Grayâ€™s Sporting Journal VOLUME FORTY-THREE
Gray’s Sporting Journal VOLUME FORTY-THREE
4 6 18 26 40 46 50 60 64
by Russ Lumpkin
Time is a commodity given to each of us in unequal and small allotments.
The Remains of the Moment
by Reid Bryant
Vulnerability and finality on the permit flats.
A Fine Kettle of Fish
by O. Victor Miller
In certain rivers, never leave a stringer of bluegills hanging over the gunnel.
The Haymeadow Affair
by Daniel Iserman
Not quite a meadow and certainly no hay, but definitely a satisfying affair.
by E. Donnall Thomas Jr.
Their expectations had never differed so greatly, and that’s where their paths diverged.
Off the Grid
Silver & Gold
by H. William Rice
by Denver Bryan
A good effort with friends is reason enough to be happy.
by Derek Sheffield
Traditions: My Record Muskallunge
by Charles Frederick Holder & David Starr Jordan
Edited by Will Ryan
Angling: The Unbearable Lightness
by Miles Nolte
Learning the limitations of friendship and fishing.
68 72 77 92 110
Books: Artful Necessities
Poem: Fishing All Night
Shooting: Not Quite Hoppes by Terry Wieland
Rediscovering a 114-year-old product.
Art: Lou Pasqua
by Brooke Chilvers
It’s a (gun) dog’s life.
Eating: Spring Cleaning
Lone Star Gobbler by Russell Graves
by Martin Mallet
A different sort of seasonal menu.
Expeditions: The Far Side of the Moon by Zach Matthews Catching the biggest trout of your life—over and over.
by Christopher Camuto
by Timothy Murphy
102 People, Places, and Equipment 104 The Listing
FRONT COVER: Double Date, an original oil on canvas, 36 x 24 inches, by Ryan Kirby.
by Barry & Cathy Beck
INSIDE FRONT COVER: “End of the Line,” a photograph by Russell Graves.
Gray’s Sporting Journal Group Publisher John Lunn Editorial Russ Lumpkin, Editor Wayne Knight, Art Director Terry Wieland, Shooting Editor Miles Nolte, Angling Editor Contributing Editors R. Valentine Atkinson Barry & Cathy Beck Denver Bryan Christopher Camuto Brooke Chilvers Pete Fromm
Brian Grossenbacher Martin Mallet Will Ryan Dale C. Spartas E. Donnall Thomas Jr.
Advertising Michael Floyd, Associate Publisher 706-823-3739 / email@example.com Northeast ~ Scott Buchmayr 978-462-6335 / firstname.lastname@example.org Midwest / Southeast ~ Amos Crowley 216-378-9811 / email@example.com West ~ Scott J. Cherek 307-635-8899 / firstname.lastname@example.org Production Coordinators Nina Eastman / Gail Wright
D i g i ta l Seth Fields, Digital Content Manager 770-696-7619 / email@example.com Write the Editor
firstname.lastname@example.org C i r c u l at i o n ProCirc: 3191 Coral Way, Suite 510, Miami, FL Kolin Rankin, Consumer Marketing Director, ProCirc Mike Bernardin, Circulation Coordinator, ProCirc Retailers: To carry GSJ, call 646-307-7765 Subscription Inquiries:
(Orders, address changes, problems)
www.grayssportingjournal.com Email: email@example.com Back Issues:
A Publication of MCC Magazines, LLC a division of Morris Communications Company, LLC 735 Broad St., Augusta, GA 30901
Donna Kessler, President Patty Tiberg, Vice President Scott Ferguson, Director of Circulation Donald Horton, Director of Manufacturing Karen Fralick, Director of Publishing Services Morris Communications Company, LLC William S. Morris III, Chairman William S. Morris IV, President & CEO ©2018 by MCC Magazines, LLC. All rights reserved. Gray’s Sporting Journal (ISSN 0273-6691) is published seven times a year in March/April, May/June, July, August, September/October, November/December and January/Expeditions issues by MCC Magazines, LLC, 643 Broad St., Augusta, GA 30901. Subscriptions are $39.95 for one year, $68 for two years. Canada and Mexico add $20 per year (U.S. funds only). Outside North America add $40 per year (U.S. funds only). Periodicals postage paid at Augusta, GA and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address corrections to Gray’s Sporting Journal, PO Box 433237, Palm Coast, FL 32143-9616. Contributions in the form of manuscripts or photographs will be gladly considered for publication. A self-addressed, stamped envelope of the proper size must accompany each submission. Please write for editorial guidelines if submitting for the first time, and enclose a SASE; this is very important. We cannot guarantee against damage or loss of materials submitted, but we take great care in handling all submissions. Address all correspondence to Gray’s Sporting Journal, P.O. Box 1207, Augusta, GA 30903-1207. For subscription inquiries or if you do not wish to have your name provided to qualified users of our mailing list, call 1-800-288-5892. Gray’s Sporting Journal may not be photocopied or otherwise reproduced without express written permission from the general manager. First published September 1975.
May / June 2018 · 3
Time by Russ Lumpkin
IME IS A commodity given to each of us in unequal and small allotments. Within a few years of drawing our first breaths, we learn that each minute comprises 60 seconds, but time, as experience seems to demonstrate, is capricious and travels at speeds inversely proportional to our wants. The legal driving age and other red-letter days and steps toward self-determination seem slow to arrive. As a young boy who had a keen interest in hunting, I longed for the day I could take a gun to the field, and as that grand day approached, joy mingled with a feeling that the minutes composing each hour ran a full 90 seconds. By the time I reached 21, time had picked up speed. A few years later, I got married, and five years after that, my wife gave birth to our little girl, Addie. Since she arrived, time has been gaining speed at an ever-increasing pace—she’s gone from newborn to feisty in a blink. She also seems to be in a hurry; apparently time is moving too slowly for her, and she talks about a particular car and going to college somewhere north of the southern heat— but these are the days I sincerely want time to slow down. She and I have days on the water to share. We’ve already shared good days. From early on, Addie showed interest in fishing. We have cruised farm ponds for bream with her Disney Princess casting rod. She, however, always exhibited deeper interest in my fly tackle. Anytime I prepared to go to go fishing by myself or with friends, she would hang around while I prepped my pack and invariably ask two questions. First, “Can I see your hooks?” And second, “Can I go?” I always answered yes to the first, and up to this point, always no to the second. I couldn’t subject her to a big river with big currents, but I delighted
4 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
in sharing my flies, including patterns for the variety of bass that inhabit my home water. I’d open a fly box full of Woolly Buggers, Muddler Minnows, various poppers, Clousers, and Deceivers, and she’d ask their names and purposes. She seemed very intrigued by the designs and materials that went into each hand-tied creation. I didn’t know the full depth of her interest until someone gave her a plastic jewelry box that held shiny plastic rings in three rows. She couldn’t have been older than three, and one day when I arrived home from work, I found her playing with her new gems. “What have you got, sweetie?” I asked. She hesitated, smiled, and asked, “You want to see my hooks?” “Of course.” She walked over and opened the box, and in role reversal, I asked her, “What’s that one?” “That is . . . a Woolly Bugger.” I laughed but was amazed. I didn’t drum Woolly Bugger into her head. The whole fishing experience, even before she had been on the water, compelled her to remember the name of that fly. And you can imagine what I thought: I’ve got a future fishing partner here. And fish we have. In addition to farm ponds, I’ve introduced her to the slow-moving creek where I learned to cast a fly rod. On more than one occasion, I’ve put her in my one-man canoe, and while she fished, I waded, pushing the canoe in front of me and navigating from the stern. These days, she fishes and paddles. I just wade. She doesn’t need me quite so much, and the days never last long enough. A few years ago, to help her transition to fly fishing, I gave her a Tenkara. She’s caught numerous red-bellies, green-eared sunfish, and bass. She’s learned a little about reading water. And this year
when she asks, “Can I go?” I’m going to say yes. She doesn’t know yet that I’m going to take her and has spent a good bit of winter lobbying for an inaugural trip to the Savannah. She’s been using her other interests as proof she’s ready. “I’ve been taking ballet a long time,” she says. “My legs are strong. I’m taking point classes, which are tough. I know I can stand up against some current.” She is pretty strong, but I won’t take any careless chances with her safety. I did that once, wanting her to feel some sense of accomplishment and freedom, and witnessed a bicycle wreck I wish I could forget. And I recall my son, Will, whom I adopted when I married his mother. . . . Years ago, when he was a strapping lad of 13, I took him trout fishing in the Smokies. Figuring he’d had enough of my teaching, I told him I’d move upstream, let him breathe, let him figure out some things for himself. I left him in some shallows bordering a pool with rocks and current at the head. I waited and waited, and finally moved downstream to check on him. When I reached him, he stood shivering and said he’d fallen in. I want to avoid similar mistakes. In anticipation of taking my daughter to the river, we’ve had a few casting sessions in the backyard. So far, she’s had difficulty converting the grace and coordination cultivated in dance class into a fly-casting equivalent. The process has been a puzzle of moving pieces and likely gives a poor representation of what she really hopes to accomplish. On top of making harmony of the whole casting motion, she has to learn to let line out, release the line to make the cast, and make a smooth transition to retrieve it. Setting the hook is another set of movements. And eventually there’s hauling and double hauling. She’s smart, and a lot of things she’s tried have come easily. Casting a fly hasn’t—just as it didn’t to her old man. I have tried to break down into increments the process of delivering a fly, starting with picking up
line and timing the false casts so the line doesn’t die of slack. Again, I feel a need to simply explain a few things, walk away, and let her figure it out—that’s how my dad taught me. Despite my father’s many strengths, he was to impatience what Usain Bolt is to sprinting. Aware of this shortcoming, he tried to protect me from it—when he could. When he taught me to cast, he handed me a rod and reel, tied on a hookless plug, and instructed, “Pick spots out in the yard and learn to hit them.” Similarly, when I needed to learn to drive a stick shift, we went to friend’s farm. Dad parked by the pond, got his tackle, and told me to drive the field roads. “Learn to take off, gear up, gear down, go in reverse, take off on a hill, and stop. Come fishing when you’re comfortable with it.” But I’m not my dad. His impatience inculcated a patience in me that is hard to shake. Plus, fly fishing is fun, and despite the fact that time is flying by, my daughter has time, good Lord willing, to learn to cast and catch fish. There is no rush. So I stay with her, to provide encouragement and instruction and be a dad. It’s mid-March here, and nights are still dropping into the 30s. We have time before the fishing gets good on the river and even a little time more before it’s warm enough to wade. So we’ll spend evenings in the yard, working on her cast. But more than anything, experience on the water, when she can see the completed puzzle—the value of each motion and the beauty of the end result—will motivate her to improve. In the meantime, I’ll continue hoping time will slow down or, even better, wishing time could be like the memory of her with her first fish, a big bluegill the size of a dessert plate. With the Disney rod in one hand, she held the line with the other, the fish dangling below and as far from her person as she could reach. She wore a huge smile that appeared to be coupled with a nervous twitch—a combination of excitement and “not quite sure what to think.” That happy memory marks a moment when time stood still. n May / June 2018 · 5
Remains of the Moment
Vulnerability and finality on the permit flats. by Reid Bryant
6 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
PERMIT SHADOW, BY MIKE STIDHAM. COURTESY OF THE SPORTSMANâ€™S GALLERY, LTD., CHARLESTON, SC
ar to the west, a storm slips down the seaward slope of the Maya Mountains, obscuring the jungle and splattering the coastal sand. It piles up where the land meets the sea, uncertain whether to press on over the water or play itself out in a fit right there. The storm rumbles and flashes, and on its periphery, the waters south of Tobacco Caye, 15 miles out, go to glass. The air crackles and gains density, and Lincoln Westby pulls back the throttle and kills the engine. He tilts it up with a hydraulic whine, and in the leveling silence, water barely laps the chines. The frigate birds have gone away, and the storm tries hard to convince us or perhaps itself of its immensity. May / June 2018 Âˇ 7
AFTER THE CRAB, BY MARK SUSINNO. COURTESY OF THE SPORTSMAN’S GALLERY, LTD., CHARLESTON, SC
Lincoln lifts his pushpole from the portside gunwale and steps up onto the deck beside the outboard. He eases the rounded end of the pole into the sand, and leans into the first push. The pole is wooden, fire straightened, and salt-sun bleached, smoothed by years and the rhythmic lean, lift, pass, and lean of calloused hands. Lincoln squints at the water ahead. In two dimensions it is nothing to see, just a mirror of planar gunmetal. But from Lincoln’s vantage, and mine when I step up to the casting deck, the angle is less oblique, and the water betrays its substance. There are smudges of turtle grass and fan coral, and pockets of sand that glow like milky sapphires. There are shadows. Nothing shifts; nothing moves. The water has achieved a pregnant potency, a static possibility. I strip off 60 feet of line and re-flake it at my feet, and pinch the weighted crab between my off-hand thumb and finger. I look back at Lincoln. He is watching far out, his eyes hidden below his hat brim. He’s fixed on a point I can’t quite see, and his
mouth is slack. He is not quite frowning. Standing there, in the face of an ocean and a storm, I find myself suddenly quite fragile and sorely aware of it. I consider, as I’ve had occasion to do before, that there is a parental metaphor at play in a flats boat: on the casting platform, the angler stands vulnerable and ready, interpreting a world into which he moves under the stern man’s gentle nudging. There is wonder out there on the flat, but also impediment that, as Norman Maclean once said, remain luminous but not clear. There is desire made manifest in black tails and pushes of water, and swimming just beside is the correlative potential for heartbreak. Emotions pulse through two feet of salt and water and sand, undulate among the sea fans, dip and wink between shadow and refracted light. And all the while, in the stern, wiser eyes read the moments as they might read a cribbed hand of dominoes, assessing the likelihood of the bowman’s failure, and the tonic but muted potential of his success. Leaning on his pole, Lincoln nudges me deeper May / June 2018 · 9
into a space where magic dances, lacerating the water’s surface, in the same place tragedy looms near. He leans on his pole and urges us on, as he’s done with all those who’ve come before me, only to watch as a parent does a love-struck son who blunders into the arms of the vixen girl. He may, in my palpable intention, see the scales of power tipping, see in the width of my stance and the lean of my back the butterfly-wing fragility that desire has spawned. He reminds me to keep the cast low and soft as he watches the flat slowly open before us, and perhaps he remembers the paper-cut sting of his own youth here, though the memories may be dulled by years. I’ve come to believe that he always hopes, but never expects, and in that lies his strength or at least his shelter. Lincoln Westby leans on his pole and moves us silently along. We glide farther onto the flat. Behind shaded eyes he sees the sickle tails well before I do, but doesn’t say a thing. He seems to know I’ll see them in due course, and a racing heart will do me no good in the coming span of seconds and slipping water. Inflated desire might only upset the viscosity of the next few moments, of a hundred feet of mirrored glass, of an unrippled silence. The storm rumbles inland, and flashes purple. Lincoln would say later that in all of his 76 years, he’s known nothing that so makes a grown man fall to pieces as a permit. “It da tail . . . ,” he’d say in a voice marinated in Creole song. “It nuh mattah ifa yuh caught a hundred a dem. Da man see da tail and he fall apaht. . . .” Indeed, the flailing sickle of a permit tail somehow condenses longing and intention into something that sears the heart and confounds the synapses and cuts to the bone. And then at 75 feet, I see them: the upper halves of two black tails, a dorsal, an arc of back . . . two fish floundering lazily, unconcerned. Permit look down to feed, and Lincoln wagers his stealth against their animal hunger, and glides not in but alongside them. I cannot look to see his face, but in a voice I suddenly remember from grade school, I whisper-squeak. “Tell me when to go? . . .” He doesn’t respond, and we slip closer. I flop the fly and 12 feet of line onto the water, keeping my rod tip low and out and back. I look
around at Lincoln. Silhouetted against a thunderstorm, he’s somehow outside of time, outside of space. All he sees, all he hears, all he appears to know in this moment is permit tails and the abstract notion that when he says go, I will fire a curl of fly line that is heavy with intent and will almost surely send them on their way. There’s an intimacy between man and place and fish right now into which I somehow don’t fit, and this registers, but does nothing to lessen my desire to be a piece of the
Lincoln would say later that in all of his 76 years, he’s known nothing that so makes a grown man fall to pieces as a permit. “It da tail . . ,” he’d say in a voice marinated in Creole song. “It nuh mattah ifa yuh caught a hundred a dem. Da man see da tail and he fall apaht. . . .” scene unfolding. I’m a pink foreigner out here in a land of deepest blues and glinting silvers and soft-bronze browns . . . and despite my irrelevance, I want one of those sickle-tailed beauties. I turn back to them. “Now?” I whisper. Forty feet. “Okay,” he says. Lincoln’s pole crunches into sand and wedges us to a stop. His go-ahead is less a directive, more an acknowledgment that his choreography has ended, and the moment is now mine, to make of what I will. His control ends, and I begin to move the rod tip, accelerating line forward and back, hauling one last time to deliver a weighted crab facsimile into the circle of light and water and motion that now and for years, has substantiated him. He has delivered me with delicacy into a place of swollen possibility, and now he lets me loose. I cast, haul, slip more line between my fingers, haul again, and let it go. In slow motion, the loop of line unfurls, and the crab descends. Continued on page 84 May / June 2018 · 11
Silver & Gold Photography by Denver Bryan
12 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
May / June 2018 Â· 13
Viewed from above, the vast saltwater flats of the Turks and Caicos give the impression that the whole earth is some shade of blue, but your spirits are hinging on the promise of silver, which can be found in joyful abundance in a distant shallow-water lagoon.
14 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
May / June 2018 Â· 15
Explore the flats intimately, right at water level, on a paddleboard built for two. Or dig deeper: push a board yourself. Fish the mangroves and hard-bottom flats according to your own instincts and skills. Going it alone, it will mean all the more when you bring a bonefish to hand, and as you release that flash of silver back into the lagoon, your spirits will be golden and your fists clinched in joy.
For more information see page 102.
16 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
May / June 2018 Â· 17
A Fine of
Kettle Fish J In certain rivers, never leave a stringer of bluegill hanging over the gunnel. by O. Victor Miller
oe Lawless, a crabber who took me under his wing and introduced me to St. Marks society, showed me where to go—a backwater slough of the Wakulla River, where the bream are bedding in water too shallow and too clear to fish in full daylight. I paddle my kayak through the mist upstream to my waypoint, the first of Joe’s crab pots, marked by his green Styrofoam buoy.
18 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
BULL BLUEGILL, BY ROD CROSSMAN
May / June 2018 Â· 19
The slough opens into a lagoon, where the full moon brings spring tides and bedding bluegills. There’s no dry land at the eastern edge of the beds. The shore is swampy with pickerel weed, water hyacinth, and hydrilla. Beyond that is a tropical backdrop of cypress, tupelo, water oak, and one palm tree. I arrive by kayak in darkness, just before the full moon sets to a rising sun. A low-lying mist tickles my nose. The source of the Wakulla River is Wakulla Springs, the largest and deepest spring in the United States. Through glass-bottom boats, tourists can see mastodon bones at the mouth of the cave, 190 feet from the surface. Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller were filmed here, Hollywood’s idea of Africa, where monstrous alligators standing in for crocodiles bask in the sunshine. A horror film, The Return of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, was shot here as well. The wide-bellied cypress trees with Gothic roots and long beards of Spanish moss lend themselves to an eerie setting in the moonlit fog. The Wakulla is nine miles long. It joins the St. Marks
and ate my beloved Boykin spaniel, Geechee. Joe showed me where the dog tracks and gator tracks commingled at the low-tide mark near the ramp at Shell Island, where I’d set up my Airstream for the summer quarter, clearing out cobwebs gathered from teaching freshmen how to write. I suspect the big gator that hangs around the fish-cleaning station. You’ve got to blame something else when you know a misfortune is your own damn fault. The bream that inhabit these crystal waters are the sweetest you’ve ever tasted. I’ve bought a sturdy chain stringer at Shell Island Fish Camp. I plan to fill it with bluegills and return to camp with the rising sun. There I’ll fillet them, dip them in cornmeal, fry them up crisp, and serve them with cheese grits and hushpuppies to the staff of the fish camp, my Florida friends. I told them dinner is at high noon. Anybody can fry fish, but crafting a good hushpuppy is an art form I take pride in. Anchored in a lagoon near a Kuna Indian village in the San Blas of Panama, I fed my Kuna visitors hushpuppies the size of cow pies. Pan perro, they called it, “dog bread.” Whole families came out to my sailboat on
In the dark, I smell the bream beds—
funky, fishy, and fecund.
at Fort St. Marcos, and together they flow into the Gulf of Mexico. I scan the thin mist with my flashlight. Red alligator eyes glowing like automobile taillights are scattered across the lagoon, more than a dozen pairs. I paddle quietly through them, each submerging tail first as I pass. Judged by the distance between eyes and nose (an inch between eye and nose equals one foot of gator), most of the reptiles are less than five feet, but there are some eight-footers and one or two larger than that. Gators can get big in this tidal river. Joe has a skull in his living room more than 12 inches from knobby eye to button nose. He measured the monster at just over 13 feet. I nurse a grudge against Wakulla alligators, since one caught
Sundays in dugout canoes with bright sails. I set up a generator and a TV monitor and we watched Disney movies, and ate dog bread and popcorn. If you ever want to make friends with Indians, feed them fried bread. At the time I didn’t realize the irony that my mere presence among the Kuna threatened the purity of the life I so ardently admired. In the dark, I smell the bream beds—funky, fishy, and fecund. I ease my kayak as close as I dare, blindly casting a popping fly in the area where yesterday Joe showed me the sandy piebald circles at the edge of floating hydrilla solid enough to support wading birds. The fly lands, broadcasting tiny rings of moonlight. A big bluegill slurps it up— thup. I set the hook to the smack. The bluegill fights
May / June 2018 · 21
hard enough to pull the kayak, running in circles and figure eights. Plenty of action on a 3-weight rod, especially when the fish manages to tangle itself in hydrilla. This first fish is too wide to grasp with one hand. Holding my flashlight in my crotch and the fish against my chest, I remove the hook. It’s a bullheaded male with a deep-russet breast. I undo the first clasp of the stringer, add the fish. Worried that the bluegill has tugged me too close to the beds, I backpaddle a few strokes and cast again. Another bream smacks my popping bug. I’m casting to smell, setting my hook by sound. Nearly every cast is met with a sip or a splat. A streak of pink and smut on the horizon heralds the promise of a new day. Joe is one of the remaining few native Florida Crackers, an endangered species facing extinction in the Florida Panhandle, and one of the very few people I know who might survive a power grid apocalypse. He hunts, traps, fishes, and crabs for a living. A stocky outdoorsman in his 50s, he has close-cropped hair and a beard the color of wheat stubble, thick forearms and solid round shoulders of a crabber, a ruddy complexion burnished by salt and sun together with a jovial disposition and a disarming grin around broken teeth. He and his ex-wife’s half sister occupy a double-wide mobile home next door to the house he abandoned to his ex-wife and their redheaded spawn. Dogs, cats, and kids meander freely in and out of both houses. The dogs and more bizarre pets are collectively owned, as are the kids—children of both women, his and others of his wives’ previous unions, common law and nuptial. The redheaded children are clearly Joe’s. The yard is strewn with stoved-in boats, outboard motor parts, and rusty boat trailers together with towering stacks of crab pots. The myriad of heavy-headed dogs are inbred into a curious uniformity, unlike any canines I’ve ever seen. Mixtures of Lab and country bulldog with long black tongues of chow. All but the puppies are scar-faced with tattered ears from catching hogs and fighting each other. The cats warrant notice as well. Some are house cats, some feral, some flat-ass wild. They range in colors of orange, gray, black, white, striped, and spotted. There’s a caged gray squirrel on the screened-in porch and a wild sow with piglets in a muddy sty off the kitchen. I spent
one winter night on Joe’s sofa for an early start to hunt wood ducks. I woke up before dawn to a pet pig licking my face. When he was a young man, Joe married a Seminole “princess.” He caught her in bed with his best friend, shooting the friend and chasing his wife out into the street. “I tried to shoot her, too,” he confided, “but the tears blurred my sights.” The best friend and the friendship survived, if not the marriage. “I don’t blame him,” says Joe. “He couldn’t stay off her no better than I could.” Once a year, the generous Joe barbecues a whole wild hog, inviting the children’s various and sundry fathers and stepmothers, a gala outdoor event that proceeds a heap more amicably than one might imagine. The men sit around the fire drinking beer and eating stone crab claws while the women provide covered dishes of greens and grits. They collectively mind children and serve the food. Besides the gator skull in his living room, Joe’s double wide is decorated comprehensively with artifacts collected over a lifetime of “rooting,” as he calls his local excursions. Here are handblown bottles with tiny bubbles in the glass, lead musket balls, clay pots, and framed flint points, one of them a Clovis found with mastodon teeth, 12,000 years old. Joe’s avocation has garnered him an impressive knowledge of regional history, as Fort San Marcos, at the juncture of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers, has been occupied by Spanish, Native American, English, American, and Confederate alike. Union soldiers tried to take Tallahassee by a nocturnal approach up the St. Marks, Joe told me. They were ambushed and routed at Natural Bridge, where the St. Marks River goes underground for a quarter mile, by old men and teenage cadets, scattering the Yanks throughout the mosquito-, alligator-, and snake-infested swamp. Tallahassee remained the only Confederate capital uncaptured by Yankees. The battle of Natural Bridge was the last Confederate victory of the War Between the States. The moon sinks into the western horizon, splashing silver lace through the treetops. The emerging sun in the east does the same in bright, gold filigree. By the time it clears the trees, my stringer sports a bluegill on every clasp. I start back
May / June 2018 · 23
to the fish camp, trailing my catch, which rises to the surface with each paddle stroke, sinking back down as I glide. The stringer of fish catches scratchy tendrils of hydrilla that I remove every now and then. With bright colors hyped up by the early-spring spawn, these saucer-sized beauties are fashioned by the Grand Jeweler Himself—ruby red breasts on the males, antique gold on the females, silver sequins that fade to pewter in the open air. I’m happy as a man can get with his clothes on. Every once in a while I lift my catch out of the water just to admire them and to hear them rattle the chain, a bouquet of lovely flowers. Soon I’m back to Joe’s crab pot, the green buoy smothered by strands of hydrilla swaying on its tether at the ledge where the channel drops off. Suddenly the clear water boils sediment and tendrils of moss, fizzing like ginger ale. There’s a sharp metallic rattle as the kayak is lifted, plunging backwards. A quick drubbing of triangular scutes runs the length of the keel—buripp—as if it were raked lengthwise by a crosscut saw, a vibration that rattles me tooth and bone. The stern is snatched under. Water rushes into the cockpit. I grab the gunnels, losing my paddle. “Hey!” I scream. “Whoa!” The swamped kayak wallows backwards, the raised bow wagging. The wide head of a bull alligator parts the water behind me like a hideous idea, a genuine creature from the Black Lagoon. There’s a quick jerk and a loud ping as the clasp securing the stringer to the stern ring snaps open. I’m eye to amber eye with a creature that crawled through primordial slime with the dinosaurs. It rattles my lovely stringer of fish in his toothy smile, sinking slowly back through the surface. Gone is my doubleblade paddle. Gone is my bright bouquet of fish. Now what? I’m sitting in a swamped kayak that wants to capsize, impotently splashing water out of the cockpit with the palm of my hand, leaning to one side as far as I dare. I’m drenched all the way up to my armpits. I’m shaking all over, but not from the cold. My stricken heart thuds wildly in my chest. All my neurotic aversions and petty fears have dissolved into one orgasmic moment of stark and unmitigated terror. The cobwebs swept from my soul.
My paddle floats in the water 10 yards away. Now the morning sun is well above the horizon. The moon is down. The vision of the creature has left me shaky yet curiously elated, glad to be alive. Long strings of black cormorants fly across a bluegray sky from their roost upstream. A cruciform anhinga perches on a channel marker drying her wings. Migrating upstream, silver mullet take their oblique plunges into the air, plopping tailfirst into the channel. Gaudy gallinules and spade-toed coots walk on the thick mats of hydrilla, an invasive species imported as aquarium greenery that threatens to clog every lake and river in Florida. A great blue heron spears a minnow and lifts its head to gulp it down. My blood still sizzles with pure adrenaline. I have no bright ideas of what to do next beyond sitting in a swamped kayak contemplating how quick a man’s good luck can sour. Before long I hear the distant burble of an outboard motor, amplified by fog. It seems to be headed upriver toward me. Soon I can see the outline of a Carolina Skiff, a stocky boatman standing midship steering with an extended tiller. Joe, bless his rugged heart, blooms through the low mist. The top of his head catches a ray of early sunshine like a golden crown. He pulls up alongside, grinning that broke-tooth smile of his. “Boy, am I glad to see you!” I squeak. “Morning,” he says, “this looks like a mess only a college professor could get himself into. I thought I’d taught you better than to hang a stringer of fish into the Wakulla River.” He helps me up into his skiff. We lift the kayak, empty out the water. After we recover my paddle, he pulls his crab pot, dumps a couple of blue crabs into a dry washtub, where they scratch around, facing off. I’m still shivering. He thinks I’m cold. He hands me a yellow oilskin with a fishy smell and helps me back into my kayak. “Join me for lunch at the fish camp?” I stutter. “Sure, what we having?” “Pan perro and cheese grits,” I say, “with maybe a blue crab or two.” n O. Victor Miller is a retired English professor who assails the seasons from an Airstream on the riverbank of his family home in Georgia.
May / June 2018 · 25
H M A The
ay eadow ffair
Not quite a meadow and certainly no hay, but definitely a satisfying affair. by Daniel Isermann
26 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
TOMMY DAY FIELD, BY PEGGY WATKINS
Hay Meadow Creek always struck me as a misnomer,
for the diminutive watercourse has all the trappings of a standard swamp, replete with stagnant, tannin-stained pools and the requisite profusion of tag alder. There are stretches where the branding flirts with lucidity, for the creek occasionally traverses a sedge meadow that might qualify as hay under dire circumstances. The downstream progression of brown water appears glacial at best, but somewhere along the way, there is sufficient gradient to harbor platoons of blackfly larvae, manifested as the pestilence swarming about my face when winter gives way to turkey season. May / June 2018 Âˇ 27
SIMPLY, THE WORLD’S FINEST
FIRE PIT & GRILL A Cowboy Cauldron lends timeless quality and rugged sophistication to any outdoor setting. Elemental beauty. Handcrafted elegance. That’s Cowboy Cauldron.
COWBOYCAULDRON.COM | 833-244-3473
A portion of this soggy morass is held in public trust for the dual purposes of conservation and hunting. Possibly, the latter occurs during the all-handson-deck operation that is Wisconsin’s firearm deer season, but over the course of several springs I’ve encountered but one other brave soul who ventured into the bogland in search of longbeards. The man confessed his foolhardy maneuver was required to access a private holding that was otherwise landlocked. He also confirmed that traversing the inner sanctum of the Hay Meadow drainage in the dark was no picnic. I met the swamp buster at the seedy cul-de-sac that serves as primary access to the public sector and offers a convenient place to park my truck. The butts, beer cans, and occasional prophylactic cast haphazardly about the parking area offer ample proof that the property serves the community in a variety of important ways, a multi-faceted recreational destination. I hunt a private parcel a short walk from the parking “lot,” which consists of an uneven field bordered by equal parts alder swamp and sparse stands of white pine. To the north is a green field of assorted grasses that separate my stomping grounds from the public arena. The fence and gate along the private–public interface are formidable and well provisioned with yellow signs proclaiming the numerous legal actions to be exacted upon one who dares cross the boundary. The tenor of the signage had me convinced the green field was eternally off-limits; seeking permission to merely point in that general direction seemed futile. The Hay Meadow corridor seemed less than ideal habitat for wild turkeys, minus the occasional bottle of namesake bourbon smuggled to the culde-sac. But out in the swamp, there are islands of marginally higher elevation, flagged by the white boles of paper birch and the occasional white pine. There was a tom that roosted on these islands with
some regularity, a recluse not averse to the prospect of wet feet. Usually, he roosted close to the edge and would dump into the green field somewhere around dawn. He was there to parade for the few hens that coasted in from other haunts in the swamp. Communal roosting seemed bad form among the swamp clan. I saw the tom a half dozen times in the first year I hunted the area. Not propitious in terms of odds, but I tend to fixate on a single bird each year and this was my man for the season. This misguided strategy provides for the many unfilled tags that line at least 23 pockets of my turkey vest. I’m hedging there are more than two dozen of these ingeniously hidden compartments—I seem to locate a new pocket every year. In the first year of our affair, the tom gobbled less than a dozen times when I was in attendance and never stepped within 100 yards of that little bead riding the end of my barrel. Beyond an occasional glance, he steadfastly ignored my mediocre calling. Only my pocket-size binoculars closed the gap. His tenure in the green field was consistently brief, and he rarely left the shadowy confines of the northwest corner, where a few towering pines encroach on open space, thriving in the unfettered sunlight. He’d eventually tuck back into the swamp, leaving the hens to their own devices. His beard was distinct, a foot long it seemed, but terribly thin and spindly. I finally folded late in that first season, shooting a hapless jake to fill my tag, certain the old rascal was unattainable. The following spring, I began, as always, near the Hay Meadow along the field edge, just to ascertain what might be about. The field lay buried under the remains of the previous year’s corn crop, now a waist-high snarl of leftover stalks too unruly to be properly classified as stubble, a telltale sign the plants had invested more in infrastructure than production of kernels. Corn is a tenuous venture
TAKING TO THE TREES, BY PEGGY WATKINS
May / June 2018 · 29
in Hay Meadow country, for the soil is just shy of beach-quality sand. Varied attempts to bolster yield include repeated slatherings of Holstein manure and artificial precipitation delivered via center point pivot. The circle is complete when the corn is chopped as silage each fall and fed again to the very same cows. On that first morning, the woods dripped from the previous night’s rain, and if turkeys were roosted in the area, they were recalcitrant. A solid mass of clouds obscured sunrise, and even the sandhill cranes remained silent as they dispersed from their roosts back in the marsh. Work beckoned, but I finally detected movement; a tail fan spanned a gap in the yellow stalks. A silent, strutting tom tended a small entourage of the female persuasion, which had materialized as they picked toward the woods where I sat. The girls slid west, flirting with the fringes of gun range. A periscope rose from the stalks—the tom standing on tiptoes to get a better view of the womenfolk that had ignored his persistent advances. He had the build of a potbellied stove, and I immediately noticed the long, skinny beard dangling below his powder blue head. I felt beyond certain this was the same bird from the previous season, still raising hell after another Wisconsin winter. The hens entered the woods and began to cavort and cackle, freed from the cloying snarl of cornstalks. The tom moved as well, out of range and surrounded by stalks. A jake tentatively entered the scene from stage right, and the tom immediately raced to confront the adolescent interloper, running him hard in several directions. The jake sprinted directly to me—stopping so close I could count the little hairy feathers sprouting from his fire-engine red head. The tom lost interest, satisfied the rookie had learned his place in the hierarchy. I didn’t see the old bird again for nearly a week. Apparently, he
had reverted to his standard morning routine—a brief appearance in the corner of the green field and then gone. In truth, I cheated old spindly beard by changing the rules of our engagement without proper notification. I had ably pled my case to the man with a penchant for yellow boundary signs. He chuckled at my tale, the mirthful look about his eyes belying a firsthand experience with my kind of predicament. He wished me luck, shaking his head as he returned to his garage. The next morning, I approached the green field via the property I’d always hunted and made the edge under the cover of darkness. The tom didn’t show. Hens flew down, one landed 20 yards in front of me, but they spent the morning without the annoyance of randy male companionship. The subsequent morning was brutal. Frost carpeted the land and ice pellets smacked against the windshield as I drove toward Hay Meadow country. I parked at the cul-de-sac and took a different tack, climbing the gate and hugging the fence that wears the yellow signs. Tentatively, I approached the hallowed northwest corner, but a wall of white pine offered cover as I worked to the tree farthest out in the grass. With numb hands, I set the decoys, a hen and a jake that sported the disheveled tail fan of the young bird I killed the year previous when the old tom had bested me. I snuggled in against the vanguard pine and waited. As dawn’s early light crept across the veritable tundra, I just barely yelped with my mouth call. He gobbled—not more than 75 yards away. I could see the tree, the swaying branch, but not the bird—but he was up there. I’m equally certain he witnessed deployment of the decoys. It took everything in me to sit quiet and not call again, but I did. A pair of crazed barred owls raised his ire, and he gobbled twice more Continued on page 89
A periscope rose
from the stalks—the tom standing on tiptoes to get a better view of the womenfolk who had ignored his persistent advances.
May / June 2018 · 31
GOBBLER Photography by Russell Graves
34 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
May / June 2018 Â· 35
io Grande turkeys in the Texas Panhandle aren’t hard to find, but you have to know where to go. Here, the landscape is dry, largely treeless, so the birds are never too far from water and roost trees. And the gobblers strut in the wide open. The hens can see them from far yonder, but it’ll be tough for you to get close. You’ll have to figure a way to conceal your movements—’cause you will move. These longlegged turkeys cover a lot of ground.
36 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
May / June 2018 Â· 37
ut grain fields that border creeks and copses of soapberry trees are good places to find turkeys, but if the birds get a head start, you could be chasing all day. You may have to take the long way around, hot-footing all the way, to get in front of them—then you wait. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a chance. If you’re good, you’ll call a gobbler just close enough for a shot.
For more information see page 102.
38 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
May / June 2018 Â· 39
Their expectations had never differed so greatly, and that’s where their paths diverged. by E. Donnall Thomas Jr.
40 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
It was an
RIVER RATS, BY THOMAS AQUINAS DALY
absolute Zen experience,” Adam began, and then he launched into a description of the hour he’d spent alone with eager grayling upstream above the beaver dam. From that moment on, David could have told the story himself even though he and Jill had stayed behind on the big water, looking for big fish. Before Adam told it, from the beginning to the climax that never came, David could see the story clearly: the glassy water aglow in the long northern twilight, the exquisite dimples of rising fish, the tiny drys that only Adam would carry on an extended wilderness float, and a 4-weight rod, which didn’t even belong on a trip like this. And, inevitably, Adam’s decision to sit quietly and watch rather than disturb the surface with a fly line, even one as delicate as his. At the end of the narrative, David rolled his eyes. Theatrical gestures were unlike him, and since the limited circumference of light thrown by the fire did not extend to his face, his companions didn’t notice. No matter—Jill already knew what he was thinking and Adam didn’t care. “What a wonderful story,” said Jill, ever the mother grizzly looking out for her most vulnerable cub. “To be able to step back like that, to let it all unfold without—” A stob of dry spruce popped from inside the fire, sending a shower of sparks into the air. “What would you have done, David?” Her instinct to offer protection did not always suppress a competing instinct to provoke. “Doesn’t matter,” he answered as he
reached across the no-man’s-land between firelight and darkness and grasped the tin coffeepot, shielding his fingers from the hot metal with his rolledup hat. “I wasn’t there. They were Adam’s fish. He hiked up there through all that brush and earned them. It’s his story to tell.” “But they weren’t my fish!” Adam protested. “That’s the whole point. They aren’t anybody’s fish.” For several minutes, all three of them yielded the floor to the fire’s hisses and pops. “Of course,” David finally said. “I understand.” “You understand, the way you understand an instrument approach. But you don’t agree.” “I’m wired differently. That’s all.” And that’s it in a nutshell, Jill thought. David is wired differently from Adam. They sat in silence and let the fire burn down to smoke and ash.
othing challenges the bonds of friendship like the need for three people to share a two-man tent in foul weather. The rain began sometime after midnight as a patter on the tent fabric and evolved briefly into a deluge, with sheets of rain driven horizontal by a relentless northwest wind. The ceiling had already lifted by the time they began to evacuate the tent at first light, with David in front, balancing awkwardly on one leg as he tried to wiggle into his waders without stepping into mud. The storm had left the campsite looking like Gettysburg—the tent compressed to half its height, the two rafts upside down a hundred yards down the gravel bar. “It’s my fault,” David admitted as if this would help. “I know better than to leave gear unsecured in this country.” “We all do,” Jill said. Still, they rounded up everything important that had blown away and coaxed another fire to life on the previous night’s bed of soggy ashes, and two hours later they were fed, partially dry, and back on the river. Jill rowed one raft while David climbed into the bow with his 8-weight and Adam bobbed along behind them in the second. The current ran gently and unobstructed, requiring little input from the oars. Jill wanted to talk. “Do you think this friendship of ours is strange?” she asked. “No, but other people do,” David replied as he
put his arm behind the day’s first double haul. “That’s my point. Maybe they’re right.” While David concentrated on the streamer’s action in the water column, Jill rowed silently and tried to answer her own question. Growing up together in the Bush. High school classmates, college roommates. Constant companions in the outdoors, near constant companions everywhere else. Every argument over by sunrise the following day, two of them always there for the third whenever the need arose. Who else among their circle enjoyed friendship like that? The one thing Jill was not was the one thing other people often assumed she was. She had seen to that early on—freshman year of college, the first night they settled in to the decaying Seattle flat that would be their home for the next four years, all three of them feeling lost because they were outside of Alaska for the first time in their lives. I love you both, but not that way. We can’t let that happen. Someone would be left out and we would never recover. Boyfriends are everywhere, best friends aren’t. Somehow that vow of chastity had endured, despite several wine-fueled close calls that David knew about and several more that he didn’t. “Those people have dirty minds,” David said later, much later, after half a mile of river and half a hundred casts had passed, and for a moment Jill didn’t realize he had picked up the conversation. “And they don’t know what it’s like to be out here on the water. They’re just envious of all the things we do, so they invent excuses for their own lack of imagination. Hell with them.” “I know you’re right. But sometimes—” An inarticulate cry from the bow interrupted the sound of her voice and the current, and then David was dancing around like a dervish, feeding line through the guides with his left hand while the rod bent double in his right. Still fresh from the sea 30 miles downstream, the salmon looked surreal when it jumped—a brilliant flash of metal juxtaposed against the sodden mat of vegetation lining the bank behind it. Jill aimed the raft’s stern toward a quiet river-left backwater. Ten minutes later, the defeated fish lay on its side in the slack. “Decision time,” David said. “What do you want to eat tonight? Canned beans and Spam or fresh silver salmon?” May / June 2018 · 43
OTT JONES SCULPTURE
Claim To Fame (GSP)
Sweet Song Of Spring
(custom patina available)
The Great Escape Full Strut Gobbler
Spirit Of The West
Fly Fishing Bookends
www.ottjones.com · firstname.lastname@example.org · (406) 585-9495 · (406) 580-5182
“Kill it,” she said without hesitation. “I was going to anyway.” David hauled the salmon over the gunwale, dispatched it with a blow from his belt knife’s heavy hilt, and bled it over the side. The rich scarlet dispersed slowly in the languid backwater—right back into the river. Right where it belongs, David thought. “You wanted my complicity,” Jill said. “I wanted you to be the one to deal with Adam. Tell him about upstream escapement goals, how the fish would be dead in four weeks anyway, how it doesn’t matter. Tell him this was our own Zen fly fishing experience, executed with extreme prejudice.” “For God’s sake, David.” But that evening, once they had the tent up and their damp gear spread out to dry and a panful of salmon filets starting to sizzle over another fire, that’s just what she did. All three of them ate their fish enthusiastically.
ou and I are fundamentally different,” David observed over side-boiled coffee the following morning. He had turned to speak to Adam, but Jill spoke first. “You think that’s news?” she asked with a laugh. The night had passed quietly—no bad weather, no bears in camp, and their gear and clothes finally dry. They were pleasantly full of last night’s salmon, and the three days of river waiting for them promised the best angling of the trip. It also contained the float’s only technical hazard, of which David alone was aware. None of them had made this float before, but David had flown the river earlier that summer and taken careful mental notes about what lay in ambush. He had seen no reason to bother anyone else with this knowledge, which would only have distracted his friends from the salmon, trout, and grayling in the upper river. “I’m not talking about school and girlfriends and jobs,” David said. “I’m talking about fly fishing.” “You’re both plenty good at it,” Jill said. “Good, bad—that’s not the point. It’s a matter of expectations, of fundamental approach. Adam is just so damn . . . gentle, like a monk in a saffron robe. He doesn’t want to bother the fish.” “As opposed to? . . .” She let the question hang gently above the sound of the nearby current.
“We both know the answer to that,” David said. “That big silver yesterday, the one we ate for dinner? That’s what I’m talking about! Hell with your little grayling, Adam. I want fish that make me worry—about my knots, my rod tip, my survival. I want fish that scare me.” “You like being scared,” Jill suggested, a psychiatrist slowly leading a patient toward an uncomfortable revelation. “I suppose. I never thought of it that way.” “Suppose?” she cried, surprised by her own sudden anger. “That’s why you’ve been taking chances in airplanes since we were in high school. That’s why you enlisted. Navy SEALs, no less.” “There’s something wrong with that?” David bristled back at her. “For you? Of course not. You’re a warrior, a pagan. But what about us, your friends? You deploy or take off into a blizzard while we sit at home knowing that someday we’ll never see you again. That’s what you’ve been doing to us for as long as I can remember.” She turned to Adam, who had spent the conversation lost in a bowl of oatmeal and appeared content to stay there. “Help me out,” she demanded. “Tell him it’s not just me being the token woman.” “It’s not just Jill,” Adam said. “You and I are fundamentally different, to return to the original observation. But there’s nothing to be done about it, so we might as well go fishing. I’ll row this morning, and you can look for some fish that scare you.”
e found them, all of them did, bright silvers and big rainbows both—the first so new from the salt that they carried sea lice and the second, after spending two months gorging on salmon eggs, fat as footballs. They hauled out on a little gravel bar and stayed there for three hours, David landing fish relentlessly, Jill shrieking every time her fly drew a strike, and Adam making delicate casts into a tiny side channel that contained no fish. No one wanted to leave, but David finally announced that they had to. He knew what lay waiting between the two steep hills rising out of the tundra three miles downstream, and he wanted to deal with it before dark. Alone in one raft, David took the lead as they pushed into the current. Adam manned the oars on Continued on page 88 May / June 2018 · 45
Off the Grid CUTTHROAT SWIMMING AWAY (DETAIL), BY JOSH UDESEN
46 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
A good effort with friends is reason enough to be happy. by H. William Rice
May / June 2018 Âˇ 47
e head south from Denver, straight down US 285. Keith is driving, Terry riding shotgun. I sit in the back with Prajna, Terry’s fishing dog. He’s on his haunches, looking out the window. After several miles, the dog gives me a long, serious look and yawns as if to say, It’s some ways yet, then lies down and goes to sleep. I wonder what a fishing dog does. We are bound for the San Juan Mountains to find trout—trout that are hungry and aggressive, trout that are not accustomed to seeing people. When we reach Antonito, we turn right on 17 and drive through the San Luis Valley toward the mountains. The New West of Denver and Boulder never made it this far south. Hardscrabble ranches, pickups with rusted-out fenders, abandoned barns. We pass the shell of the San Isadore Church in Las Mesitas. It burned more than 40 years ago, but nobody bothered to rebuild it or tear it down. Roofless with hollowedout Gothic windows, the empty adobe façade haunts the landscape. Southern Colorado is hard country: snow and wind in winter, droughts in summer. The San Juans are harder. People mined these mountains; people hunt and fish here today, but the San Juans are as rugged and foreboding as they were when Coronado came through in the early 1540s looking for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold.
Now all these years later, three middle-aged men and a dog named Prajna are searching just north of Coronado’s route, not for gold but for trout. Our destination is several rugged miles off the hiking trail: a remote, uncharted meadow, and a nameless trout stream in Cañon Bonito.
he trail begins at 11,200 feet. Terry leads the way. He has charted our journey on his GPS. Carrying his own backpack, Prajna the dog squeezes between and around us, insisting on a spot up front with Terry. The top of the first mountain is just higher than 12,000 feet. By the time we reach the saddle, we’re all panting. But everything around us has changed. Instead of looking up the trail, we’re looking down on everything. We see nothing but rocks and ridges, snow along the top edges. Spruce trees are below us, meadows in the distance. Only the trail—a narrow, rock-strewn path CONTEMPLATING THE ONE, BY AD MADDOX
48 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
along the edge of the mountain—tells us that people fish and hunt here. An hour later we step off that trail and off the grid. No GPS can chart gopher holes and channels of runoff that are masked by thick prairie grass. I turn my ankle, trip, then step into runoff that pours over the top of my hiking boots. In the wooded areas, we either clamber over downed spruce trees or bushwhack around huge rocks. Prajna is undeterred. If he can’t jump over a tree, he wiggles under it, pack and all, determined to keep stride with Terry. At 11,500 feet, the meadow at the far end of Cañon Bonito is pristine—a lonely, high-mountain meadow. Spruce trees cover the lower part of the surrounding ridges. Above them rock faces sculpted by wind, snow, rain. Below us, the nameless stream snakes through the deep grass of the meadow.
nameless trout stream in a remote, offthe-trail meadow is a gamble. It could be too muddy to fish or the trout population might have been compromised by low flows. Then again, it might be full of fish nobody has seen—fish that sense winter coming and need all the stonefly nymphs and caddisflies they can eat, fish with coloring slightly different from those in less remote meadows. Just before dusk, the sky turns crimson and gold over the mountains on the western side of the meadow, and we discover we are not alone. Two men in camo glass the meadow from a break in the spruce trees that line the lower part of the opposite ridge. They look like soldiers on a reconnaissance mission. “Thought you said this place was off the grid,” I say to Terry. “Elk hunters,” Terry says. “Should’a remembered. Bow season opened last week.” “Is there any scrap of land on this earth that people have not invaded, any place that is truly remote?” “Probably not,” Keith says. Around dusk the hunters head out with their bows, bound toward the far end of the meadow. One of them looks in our direction, tips his head, then looks back toward his destination. Later, after darkness comes, we build a fire, eat our freeze-dried food, and open a Nalgene bottle full of bourbon. An hour later, Prajna sniffs the air, growls. Two pinpoints of light move toward us from the far end of the meadow. The hunters’ headlamps. We watch
the lights get more distinct as the hunters approach. As silent as the night, they move by us, then out of the meadow.
he next morning, we hike to the stream, peeling off one by one as we find good water. I tie on a size 14 Yellow Humpy and move upstream. My first cast drops into the water just at the far end of the first bend. I’ve hardly started mending my line when the fly disappears. I pull back and the rod lurches to life. A few moments later, I hold the net so that I can see the fish in the sunlight, so that I can be reminded again of the colors on a common cutthroat trout: brown shading into yellow along the side, black stipple along the bottom half of the torso, and a faint red line from tail to red-splotched gills. I release it and work upstream, move up the edge of the straightaway, just beyond where the current is strong. I kneel to cast. Nothing. I cast again. Still nothing. On the third cast I stand and place the fly a few feet ahead of my first two casts. A splash. I pull back and reel in. Another cutthroat almost identical to the first. So it goes for the rest of the morning and on into the afternoon. Soon, I lose count of the fish I catch— all of them cutthroats between 8 and 12 inches. Staring into the fire later that evening, we share the day’s fish stories. Each of us lost count of the fish we caught, but all of them were around 10 to 12 inches long. As he breaks out the bourbon, Keith issues a challenge. A tall man with shaggy dark hair peppered with gray, he is the best fisherman among us—particularly when it comes to reading a stream. It doesn’t hurt that he grew up in one of those families where learning to fish came shortly after learning to walk. He works in Atlanta as a hedgefund manager, catches some fine brown trout in the Chattahoochee. But every year he makes this pilgrimage to the west to fish. “Can anyone catch a sixteen-inch or better trout— break the monotony, if you know what I mean?” Terry and I are silent for a moment. I take a long, slow sip of bourbon, then pass the bottle to Terry. “I can,” I say. Terry is not far behind me. “Me, too. I’m sure they’re hanging along the edges, letting the smaller Continued on page 85 May / June 2018 · 49
missaries E by Derek Sheffield
50 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
Rock Creek Early sun and birdsong found us checking our map in the gravel pullout Chris had marked at Hugo’s Milltown hole. What you know about knots? Andy took my line to teach me the Blood and Clinch, muttering as he licked and bit, You get that first hit, you’ll know. I waded into a froth-specked swirl in a pair of glue-patched waders Dwight had loaned me back in Wenatchee and tried to remember to call the pole a rod and wave it the way Steve did in my yard, to haul like Whitney, to tuck and mend to make the fly a truer kind of lie, and, though I had the best riffles, my thumb and hat were my only bites.
Clark Fork We took Chris’s advice the next day and stripped streamers in measured halfloops across the current. While Andy brought five to hand, my hands twitched like water striders through snags and thistles, tangles like thoughts twisted into grudges. And still I lost two Buggers and an olive Zonker.
Flint Creek It was when our last water on our last day held my neoprened thighs in its cool, complete grasp, and my ears were awash with thirty hours of wavering rushes and laps, a tug in my legs that wouldn’t let go,
HOOK UP, BY C. D. CLARKE
May / June 2018 · 51
52 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
a thousand kinds of round in the stones under my feet, the squish and suck of silt, a hundred elk turning their shaggy, sorrel heads at our breeze-borne voices, smells of sun-lathered stone and sand, cottonwood shade mixed with leaf murmur, some dead thing’s bottom-snagged skin billowing like a white guidon, feeling again in my hands the slick, torsional body of a pinked Westslope Cutt, and pearly light playing across every ripple widening through sleep as I drifted off after lunch to water chatter and woke to the first inklings of a storm and saw in drops spotting the pale bed of stones the aggregate beauty of every trout and star-clotted night. It was when a yellow warbler tumbled leaflike from a streamside willow to nearly snap my dropper before landing with a tap on my rod tip, jittery droplet of an eye flicking toward mine and away and back, its feathers emissaries of the first rays ever to touch these waters to life. When it leapt at the word that slipped from my mouth and flew quick as a fish from an opening hand— I knew. n Derek Sheffield’s book of poems is Through the Second Skin. He lives with his family in the foothills of the Cascades near Leavenworth, Washington, and is the poetry editor of terrain.org.
DRY FLY FISHING, BY BRETT JAMES SMITH
May / June 2018 · 53
Smallies Photography by Barry & Cathy Beck
54 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
May / June 2018 Â· 55
It’s good to wake up with the sun and hit the water before the fog rises — especially in late summer. The Susquehanna fishes great, and along this stretch, there’s plenty of public parking and easy walks to the water. And not another angler in sight. A perfect morning.
56 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
May / June 2018 Â· 57
Maybe the nip in the air is keeping everyone else at home. The cool morning is also keeping the smallmouth action below the surface. When the day warms, perhaps the topwater action will, too, but right now, who cares? With the smallmouth fishing and fighting this good, I’ll cast streamers all day. Yep . . . it’s good to wake up with the sun.
58 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
For more information see page 102.
May / June 2018 Âˇ 59
TRADITIONS EDITED BY WILL RYAN
The Judge: For two years you men have fished together peaceably, and yet you wrangle over this fish. The Sportsman: You see, Your Honor, this is the first time we have ever caught one. Transatlantic Tales . . .
My Record Muskallunge Of Islands, Basses, and the Curse of Envy. by Charles Frederick Holder and David Starr Jordan
(Adapted from Fish Stories Alleged and Experienced: With a Little History Natural and Unnatural. New York. Henry Holt and Company, 1909.) SMALLMOUTH BASS, BY A. D. MADDOX
60 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
he attraction of the great river of the north, the St. Lawrence, is its infinite variety and the impossibility of exhausting its many charms. The term, Thousand Islands, doubtless does the great river an injustice, as there are many more. I have never met anyone who knew how many islands there are, but everyone knows their beauty and endless variety. They range in size from one just large enough to step upon, to almost principalities, like Westminster. I know a little one not far from Clayton, just large enough to cast from, and to hold your fire and camping outfit. I know this, as on one happy day I lured a big bass from this region, a fish that had been whispered about, season after season, like the big tarpon of Aransas, with scales as large as dinner plates and the eye of an ichthyosaurus. Indeed, the most exacting collector of islands can be suited here, as they are of all kinds, sizes and conditions of servitude; no monotony here, as each has its peculiar charm. Bill had a name for them all, and a little story to tell of this one, where some old voyageur fished or camped, fought or died. Indeed, there is a world of romance about the islands which has never been exhausted, nor can it be entirely killed by the modern man with a megaphone, who personally conducts the summer tourist through these isles of enchantment and makes and unmakes history with brazen tongue and adamantine assurance. . . . Every day we took a different route, meeting our friends at some beautiful spot, some island not discovered by the world at large, where we dined sumptuously, under the cooking of the guides, and exchanged experiences of the day, compared the colossi, weight and length, and disputed them inch by inch. One morning we rowed down the stream to where a little river hardly wide enough to admit a boat separates it from Murray Island, about four miles from Clayton, forming a little island abounding in forests and inland ponds. . . . There was a little trail leading across Murray Island, which finally joined a trail on the east side, skirted the island and led to an inn and civilization, and the charms of this elysium after half a day on the skiff cannot all be enumerated. . . . Here we found old friends with their cottage and camp, boathouses and all the appurtenances of modern summer life. If you went to call on the clergyman who had taken
three muskallunge, you went by boat. It was a sort of Venice, with St. Lawrence skiffs for gondolas. The grocer came puffing around in a skiff with a two-horsepower engine. The milkman rowed over from his island dairy, and one day I went down to the dock to extend a welcome to a boatman, and ye gods and fishes! he was a book agent. There was nothing lacking in this harbor of delights. . . . But you and I are not dreamers, at least do not confess it. . . . We have been thinking, dreaming about old fishing grounds all winter. The stories of the famous bass caught in the eighties has been told threadbare and has grown and expanded under the telling until we have not the face, though we firmly believe it, to tell it again, which is another reason for going fishing, to restock the memory and obtain new records. Then what companions there are to meet! There is old Joe, who first told about the deadly qualities of a certain fly, and who brewed the famous brandy punch said to be concocted from a description left by Walton himself. There is T, who hooked a minnow, which was taken by a yellow perch, which in turn was swallowed by a four-pound black-bass, which was seized by a allunge, all being landed. We wonder if the old boatman is still on the river. All this, and more, constitutes premonitory symptoms of the summer fishing; and so the days creep by and the tackle is looked over. A new split bamboo rod is bought. It weighs about five ounces and is nine feet in length. New silk lines are added, as the very act of buying tackle is a legitimate factor in the sport, which one would not miss, though you or I would not confess that sometimes anticipation has constituted the whole bag. The happy day arrives; we are off. A man in our car has a rod strapped to his sticks; he, too, is going down the river. . . . At last we stand on the beach; the old boatman is waiting; he has the cleanest boat, the freshest minnows and the jolliest smile of any man on earth, and as we have seen him come in a hundred times, never without a bass, we know we are going to have a day of sport. The St. Lawrence bass boat is a type peculiar to the river. It is of natural wood, copper-fastened, oiled until it shines, and so nicely modeled that it is a thing of beauty, graceful, buoyant, on the water. It is just long enough to hold three persons; wide of beam, a good sea boat for the St. Lawrence, yet May / June 2018 Âˇ 61
so light that one can easily haul it ashore, and with such perfect lines that a woman can row it. In the stern is a cane-seat chair, which revolves if one wishes; opposite it another, your companion and you facing each other. Your feet rest upon a rug of Brussels carpet, and the boat is so immaculate that it would seem a mortal sin to land a fish in it. Behind the midship angler sits the boatman, who knows where all the bass are stationed on this happy river; who is to row you to all the famous rocks for thirty miles along shore, entertain you, bait your hook, discuss all questions pertaining to the river, if desired, and at one o’clock sharp, on some fair island, cook and serve a fish dinner fit for the gods. This very prodigy is behind you and he laughs and says, “Yes, sir,” when you ask, “Plenty of fish, Bill?” Then you remind him of that big catch you made, and work in that same old bass story, now so mature and so large that Bill looks a little grave at the number of pounds; but he recalls it when he lights one of your cigars, and assures your companion that it was a great fish, in fact, a “corker.” Bill’s face is protected by a Canadian straw sombrero that never paid duty, decorated with a number of bass flies, with a flavor of last year’s bait. Once well out from the landing you join the new split bamboo, reave the silken line, and Bill catches the leader and impales a minnow. You notice that he does this very carefully, so that the fish is not tortured, which makes you think more of Bill than ever. All is ready. . . .The wind has not risen, the great stretch of river, running rapidly in places, almost quiet here. Bill heads for the east . . . as you have agreed to meet a number of other boats at a certain island for a fish dinner at noon. Bill has a weakness—he is fond of stories and has been snowed in all winter; this is his first pull, and as he puffs the fragrant cigar which you picked out for him in Montreal, he says: “I ’spose you haven’t heard any new stories, sir?” “Give him ‘Aunt Jane,’” laughs your companion, and Bill moderates his stroke while you tell the story that is several months old, but new to him. Your boat glides along the rocky cliff, your rod out to the left, your companion’s to the right, the tip bending gently in a suggestive manner, the speed of the boat being so regulated that the minnow moves along two inches below the surface in a manner at once natural 62 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
and nonchalant. There is positive delight in this gentle art, which Walton loved so well, as followed in these waters, as, did not the bass bite, the eye is constantly regaled with never-ending change of scenery. The boat follows the undulations of the island; now in a quiet bay where the sunfish makes its home; now facing the broad reach of channel toward the Canada side, and always within a few feet of the shore, as the bass affects shallow water or shoals. Now we skirt an island scarcely large enough to alight upon, and as the boat passes on, zeeee-seeee! screams the silver reel in protest, deeply bending the slender rod, and something is away. . . . Surely no smallmouth bass could make so desperate a rush, taking thirty feet of line; yet into the air it goes, the sun flashing against its sides, dropping with a crash to again make a savage rush. Zee-zee! cries the reel again, “stabbing the soft air with its shrill alarm”; the fish now rushes in, while the little reel eats up the line, stopping to fling itself into the air in a paroxysm of rage or fear, shaking its massive head and, en route, showing the blood-red gills, to drop and speed away in some direction with a rapidity and fervor that have often demoralized the tyro, broken his rod and left him speechless with amazement at the suddenness of it all. The boatman is deftly keeping the stern to the fish, now whirling it about with a violent jerk at the delicate spoon blade, as the bass seems determined to encircle the boat, or holding it stationary, or backing water as it makes a clear-away rush astern with a spring into the air every ten feet. How the reel screams zee! Now giving out fitful notes telling of sudden jerks or sturdy blows, ending with a long shrill cry as the game breaks away and plunges for deeper water or some rocky vantage ground which perhaps comes into its memory in this time of dire need. But slowly the deft reel eats up the line, and the fish comes in, now swerving grandly, bearing off bravely, leaping still with spirit, never indicating by move or gesture that it thinks of surrendering; always pugnacious, fighting against the inevitable. Such a bass I have seen tow a boat around, bending the rod nearly double before it could be brought to net. Slowly it comes in; now circling the boat, and at the surface careened away from you, bearing off gallantly, ready to take advantage of the merest
slip on the part of the angler. . . . The bass desires no greater favor than such a catastrophe, and as it feels the firm resistance it plunges off to liberty, bearing off yards of streaming line as a reminder of the experience—a silken decoration telling of its valor. But our bass has not escaped; it is slowly coming in; now essaying a final leap, then is passed forward to the boatman, who at the right moment slides the net beneath the fish and lifts it in. Here is game indeed. Even the boatman expresses surprise and admiration, and when he weighs the fish and pronounces it a five-pounder, all the amenities are observed. There is a singular unanimity of opinion among anglers regarding the black bass. The one who has distinguished himself with tarpon or tuna, the “high hook” of the salmon fly anglers, the enthusiast over ten-pounders—all, or nearly all, after dilating upon the famous game fishes they have caught, will in confidence tell you that the small-mouth bass, after all, is the delight-giver of greatest excellence. . . . For nearly twenty minutes the bass has played us, and now . . . we row on down the river. Near [a] point that stands out so boldly and rises from deep water . . . the reel gives tongue, and one rod lands a large yellow perch, while the other struggles with a pickerel that lunges at the surface, makes several runs, then gives up in disgust, the very antipodes of the bass in its play. As we approach a submerged rock the boatman foretells a strike and is a true prophet. Zee-zee! goes the reel, a different note than that made by the small and more insignificant fry just landed, and high out of water goes the valiant bass, shaking itself in midair and throwing the hook several yards. Zeee! sings the other reel, lengthened sweetness long drawn out, as the game fish seeks deep water, running out over one hundred feet of line before it can be stopped, then playing with the delicate rod, twisting it into a bow, and demonstrating its strength and power, while with a curving rush like that of a skater, it turns when forced, rising, imparting to the line and rod a strange quiver, then hurling itself into the air again. No true angler ever took so fine a fish without regret, and many a one is released as a sop to the angler’s conscience. But this fish is too large for this, and comes to the net ever fighting in the open, a five-pounder to an ounce. We had decided to row in and pass the time of
day and fill our friend with envy with a display of our large bass. My friend’s minnow was coming rapidly up when something stopped it, and with a fierce rush the delicate line melted away, the rod caracoling, leaping, springing back, to lunge again, a rod gone crazy. “Pickerel!” gasped the astonished angler. [ed. note—a northern pike] “Muskallunge I think, sir,” retorted Bill, excited but not showing it. He whirled the boat around stern to the game, then rushed her backward at full speed to save the line that bade fair to part company with the spool. Ah, the joy of his fierce thrill! This could be but one fish; the splendor of it! as far away something threw its tail in air, lashed the water, leaped high into the air, then plunged into the heart of the river, deep into the regions of despair, as were there not submerged rocks and roots and diverse things which might end this contest. But the fates were kind; the fish, the muskallunge and nothing else, merely sulked, plunged and held its own until the boat was fairly over it, then started, shot to the surface, plunged to one side, stopped like an angry steer and took its head. Ye gods and little fishes! How it fought . . . Now darting down, coming up hard on the reel, trying to circle the boat, keeping the delicate rod bowed to the danger point, this game fish fought minute by minute, until twenty or more had slipped away, and still it was yards distant, ten feet below the surface garnering its second wind, while our friend of the island pranced along the rocky shore, shouting advice which was chiefly of the “Sock it to him!” variety. In truth, the muskallunge was reversing things, was playing the fisherman who, strive as he might, could hardly reel the fish nearer than fifty feet. This accomplished, it would, in a side rush, take all the line gained, all because the angler used the lightest kind of a bass rod, in deference to his love for fair play to the fish. The game was well hooked, and by rushing the boat backward some line was picked up and held, though the rod went to the danger point; then the fish in a frenzy came rushing in, and the angler held it while the man on the rock cheered and shouted that it was a fifty-pounder. Inch by inch the big fish was won and coaxed in, then it would tear off several yards, then come in again; and in this way, giving and taking, the battle was won, the fish finally losing Continued on page 81 May / June 2018 · 63
The Unbearable Lightness of Angling
Learning the limitations of friendship and fishing. by Miles Nolte ADMIRATION, BY GORDON ALLEN
64 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
he man isn’t fully formed. At least, not from this angle. In the inconsistency of firelight, his features barely break the dark backdrop—a bill of a scarred cap protruding from a faded red hoodie, hands tucked into the belly pockets, shoulders raised against the bite of a spring night. He isn’t alone. In total, they are four. All men of similar age. All fishermen. The one standing (let’s call him Judd) is about to say something that will change the trajectory of the night and the forces that have held this group of men in close orbit. Tomorrow, they will drive in separate trucks back to their respective lives. Their fishing trip is just about over. Night sounds carry through air cold enough to paint ice on the waders that hang hollow from pine boughs—thrumming nibbles of beavers, static hush of liquid against rock, conifer-brushed wind. That louder hiss isn’t water, too metallic, too sporadic. A highway follows this river, and ranch pickups and long-haul trucks; Volkswagens and road-trip minivans gasp at their brakes just before diving through a raw rock tunnel up the road. Earlier this day, before the fire and what’s about to happen, Judd stood giggling at a pool where brown trout lazily grabbed miniature mayflies. A soiled sex toy floated in a foam eddy at his boots. Professional highway crawlers pass their time in ways you might not want to imagine, and they throw more than trucker bombs out their windows. Judd scanned up and downstream. Obscured from the eyes of his friends, he tucked the flesh-colored protrusion in his fishing pack, intending to hide it in the foot of a sleeping bag or perhaps wedge it in the crack of a truck seat. Judd won’t get the chance to do either. Years later, he’ll find the filthy implement wrapped in boxer shorts, at the bottom of a box in a closet. He’ll smile and then throw the damned thing away. The next morning, well beyond dawn, after Judd and his friends have ignored train whistles rattling the far side of the river, they’ll be drawn from sleep by the echoed screams of children as their parents drive through the flank of a mountain. Kids love to scream in tunnels, to hear their own voices reverberate in the earth itself. When
the men hear children amplified by a rock bullhorn, they will know they have slept too long, the insects already hatching, trout compulsively feeding. For a moment, they’ll all forget what happened around this fire and think only about stringing rods and selecting flies. But memory will spread through gray matter like a drop of iodine in a glass of water. They’ll rise slowly, stubborn and silent, pack up camp, and drive away.
ut we’ve begun at the end, the swampy marshlands. Beginnings are easier to explain. Five years previous, these men hadn’t coalesced, through the strange centripetal force of shared interest, into the unique unit we call fishing buddies. Their separate stories meandered from the pothole lakes of Nebraska, the inland seas of the Upper Midwest, the bleached sand flats of Hawaii, until they converged separately in a mountain town, which had been founded by men prescient and wise enough to settle a valley latticed with rivers. Judd, and the men who would become his friends, sought rivers and found each other. The wildfire smoke of a bygone August clung to the valley when Judd met a fellow fisherman who had been recently hired at the Main Street, tourist trap, pizza joint where Judd worked, serving up sides of ranch dressing by the bucket, trying to hustle enough tips to turn minimum into living wage. Their friendship forged and tempered quickly, as friendships sometimes do between people experiencing similar windows of life—in this case a prolonged adolescence where the full energy of young adulthood is poured into finding fish and sliding on snow rather than career, marriage, or child-rearing. The two men came to know each other over shared rides to the ski hill and shift meals, campsites and fly boxes, truck cabs with broken blowers, secret fishing spots, cases of Coors and cheap liquor (what Judd used to call garage-sale whiskey). When the snow got slushy and the gap between winter and summer tourists slowed the restaurant, the two men began the delicate process of planning a fishing trip. First the destination: Judd had heard of a lake where 10-pound rainbows supposedly prowled shallow just after ice-out. Then the logistics: time off requested, oil changed, maps May / June 2018 · 65
HIGH IN FIBRE The Hardy Ultralite MTX is our first fly reel to feature a hybrid carbon fibre and alloy main frame construction. Strong, light and with a stunning industrial design, the MTX features a carbon fibre drag system with 340 degree colour coded regulator, captive spool release and high line capacity.
www.hardyfishing.com ÂŠ 2018 Pure Fishing, Inc.
consulted, flies tied, cans of tuna and boxes of pasta purchased and packed. Last, a team. None of the men would later recall exactly how it occurred, who invited whom or what potential add-ons failed to show up, but through social natural selection, two other men attached. That foursome embarked on the first of what would become a fleeting but formative vernal tradition. They would, for a few years, answer predawn phone calls from emergency rooms and detention centers, mix unmanly tears over lost women and dead parents, stand shoulder to shoulder at weddings and, of course, share lakes, creeks, rivers, the confined decks of Hypalon and fiberglass boats, couches, barstools, fallen logs, truck cabs, and other spaces hallowed or defiled by their conversations. But on that first spring night, they were four relative strangers on a fishing trip. The dark drive harmonized road hum with crude jokes, and clouds of ambient dog fur with fast-food flatulence. They went north that first spring, to the edge of the Canadian border. In addition to massive trout, the can-and-string grapevine of angling rumor promised howling arctic winds and a landscape without shelter. One half of the rumors proved to be half true, the other entirely accurate. The 10-pound rainbows were closer to 5, and the liquidnitrogen wind had ultra-marathoner stamina. Still, five-pound trout, they all agreed, were worth kneedeep shivers in whitecapping water. Huddled and smiling around a fire, they casually agreed to do this again, though maybe next spring head south. They each kept their word the next year, and through aimless driving and stupid fortune, they “discovered” a river better than any they had ever fished. Never mind that this river had sustained life for thousands of years, and that countless unnamed and unremembered young men had fished, fought, and made fire beside it. This became “their” river. The river flowed beside a highway that cut through a mountain next to a campsite. Each spring, large trout consistently rose for mayflies. The men came back, year after year, to the same place. Despite shifting schedules and priorities, they made time. Here’s something fishing stories rarely admit: Rivers, no matter how good, and friends, no matter how close, are ultimately insufficient. The
young men found their brass ring, but it was cold and empty. They would stand in steady flows, rods bent tight, fish continuing to rise–the exact place of imagined joy and perfection—confoundingly unfulfilled. They never spoke of this. In such fertile silence, melancholy blossomed into resentment. And resentment, particularly in young men, engenders irrational, destructive impulses.
hich brings us to our moment in camp, with Judd standing before the fire just a few heartbeats before he’ll spark the ravenous entropy. The exact words are just catalysts; what’s important is their feeling of truth. Unspoken truths brim with destructive potential. When shaped into language, they gather other unspoken truths, build momentum, and flush accumulated silence like June water moving silt. For the sake of story, I’ll tell you this: Judd aired some widely held grievances about the girlfriend of another man sitting around the fire and then referred to her by a term he would later regret. That man, in turn, sliced open the silence surrounding conversations the other three men previously had about Judd: his drinking habits, his unfinished degree, his perpetual poverty. In the end, the man with the widely disliked girlfriend called Judd a term he would come to regret. Camp chairs and allegiances fell. Fists and egos rose. Boots scuffed pine duff. Two men disappeared into the night, steam rising from the tops of their heads and the collars of their shirts. One pulled the other by his belt. The one being led coiled at his torso, drawn back toward the heat, the fire. Just like that, the end of a friendship. Friendships, like fisheries, are fragile and finite. The four men eventually go on to have families, to root their lives in more substantive substrate than fishing, drinking, and camping. Each spring they remember the spot they discovered together. In those memories, the fish always rise, their flies don’t sink, the wind never gusts, and they all remain convinced that they knew joy then. n Miles Nolte writes articles and essays for Gray’s Sporting Journal and film scripts for Tributaries Digital Cinema. May / June 2018 · 67
Rediscovery of a 114-year-old product. by Terry Wieland
Not Quite Hoppe’s 68 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
Developed in 1904 for the Imperial German Army, Ballistol has been in continuous production—and widespread use—ever since.
May / June 2018 · 69
hooters are a strange crowd. Who else would wax lyrical about a cleaning solvent? All it takes is one guy to mutter “Hoppe’s No. 9” and there will be smiles and a flood of childhood reminiscences. All of us, it seems, are addicted to that wonderful Hoppe’s aroma. Among other things, it’s a bonding agent. Over the past 20 years, there has been a flood of new stuff for cleaning guns, from super-aggressive solvents that remove every trace of cuprous fouling (and anything else they touch) to liquids that make it easy to clean black powder, to sprays that purport to also coat the bore and improve accuracy. Much of this is the result of the absolute mania for borecleaning that exists among benchrest shooters, and their enthusiasm (to put it politely) has infected (there is no other word) everyone from trapshooters to big game hunters. Thirty years ago, when I was getting into the gun-writing biz, an acquaintance of mine introduced me to his superefficient method of scouring rifle bores. He used pure ammonia to dissolve the most stubborn metallic fouling, but the cure was worse than the disease. He had to wear rubber gloves, run an exhaust fan, shroud the rifle stock in aluminum foil, and then use something almost as noxious to flush all the ammonia out of the bore before it started consuming the steel. The reward for all this travail was groups that shrank by, maybe, an eighth of an inch. My friend was an automotive engineer, and if he had a single romantic bone in his body, I never saw a hint of it. While I’m all for getting rifle bores clean, there are limits, and pure ammonia goes beyond them. Ammonia is the main ingredient of all the serious agents for dealing with cuprous fouling, and you just can’t get away from that. You can, however, minimize the unpleasantness. I did so with Hoppe’s Benchrest 9, which smells like the venerable No. 9 but with an overlay of ammonia. In terms of olfactory gratification, it’s okay, but I wouldn’t go beyond that. Modern firearms (benchrest shooting aside) with modern ammunition require hardly any regular cleaning compared to years past. We don’t have the corrosive effects of either black powder or early primers to contend with, new smokeless powders
70 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
are generally inoffensive, and with the stainless steel alloys now in use, you can skip cleaning for a whole season without much risk. That is all to the good, but in the course of this we have lost something very valuable. Serious Victorian shooters would spend long hours in the gun room, dismantling, inspecting, cleaning, and lubricating their guns. It was undoubtedly a chore, but it was also enjoyable. Many a 19th-century shooter wrote a slim volume called In the Gun Room, or something similar—Major Sir Gerald Burrard, for one, and Alexander Innes Shand for another. Both are wonderful reading by the fire on a winter evening, and having a bottle of Hoppe’s No. 9 open nearby just adds to it. One big advantage of these long hours in the gun room was that shooters became intimately familiar with their guns. They knew how they worked, could deal readily with any mishap in the field, and were able to spot problems before they developed. Today, it’s not unusual to find yourself on a range with someone who has a malfunction, and the first thing you hear is “Hey, buddy, do you know anything about these things?”
s a teenager, I was periodically overcome by cleaning mania, and for days afterwards my bedroom was redolent with No. 9. It was lovely, with Lightfoot on the stereo, a volume of O’Connor in my hands, and steaming coffee at my elbow. Ah, for a few more of those rainy days. And, also, for a few bottles of the old, original, Hoppe’s No. 9. Like most things in life, it ain’t what it used to be. What was legal when No. 9 was born in 1903 is not necessarily what’s legal today, and the company has had to alter the formula. The label now wears the word synthetic, which means they have tried to duplicate the original characteristics with different, socially acceptable ingredients. As far as I can tell, it still cleans as well as ever, but that pungent, invigorating scent? Alas, not quite. Close. But not quite. If you don’t believe me, take the cap off a really old No. 9 bottle and take a whiff. Then compare it to the new stuff. Aromawise, however, it is still furlongs—nay, leagues!—ahead of any other gun solvent or lubricant. As far as I know, Hoppe’s No. 9 is the only gun
cleaner to appear in literature, making cameo appearances in the odd short story, mostly dealing with nostalgia for home and mother. But in terms of impact on history as well as literature, it has a serious competitor in a German product called Ballistol, which appeared a year later. Ballistol was developed for the Imperial German Army before the Great War, and has been in continuous service ever since. It was the universal lubricant and conditioner, used for every imaginable purpose—and some that you are unlikely to guess! Unlike other gun oils, it is billed as “eco friendly,” and will not harm the skin. No one was thinking “eco friendly” in 1904, so that is probably just a fortunate happenstance. It was developed at the Technical University of Karlsruhe by a chemistry professor, Dr. Helmut Klever. His instructions were to develop a multipurpose oil that could be used, not only on a rifle’s steel parts, but on the wooden stock and the soldier’s leather equipment as well. Dr. Klever’s invention was adopted by the German Army in 1905 and stayed in service, officially, until 1945. By that time, however, it was also in wide use by civilians.
mong its other properties, Ballistol—the name is a compound of ballistics and oleum, Latin for “oil”—is noncarcinogenic, biodegradable, and creates no noxious by-products as it decomposes. Even the gas powering its aerosol cans is not harmful to the environment. Many of you may have discovered, as I have, that good leather treatments are also good for the hands. This property was not lost on German soldiers in the trenches on the Western Front, and not only did they coat their boots with the stuff to keep them from rotting, but they also benefited when using it directly on their feet to combat trench foot. Not many gun oils can make that claim. In fact, Ballistol became something of a cure-all, even to the point of being ingesting like medicine. Adolf Hitler was an infantryman on the Western Front from 1914 to 1918, and he placed great faith in Ballistol. In the 1930s, suffering from one of his various internal ailments, Hitler dosed himself with a medical concoction, one of the main ingredients of which was Ballistol. During this time,
he almost died from what was believed to be poison. This episode was deliberately hidden from the public, and even today the details are not known for certain. It’s generally acknowledged, though, that Ballistol (the “soldier’s friend”) was one of Hitler’s favorite home remedies. In his series of mysteries about Bernhard Gunther, a homicide detective in Berlin during the Nazi era, author Philip Kerr refers to Ballistol several times, and Gunther, also a Great War veteran, states that he treated his feet with it regularly. I happened upon Ballistol about five years ago, tried it, and laid in a lifetime supply. It comes in aerosol cans, liquid containers of various sizes, and even prepackaged wipes. The can proclaims some of its many uses, from firearms to wood, leather, fishing equipment, gasoline engines, bicycles, and padlocks. It “lubricates, penetrates, protects, and preserves.” Ballistol was developed during the era of corrosive primers, and is very effective at neutralizing the negative effects of questionable ammunition. It’s not a solvent, in the sense that Hoppe’s Benchrest 9 is a solvent, of either powder residue or metallic fouling, but in ordinary use, lubrication and rust prevention are more important than either of those. The average German soldier at Passchendaele in 1917 was not concerned about cuprous fouling, but he certainly was about rust, rotting boots, and trench foot. Since my discovery of Ballistol, I have introduced several friends to it, and they all now use it wholesale. It has such a wide range of uses, combined with the fact that it won’t harm anything, that it’s hard to make a case for anything else. And now, of course, the vital question: What does it smell like? Well, it’s not Hoppe’s No. 9, but then it’s not pure ammonia either. It is not unpleasant. We all got used to the aroma, and now greet its wafting scent with some affection. And I still keep a large bottle of No. 9 on the bench, just to give the gun room the proper atmosphere. n Our Shooting Editor is an inveterate reader of labels who tries to use all these substances according to instructions. Some of them make the moon launch seem easy by comparison, but Ballistol is simple: Spread it on everything and don’t worry. As one gets older, one appreciates that. May / June 2018 · 71
THE METICULOUSLY CONSERVED FURNISHED rooms and artwork in the Elisabeth Ireland Poe Gallery at Pebble Hill Plantation and Museum in Thomasville, Georgia, evoke the golden age of southern sporting life. Then, amiable outdoor artists, including A. L. Ripley (1896–1969), Richard Bishop (1887–1975), and Ogden Pleissner (1905–1983) were welcomed guests at shooting estates such as Pebble Hill, where their works still decorate the walls. Artist Lou Pasqua, born in Pittsburgh in 1952, is part of that ongoing tradition, appreciated by sportsmen for his depictions of upland wing shooting, especially its well-bred, well-trained gun dogs. Yet Pasqua recognizes a good rescue dog when he sees one, and borrowed the reprieved “Luke” from his Dallas owners for Yellow Lab, which appeared on the cover of The Retriever Journal and as a limited-edition print. “Each dog, each owner has a story that interests me,” says the artist whose specialty requires plenty of pleine aire time with his subjects at kennels, ranches, game fields, field trials, and plantations. Interestingly, after he turned 40, Pasqua exchanged a successful career in graphic design for fulltime, fine art painting. Since then, his bird dogs have appeared on the covers of Gray’s Sporting Journal, The Pointing Dog Journal, Texas Outdoors, among others. In 2012, he was named Featured Artist at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival, held each November at the Thomasville Center for the Arts; and his annual output of “gallery pieces” is usually sold out. The eldest of three sons and a daughter, Lou was raised by a mechanic and a secretary in the steel-mill town of Etna, across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. He says already since first grade he wanted to be an artist. “When I won our school’s annual art contest titled ‘Be Kind to Animals,’ I knew I 72 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
wanted to paint wildlife.” But during high school, sports and the great outdoors outweighed the pull of the art studio. Still, many of his teachers recognized his innate talent and recommended him for the prestigious Tam O’Shanter art program for young people at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art, whose graduates include Andy Warhol and author Annie Dillard. This rather strict multiyear program required dedication—and a long bus ride every Saturday to the Oakland Music Hall, during which Lou longingly eyed Carnegie Mellon students outside playing sports. The Tam O’Shanter, started in 1929 to foster budding talent, emphasized individual “creativity” over a fixed syllabus. It embraced the motto of its legendary teacher, the distinguished Joseph Fitzpatrick, who for 50 years counseled fledgling artists “to look, to see, to remember, to enjoy.” Expecting to learn how to paint, Pasqua attended Pittsburgh’s Ivy School of Professional Art, but the techniques he wanted to study were not part of the curriculum. “So I focused on design instead, which proved more valuable to my art than I could have imaged.” Lou spent the next 20 years working as a commercial artist for studios and advertising agencies; it paid the bills while he and Patty raised their two sons. But under the surface he still simmered with inspiration from the works of Carl Rungius, Bob TIME TO MOVE
LOU PASQUA It’s a (gun) dog’s life. by Brooke Chilvers May / June 2018 · 73
Kuhn, and Ken Carlson. Then, in now-or-never mode and supported by his wife, Lou decided to teach himself to paint from the books in the Carnegie Museum’s library. There, he discovered Richard Schmid Paints Landscapes: Creative Techniques in Oil (1975). Written by a virtuoso “Grand Manner” artist, Schmid (b. 1934) explains the classical practices he’d learned under William B. Mosby, an expert on the methods used by the Flemish, Dutch, and Spanish masters. He also pored over a “modern-day Rembrandt” and art theorist, David Leffel, who commands the artist never to stop asking him- or herself: “What is stronger? What is simpler?” Easy to say but hard-earned in practice. “I struggled, literally for years, to understand and apply what these books 74 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
taught,” says the veteran of trial and error. Ultimately, it’s Lou’s sense of strong, attentiongetting design that draws the viewer into the painting, inducing him to feel “he’s been there and felt that.” Design, says Pasqua, is the very foundation of his oeuvre. “In fact, I spend more time composing and critiquing a canvas than I actually do painting.” Although Schmid preaches working exclusively from life, once Lou conceives of a painting or situation in his head, he begins to assemble it from his collection of field images in photos and sketches. Without the facility of working from a staged still-life arrangement or single photograph of a hunting scene, “I arrange and rearrange and reposition the various sketched paper elements in the layout until it feels right and I’m satisfied with the composition.” THE SCRATCH
In Hidden Jewel, the glorious pheasant brashly occupies the entire space. In Southern Classics, Pasqua sets the horizon high, expanding the forefront to accommodate the two quickened, taut-bodied pointers and their wary quarry. Against a deep stretch of longleaf and loblolly pines that cover the distance, the quail explode in blurry-winged flight, head on toward the viewer—the momentum alone connects the eyes to the narrative. This quote about Leffel also applies to Pasqua’s paintings of startling action, such as Little Dynamo: “His objects only appear to be solid when you step back to where you can no longer see the motion.” In Sudden Surprise, the loose, impressionistic brushwork on the desiccated leaves matches the trembling brrrr of the bobwhites’ wings that on canvas resonate with activity; the Boykin spaniel’s long-haired ears dance with the speed and spirit of the hunt, the quail whirling ahead of him. In the loosely painted composition The Scratch, Pasqua mimics motion—the agitated leg and ticking foot of an itchy foxhound expressed by haloes of movement over several time frames at once.
asqua started painting hunting dogs, he says, “because they were there” and readily available as models. This included his tricolored English setter, Zak, now deceased, whose image has appeared in many a magazine. “With a family, I couldn’t afford expensive trips out West or safaris in Africa in my quest for outdoor images,” says Pasqua. His bird dogs quickly got the attention of sporting-art gallerists M. F. “Bubba” Wood, Russell Fink, and Michael Paderewski, who all encouraged him to continue, “for which I am forever grateful.” “As a Northerner, when I first heard the word ‘plantation,’ I thought of bobwhite quail, piney woods, and pointers,” as he portrays in Southern Beauties. But soon, Pasqua put a Boykin on the mule-drawn wagon (Early Start), and placed splendid wild turkeys against the vegetal hues of southeastern coniferous forests (Spring Ritual). “For whatever reason, I’d always thought ‘settersNorth,’ and ‘pointers-South,’” he continued. So when Lou attended his first grouse trial, he was surprised to see the field split 50–50 between setters and pointers. Continued on page 84 May / June 2018 · 75
EVERY MAN HAS A STOÂŽY.
Forged by hand, Mokume Gane is an ancient Japanese layering technique once used to adorn samurai swords. Together with Spruce Pine Cones, the handle is crafted to compliment a Damascus Steel blade in a concert of pattern and texture. Combined to honor the layers and depth of extraordinary men.
Spring Cleaning A different sort of seasonal menu. by Martin Mallet
wasting food is almost sacrilege, a devaluation of the effort that went into the chase as well as the life of the animal. But at the same time, it must be said that the standard for waste is ultimately a personal one, a matter of perspective, skill, and even culture. As you gain experience and expand your repertoire of culinary tricks, so, too, does your capacity to make full use of your harvest. And that can lead to a deeper connection, a more profound satisfaction from every catch, every kill. Ultimately, then, waste is simply the failure to employ the fullest extent of your abilities. Eliminating waste is an ideal, not an absolute reality. It’s no cardinal sin to occasionally breast out a bird. But there’s another kind of waste I find much more difficult to accept, and that’s losing food from the freezer. Here, proper inventory management is key, so that you don’t find yourself surprised by a three-year-old freezer-burnt steak that looks like an Andean mummy. A simple rule helps me to avoid this. I won’t start a new season for a species until I have used up everything I have on hand from the previous season. It’s a simple, uncompromising principle, which doubles as a potent motivator. The downside is that there are certain times of the year where I am inevitably scrambling to empty the freezer in preparation for the next season. So I’ve extended the spring-cleaning tradition to culinary life. I dig out the leftover odds and ends and incorportate them into complete meals that signal the start of another sporting year. OR HUNTERS,
Spring Vegetable Gnocchi
talian gnocchi have never been a favorite of mine. They’re not at all forgiving; everything from the variety of potato to the method of mixing them must be just right, and in the end, it’s just too much effort relative to making fresh pasta. Parisian gnocchi, on the other hand, are the polar opposite. Easy to make and modify with the addition of cheeses, herbs, and other flavorings, they freeze very well and are an ideal blank canvas for a variety of seasonal preparations. Instead of potatoes and flour, Parisian gnocchi are made with pâte à choux dough, the same used in French classics such as gougères, éclairs, and profiteroles. In this recipe, fiddlehead purée is incorporated in the dough, which is a great way to use up leftover frozen fiddleheads. Serves 4 2 cups fiddleheads, cleaned (fresh or frozen) ¾ cup water 1 /3 cup butter 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 cup all-purpose flour ½ cup grated Swiss cheese 2 teaspoons tablespoon minced parsley 2 teaspoons tablespoon minced chives 3 eggs 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 8 ounces ramps, separated into greens and sliced bulbs ½ lemon May / June 2018 · 77
First, make the fiddlehead purée. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the fiddleheads for 5 minutes. Drain the fiddleheads, discard the water, and repeat the procedure. Purée with just enough water to allow the mixture to blend; then push through a strainer and set aside. To make the dough, combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, until you have a smooth dough ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan. Continue to stir and cook the dough for 2 to 3 more minutes; it will steam and release moisture. Transfer the dough to a mixer bowl, and add the cheese, herbs, and fiddlehead purée. Set the mixer on low and add the eggs one at a time, allowing the egg to become fully incorporated before each new addition. Transfer the mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a 5/8-inch tip or, alternatively, a ziplock bag with the corner cut off. To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; then turn the heat down so the water simmers. Pipe 1-inch pieces of dough, cutting each segment directly into the simmering water with a sharp paring knife, about two dozen at a time. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom, and once they rise after 1 to 2 minutes, they’re done. Work in batches, transferring the cooked gnocchi to a lightly oiled baking sheet. At this point, the gnocchi can be frozen if desired. Before using, thaw them at room temperature for a few hours. To finish the dish, melt the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the ramp bulbs and cook for about 4 minutes, until translucent. Add the gnocchi and cook, shaking occasionally so that they brown on all sides. When the gnocchi are nearly done, add the ramp greens. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, taste for seasoning, and serve.
Lazarus Corned Meat with Scalloped Cabbage
call this Lazarus corned meat because it’s a multipurpose brine that can be used to resurrect almost any piece of meat. Whether it’s a bag of giz78 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
zards you never got around to turning into confit, a couple of deer tongues languishing in the freezer, or even a pile of duck breasts you were supposed to turn into sausage but never did. You can take all those odds and ends and throw them into the same brine pot with excellent results. Serves 4.
Corned Meat Brine
1½ pounds assorted meat ¾ cup table salt 2 large garlic cloves 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds 2 teaspoons powdered ginger 2 small fresh bay leaves 14 cloves 20 juniper berries 1 tablespoon cracked peppercorn 2 teaspoons coriander seeds 1 teaspoon curing salt 8 cups water
1 pound savoy cabbage leaves, sliced 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons minced shallots 2 tablespoons flour 1½ cups warm milk 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon caraway seeds 1 teaspoon thyme ½ cup panko crumbs ½ cup grated Swiss cheese In a medium saucepan, combine all the brine ingredients except the meat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Transfer the brine to a nonreactive container and chill completely. Once the brine is cold, add the meat and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, more for thicker cuts. To cook, you can either cook sous vide at 175F for 24 hours or simmer gently for several hours, until tender. To make the cabbage, boil the leaves in salted water for about 5 minutes, until the cabbage is just tender but not falling apart. Set aside. Next, make the sauce. Melt the butter over medium-low heat; then sweat the shallots until they are translucent and have softened. Sprinkle the flour and cook, stir-
ring constantly, until the flour is cooked but has not changed color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking vigorously to avoid getting lumps. Add the salt, caraway, and thyme and continue cooking for 10 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir, until the sauce has thickened and all raw taste is gone. Toss the sauce with the cabbage and place in a gratin dish. Top with the panko and cheese, and finish under the broiler.
think of crème caramel as crème brûlée’s lighter, more sophisticated cousin. Less finicky to serve, all you have to do is unmold them. The critical part is making the caramel. Because you must take it close to burning, however, a candy thermometer is more or less useless—you need to go by feel. Serves 4 5 tablespoons sugar 5 teaspoons corn syrup 5 teaspoons water 2 cups milk ¾ cup sugar 3 large eggs 2 egg yolks 1 teaspoon vanilla extract In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring very gently with a silicone spatula, being careful not to splash any sugar crystals onto the side of the pan. Keep the syrup simmering gently, slowly swirling the pan to stir the caramel. Keep
cooking, stirring frequently, until the caramel turns a rich amber color and large bubbles start to form at the surface. If the caramel starts to foam excessively, remove it from the heat just until the foam recedes and continue cooking. Once the caramel is finished, immediately pour into four 8-ounce ramekins, and tilt the ramekins to coat the bottoms evenly. You need to work fairly fast because the caramel will harden in the dishes, a second set of hands can be helpful here. Set aside while you make the custard. Preheat the oven to 325F. Combine the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan and scald the milk, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, and let cool to just above room temperature. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolks. While continuing to whisk gently, slowly add the cream mixture, and then the vanilla; whisk gently to avoid incorporating bubbles. Strain into a large measuring bowl, preferably one with a handle and a spout. Divide the custard into ramekins; then place them in a roasting dish with enough simmering water to come at least halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. The custards should be set but still soft: a knife inserted halfway from the center should come out clean. Depending on your oven and the temperature of the water, this could take less time or much longer, so begin checking the custard after 30 minutes. Remove the finished custards from the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack. Cool, then refrigerate for up to 3 days. To serve, dip the ramekins in very hot water for 20 seconds or so to loosen the caramel, then run a small knife around the edge and invert the crème caramel onto a serving plate. n Martin Mallet believes that an empty freezer can be a potent motivator.
May / June 2018 · 79
G The Sporting Emporium g
80 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
Traditions Continued from page 63 its head [and] the sharp gaff of the silent boatman slipped beneath its white neck and held it while it beat the water with lusty blows, and three men, one on the island, cheered insanely. Given its quietus, the smiling Bill lifted the splendid fish, and held it that the sun might display its beauties, its tigerlike stripes, its fierce mouth and teeth, its glaring wolf-like eyes. Ah, if I could have taken it! But . . . in many seasons I never took one of this size. I fished for days and weeks in quest of this elusive but game fish. I tried for it with gold and silver spoons, which flashed like diamonds in the deep channel near the Canada shore, but always with poor luck, until one glorious day when I hooked and landed after a spirited play a muskallunge hardly a foot in length, the dwarf of the tribe. Indeed, I believe it is still the record fish of the St. Lawrence for scurvy meanness of visage, for contemptible size; yet it was a mus-
kallunge, and desperate, I determined to claim all the honors pertaining to such a catch. It was the happy custom at Westminster [ed. note—probably Westminster Park on Wellesley Island] in those days to spread out famous catches on the lawn in front of the hotel, or have them exhibited covered with water lilies, and served whole like the boar’s head, with befitting ceremony. Moreover, it was the rule if anyone caught a muskallunge to run up a white flag when coming into port, that the admiring and envious inhabitants might gather and see the giant and gaze enviously upon the victorious angler. So I ordered the boatman to hoist the white flag, and as the boat made the beach there was a crowd to receive us. The curious throng drew closer to see the giant yellow perch, bass, suckers, sunfish, walleyed pike, and then the muskallunge was laid out, the meanest, puniest fish seen on any river since time began. For a moment they gazed upon it in silence, then turned in a body upon me, and I fled before an outraged people.
I still claim to have taken the record muskallunge in this particular section, but unless warmly pushed I never refer to its weight, which I now disclose in confidence: it was but two and three-quarter pounds! I hold the record for the smallest muskallunge ever born. Would that I could with Macbeth “Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, Raze out the written troubles of the brain. And with some sweet, oblivious antidote Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff Which weighs upon the heart.” n
f the descriptions of the smallmouth fight sound like the Victorian version of an Xbox video game, part of the blame goes to James Henshall’s famous claim of “pound for pound the gamest fish that swims” that appeared in his Book of the Black Bass (1881). Every writer thereafter glorified the smallmouth battles, which often went on
May / June 2018 · 81
for paragraphs if not pages. Such luminaries as Zane Grey hooked a smallmouth that nearly drowned him in “Lord of the Lackawaxen Creek.” Will Dilg, who started the Isaac Walton League in the 1920s, claimed a smallmouth towed his boat for a half mile. Hoo-boy. A large part of the blame also goes to the smallmouths themselves, which really do fight with spirit, maybe not to the extent that those descriptions warrant, but enough so that you’re not thinking about problems at the office when a four-pounder is thumping on the end of your line. Between the rhetorical and the actual, smallmouths (and largemouths) came to represent the fighting and physical part of the fishing experience, leaving trout to stand as exemplars of the outwitting and cerebral part of the proceedings—even more so as brown trout came to prominence in the early 20th century. Put another way, nobody called the bass brainy or trout brawny. Smallmouths, if anything, emerged as the fish of industrialism, colonizing the lower stretches of trout rivers, swimming within the city limits of the largest urban centers in the country.
CABIN for SALE / Rent ON the Banks of PA’s Penns Creek’s Famous Catch & Release Area
Home Comforts in Scenic Forest WORLD CLASS WILD TROUT FISHERY Great hunting, deer, turkey, bear Adjacent 30,000+ acres PA State forest Great rental property-helps pay mortgage Asking $650,000 pennscreekcabin.com
Bass flourished in the presence of humans. If trout writing in the 19th century emphasized a wilderness setting, bass writing emphasized that it wasn’t necessary. As “My Record Muskallunge” shows, smallmouths served as the perfect vacation fish. Prodigious spawners and summer shoal feeders, they could support a region’s tourism. It is difficult to imagine a trout fishery sustaining a booming vacation economy with guides and live bait and hotels and tour boats (and megaphones!). The popularity of sport fishing exploded at the end of the 19th century, and smallmouths proved the perfect quarry for enthusiastic newcomers who wanted to tangle with a sporting fish. “Tangling” with midsummer brown trout (i.e., trying to swat away these damned mosquitoes and get the fish to take a fly) was in all likelihood not the sort of experience a casual angler would seek out more than once. Smallmouths were different. They held on the same shoals summer after summer. In the Thousand Islands anyway, you could tell how far along the summer was by where the boats were clustered. (In this story, the shallow presentations suggest late June or early July.) Smallmouths gobbled down live minnows. Once hooked, smallmouths jumped and tugged and became “exciting.” As a result, the idea of smallmouth bass as a premier vacation fish took shape—particularly in places like the Thousand Islands. As late as the mid-20th century, towns on the American side of the St. Lawrence still billed themselves as the home of the “gamey” black bass. The area had a natural beauty, along with considerable protection thanks to the islands, which allowed guides to get out in anything short of a gale. The region had glamour, too. Millionaires bought islands, built fantasy homes, even castles. Just inland stood the Adirondack Mountains that had been a retreat for a generation. By the 1870s railroads could drop you off on the shore. It was a perfect spot—a great fishing destination without any need to rough it. Word spread about the rejuvenating vacations in the sun-drenched islands, where the Great Lakes decided it was time to head for the sea. Even the guides had a civility about them—Bill, who puts the minnow on gently, for instance, and keeps an immaculate
82 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
boat. Bill knows the fish, the water, and what his clients want. This last element is key, because there needs to be some contribution from the sport, besides the latest joke from the city. If Bill has the boat, the bait, the dinner and the knowledge of the smallmouth’s whereabouts, what’s left besides reeling in a fish that for all intents and purposes the guide caught? Enter the “gallantry” of the smallmouth. Promoting its fighting qualities said to one and all that these fish were no pushovers. Anglers had to “deftly” play them. Like the author and his companion, many sporting men and women further restricted their advantage by using light (by standards of the day) rods and silk lines that injected even more chance into the struggle and allowed the fish to “stream line as a reminder of the experience—a silken decoration telling of its valor.” It seemed only fair that the anglers who could best such a bass could stake a claim to some valor for themselves. Or, satisfaction anyway. And that is also where the muskie came in. For the trip to be a true sporting experience (particularly with no “wilderness” to survive), it needed to include the possibility of a fish too big, too mysterious to be caught with any regularity. The St. Lawrence smallmouths might be the gamest of the game, but the very predictable part of their behavior that made them the perfect vacation fish, by definition limited the adventure. Not so with muskie. The muskie offered the unconquerable, the impossible, the unknowable. The muskie fused myth and fact. Basically, such an embrace formed the main idea behind Fish Stories Alleged and Experienced: With a Little History Natural and Unnatural and explains the joint authorship of big game angler Holder and scientist Jordan: The book celebrated angling’s mystery, but showed that it should exist along side of (without replacing) angling’s science. At the time, the new nature writers such as Charles Roberts and William Long spun stories of anthropomorphized wildlife they claimed to have witnessed through observation. Termed the “nature fakers,” they claimed that woodcock splinted their own broken legs, or even that certain bass recognized the skill of certain fishermen and would always take their flies, with the understanding they would be set
free—and so on. The authors of this book wanted none of it. David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University, was perhaps the most eminent fish biologist in the country. One of his personal missions was to extend science to new areas of life, which he did with lasting distinction in his work in ichthyology (and to posthumous ignominy in his enthusiastic promotion of eugenics.) Charles Frederick Holder, often called the “inventor of big game fishing,” is the “I” in these excerpts. As the review in The Nation observed, “wherever the reader sees anything like ‘the big dorsal sail-like fin of the sword-fish, gleaming, rippling in the sunlight like some gorgeous fabric set with turquoise, sapphire, and tourmaline,’ the hue of Mr. Holder’s ink is evident.” Zeeee! In truth, of all the fishing writers in the world in 1909, none could offer a better testament to fighting fish than Holder, who founded the Tuna Club of Avalon. He pioneered using rods to land the tuna, swordfish, and other denizens. His operation drew the luminaries of the sporting world. He wrote numerous books, countless articles. Yes,
his descriptions of piscatorial tussles tended to the florid; and yes, his word mattered. He was the man. Born in 1851, Holder grew up on the water, the son of one of the country’s great naturalists, one of the founders of the American Museum of Natural History. As a young man, Charles married and began working at the museum. Then tragedy struck—the death of the Holders’ young son. To escape the heartbreak, Holder and his wife traveled west and found California so much to their liking that they moved there permanently. And, Charles just happened to bring along a fishing rod. It is difficult to know when the muskie story occurred or, for that matter, if it even did. As the authors note in their brief preface, when science was not invoked, “The highest authorities in ethics have indicated the angler’s privileges. It is agreed that ‘It is better to lie about your great catch of trout, than to make it.’” The story does have an idealized feel to it. And the ending seems made up; a foot-long muskie weighs considerably less than 2¾ pounds. Still, some truth may be lurking around
these shoals. The story, if it did take place, probably did so in those years before California, when Holder’s lust for such a huge fish would have been unsatiated and quite real. A young Holder could well be the sort who might covet his neighbor’s muskie, as the epigraph implies. The tale feels like a joke that could be told, in other words. After all this is a man world famous for the size of the tuna and swordfish he has caught—he could easily shrug off telling a whopper on himself, particularly since it happened when he was a young man. When he lived in the East, the son of a famous father, and life, in its heartbreaks and achievements, had yet to unfold. How better to show what dreams of large fish can do? Will Ryan teaches expository writing at Hampshire College, and has fished the Thousand Islands for 60 years. He has hooked three muskies and is still looking to land his first. His most recent book, Gray’s Sporting Journal’s Noble Birds and Wily Trout: Creating America’s Hunting and Fishing Traditions, was published by Lyons Press.
May / June 2018 · 83
Art Continued from page 75 Since then, pointers like Hunter and Dot also flush grouse from the mixed aspen, spruce, and birch cover typical of their northern range. They chase quail in the “cactus and plum thicket reaches of West Texas.” For Somewhere in Texas, conceived during a 1,800-mile road trip, Lou experienced the parched landscape, bleached skies, and long winter shadows in the painting. He places a gray, winddried tree in the mid-ground to set off the white-coated dogs, and increases the scene’s drama by positioning them in a strong diagonal across the canvas. Pasqua alternates between working on canvas and Masonite hardboard, to which he adds various surface textures with a palette knife or large house-paint brush loaded with modeling paste. He utilizes the strategically placed sculptural effects to enhance the swish of a dog’s tail, as in Autumn Setter; or the windswept ears and fur of the English setter, Dixie, featured on the cover of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine. Although he aims for a “predictable accident,” exactly how a surface will pick up pigment is somewhat hit and miss. “You have an idea of what’s going to happen, but not complete control.” His bold strokes over areas of almost threedimensional depth are well suited to stretches of palmettos, bare branches, and sun-dried stalks of grass. Lou confesses that he’s still experimenting with brushstrokes to match his style that he calls impressionistic realism. “I’m not interested in painting every hair on a dog,” says Pasqua, who rarely uses small brushes. In fact, he strives to apply as little brushwork as possible to create the illusion of detail in his “less is more” compositions. He doesn’t adhere to any particular color theories and goes instead by his
gut. “I’m not trying to re-create nature,” says Pasqua, “but to make an interesting painting, whether or not the colors are real.” That said, he is presently exploring the palette of contemporary portrait artist Mark Carder, who was strongly influenced by Velásquez and John Singer Sargent. He works in Liquitex or Golden Open Acrylics, laying out a simple palette of white, cadmium yellow, alzarin crimson, French ultramarine blue, and burnt umber. For brushes, he likes the responsive, semistiff but soft-tipped Masters Choice line from Rosemary & Co. in England, and whatever bristle brushes pass the “feel test.” To complete a painting, Lou employs old-world techniques to make his own burnished, water-gilded gold frames, or hand-distressed wood frames. “It’s labor intensive and time consuming, but it’s the best way to control the overall presentation of my work,” confides the painter, who doesn’t like leaving anything to chance. Although a mere 25 years into his career, the much-in-demand artist is done now with painting portraits of long-dead pets from Polaroids. Yet he modestly shrugs off the significance of being commissioned by T. Boone Pickens to paint some of his 40 bird dogs, flying the late-flowering artist in his private jet to his 101-square-mile ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Gratified to have opted for life as a sporting artist, Lou Pasqua likes the folks he meets along the way—almost as much as their dogs. n Brooke Chilvers thanks Gail Lansing of The Sportsman’s Gallery/Paderewski Fine Art in Charleston, South Carolina, for arranging her viewing of Lou Pasqua’s work. And Whitney White of Pebble Hill Plantation for introducing her to Thomasville.
The Remains Continued on page 11 Spooked permit can explode and run in a heart-stopping display of flight that punctuates an angler’s ineptitude and convinces him of it. At times, like those vixen girls whose affection was so coveted, they simply turn and go, mildly disgusted by a mere man’s self-assessment as one worthy of a dance. And sometimes, they simply vaporize. Lincoln looks around and down the flat, scanning, his jaw set, his eyes still shaded. The temperature drops suddenly, and a light wind penetrates the stillness of our sphere, wrinkling our water. He looks on, farther out. I turn back to him for guidance, for an indication of where the fish have gone, for some explanation of how I sent them away. He doesn’t offer anything. He shifts his pole from port to starboard and leans again to push. He has begun to smile. The boat pivots on the pole, and I strip in, collect the fly, pinch it again. Lincoln’s pushes are stronger now, and in our movement I feel that he has scooped up the remains of the moment from where I left them and taken possession of them again. In that there is no judgment but a descending finality. The cold air comes hard now to push us, and the surface of the flat fractures and lifts, darkened by little squalls, peppered by pushed rain. I feel anticipation and a thready pulse spiraling slowly out, a Coreolis around my bare feet that will seep into the bilge. I reel up, step off the platform, and sit. Lincoln leans on his pole, and it crunches. “Heh, heh . . .” He laughs gently, and in his laugh I again see that this is a moment only, just a small sliver of a larger story, and at the same time all there is. “Dey no bettah teachah den de permit.” The storm, loosed of its hesitancy, comes in without shame. n Reid Bryant has come to believe that nobody knows more about permit than Lincoln Westby. Sadly, he has also come to believe that nobody knows more about not catching permit than Reid Bryant. See more of his work at www.reidbryant.com.
84 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
Off the Grid Continued on page 49 fish test the water. I nearly coaxed one out a couple of times.” “Did you see him?” I ask. “Sort of.” “Well, it’s a small stream,” Keith says. “That’s the risk we took when we walked off the map.” It’s one of the strange quirks of fishing that catching too many fish is almost as bad as not catching any—especially if all the fish you catch are roughly the same size. It’s as if you are catching the same fish over and over. You long for the fish you didn’t catch, the one you imagined would be here. The fire cracks and pops, the embers at the center glowing like gold nuggets. I scan the darkness for the elk hunters’ headlamps. Maybe they could tell us something about this nameless stream. But all is dark out there except for the stars glittering just over the ridges that surround us and a sliver of a pale-yellow moon just beyond what must be the end of the meadow. “Well,” says Terry. “I have an advantage over you two.” “What makes you think you’re so much better than we are?” I ask. “Prajna.” Keith and I say nothing for moment; then I ask, “So that’s what a fishing dog does?” I say, “Gives you luck?” “More like wisdom,” Terry says. “I like to think that, anyway. His name means ‘wisdom.’” “So the dog tells you where to fish?” Keith says. “Not exactly. But I like him being there. He watches. Enjoys every minute. I like to think that he guides me to good fish. But who knows?” Terry is the most philosophical of the three of us. He gets up early even when we are camping, builds the fire up before the other two of us ever roll out of our tents. I suspect he sits there with Prajna and centers himself for the day. Probably he meditates—or perhaps they meditate together. I watch him sitting cross-legged by the fire, staring at Prajna. The fire highlights his long curly gray hair and his full
24” x 24”
May / June 2018 · 85
gray beard, making him look something like a monk. He came west from New York City to find himself many years ago and settled in the suburbs just south of Denver. There he lives with his wife and children and Prajna. But he still needs to get off the grid once a year to find truly wild trout. Fish closer to home won’t do. “Anybody got a tape?” I say. “So we can measure and be sure who wins.” “Forgot my tape,” Terry says. “Me, too,” says Keith. “Tell you what—we just bring back our biggest and put them beside one another. We haven’t eaten any fish. Tomorrow we’ll eat three—sacrifice them to see who catches the biggest fish.” I look over at Prajna the fishing dog. He lies by the fire. A cross between a blue heeler and a border collie, he is roughly the size of a Brittany spaniel. His coat is a variegated pattern of black and white. His face is white but his pointed ears are black and brown. Chin on paws, he looks from one to the other of us as we talk. His eyes convey a sense of boredom with the affairs of human beings—as if he came along for the ride, the hike, the companionship, the outdoors, the food, the thousands of scents in the meadow. There is a contentedness about him that I envy. We pass the Nalgene bottle around once more. Prajna raises his head, gives us a bored look, then stands up and does one of those doggie all-over shakes. He stretches his front feet out, then rolls onto his back for a moment, looking up at the sky. Finally, he stands up, shakes again, then saunters off to bed in Terry’s tent.
here is nothing like a challenge to perk up a fishing trip, particularly a challenge issued among three aging men camping in the midst of an offthe-grid meadow where they sought to find wild trout no one else had seen— almost in the same way that other human beings have sought new continents or gold or the tops of mountains or even the moon. By the next morning, we’re all quietly planning our fishing strategies though we do not discuss them around the campfire. We just drink our
coffee and eye the stream while Prajna investigates the area around our tents for chipmunks. The wind is up. It thunders through the meadow like invisible herds of galloping horses, and at this point, the wind is blowing against the current. Casting upstream will be impossible. Still we move out. By 11, the wind has shifted a bit so that casting is more predictable but still tricky. I haunt the cut banks, thinking that the big fish lurk out of sight. I try the Yellow Humpy I had success with yesterday. Nothing. I push upstream and change to an Elk-Hair Caddis. I catch a fish that I would judge to be as big as, if not bigger than, anything I caught yesterday. But without some way to compare the two, I cannot be sure. I measure the fish against the handle of my fly rod and then with my wader boots. I decide the fish is only around 12 inches. The wind whirs and bumps. I slide the fish back in the water. By four o’clock, I have released every fish I have caught, all of them 10 to 12 inches. I stand there remembering my seventh-grade science teacher. “Why do we have to have two ways to measure things, Mr. Bozenburg— meters and feet?” said a whiny young man sitting next to me. “It’s a whole lot to remember.” Bozenburg looked over the top of his glasses at the young man, held him in serious eyes. “Mr. Cooper,” he said. “There is no true measure of anything on this earth. Inches, meters, feet—they’re human inventions. God never measures anything. But you still have to learn the metric system.” I cast again, and there it is—a solid strike. A flash of silver in the water as the fish swims upcurrent, then darts to the deep side of the stream. I reel him toward me, but he fights, pulling upstream. I pull the rod tip up and rear on back, reel in some more, see something fishlike swirl through the water a few feet ahead of me. I reach for my net, but the line goes slack. A few casts later, I catch a fish very similar to the others I caught earlier in
86 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
the day—a 12-inch cutthroat. I clean him for the evening meal. Then I return to camp. Along the way, I see the elk hunters up on the ridge, walking toward the far end of the meadow.
o who caught the biggest fish?” I say when we have all three made it back to camp. Terry unzips the fish pocket and pulls out a cutthroat trout, neatly gutted, the head still on. He puts the fish on the ground beside the fire I’ve built. Keith is not far behind him, putting on the ground a fish almost identical to Terry’s. “And you?” Keith says. I pull out my cutthroat. All three fish are about the same size—and about the same size as every other fish we’ve caught. “I hooked a bigger one,” I say. “How big?” Keith says. “Big.” “D’you see him?” Terry says. “Not exactly.” “If it hadn’t been for the wind—,” Terry says. We all three agree that the wind held us back. “Otherwise—,” Keith says. We all three stand there for a moment as if we can think of nothing else to say. We took this trip to get off the grid, but now, it’s as if we all sought an ultimate moment that had not come— the fish we imagined instead of the fish we caught. I wonder if I have ever caught such a fish, one that once and for all would satisfy the urge, so I could say I have done that, I have caught the fish I dreamed of. It fought like hell, but I brought it in. Prajna sits a few feet from where we stand in silence. He yawns, then twists to scratch his ear. He furrows his brow and looks at us as if to say, What gives? “Let’s cook,” I finally say. And we do. Cook the fish one at a time in a small aluminum camp frying pan, with the tails draping over one side and the heads over the other. Terry adds some salt and pepper, garlic, and dried chopped onions to each fish. Soon the aroma fills the evening air as we sit there
high in the mountains amid the gathering dusk, so that all of us—including Prajna—must have thought about the first time we smelled fresh trout cooking on an open fire and we must have known that it never smelled this good. Then three aging men and a wise dog share the fish we caught and cooked and watch the ridge and skyline before us turn gold, then some color of red and gold and yellow and gray that is as impossible to describe as the coloring on one of the cutthroats we are eating. That sunset lasts only a few minutes, but I know that I shall remember it when I think of this place, of this trip—even though I still won’t be able to describe it. Then Prajna stands up and sprints into the meadow. We look to see what’s there. Nothing but prairie grass. Prajna runs a huge, oblong swath into the meadow, then back around until he circles the tents and whizzes by us close enough for us to touch him. By the third loop, his tongue is hanging out the edge of his mouth and his ears are pushed back, but still he runs so fast that when he reaches the far end of his arc, we can see only the line of his movement in the gathering dusk—something like a fish cresting the top of the water as he sprints for cover. After the fourth loop, Prajna stops. He looks at us while he pants, then shakes all over and rolls on his back. “What’s up with him?” Keith asks. “He likes being alive,” Terry says.
stream keeps going pretty much as it does through the part of the meadow we fished. There is a copse of trees at the end of the meadow. I head there, thinking I might stumble into another meadow or at least find where the big ones are or maybe find the hunters quartering a bull elk. Prajna follows, stopping to sniff the grass here and there, then catching up and running by me. I hear a waterfall. We push toward the sound—through more trees and over a rock or two, then around a thick outcropping of stone, and there it is: the end of the stream as we knew it. It crashes over the cliff into a deep, wide canyon. Fog and mist hang over the waterfall, shrouding about half the canyon. I look for a trail down into the canyon, but I see only the rock face— ledges here and there but no way to get to them. Prajna stands there, gazing into the abyss. Then he raises his head and looks around, sniffing a bit. He glances up at me as if to say that there is nothing here
of interest. He turns to go and I follow, thinking that the sudden drop-off was a little farther off the grid than I intended to go. “Guess who we saw?” Keith blurts out when Prajna and I get back. “Who?” “The elk hunters. They struck out, but they did see the end of the meadow. Nothing there but a canyon with walls too steep to descend.” “Yes,” I say. “I guess we’ve gone as far off the grid as we can.” n H. William Rice is a professor of English at Kennesaw State University. The Lost Woods: Stories, his 2014 collection of stories, won a 2015 Georgia Author of the Year Award. His story “Pursuit,” published recently in the Sewanee Review, won the 2016 Andrew Lytle Prize.
he next morning as we drink coffee and talk about leaving, I remember that we had not seen the elk hunters return. “I never saw them go,” Keith says. “You saw ’em?” “Yeah, like that first night. They were higher up, though.” “Well, they musta killed something.” “I’ll go take a look,” I say. “I did wanna see what’s at the end of the meadow anyway.” I move out, grabbing my fly rod just in case. Prajna follows as Terry and Keith begin to break camp. I don’t see the elk hunters, and the
Paradise Flats A new acrylic, framed 26 x 39, image size 21 x 35 Visit chetreneson.com to view new paintings Prices and information on lithographs and commissioned watercolors on request. email@example.com • 860.434.2806 Chet Reneson 42 Tantumorantum Road, Lyme, CT 06371 May / June 2018 · 87
Scary Fish Continued from page 45 the second raft, while Jill kept fishing from the bow. David established just enough distance between them to make conversation between the two craft impossible. He wanted to be able to listen undistracted. An hour later, just as he expected, he began to hear a soft, deep hum, empty of menace and barely audible above the rhythm of the current. Then it swelled with relentless intensity to a growl that sounded like a large predator guarding a fresh kill. When he glanced back over his shoulder, he saw that Jill had stopped fishing and stowed her rod. David shrugged. They had to find out sometime. When he came around the next bend, he saw the river disappear ahead of him, its abrupt absence flanked tightly by canyon walls, and the white spray that rose and fell like the beating of a pulse was the only indication that the river continued its run to the sea. He signaled back to the other raft with his left arm and set his back into the oars, pulling hard for a quiet slough that emerged from a stand of black spruce halfway to the canyon’s lip. Both rafts reached this refuge uneventfully and drifted toward each other until they met with a soft, gentle thump. While Adam appeared unperturbed, Jill’s eyes bored holes through David as if he’d just shot her dog. “I thought you said you flew the whole river,” she said after a long, uncomfortable silence. “I did.” “Said it or flew it?” “Both.” “Well, what the hell is that?” she demanded, pointing downstream. “From the air, it looked like legitimate Class Four,” David replied woodenly, as if he were reading from a teleprompter. “Sweepers will be the real problem. There’s a bunch of old timber jackstrawed up along both sides.” “And you chose not to tell us because . . . ?” “Because I saw no point in having you two worry about it for a week.” A gentle breeze had eased both rafts up against the downstream side of the slough, and Adam climbed out onshore. “Where are you going?” Jill asked as
he set off through the willows. “I want to see what this looks like,” he replied over his shoulder. “No way we’re committing to that canyon unless we know what’s in it.” It was the tone rather than the content of this announcement that drew Jill’s attention. She was not accustomed to edginess in Adam’s voice. “Want us to come with you?” she asked. “Let me go,” Adam replied. “Maybe you two could build a fire and boil some coffee.” He wasn’t gone long enough for the dead spruce branches they gathered and lit to bring the pot to a boil. “Well?” Jill asked when he emerged from the brush, while David squatted silently and poked at the flames. “One word answer? No. Capital N. Capital O. We’re going to portage around it.” “How far?” Jill asked. “I hiked downstream just far enough to know that we can’t float the canyon. I never saw the end of it.” “It’s no more than a mile,” David said. “It’s all dry, open tundra up on this ridge. A hundred yards of spruce swamp, and we’re out of the brush.” “Well, then,” Adam said. “Let’s do this.” Jill began to pass gear up to him, and David stepped out of the second raft to help. Once it was empty, the three of them dragged the first raft up the bank, turned the valves, and watched the craft deflate, accompanied by a snake’s hiss of escaping air. “Let’s knock the other one down,” Adam said. “Then we can take a light load and scout the best route up the ridge.” By then, David was sitting in the second raft twenty feet off the bank in the middle of the slough. “Let’s go,” Jill said, her voice inflected by a combination of impatience and concern. David remained motionless with his head cocked, as if he were trying to identify the song of a distant, unfamiliar bird. “Come on,” she urged. “We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to be back on the river by dark.” A swirl of breeze passed down the slough, rotating the raft and leaving David face-to-face with his friends through no effort of his own. “I don’t think I’m going to do that,” he said, his voice just loud enough to carry over the roar downstream. “Well, what are you going to do?”
88 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
she asked. “What do you think?” he replied as a grin spread slowly across his face beneath a vortex of mosquitoes. He applied a leisurely stroke to the oars. There was no way she could stop him now. As the raft floated down the backwater toward the current, Jill and Adam ran down the bank parallel to him, slipping in the mud and thrashing against the willows. They all reached the river at the same time. The current first swept against the raft’s stern, spinning him in a complete circle across their line of sight as if he had just executed a deliberate salute. “David!” she shouted above the rapids’ low grumble. Impatience and concern had yielded first to anger and now to heartache. “Don’t do this to us!” Well out in the current now, he shipped the oars, pointed to his ears, and shook his head no. “Don’t do this to me!” she screamed, the truth at last after all these years. “I know damn well you can hear me.” David checked the raft midstream and rose for one last look at the position before the force of the gathering current deprived him of choice. Once he’d sat, he pointed the stern away from the backwater, dug in for six hard strokes, and disappeared over the edge of the drop. Then, he was gone. Finally, a theatrical gesture for all to see. “Why does he do this?” Red faced and defeated, she spoke through a patina of tears and snot. “Why does he do this to us?” “He’s not doing anything to us.” “To whom, then?” “To himself. To an imperfect world.” “Being out here fishing makes you seem so happy, so serene. Why can’t it do the same for him?” Adam stared away downriver toward the gash in the rocks and the cauldron that had swallowed their friend. The sun had broken through the last of the storm’s lingering scud, forcing him to shield his brow with his hand. “He likes scary fish,” he said at last. That was the best he could do. n Don Thomas writes about the outdoors for numerous national publications. He and his wife, Lori, divide their time between rural Montana and Southern Arizona, along with two Labrador retrievers, two German wirehair pointers, and one Jack Russell terrier.
Hay Meadow Affair Continued from page 31 despite the cold, and then he rolled out of the tree like a bowling ball, spread his wings to coast across the alder swamp, and landed 30 yards from my boots. My gun was on him, but I kept my finger off the trigger. He did not look well. Haggard. Spent. He was also noticeably agitated, gathering himself before stiffly marching toward the fraudulent jake, hackles raised. He was intent on administering yet another lesson on the nuances of pecking order. I pulled the trigger just as the tom bumped into the jake on a stake. Somehow, the decoy remained unscathed, but the man from Hay Meadow Creek sporting the spindly beard was not. Didn’t so much as twitch. I, on the other hand, began to shiver violently, wishing I had opted for the long underwear, mid-May or not. He was a shell of the bird I had watched that first morning in the cornstalks. Light, 20 pounds at most. Worn to the bone, literally, the bare keel of his breast protruded from the feathers on his chest. His one spur measured just over an inch, the other had been busted off some time ago. Less than 20 strands composed his distinctive beard, which ran a smidge north of 11 inches. A man on the downhill slope—no way he would have made another spring. But I was damn glad he’d at least made it to this one. I’ll visit the Hay Meadow again this spring, but wonder if it will have the same feel, for that old tom was part of the tapestry that made the place something special. I’m hoping some wily upstart will take over the swampland, maybe even roost in that same lone pine that marks a rare patch of high ground out there in the alders. I’m fairly sure the blackflies will have me back. I’ll be sure to watch my step when I hop out at the cul-de-sac. n Daniel Isermann lives and hunts in central Wisconsin.
Tim Hall Woodcarvings 606-723-5450 timhallwoodcarvings.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Gray’s Sporting Journal
Please Call Amos Crowley at • 216-378-9811 email@example.com
“The Silver Doctor”
An Original Oil On Panel by Daniel Porter Commission works available upon request. www.danielporter.net Instagram@danielporterfinearts Studio: 506-453-7851 | 16 Normandy Drive, Hanwell NB Canada E3C 1M8
May / June 2018 · 89
GRAY’S GEAR & LIFESTYLE
Since 1882, Duluth Pack has handcrafted a wide variety of American-made hunting, shooting, and outdoor gear. So it’s natural that it has added an excellent pair of Canvas Chaps to its product line. Composed of high-quality, 15-ounce waxed canvas and available in Mossy Oak camo, olive, or the standard brown, they’re the perfect protection from thick cover. Highly water resistant, they come with a lifetime warranty that dares you to burrow a little deeper into that gnarly grouse haven. www.duluthpack.com. $165
Every pound counts when you’re hiking into mountain lakes or flying a small plane into the wilderness. So if that’s the plan, the Orvis Ultralight Convertible Waders were built with you in mind. Coming in at less than three pounds, these waders pack small but offer a bevy of essential features: a tool docket, water-resistant pockets, and an easily accessible fly patch. There’s extra reinforcement in high-stress areas, a proprietary new stitched-and-taped seam design, and perhaps most important, they convert from chest-high to waist-high waders in a matter of seconds. Highly beneficial if you’re fishing cool mornings paired with warm afternoons. Or, if you’ve had too much camp coffee. www.orvis.com. $298
Whether you’re fishing the temperate rain forest streams of Southeast Alaska, navigating the mists of Oregon, or simply taunting Mother Nature, the G3 Guide Tactical Wading Jacket from Simms is an impenetrable fortress that gets you on the water when many other fishermen simply go back to bed. The jacket keeps the elements at bay with three-layer GoreTex fabric, a tuck-away storm hood, and watertight cuffs. The jacket also features an abundance of inside storage pockets; a sleek, snag-free front; a fly patch; and a D-ring for the net. But most of all, rejoice in not being one of those guys who rolls over during inclement weather. www.simmsfishing.com. $500 90 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
There are those among us who believe turkeys have gotten smarter. And while that may or may not be the case, the way we hunt them has undeniably changed. The old-school strategy of setting up close to the roost and waiting patiently for a gobbler to respond has often evolved into a quest for silent mobility, quick moves, and repeated setups. At the forefront of this mind-set is Tenzing, with its TZ TR18 Turkey Recliner. The original version won a Gray’s Best in 2015—the upgrade is even lighter (just over five pounds), with an improved layered pocket design and modified spring-loaded aluminum legs that turn your vest into a comfortable calling station. Don’t fall asleep. www.tenzingout doors.com. $220
If you’re looking for a piece of travel gear that’s equally suited for the local hunting club or a four-day retreat to a luxury resort, check out the classically designed Wren & Ivy Wellington Lodge Duffle. The spacious top holds your more refined needs, while the lining in the bottom compartment keeps your dirty boots from soiling your dinner garb. Constructed of tanned bridle leather and waxed filter-twill canvas, the bag also features solid-brass hardware, an adjustable shoulder strap, and complimentary monogramming. Rugged, genteel, and perfect for the weekend. www.wrenandivy.com. $495
Syren, a division of Caesar Guerini and Fabarm, pioneered the market as the first manufacturer of shotguns designed exclusively for women. One of more than 70 available options, the Syren Tempio Light features a Monte Carlo stock, shorter pull length (13½ inches) than any standard male counterpart (14¾ inches), and a smaller grip that makes for a comfortable trigger reach. It’s perfectly balanced at the action, whereas a modified men’s gun may prove to be muzzle heavy. The stock is designed to fit perfectly into a woman’s shooting pocket. Beautiful European walnut and elegant engraving complete the package. Available in both 20 and 28 gauge. By the way, Mother’s Day is May 13. You’re welcome. www.syrenusa.com. $4,295 May / June 2018 · 91
92 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
Far ofSide the Moon Catching the biggest trout of your life—over and over. Story by Zach Matthews Photography by Rebecca Shaneyfelt
May / June 2018 · 93
e had picked our way through a boulder field ragged and strewn with white rocks standing like ancient coral and surrounding us on all sides. We had finally made it to shore, where we moved along water’s edge from high spot to high spot, looking for space to cast. We were all bemused by the solid-looking rocks that turned to white powder beneath our wading boots, and as I prepared to launch a cast, I shouted to my companions above the wind, “I feel like I’m fishing on the moon!” The laughing ceased, though, when the shaky footing caused me to lose my equilibrium. As I struggled to regain balance, my 8-weight, with perfectly awful timing, began to buck and surge. A trout The author, sight-fishing for cruising monster rainbows in Lago Strobel, times his casts between crashing waves.
94 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
had inhaled the fly. I scrambled down the loose pile of chalky stones, my feet sliding in one direction as the wind screamed and tried to force me in the other. The rainbow on the end of the fly line streaked toward me. Its near 10 pounds of silver-teal flesh flashed occasionally just beneath the blue but rippled surface of the lake, and the fly line grew ever more slack. Knowing I had made a poor strip-set, I stashed the rod under my arm and began hand-lining as fast as my two fists could whirl. It wasn’t enough. The fish leaped for the third time and threw my leech pattern into the air—a perfect tableau of defiance as the fly sailed away and the fish dropped
The chrome rainbows of Lago Strobel jump like jackrabbits and fight like wild hogs.
safely back into the lake. I cursed (who wouldn’t?), then carefully repositioned my feet and gathered line to make another cast. After all, there were plenty more where it had come from. The enormous bowl of water that had just taken back one of its own is probably best known by its marketing name: Jurassic Lake. Lago Strobel, the name you’ll find on maps, is an outsize pothole with Caribbean-blue water in the middle of a vast estancia that stands in the Patagonian steppe near the southern tip of South America. Once upon a time, this area was an ultra-lowproductivity cattle ranch (think West Texas with even more wind). In recent years, the gauchos have all but given up commercial ranching, and the wild, native llamas—guanacos—have reasserted their ancestral rights. In the 1980s, with cattle farming failing, regional estancia managers turned their attention to other commercial ventures, including aquaculture. The natural lakes of southern Argentina had been scoured out by glaciers in the ice ages but had no native large fish. The
lakes, however, did hold plenty of fish forage—scuds and freshwater shrimps, primarily—so the introduction of rainbow trout resulted in an immediate bonanza. In the 1990s, nearby Lago Cardiel became known for plus-sized trout, and some enterprising folks attempted commercial fishing, but transport remained too difficult.
hen a trout is introduced into virgin water with abundant food resources and minimal predation, only two things can contain it: lack of space and competition from other trout. Within a decade or two of stocking, most of the lakes in southern Argentina stabilized as each ecosystem hit its carrying capacity. Soon, overall fish size declined as the superabundance of food was consumed by an equal superabundance of trout. Lago Strobel proved to be the exception to that rule, but according to Luciano Alba, an affable Argentine lawyer and wine connoisseur who runs two operations on the lake, Strobel was never
96 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
supposed to have been stocked at all. A truck carrying a load of rainbow trout fingerlings and destined for a smaller laguna broke down near the mouth, or boca, of the Rio Barrancoso—the only river that flows into Strobel—and there they were released. Because the Barrancoso offers very limited spawning gravel, the young rainbows moved into Lago Strobel and, as of yet, have not been able to reproduce in numbers large enough to fill the lake’s monstrous carrying capacity—the long-established superabundance of food continues, resulting in an effectively uncapped trout size. Rainbows of seven to eight pounds are absolutely common, and 20-pound fish are caught on a weekly basis. The gargantuan fish of Strobel are no secret—lodges near the boca and on bordering Estancia Laguna Verde are entering their third decade of operation. Until now, however, most of the fishing has plied the waters near the mouth of the Barrancoso. Luciano Alba had a different idea. He wanted to see what potential might exist far away from the place where the
That was the year William James Lindskov purchased his first quarter of land. Eighty-three years later, things are a little different—or at least the scope of them is. You see, Bill’s son, Les, had a vision: to share with the world the beauty and splendor of the immense Lindskov Family Ranch through a lodge called Firesteel Creek. In 1999, the world was supposed to end, but Les, his wife, Marcia, and their four sons, Monte, Bryce, Mark, and Todd, had other plans. While the world worried about Y2K, the Lindskov Family lodge rose on the banks of Firesteel Creek, in Isabel, South Dakota. A decade later, they added Timber Lake Lodge, with its herds of American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, and whitetail deer. A legacy was born. Today, the birds fly wild and strong. Pheasants, sharptails and Huns bursting from cover. The deer and antelope really do look through the kitchen window, yet it never ceases to amaze how well they can hide when they want to. As I gaze off into the vastness that is western South Dakota, I sometimes wonder what draws hunters to Firesteel Creek and Timber Lake from all over the world. Surely there are a host of destinations to choose from, yet we have been fortunate that so many have returned to our lodges time and again. Is it the scope of infinite acres spotted with grainfields or one of Dad’s famous cocktails—“a glass of pop with a stick in it”—personally delivered in the lounge?
‘Life is worth enjoying; come visit us.’ Perhaps it is our talented hunting guides and their canine companions—each tuned so flawlessly it’s like watching an orchestra play. To them it’s not a job as much as a passion—the ability to come home each evening and say “That was a great day.” But the biggest reason people return must be Mom. Perhaps it’s her chicken-fried steak or fried chicken, or maybe it’s her buttermilk pheasant or famous roast beef. Then again, it could be her moon pies, chocolate cakes, or fantastic apple crisps—made from apples picked in her front yard. I may be biased, of course, but I think many would agree: Mom’s cooking is where it’s at. Mom is also a true role model— one who can fry three dozen eggs, make biscuit gravy, greet a stream of guests and not miss a chance to see what her grandchildren are up to that day. So there may be many reasons sportsmen keep returning to our ranches. And we hope that one of them is because they love it here— just like we do. We love that there are no roads or people. We love that we can walk out on the porch and hear nothing apart from nature. We love it this way, because life is simpler and moral out here. We hope you, too, can experience the way we are blessed to live every day. Life is worth enjoying; come visit us. —Mark L. Like his brothers, Monte, Bryce and Todd, Mark Lindskov is a thirdgeneration guardian who manages the Lindskov Family’s Lodges.
P O B OX 17 ISA BE L , S OU T H DA KO TA 576 33 L OD G E 6 0 5 -4 6 6 -2 4 52 / M A R K 6 0 5 -8 5 0 -3 8 9 9 F I R E S T E E L C R E E K L OD G E .C OM T I M BE R L A K E L OD G E .C OM
Perched atop the powder-coated boulders that give Lago Strobel such an otherwordly landscape, Justin Witt scans the clear water for the fish of a lifetime. Workhorse Toyota Hilux trucks haul the necessities and provide an end-of-the-line escape route. Despite its clarity, the aquamarine water of Lago Strobel never gives up all its secrets.
first truckload of trout found homewaters in the Lago Strobel watershed. So, he opened up the little-traveled opposite side of the lake and bought an old gaucho house, two hours by pickup truck past the last operational lodge, and began restoring it as a satellite lodge. And that is how we found ourselves amidst a lunar landscape on
earth, crushing boulders into powder.
he journey to the opposite end of Lago Strobel is no joke. Even after the usual airport transfers and tedious encounters with Argentine bureaucrats, the bouncy ride along an almost untracked steppe in a beefed-up Toyota
98 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
Hilux 4x4 is no relief. The trucks have armor welded to their undercarriages to help fend off boulders, and sections of the path are marked only by a line of rock cairns to help drivers find their way. These plains are the guanaco heartland, along with their eternal predator, the puma. Cat populations remain fairly high in this part of Patagonia, and if you stick your head in almost any rocky crevice, you’ll find piles of gnawed bones, if not more than you bargain for. The old gaucho house (now spruced up and rechristened Lago Strobel Lodge) is tucked into a ripple of earth just tall enough to cut the ever-present Andean wind. It was in the process of being repaired after a small fire when we arrived and had only just been made ready for our exploratory expedition. While the house had been used by fishermen before (almost all Argentinians), we were perhaps the first anglers to use it as a home base for an excursion into the unknown. Our team was assembled and led by Justin Witt, a world-traveling fly angler who has guided everywhere—from
May / June 2018 Â· 99
The speckled back of a healthy Strobel brute.
100 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
Kamchatka to India—and who lived in Patagonia for several years in the lush town of Trevelin. This stop was just the first in what Witt expects to be at least two years of travel in search of new rivers in Mongolia and Russia near Lake Baikal. Becca Shaneyfelt, a talented photographer and EMT from Montana, also volunteered for the expedition after a previous trip to Strobel was blown out by 50-mile-per-hour winds. Her return resembled a spirit quest as much as anything—she does not let failure stand unredressed. As for myself, I was along as the de facto trip secretary; something like the William Clark to Witt’s Meriwether Lewis. Together, we strapped on our packs and tramped downwind as far as the trail could take us. Lago Strobel has a lot of similarities to western American lakes, particularly Pyramid Lake near Reno. In addition to its very large fish, it is, like Pyramid, a remnant lake—the last puddle, in a way, of something that was once much larger. The rim around Strobel is ringed with a kind of scum line, 40 or 50 yards
higher than the present waterline, and it consists of calcified mineral salts, which slowly covered the boulders around the lake during the thousands of years the lake receded. In places, the calcification is rock hard, like wader-shredding coral. Gore-Tex doesn’t stand a chance, and even rubber wading boots fall victim. In other places, the mineral shell is like powdered sugar, waiting to give way as you bound along. All around, natural caves have literally grown up where the calcifications have merged and are inhabited by enormous Patagonian foxes the size of coyotes—some almost tame—which feed on seabirds and guanaco scraps left by pumas. Strobel is an old place, and it has been this way for a very long time. The fish, however, are a new factor. From that first stocking truck back in the ’80s, trout have grown to dominate many niches in the littoral ecosystem. Some trout cruise along, high in the column, basically filter-feeding, like a paddlefish or whale shark, and reaching weights of more than 15 pounds. These
trout are near the end of their life spans; older, yes, and sometimes with old injuries too, but still making a living and willing to eat a well-placed fly. Other rainbows, younger and fast as tuna, run the bluewater depths almost like pelagic fish, streaking after small swimming crustaceans. The biggest bruisers mostly stay down deep, making excursions to the shoreline feeding grounds at dusk or on cloudy days, when the lake’s clear water is less of a handicap. Small leeches (about size 12) seem to be the prized food source, and flies tied with the color blue were particularly effective for reasons known only to the trout. Justin Witt stuck one of the old surface cruisers almost immediately, landing 10 or 12 pounds of trout with the practiced brio of someone who has personally handled a thousand just the same.
he dominant characteristic of the far side of Strobel is wind. Everywhere in Patagonia is windy, but this far south (a full 10 degrees farther south
May / June 2018 · 101
People, Places, and Equipment Silver & Gold (page 12) Denver Bryan fished for bonefish in the Turks and Caicos Islands (more specifically, South Caicos) and made arrangements through Beyond the Blue Bonefishing (beyondtheblue.com). More of Denver’s work and the work of other fine photographers can be seen at imagesonthewild side.com. Lone Star Gobbler (page 34) Russell Graves hunted the rolling plains of the Texas Panhandle, not far from the town of Childress. See more of his good work at russellgraves.com. Susquehanna Smallies (page 54) Barry and Cathy Beck fished the Susquehanna River near the town of Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, and an area known to have been a camp for the Susquehannock branch of the Iroquois nation. They fished with local guide Jim Kukorlo (jbkukorlo@ pa.metrocast.net). More of the Becks’ photography can be found and barryandcathybeck.com. Gordon Allen An artist from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Gordon has been contributing to Gray’s for years. His line art is scattered throughout this issue. You can see more of Gordon’s work at www.gordon allenart.com.
than the tip of Africa), the wind never really stops howling. The key to fishing is to locate shelter. The lakeshore is heavily indented with bays, many piled high with tumbled rocks from ancient earthquakes. Behind these rock piles are small, perfectly white beaches. By positioning ourselves on the leeward tip of the rock piles, we found a satisfactory casting position—elevated, with wind mostly at our backs, and a glass-ceiling view into the intense clarity of the lake. Part of the problem with sight fishing to the largest trout you’ve ever seen is that you just can’t help yourself; you are going to screw up and probably more than once. Witt quickly corrected my tendency to stop the strip once I saw a mammoth trout begin its approach: “You have to keep the fly moving or, if anything, accelerate it,” he said. “Anything in here is going to try to get away from a fish that big.” With the right angle, standing in a cockpit of rocks, you can bomb casts to distant, cruising fish or plumb the drop-offs where the water shifts from turquoise to a deep submarine blue. Becca came to catch fish, not just take pictures and toy with casting at faraway cruisers. She focused her efforts on the deep holes between rocks, in a style resembling pocketwater fishing in a high mountain stream, and it proved to be laughably effective. Silver torpedoes—younger, hot fish, nearly tunoid in shape but still huge by any objective standard—blasted from the bottom, unseen until the last second. Steelhead in all but name, these trout leaped and twirled exactly like their sea-run counterparts. Setting hooks wasn’t always easy with chop and waves battering our hips and chests, but Becca landed “the biggest trout of her life” over and over again. Strobel is, above all else, the place where personal records fall. Untrammeled wilderness usually equates to unpressured fish, and this far out, some of these fish had never even seen flies— the most effective patterns were not the articulated, flash-laden contraptions anglers are slinging back home, but instead simple, classic flies, many of
102 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
them out of style in the United States for decades. A single strip of rabbit fur on a bead-headed leech was enough to tempt double-digit trout, and angler error accounted for most refusals.
s good as the fishing is, Strobel is not the kind of place where you can allow yourself to get distracted. Though pumas are about, other dangers are more likely to ruin your trip. On one hidden beach, I found a perfectly round platform atop a rock, where the crown of an old calcified boulder had flaked away. Although the spot was exposed, the wind had momentarily died, so I took a position atop the rock and began searching the water for the drop-off. After sticking and losing a fish, my focus intensified, and I failed to notice a shift in the wind. Rollers began washing around my feet, then my knees, as I stared, oblivious, into the clear depths. Finally the inevitable happened, and two rollers crashed into one, shoulder-high. The wave detonated on my rock, and its concussive force almost tossed me onto shore behind me. I stayed in place only because I had hooked my feet under the lip of the old calcified shell of the boulder. Soaking wet and shaking, I remembered that miles of boulder fields separated me from any vehicle, and beyond that, seven hours of off-roading separated me from medical assistance. I timed my escape between the next two waves, then sat on shore, watching my platform disappear beneath windgenerated artificial tide. In terms of trail length, the span of shoreline accessible from the gaucho house isn’t huge; maybe seven or eight miles to the terminus—the absolute windy end—where rollers always come in big enough for surfing and casting is all but impossible. That seven or eight miles is deceptive, however, because the trail never moves in a straight line and rarely levels out. In places the path is what climbers call “Rated X.” It’s not necessarily impassable, but make one mistake, and you’re looking at broken limbs or worse. Justin Witt repeatedly called out to remind us, “If you think
Patagonian foxes, as big as coyotes, are nearly tame, may shadow you in the hopes of a fish snack. Sadly for it, the anglers released everything they caught.
it’s questionable, don’t even try it.” Near the lake edge itself, the wet, slick granite threatened to tumble us into the bone-breaking waves with any misstep. And so it was that we found ourselves, at the end of our longest day of hiking, miles from home base, sitting on the sand of a beach, in the lee of a large boulder, burning driftwood as we awaited a prearranged Hilux pick up. We were like party guests at the end of a feast—tired, fat, and sated, and perhaps even a little drunk on success. We had each caught multiple large trout, sight-fished, deep-lined, you name it. Both Becca and I set personal records for rainbow trout, although we didn’t try to quantify exactly how big each fish was. There aren’t many places in the world where you can stitch together so many fine experiences at once: fishing perfectly pure water that has rarely— perhaps never—seen a line, filled with trout that are all big beyond belief and happy to eat simple flies. As the Patagonian sun went down in flames over the rim of the lake, I brought my hands to my face and in-
haled deeply, smelling the smoke, the native sage grass, and most important, the remnants of every giant trout of the day. That is the finest smell of all. n Zach Matthews has contributed to many outdoor magazines, including our sister publication, American Angler. He’s also host of The Itinerant Angler podcast. This is his first appearance in Gray’s. When not fly fishing or hunting, he practices law in Atlanta.
If You Go
Travel to Lago Strobel from anywhere in the United States begins with a flight to Buenos Aires. Argentina has recently waived its old $300 entry fee, and fishing licenses are not required on the private estancia. Be mindful of your airports, however; Buenos Aires’ international airport at Ezeiza (EZE) is across town from its domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newberry (AEP). Allow at least three hours for cross-town transfers; better yet, spend a night in Buenos Aires and check out the tango scene and European-style
streets of the picturesque San Telmo neighborhood. Quality lodging is available in town for less than $75 per night, and the wine is terrific. From Buenos Aires, you will fly cross-country to El Calafate, one of the last sizable towns before the end of the line in Tierra del Fuego. Nearby glacier fields are popular tourist destinations, especially with non-anglers in tow. You can expect the Hilux transfer to Lago Strobel to take at least six hours, so bring snacks. The road to Lago Strobel Lodge passes by Estancia Laguna Verde Lodge, its sister operation. Trips that combine both lodges are under consideration, so if you want to experience all Lago Strobel has to offer, please inquire. The far side of Strobel is presently accessible through Hemispheres Unlimited (404-783-2114; hemi spheresunlimited.com), its American booking partner (operated by Justin Witt). Hemispheres has a strong understanding of Argentina, and any problems tend to go away quickly, which is an invaluable asset in any overseas operation.
May / June 2018 · 103
Al a s k a Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge PO Box 231985, Anchorage, AK 99523 (888)826-7376 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Strategically located on the Kvichak River in the heart of the Bristol Bay fishing paradise. This river is the only connection between Lake Iliamna and the ocean. Each year, millions of salmon use the Kvichak to travel to their spawning grounds. This provides an enormous food source for the native rainbow trout, which grow in excess of 20 lbs. Because of our location, we don’t need to spend countless hours flying to the fishing spots. www.fishasl.com Alaska Wilderness Outfitting Company PO Box 1516, Soldotna, AK 99574 (907)424-5552 Experience incredible fishing, remote wilderness, and some of Alaska’s most spectacular beauty. Guided and self-guided trips to the pristine waters of Prince William Sound,
the wild lakes and rivers of the Wrangell Mountains and the untamed wilderness of the North Gulf Coast. All trips are remote fly-in destinations that include fully outfitted self-guided trips in our one-of-akind outpost cabins and floating cabins as well as a full-service lodge on the Tsiu River. We accommodate groups of any size and offer discounts for large groups. www.alaskawilderness.com
We offer two different fly fishing adventure trips located in remote areas of the Alaska Peninsula. On the Pacific side is a sophisticated camp that offers extreme isolation, a unique coastal fishery, breathtaking scenery, day hike options, and helicopter fly-outs. On the Bristol Bay side is a no-frills camp offering an affordable option for die-hard fishermen after BIG fish in a small stream. www.epicaaa.com
Angler’s Paradise Lodge 4125 Aircraft Drive, Anchorage, AK 99502 (907)243-5448 E-mail: email@example.com Since 1950, we have offered the world’s finest freshwater sport fishing. All lodges have superb fishing within walking distance and are in close proximity to the finest salmon, rainbow, char, and grayling rivers in Alaska. www.katmailand.com
Great Alaska Adventure Lodge Kenai Peninsula, HC01 Box 218 Sterling, AK 99672 (800)544-2261 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit our world-class resort, featuring record-size Chinook, halibut, and rainbow trout. Deluxe lodge, fly outs, wilderness bear viewing, and fly fishing camps. We also offer fly fishing for IGFA record salmon (specifications upon request). Contact Laurence or Kent John. www.greatalaska.com
EPIC Angling & Adventure (512)656-2736
104 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
Stoney River Lodge PO Box 62, Sleetmute, AK 99668 (907)526-5211 E-mail: Stoneyriverlodge22@gmail.com Owned and operated by Curly and Betty Warren, Alaska Master Guide License #111. Built in 1984 as a prime base of operation for guided top quality hunting adventures. Grizzly, moose, sheep, caribou and black bear, as well as daily fly-out sport fishing adventures. Lodge offers custom designed trips. We cater to people that wish to enjoy rugged Alaska outdoor activities incorporated with a well-appointed full service lodge operated by 30 year plus Master Guide and experienced staff. www.stoneyriverlodge.com Tikchik Narrows Lodge (907)243-8450 E-mail: email@example.com World-class fly-in/fly-out sport fishing lodge hidden amid spectacular 1.5 millionacre wilderness park in pristine western Bristol Bay. Daily fly-out fishing for salmon, trout, char, grayling, and pike. Extraordinary service, accommodations, gourmet meals, and experienced guides. Owned and operated for nearly 30 years by Bud Hodson. www.tikchiklodge.com
Unalakleet River Lodge (800)995-1978 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Unalakleet River Lodge is a remote luxury fishing destination in the northwestern bush of Alaska. We have been sharing the natural beauty of the Unalakleet River and the surrounding Nulato Hills with our guests since 1998. We offer our clients Salmon fishing in the wilderness of Alaska with all the amenities and comforts of a full resort.The Unalakleet is recognized as a National Wild and Scenic River and is home to large runs of King Salmon, Chum Salmon, Pink Salmon, Silver or Coho Salmon, Dolly Varden, Arctic Char, and a native population of Arctic Grayling. The Unalakleet River offers 140 miles of prime Salmon fishing isolated from the pressures of road systems and fly out operations. www.unalakleet.com
A rge ntina Argentinaâ€™s Best Hunting (225)754-4368 E-mail: email@example.com The perfect blend between hunting, fishing, gourmet dining, and luxury accommodations. Look no further if your goal is to experience the best that Argentina has to offer, as we have a wide variety of species, lodges, and
regions at our fingertips. To learn more, visit www.argentinasbesthunting.com South Parana Outfitters (804)693-3774 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org World class wingshooting in a classic Argentine setting! Argentina, in comparison to other countries, has the advantage of having no restrictions when it comes to the hunting of doves, due to the threat that they represent to agriculture. However, Entre Rios is known for its prolific fauna, its great care for the environment, and its deep respect for the law. We can proudly say that conservation is at the foundation of our company. All of our guides are bilingual and it is their job to accompany you during the hunt and they will take into account your personalized tastes and interests. Duck hunting season goes from May through August. Dove is available for hunting all year long. Combination shoots and customized package shoots are available. www.southparanaoutfitters.com
Be lize Belize River Lodge (888)275-4843 E-mail: email@example.com Belize River Lodge rests quietly on the lush,
ARGENTINA GRAND SLAM WINGSHOOTING
May / June 2018 Âˇ 105
green banks of the Belize Olde River, only 3.5 miles from the mouth of the river—the entrance into the Caribbean Sea and classic Flats fishing, where anglers will pursue bonefish, tarpon, permit, and snook. This beautiful historic mahogany lodge is situated amidst an abundant tropical setting. Balmy breezes rich with the sound of bird song drift among the private cottages creating a naturalist’s paradise. Relax and delight in our Belizean hospitality and our delicious combination of fine Belizean-Creole cuisine. www.belizeriverlodge.com
B r i t i sh Co l u m b i a Legacy Lodge (877)347-4534 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Wonderfully remote yet easily accessible, Legacy Lodge offers a premier sport fishing experience found nowhere else in the world. In harmony with the natural environment and in a world all its own, here on the protected waters of Rivers Inlet, surrounded by the panoramic beauty of British Columbia, all the elements converge for epic battles with world class salmon and halibut. For couples and families, parties of friends to corporate groups, Legacy Lodge was made for those who yearn for the perfect fishing vacation. www.legacylodge.com
C alifornia Wing & Barrel Ranch (707)721-8845 E-mail: email@example.com. Escape to Sonoma, CA and enjoy a private hunting club just minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. Wing & Barrel Ranch brings together the best of the shooting, food, wine, and wine country lifestyle in an elegant setting. Here, legendary memories are made with menus inspired by the surrounding countryside, world-class wines, exceptional shooting opportunities, and incomparable hospitality. www.wingandbarrelranch.com.
C olorado GR Bar Ranch (800)523-6832 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Nestled along the Grand Mesas, just nine miles outside the town of Paonia, CO, this working cattle ranch has thousands of backcountry acres, trout lakes, miles of trails, and endless fishing and hunting opportunities on our private paradise. A vacation at our ranch is the trip of a lifetime. www.grbarranch.com Kessler Canyon 4410 CR 209, De Beque, CO 81630
Pineridge Grouse Camp, located in Northern Minnesota, offers, an all-inclusive grouse and woodcock hunting experience that will take you back to the days of old double guns, abundant wild birds in the trickiest of coverts over pointing dogs like Elhew Hampshire English Pointers. Call or email for more details about how Pineridge can make your upland hunt one that will last a lifetime.
Pineridge Grouse Camp. . . where memories are made every fall. . . that last a lifetime.
www.pineridgecamp.com 106 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
(970)283-1145 Combine 23,000 acres of pristine wilderness located on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies with one of the most magnificent hunting lodges in the country. Team that with the most elite hunting guides and dogs in the state pushing up pheasants, chukars, and Gambel’s quail in perfectly maintained bird cover—you could only find yourself at Kessler Canyon. Arguably the finest sportsman’s lodge and resort in Colorado, Kessler Canyon awaits the discerning sportsman who wants to experience the best of the best. www.kesslercanyon.com
Ge orgia Pine Hill Plantation 2537 Spring Creek Road Donalsonville, GA 39845 (229)758-2464 E-mail: email@example.com An Orvis-endorsed wingshooting lodge, we provide private plantation amenities and hunt quality to discriminating upland bird hunters who appreciate finer traditions of plantation-style quail hunting. Experience the best Georgia has to offer from horseback and mule-drawn wagon. Pine Hill’s lodges are arguably as nice as any private quail hunting plantation…you can trust Orvis on that! www.pinehillplantation.com
Spring Bank Plantation at Barnsley Resort 597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, GA 30103 (770)773-7480 Spring Bank Plantation keeps alive a long Southern tradition of managing and preserving our game and lands. We offer upland game hunting and one of the Southeast’s most extensive shooting clays facilities— over water, in open field and in the woods. Shooting guides ensure that all hunters— beginners and experts—fully enjoy their outing. Ladies and teens are particularly invited to experience our Southern shoot tradition at our luxury North Georgia quail hunting plantation, just an hour north of Atlanta. www.springbankplantation.com Wynfield Plantation 5030 Leary Road, Albany, GA, 31721 (229)889-0193 E-Mail: Annick@wynfieldplantation.com Orvis Wing Shooting Lodge of the Year in 2005 and has also been named among Garden & Gun magazine’s “Top Fifty People, Places, and Things in the South.” With private cabins, southern cuisine, and a sporting clays course, Wynfield’s accommodations have a unique charm. Located in the heart of quail country, Wynfield represents bobwhite hunting at its finest.
Few things in life are more exciting than your dog locked down on a covey that flushes high and fast when the time is right! Book your quail hunting experience of a lifetime at Wynfield Plantation. www.wynfieldplantation.com.
Idaho Flying B Ranch 2900 Lawyer Creek Road, Kamiah, ID 83536 (800)472-1945 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Located in beautiful north-central Idaho, we are an Orvis-endorsed wing shooting and fly fishing destination with a complete big-game program. Flying B Ranch offers adventures that bring back guests again and again. Open year-round with a full-time staff, the Flying B Ranch delivers consistent quality. Enjoy no-limit wingshooting from our spacious western log lodge, pack into the backcountry for a big-game hunt, or fish for everything from wild westslope cutthroat trout to giant B-run steelhead. It’s all here for you, your family, and friends. www.flyingbranch.com
Kans as Ravenwood Lodge (800)656-2454
E-mail: email@example.com Contact Kenneth Corbet for reservations. Ravenwood is a place where hunters can have it all. Located on the eastern edge of Kansas Flint Hills, Ravenwood offers great hunting grounds and a spectacular mix of hard-flying European driven pheasants, private guided field hunts, or plantation hunts for wily bobwhites, big cock roosters, prairie chicken, turkey, deer, or sporting clays. Open year-round, reservations required, established 1985. www.ravenwoodlodge.com
M aine Libby Camps PO Box 810, Ashland, ME 04732 (207)435-8274 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Orvis-endorsed wing shooting and fishing lodge. Lakeside log cabins, home cooked meals, master guides, and sea planes to access the four million acre private timberlands of the North Maine Woods. Daily fly-outs for trophy native brook trout and land-locked salmon (May-Sept) and for wingshooting in October. Hunting for grouse, woodcock, moose, deer, and bear in the “big woods.” Fifth-generation owners, since 1890. Orvis Fishing Lodge of the Year 2006-07. www.libbycamps.com
“Your Gateway to the North Maine Woods”
www.libbycamps.com / 207-435-8274 email@example.com
A and inspiring adventure awaits youyou A luxurious and inspiring adventure awaits you A luxurious luxurious and inspiring adventure awaits Discover the pinnacle of sport
Al Gadoury’s 6X Outfitters 406-600-1835
• Largest salmon run in the world
salmon run inrun theinworld • Largest salmon the world Discover the pinnacle of sport Discover the pinnacle of sport • Largest • Alaska’s designated trophy fishing in the heart of Alaska’s • Alaska’s designated trophy • Alaska’s designated trophy fishing in theinheart of Alaska’s fishing the heart of Alaska’s Rainbow Trout area world-renowned Bristol Bay area, Trout Trout area area Rainbow world-renowned Bristol Bay area, world-renowned Bristol Bay area, Rainbow • Fly outs throughout the pristine with unparalleled remote lodge • Fly outs throughout the pristine • Fly outs throughout the pristine wilderness withcomfort, unparalleled remote lodgelodge with unparalleled remote a dedicated wilderness wilderness • Katmai National Park comfort, a dedicated comfort, a dedicated professional staff, and a • Katmai National Parkbath • Katmai Park • Cabins withNational private professional staff, and aand a professional staff, commitment to providing • Cabins with private bath bath • Cabins with private • A staff dedicated towards commitment toAlaska providing commitment to providing spectacular experiences perfection • A staff towards • Adedicated staff dedicated towards spectacular experiences spectacular experiences each day.Alaska YouAlaska will fish clear perfection perfection eachstreams day. day. You will clear each Youfish will fish clear teeming with large rainbow Trout and massive streams teeming with largelarge streams teeming with salmon runs measured in rainbow Trout and massive rainbow Trout and massive visit www.fishasl.com the millions. salmon runs measured in in salmon runs measured or call us toll free at 888.826.7376 visit www.fishasl.com visit www.fishasl.com the millions. the millions. or callorus tollusfree 888.826.7376 call tollat free at 888.826.7376 May / June 2018 · 107
Mo n t a n a Al Gadoury’s 6X Outfitters Bozeman and Lewiston, MT (406)586-3806 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Since 1979, guided walk trips on private spring creeks, Yellowstone River floats, and private lakes. Upland bird hunts are based in Lewiston. All wild birds—sage and sharptail grouse, Hungarian partridge, pheasant, and turkey. www.6xoutfitters.com Gallatin River Lodge 9105 Thorpe Rd, Bozeman, MT 59718 (406)388-0148 Our resort is located on a quiet ranch on the Gallatin River west of Bozeman. We offer fly fishing guide service on the Madison, Yellowstone, and Missouri Rivers, plus many famous spring creeks nearby. Superb accommodations, exceptional dining, and conference facilities are available year-round. www.grlodge.com
New M e x i c o Land of Enchantment Guides (505)629-5688 or (505)927-5356 E-mail: email@example.com Offering single-day guided fly fishing trips and all inclusive, multi-day packages on
the best rivers, streams, lakes, and private ranches in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Excellent year-round fishing. Experienced guides welcome beginners and experts alike. Orvis-endorsed. www.loeflyfishing.com
Ne w Z e aland High Peak (643)318-6575 E-Mail: Simon@highpeak.co.nz Where great hunting stories begin. Exclusive New Zealand hunting experiences for discerning clientele seeking that rare combination of fine trophy, authentic stalk, and a personal approach. Set among the central South Island’s Southern Alps, the Guild family takes pride in hosting their clients individually on their private station in pursuit of famous Red Stag, Thar, Chamois, and Fallow Buck. www.highpeak.co.nz
North Dakota Dakota Hills Hunting Lodge HC56, Box 90, Oral, SD 57766 (605)424-2500 or (800)622-3603 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Contact Tom Lauing. We offer some of the finest world-class wingshooting available, with an abundance of pheasant, Hungar-
TROPHY ELK-DEER-BEAR Archery, Rifle, Muzzleloader Hunt thousands of acres from secluded cabins on our private hi-country ranch, directly bordering the Grand Mesa National Forest. Summer vacation: explore ranch & wilderness by horse and 4 wheel. Fish 7 trout-stocked lakes. Breathtaking scenery. Early Reservation Discounts
GR BAR RANCH, Paonia, CO www.grbarranch.com 800-523-6832 Gray’s Sporting Journal Subscriber Alert GRAY’S SPORTING JOURNAL does not authorize any telemarketing to our subscribers. Please do not give out personal information to anyone claiming to represent Gray’s Sporting Journal on the telephone. You may contact us toll free at:
If you receive a bill in the mail for a renewal and do not recognize the agency, or if you receive correspondence to Gray’s Sporting Journal that does not have our logo or web address and a return address in Palm Coast, FL please forward copies of the correspondence to:
Circulation, 735 Broad Street, Augusta, GA 30901
Gray’s Sporting Journal Visit www.grayssportingjournal.com for all your renewal and billing transactions. 108 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
ian partridge, chukar partridge, sharptail grouse, snipe, dove, and bobwhite quail. Allinclusive package includes first-class lodging along the Cheyenne River, all beverages, three Western-cuisine meals per day, open bar, ammunition, clays, license, 21-bird limit, processing, and airport pickup. www.dakhills.gwtc.net
S pain Hunt Trip Spain 011-34-931162001 E-mail: email@example.com A professional hunting company established by Francisco Rosich in 1986. Its exclusive purpose is hunting game trophies throughout Spain. Hunt Trip Spain has hunting concessions all over the country for the broad range of magnificent game animals available in Spain: 4 subspecies of Spanish Ibex (Beceite, Gredos, Southeastern & Ronda), Spanish Red Stag, Mouflon Sheep, Fallow Deer, Pyrenean and Cantabrian Chamois, Feral Goat, Wild Boar, Roe Deer and Barbary Sheep. Outstanding hunts for Red-Legged Partridges, driven or upland hunts are also available. HUNT TRIP SPAIN has served International hunters for more than 20 years. Come, let us transform your visit to Spain into an unforgettable adventure. www.hunttripspain.com
Harry Murray’s Fly Fishing Schools
1 - the Daystream Smallmouth Schools from June “On schools”Bass for smallmouth bass on the to August ($196 per person). 1/2 - Day Fly Fishing Shenandoah River (2 days-$295) Lessons from June to September ($98 per person). Mountain Trout Schools in the Shenandoah National Park Mountain(2Trout Schools in the days-$295) Shenandoah National Park (1 day @ $196). All tackle provided free • Twenty separate schools All tackle provided free. Twenty separate schools.
Free catalog for schools and fly shop
More information at www.murraysflyshop.com.
P.O. Box 156 • 121 Main St. P.O. Box 156 • 121 Main St. Edinburg, VA 22824 Edinburg, VA 22824 Phone: phone:540-984-4212 540-984-4212 • e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail: email@example.com www.murraysflyshop.com www.murraysflyshop.com
PRINT SUBSCRIBERS Add Digital for Only $1!
See “subscriber services” at www.grayssportingjournal.com for additional details. The finest in sporting fare, from field to tablet. Visit www.grayssportingjournal.com for details.
Apple and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. iPad is a trademark of Apple Inc.
Ut a h Falcon’s Ledge (435)454-3737 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org One of the great western fly-fishing and wingshooting lodges. Cast to trophy trout on clear tail-waters, mountain freestone streams, private stillwaters, and enjoy a day floating the famous Green or Provo Rivers. Secure, pristine, and unpressured. Non-fishing spouses stay free! Honored as the 2012 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge of the Year! www.falconsledge.com
Vi r g in i a Chincoteague Hunting & Fishing Center (888)231-4868 Virginia’s Eastern Shore has one of the largest, most diverse populations of waterfowl in North America. Hunt puddlers, divers, sea ducks, mergansers, Atlantic brant, Canada, and snow geese all in the same day with over a 30-bird limit. We also offer rail hunting in September and October. www.duckguide.com Murray’s Fly Shop PO Box 156, 121 Main Streeet Edinburg, VA 22824
(540)984-4212 E-mail: email@example.com Located in the Shenandoah Valley, 90 miles west of Washington, DC. Over 300 rods by Scott, Winston, Orvis, and St. Croix. More than 50,000 flies in stock. Harry Murray conducts 20 fly fishing schools for trout and bass. Complete guide services. Free mailorder catalog. www.murraysflyshop.com Primland 2000 Busted Rock Road Meadows of Dan, VA 24120 (866)960-7746 Join us for a rare opportunity to visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and experience driven pheasant shoots comparable to the best in the U.K. From pegs in a deep valley you’ll aim your double gun at the wild flurry of game birds as they appear from the towering ridges above. Upland birds is also a signature activity with spacious grounds and hard-flushing birds. Primland is the ultimate retreat for world-class golf, refined dining and outdoor activities in an environment of rare natural beauty. www.primland.com
Y ukon T e rritory Tincup Wilderness Lodge (604)484- 4418 or +41 43 455 0101 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Situated on the shores of Tincup Lake close to the Kluane National Park in Canada’s Yukon Territory, surrounded by mile up upon mile of unspoiled natural landscape, Tincup Wilderness Lodge enjoys a truly unique location. The surrounding Ruby Range provides views of breathtaking beauty from dawn to dusk. The Lodge can be reached only by floatplane. In order to ensure our undisturbed privacy in a family environment, we limit bookings to a maximum of 8-10 guests per week. This level of occupancy also enables us to welcome groups, giving all members plenty of scope to pursue their various interests and activities. www.tincup-lodge.com
NOTICE The outfitters, guides, lodges and plantations listed here are advertisers in Gray’s. The copy is provided by the advertiser, and Gray’s makes no claim as to the value of the services provided by any advertiser. When hiring an outfitter or guide, shop with care, and check references before making a financial commitment.
May / June 2018 · 109
Artful Necessities by Christopher Camuto
ICH FISHING and hunting traditions are a variety of creative impulses and, in some cases, the steeped in craft, and practiced over decades and cenpossibility of earning a few extra bucks, local call turies, craft becomes art. Calls and decoys, boats and makers from Jonesboro, Pine Bluff, Stuttgart, Deblinds, flies and lures—they all remain the same at witt, and elsewhere poured their ingenuity into calls heart but change as time goes on, subtle markers of that cupped the wings and dropped the tail feathers local history. So it is with duck calls in Arkansas. In of thousands of ducks. Calling the Wild (Susan Schadt Press, hardAmong the priceless early work (1890 to 1940) bound, 397 pages, $80), native Arkansan and pasyou’ll find the intricately carved calls of J. T. Becksionate duck hunter Mike Lewis “set out to gather hart, “father of the Big Lake style checkered duck and preserve as many stories of the old-time makers call,” the unadorned calls of E. A. Faifer, Ira Green as I could. Along the way, I tried to acquire at least Ferguson’s “silver dollar” collared calls, as well as John one call from virtually every person that ever made Jolly’s stunning folk art work, Ed St. Mary’s finely a call in Arkansas.” Tall order, given that Arkansans checked pieces, and Pop Pickle’s imaginative designs. like to call their ducks just so. Subtitled The History These and other craftsmen brought the idea of duck of Arkansas Duck Calls: A Legacy of Craftsmanship and calls to life on Arkansas’s fabled waters during the Rich Hunting Tradition, Lewis’s “golden age” of waterfowling text preserves “the stories of the there—1870 to 1915. Each of more than 125-year-old tradithese call makers tinkered with tion of call making in Arkansas” the secrets of their reeds, tunwhile Lisa Buser’s photographs ing their cedar, walnut, and bois capture the beauty of several d’arc barrels to the sounds—the Cynthia Byrd, hundred calls from nearly 60 harsh highs and mellow lows— in Birds of a Feather carvers. they knew from many a damp, Text and photos reach back foggy morning brought ducks to the work of call makers who came of age in the out of the sky. late 19th and early 20th centuries when there were Lewis’s engaging profiles and Buser’s brilliant enough ducks pouring into the lakes, bayous, and river photographs also cover the prolific period from bends of Arkansas to service market gunners, local 1940 to 1970, when duck calls took on more polhunters, and out-of-town sports. As Lewis notes, ish and carvers pushed their artfulness with wood “The New Madrid earthquakes of 1811–1812 creand their ingenuity with reeds. This is the period ated Big Lake and the sunken lands of St. Francis of Claude Amaden’s Hambone calls, Marvin Bell’s County, greatly benefiting the habitat for waterfowl. brass-collared beauties, Andrew Bowles’s deeply The railroad boom later led to branches extending sculpted designs, Tom Fricke’s distinctive brassinto the swampland in order to haul timber from pinned “Sun-Up” calls and Chick Major’s familiar the great swaths of hardwood. Along with the railDixie Duck calls. Some call makers were artists; roads came the sportsmen and hunters.” Nudged by some were businessmen. Some slipped from job to job
Hunters and carvers are found where the birds are. . . .
110 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
and town to town; others made a name for themselves with well-marketed brands. Finally, the ongoing life of this great, unsung tradition is represented by the period of 1970 to 2017, decades full of innovation with material and design but with full awareness of the roots of Arkansas call making. The stories recounted and the calls illustrated in this fine volume make it clear that the rural American lives of these craftsmen were as varied the styles of their calls and the set of their reeds. Lewis and Buser have brought colorful, talented lives to light and revealed a hidden corner of Americana— the brilliant folk art of duck call making in Arkansas.
o one has to be sold on the beauty of waterfowl and shorebird decoys, another hunting artform evolved out of practical necessity. And while the practice of luring ducks and geese within range is ancient, the more recent history of collecting decoys as art objects has its roots in the 20th century. Birds of a Feather: Wildfowl Decoys at Shelburne Museum (Skira Rizzoli, hardbound, 176 pages, $65) gives a rich account of the collecting life of Joel David Barber (1876–1952), a “pioneering collector of wildfowl decoys” whose life’s work in the field is now housed at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. Barber was a well-educated, well-traveled, and highly successful New York architect who did not hunt. His passion for decoys was aesthetic. Kory Rogers, curator of the Shelburne, recounts the enviable moment in 1918 when Barber “discovered a longforgotten pile of old decoys in a backyard shed on Long Island’s south shore . . . bird species typical of the region, including brants, broadbills, black ducks, whistlers, and sheldrakes.” Barber recognized the best of the decoys as “American folk sculpture.” One sheldrake in particular caught his eye: “In the process of handling and dusting, the painted plumage had acquired a sort of polish, and somehow with the passage of time had taken on the air of a curio.’” That began a 38-year quest to acquire the finest examples of decoy carving on the East Coast, using both a network of contacts and his “method” of poking around shoreside outbuildings for discarded treasures. By the 1930s, Fortune magazine had taken notice of how Barber had extended the idea of collecting Americana to decoys. As Rogers notes, “Barber was single-handedly responsible for altering the public’s perception of de-
coys from utilitarian lures to collectible works of art” culminating with the publication of his seminal 1934 Wild Fowl Decoys. The photographic illustration of Barber’s harvest is magnificent. Turn the pages on some 19thcentury beauties like William Corbin’s black duck, John Blair Sr.’s pintail drake, Gus Wilson’s surf scoter drake, Nathan Cobb Jr.’s bluebill, and Albert Davids Laing’s broadbill drake sleeper, Obediah Verity’s black duck sleeper, among others that illustrate the functional elegance of the era’s blocks. Barber’s early-20th-century pieces include a George Bacon bluebill, Shang Wheeler mallards, and a turn-of-the-century Mason black duck. There are generous selections of shorebird decoys, a section on geese and brant, as well as selections of confidence birds. The good taste and discernment, as well as the hard work and good luck of Barber’s collecting are all here. In addition to Kory Rogers’s fine introduction, Cynthia Byrd contributes a valuable historical overview of decoys and Nancie Ravenel offers a revealing look at decoy construction.
y the time the Victorian era got through with them, the ornate design of salmon flies had left necessity far behind, the art of them having overwhelmed the craft of enticing spawning salmon to the fly. Kevin Erickson’s Feather Craft: The Amazing Birds and Feathers Used in Classic Salmon Flies (Stackpole, hardbound, 272 pages, $49.95) explores both the natural history of exotic birds and the use of their feathers in salmon flies. Erickson takes a close look at how certain feathers used in tying are related to the ornate plumage of tropical birds—striking creatures like the African emerald cuckoo, the blue-eared pheasant of Western China, South America’s cock-of-the-rock, India’s jungle cock, and the Impeyan pheasant of the Himalayas, and other now-protected species. Half the book is dedicated to well-illustrated tying instructions for 16 classic salmon flies, using substitute materials where necessary. The upshot is an unusual and successful blend of natural history and fly tying craft. n The author of several books and a longtime columnist for Trout, Chris lives and writes in central Pennsylvania, where he is busy turning dead ash trees to firewood. May / June 2018 · 111
Fishing All Night for Matt Labash by Timothy Murphy
My puppy chewed the ferrules off my rod, then strewed my flies and hooks over the yard, and by the grace of God made it into my books. Long time since I climbed mountains to go fishing, hiking so near the sky, but in my dreams I often wander, wishing a trout would hit my fly and tear line from a trekker’s rod and reel. Scooped in my little net and nestled in a woven wicker creel those dreams lie with me yet.
Among Murphy’s many poetry books are Hunter’s Log (Dakota Institute Press, 2011) and Hunter’s Log, Volumes II and III (North Dakota State University Press, 2018). Each volume is illustrated by the incomparable Eldridge Hardie. 112 · Gray’s Sporting Journal · www.grayssportingjournal.com
Working the Current – Alaska Rainbow, an original oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches, by Mark Behmer.
Back Cover: Fisherman in a Stream, an original oil on canvas, 20 x 11 inches, by W. Herbert Dunton (1878-1936). Courtesy of The Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, Hayden, Idaho.
Gray's Sporting Journal is the original chronicle of fine sporting literature, art, photography, and travel. Since 1975, when Ed and Rebecca...
Published on May 17, 2018
Gray's Sporting Journal is the original chronicle of fine sporting literature, art, photography, and travel. Since 1975, when Ed and Rebecca...