Snakehead Tastes Like…

Jackson Landers is hard at work wrapping his new book on invasive species in America, Eating Aliens, and dropped in on NYC to talk snakeheads at an invasive species dinner. I’ve mentioned before my goal to catch a snakehead on a fly after I move down to DC in August, and FINALLY I find out what it might taste like…apparently, swordfish! And yes, for you catch-and-release fanatics, I do release most every fish I catch, but I have every intention on catching and killing this invasive, and then throwing it on the grill. In fact if you catch one the law asks you kindly NOT to return it but inform them here at the 24-hour Snakehead Fish Hotline at 1-800-770-4951.



Emmy-award winning filmmaker Helenah Swedberg captured Lander’s pre-dinner talk. Swedberg and Landers have been collaborating on a new film, Close to the Bone, an unconventional documentary about hunting, sustainability and love. While the film wasn’t exactly supposed to include that last part about love, we all know life is funny somehow, and I wish Jackson and Helenah all the happiness in the world.



Orvis Learning Center Launches

I can’t believe its been merely 14 months since I started fly fishing after lessons at the Wulff School up on the Beaverkill. Since then I’ve caught hundreds of fish on the fly including brook, rainbow and brown trout, small and largemouth bass, all manner of panfish, and even striped bass and flounder! Being a consultant for the past year gave me the freedom to fish countless waters in the NE. There isn’t an hour on the water, however, when I’m not learning something new. I’ve been fortunate to gain my interest in the internet-age where a proliferation of writing online, video and forums have sped me along in my education. Of course there’s no substitute for studying the classics and I’ve slowly expanded my bookshelf with classic tomes of the sport too, from Ray Bergman’s TROUT to Tom Rosenbauer’s The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide.

When I got into the sport, I was so enthusiastic that I practically shoved my brother into free classes run by Orvis, and he quickly became a devotee as well. Now, Orvis has launched the Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center online with articles, stories, lessons and videos from the number one outfitter in the game.

Beginners have the chance to check it out, study and get familiar with the sport before they ever pick up a fly rod. To some, the sport may seem like the “gentlemen’s” game but in fact its roots are very blue-collar and now men, women, kids of all kinds fly fish. It was only recently in the mid-20th century when fly fishing went through a terrible period of privitization from industry barons who bought up prime waters to prevent others from fishing them (and still do today) that created the snob perception. Orvis, along with a number of great new brands like Rise, Reddington, and Temple Fork Outfitters also have plenty of entry-level, price conscience options that will serve the beginner very well. They participate in clinics and state-run events to grow the sport of fishing overall, as well as numerous conservation efforts. The Orvis Learning Center is free, for example. With fishable water ever really only a short train or bus ride away–don’t let the big river syndrome fool you–great bass ponds are in every neighborhood. In fact, did you know that the body of water with the highest concentration of largemouth in NY is in the middle of Prospect Park in Brooklyn? There’s no excuse not to give it a try.

Like many beginners, I’ve found plenty of other pleasant surprises from becoming a fly angler. I’ve met new friends on the water, seen unbelievable displays of nature and its wildlife, and lowered my blood pressure to boot. Yeah, maybe I have to go the extra mile on date night or throw something extra on the “honey do” list, but it’s worth it for moments like this. Yep, that’s yours truly on the Picture of the Day!

Worship on the Upper Delaware

I woke up two hours before my alarm was set to go off. The faint hint of dawn lay over the horizon, but slowly creeping through a crack in the window shade. The birds hadn’t even started to chirp. In the stillness before daybreak, I puzzled it out. Should I just bag it–skip the Upper Delaware and drive up to the Croton instead? Wouldn’t it be nice to just…sleep in and hit my homewater at a more reasonable hour? Wouldn’t it be easier to go get some guaranteed action instead of wandering around the East and West Branches of the Upper Delaware hoping I would stumble onto a hatch? I grunted, rolled over, scratched myself. No, no…it wouldn’t be easier. I’d lose the chance to visit the Delaware in exchange for a few measly minutes of comfort. That ain’t fly fishing, in fact, I grew angry that the immortal monster of laziness had dared raise its gnarly head in the midst of my new found religion. I pulled myself out of bed, kissed the wife goodbye and hit the road. Two days later, I found I had some familiar experiences, the frustration of poor casts and spooky trout, the feeling of ineptitude and inadequacy before Nature, but alas, I also felt the reward of courage, hard work, and penitence.

Thom McGuane writes, “the motto of every serious angler is, nearer my God to thee.” If this holds true, then my visit to the Upper Delaware was like visiting a cathedral, where one is surrounded by inordinate beauty and the sublime, but not always knowledgeable enough to decipher the signs embedded in every ritual, knave and stained glass window. Yet in the inspiring beauty, one senses great wisdom. I’ll admit, the first few hours I felt like a tourist, flogging water, missing the point. And then, as the afternoon swept into that dusky time of day’s end, I felt as if the Catskills sighed and took pity and sent along some help to this new congregant. I met Ron and Frank on the banks of the West Branch under a large lone olive tree on the Balls Eddy. Angling buddies since age 7, and frequent visitors to the river, they were happy to dole out some religion. First, they fished three times a week minimum, the wife would have to go… Second, I should have been here back in May (of course). We leaned back in the grass under the shade of the tree and talked flies, hatches, pools, and good times and bad times to fish the Upper. We shared pictures and jokes. Ron, a onetime player for the Mud Hens, gave me two beautiful Isos of his, and bade me cast to the large rising trout on the far bank. Unfortunately, the middle of the pool was deep and my cast too short. Another time then…

The next day I woke early to the sound of the Beaverkill gurling outside my window at the Roscoe Motel in said town. Too low and hot to fish, I sat in the swirl of fog at 6am and watched trout rise on the junction pool. After a quick retrieve of coffee the fog had lifted and the trout had already gone to seek cooler waters. I made my way back to the West Branch and summarily fished the junction pool of the east and west branch after a half-mile wade upstream from the public access in Hancock, but couldn’t get in place in time before thirty kayakers raced over the riffle and into the pool. I knew enough to reel up and wade back. I drove upstream and fished the Gamelands pools in perfect solitude–but lost my rod tip trekking down the path to the first pool and raised nothing with my backup rod on the second. I hiked to the bottom of the riffle of Ball Eddy and back–a real trudge upstream that wore my legs out. And somehow I climbed back onto the bank to marvel at the strength of the river at fairly low flows.

The riddle began to unfold. This river deserves time, serious time, far more than I had, I was saddened by the fact that I hadn’t given it more of mine when I had the chance, especially knowing I might not be back here for quite a while. And therein I found enlightenment from a lesson I already knew but had not heard in this particular language before. All good things come… Though I managed a few small wild browns in the end, the Upper taught me, reminded me, that I had to earn my knowledge. It could not simply be told in guidebooks, blogs and online forums, even great conversations streamside. Like attendance at any church, only through study and hours at prayer does one find revelation on the Upper Delaware, and all waters we seek to worship at.


General Knot “The handmade tie will always outlive the mass made one.”


SchoolHouse Electric & Supply Co “We were looking at it from a micro-manufacturing way.”


How to Tie an Isonychia Emerger “Its easy to tie and remarkably effective.”


Seize sur Vingt  “That was close.”


Billy Reid at Home in Alabama “We wanted to be in town.”


SAGE One Rod “It’s not what you put into a rod that makes it great, it’s what you can remove.”


Finally, this last video comes from Qualia Coffee, a small batch, often single-origin “shop roaster” just two blocks from my new apartment in the Petworth section of Washington, DC.

Where are the ‘Bows?

I’ve fished the East Branch of the Croton quite a few times this Spring and early summer and usually every cast into a riffle produces a small to medium-sized rainbow. Instead its a lot of wily baby browns. No matter, a trout is a trout. And yesterday, while I was fishing with fellow Brooklyner Michael, we did get into a very serious rainbow indeed.

Michael saw that an enormous tree had fallen across the river and noticed another fallen log running parallel to the water. He immediately thought, “This is a lot like Alaska (where he once guided), and I’m going to need to swing a wet.” Now, swinging a big black wooly bugger in the middle of a 90-degree day on a river less than twenty feet wide might make a veteran angler roll his eyes, but Michael’s twenty years of fly fishing made his instincts kick in. He was sure there had to be a fish in that hole. And there was. Happy 4th of July!