one mover and shaker in the outdoor world with whom he hasn't enjoyed a beer. 

I know Phil only through his work, and it's great work. I was, for years, a subscriber to American Angler, and I eagerly consumed his work and the product of his editing when every issue landed on my desk (I subscribed at work--I can't count the quiet mornings in my office at the newspaper that I spent reading fly fishing magazines and sipping the first cup of coffee from the pot. And Phil's magazine was chief among them). 

In recent years, I've had the privilege of getting to know Phil through his work at the Orvis blog--one of the best online resources for all things fly fishing. We all know Orvis through the company's retail offerings, but since I started working closely with Orvis in recent years as a part of the day job over at Trout Unlimited, I've come to know Orvis for much more than just the headquarters store in Manchester, Vt., or the catalogs that make their way to my door a few times each year. I've come to know Orvis as a company with a very real conservation conscience--as Vice Chairman Dave Perkins noted on a conference call with bloggers a few weeks back, it makes good business sense to protect and restore the resources Orvis' customers use when fishing or hunting.

Phil and Tom Rosenbauer
And the company, thanks largely to guys like Phil and Tom Rosenbauer, is a real player in the online fly fishing editorial world--these guys don't just sit around thinking of new ways to plug Orvis products--they steer the ship at a genuine media outlet that, if you take the time to read the blog, can make you a better angler.

But, then, Phil's work has been making folks better anglers for years, and for that I'm grateful. If you don't know Phil, the following questions will give you a bit of a head start should you, say, wander into a bar in Manchester see him enjoying cold one. Buy him one for me--I'm good for it.


Friday, November 9, 2012

The Weekend 10: Fishy Conspiracy Theories

With the 2012 election now a thing of the past (insert big exhale here), I'm now hearing from some of my more conservative friends that there's just no way the results are legit... that Karl Rove's "gut feeling" has never been this far off. I've even heard a few mutterings about the likelihood of a rigged election (to which, as a left-of-center guy, I respond, "You're gonna pull this shit after the 2000 election and eight years of Dubya? Suck it up, Cowboy--the sun came up on Wednesday, didn't it?").

It got me thinking that I need to focus on what's really important, especially as we head into the first weekend after the second Tuesday in November: the conspiracies that abound in the fishing world. They might not garner as much ink as the notion that FEMA is busy building concentration camps for Tea Party storm refugees, or that SWAT teams are going door-to-door collecting every last gun from American citizens while UN election observers take over Texas (and let's be honest... if the UN was going to take over a state, would Texas really be its first choice?), but they're out there. And, they're out there, too. 

For the record, some are serious, some ... not so much. I'll leave it for you decide--the way conspiracies should really work. So, for weekend consideration, here you go:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No gloating ... Let's move forward

As I sit here on election night--the results long since in--skimming the myriad Facebook and Twitter feeds from friends, both liberal and conservative, I'm relieved at the results but troubled by the reactions from both parties. We are, indeed, a nation divided. The popular vote proves it--and, frankly, it has for a dozen years or so.

So, yeah, my guy won, and I'm happy about that. But I'm also of the mind that now, while we're at our most divided, we ought to make a conscious effort to reach out to our elected officials and ask them to reach across the aisle and get something productive done, if for no other reason than to show our children that, while we often disagree, being disagreeable doesn't have to be a biproduct of our politics.

Friday, November 2, 2012

20 Questions: Kara Armano

Kara Armano
You might wonder how a chemical analyst can find a way to become one of the more influential people in the fly fishing world. If you were to ask Kara Armano how that came to be, I'm guessing she'd give proper due to a helping of pure luck and what I perceive to be the desire to do something she loves.

It helps, too, when you possess an infectious personality and can cast a fly rod. As a senior account manager for Backbone Media, Kara moves freely in fly fishing circles and has earned the respect of all who work within the craft because she's one of the people who "get it" when it comes to building the craft without forgetting what makes it possible in the first place. Kara is the "PR rep" for Sage, Redington, RIO and Fishpond--all reputable names in the industry, and all companies that give back to craft and the resources that make it possible in the first place. That these companies give credence to resource protection and restoration and have Kara carrying the water for them on the marketing and PR front is, in my opinion, no coincidence.

She's the real deal on the fishing front--you'll read more about that in a bit. But she's more than just an angler--she's an avid skier, mountain biker and someone who values wild places for what they offer to the soul. For that reason, I have tremendous respect for Kara. If you haven't met her, you're in for a treat.

On with the questions: