Art Lee – farewell to another muse

WP_20180809_09_37_35_Pro I did it when Lesley Crawford died, so it’s only fair I give a mention to Art Lee, whose death two weeks ago would have otherwise passed me by.

A fact of working life when you’re a writer who happens to fish, rather than a fisherman who happens to write, is that you must ride on the shoulders of giants when attempting to breathe fresh life into instructional topics already covered countless times in your magazine’s 40-year existence.

While Crawford paved my way into the Features Editor role at Trout Fisherman with her Trout Talk dictionary, which explained all the technical stuff I didn’t already know, 12 years ago, Lee was one of several American writers I kept going to back to in search of an international slant on certain flyfishing techniques, with a view to adapting them for a UK audience. His book Lore of Trout Fishing quickly took its place in the Dream Team of books promoted from the TF bookcase to a permanent place on my desk, for ready access.

In a tribute that’s hard to imagine being echoed for any angling luminary this side of the Atlantic, he was given an expansive obituary in the New York Times, from which it is gratifying to learn that piscatorial nit-picking is not an exclusively British trait…

“…the protagonist of the book, Tying and Fishing the Riffling Hitch, is not even a fully formed knot, but a technique of adding an extra couple of loops, or ‘hitches’, before cinching a knot tight.

“The hitches go behind the eye of a standard hook or through the thin plastic tubes that make some salmon flies resemble minnows. If tied just right, they make the fly ‘riffle’, or skitter along the water’s surface, leaving a V-shaped wake that taunts salmon into striking.

‘You should have seen the angry letters [Lee] got about that,’ Mr. Mercer said.

“Some anglers, he explained, felt that Mr. Lee had contradicted Lee Wulff, an earlier revered Catskills angler, who made the riffling hitch famous but tied it on the other side.”

Like hell, though, am I leaving you with that slice of navel-gazing as possibly your only taste of Art Lee, for the man who could base an entire book around a single knot, was also capable of these closing lines in Lore of Trout Fishing

“…a part of me was tempted to take more, to keep taking for no more complicated reason than the little trout were so easy to take. But there was another part of me, the part, I’m sure that could hear a chain saw working a ways off yet, perhaps beyond the next ridge, that could recall the whine of our outboard motors on the big pond, remember the honking of horns in Manhattan, the clatter of factories in the heartland, the hollow cries from men in despair, pleading , ‘No, no more,’ and so instead I had rested my rod against a tuft of grass growing from a lump of black turf and had set about cleaning the three trout quickly and neatly and certainly lovingly. Now they were almost ready, swelling and glistening with butter, to flake in my fingers; the firm golden meat I would lift to my mouth to savor and swallow, to make part of me forever, there where the stream bulged about halfway up the meadow around the bend above the head of the small pond, in Maine, at the center of solitude.”

Fish, bikinis and Southern discomfort

scof-shen-369x480Nice piece of journalism in the latest Southern Comfort on the Fly (page 100) even if the pictures make uncomfortable viewing, particularly when you’re in an office like this particular reader, surrounded by numerous other angling journalists, all of whom now think I need help.

David Grossman – oh, the irony! – has gone straight for the shock jugular in ensuring he’s heard on the growing number of catch shots online involving young women in swimsuits. Some of the words are NSFW and I’m assuming the call on the confederate flag bikini was made before last weekend’s goings-on in Charlottesville, but his point is heartfelt and articulately argued.

“I’m not saying it’s wrong to appreciate the female form or take a wild ride on the interwebs for spankable material. But that’s called Pornhub, not Instagram. For the women out there who really fish, who like many men have devoted their lives and careers to our quirky pursuit, it kinda sucks to be reduced to likes on social media when professional fly fishing opportunities arise. Sponsorship deals, ambassador programs and advertising seem to be leaning towards likeability over substance, and the women who aren’t willing to fish a flat in a g-string for the sole reason of revving our tiny lizard brains are being left out.”

Occasionally, this frontier presents itself when I’m considering re-blogs to the Trout Fisherman tumblr page, but I guess I’ll just carry on applying the same acid test. If I suspect that the fish and its procurement were not the principal drivers behind the image in question, it won’t make the cut.

Disregarding all photos of women anglers not clad in unisex waders and fleeces, after all, feels like it would be a different kind of unfairness.

Kayak mag gets to the bottom of it

KayakIt’s a purely abstract exercise at my age but just as I’m intrigued by the idea of snowboarding yet underwhelmed by skiing, so I’m beginning to warm to the kayaking concept when boat fishing generally leaves me cold.

A minimalist thing, perhaps; ski-sticks and engines scratched from the equation, but whatever it is, I respond to kayaking in a way I never have to watching a grown man yank repeatedly on a starter cord.

That musing aside, I refer you to the latest Kayak Bass Fishing Magazine in the hope that the article on  page 60 may have some crossover benefits for those of you in long-term relationships with a boat seat. If not, well, I’ve had less-welcome extensions to my vocabulary than ‘kayak butt’. Hopefully, you have too.

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60 BOOKS EVERY OUTDOORSMAN SHOULD READ

The headline is from Field & Stream. The books, you’ll have to read for yourself but as for their titles, none come better than this. Click image for more details

what-did-i-just-eat-bill-heavey

I don’t know what it is about American publishers, but for covers, paper quality and titles, their books scream “read me” in a way rarely emulated by their UK counterparts. This is just the latest example. Would make me smile every time I saw it.

Trout Fisherman now available on iPad

Trout Fisherman issue 438 iPad version is on on sale now.

Visit the Apps store to get yours for only £2.99. Plus see free sample version that gives you a taste of what you can expect.

There are fly tying videos in issue 438, as well as extra gallery pictures and drop down scroll text with extra fishing tactics.

More sample pages here.

It’s a brave new world for us,so all but the most gratuitous abuse and criticism will be gratefully received.

Is that Theodore Gordon book really yours…?

I had the pleasure of Len Hird’s company when fishing in County Durham a fortnight ago. Sadly, the Bishop Auckland & District Angling Club chairman is not an entirely happy soul.

Seems he has made the fatal error which genuine book lovers make only once – lent one of his prized fishing volumes without making a note of the recipient – to someone who is either a very slow reader or else has overlooked the purely temporary basis of the transaction.

Len is now without his book and, more pertinently, without the faintest recollection whom it was benefited from his kindness. The culprit should be in no doubt, however: this particular gap on the Hird bookshelf has begun to rankle greatly.

After promising to try and jog some memories via social media, in fact, it occurs to me that Len’s case is perhaps best made by the distinguished actor, Mr Liam Neeson in the following clip. Replace the words “my daughter” with “The Complete Fly Fisherman – the notes and letters of Theodore Gordon” and you have a fair warning as to Len’s current frame of mind where his pride and joy are concerned.

And don’t even think about being as lippy as the guy on the other end of the line…