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Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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As we’ve turned the calendar to 2017 and my 50th birthday approaches in the next couple of days, I got to thinking. I reflected on the pleasure fly fishing has provided in my live and how little time there is left in front of me for the sport I truly love.

Nobody in my family fished but I somehow picked up the sport when I was just 10 years old. When out of school, I could be found fishing almost every single day. My trusty Zebco was never far away. When I turned 14, a buddy from school took me along to his family’s cabin on White Deer Creek. I was handed a fly rod and had no idea what it was or how to use it. I watched my buddy ‘fling’ it around so I copied what he did. I spent the majority of the day fishing and had no idea my fly had snapped off on the 2nd or 3rd cast. I still found the fun and challenge in trying to make a cast go where I was looking.

Since I worked at my grandmother’s restaurant washing dishes, I saved my pennies to buy my first fly rod. I believe it was an Eagle Claw glass rod that cost $15. I paired it with a Martin reel and a level line. I spent that entire summer casting it in my backyard and wore out 2 lines. I learned to make the line go where I wanted, could curve it, could shoot it under the tree in the backyard and could whip my brother in the back of his legs at will. LOL.
That Christmas I asked for a fly tying kit which my father got me. I then signed up for free tying classes from Bob and Bobby Clouser at the fire hall. I finished up knowing how to tie a mean muskrat nymph, wooly bugger and a Clouser Crayfish. Since I was too young to drive (and my parents hated each other), my dad started to run me to the Breeches, Big Spring, Indiantown Run, Spring Creek, Big Fishing and other streams. He’d just enjoy the peaceful surroundings and watch. On my very first ‘real’ fly fishing adventure, I managed to land 6 rainbows. I was hooked.

I then started to drive and was able to take my beautiful 1974 AMC Hornet and head out on my own. I became a junkie for the ditch over at Big Spring. Guys with $3000 of Orvis gear and bamboo rods were crawling all over the place. I’d sit back, observe the fishermen and the fish. Once they’d move, I’d take their place…..the kid wearing high tops, Jams shorts and carrying his flies in an old Mazola margarine container. I’d then catch fish after fish which I found very satisfying and hilarious. I had a fishing log where I’d record all conditions and the amount of fish caught. Once I was driving, I became a real shop rat at Clouser’s where Bob would teach me new knots, how to tie flies and share fishing stories. He’s one hell of a nice guy and I’ll never be able to thank him enough for all of the positive influence. One time I challenged Bob to a little competition on Clarks Creek and he took me up on it. He smiled, giggled and loved every fish on his way to humiliating me but never rubbed it in. I though 26 fish was pretty handy but we stopped counting his fish at 70 and he probably exceeded 100 for the day.

After a few years of going whenever and wherever, I went into the service. Once getting back from the service, I worked at a huge private fish hatchery, oversaw an experimental Coho program and became friends with one of the business owners, Jack Kiley. Jack was a former (and pretty famous) golf pro from the West Chester NY area. This is where my golf addiction started. I ended up going to the Catskills with Jack and we stayed at his cabin. We would play 9 holes of golf in the morning and then head out to fish the Hendrickson hatch around lunchtime. This was my first real exposure / knowledge of fishing during a specific insect hatch. I was amazed at the insect life and by the number of fish up feeding on the bugs. The size of the stream and strength of the fish was beyond anything this PA boy had experienced. New addiction found!

For years, I’d make my spring trip up to chase the Blue Quills and Hendricksons. I became pretty handy at developing my own specific patterns for this river, catching lots of fish a somehow escaping death while wading foolishly. One day while fishing Barnhart’s Pool, I heard a cough behind me and stopped my backcast. I turned to see to gentlemen sitting on a log behind me watching. I recognized Art Lee from the multiple FlyFisherman Magazine covers. “Keep fishing. We are just watching you cast.” said Art. I was embarrassed, could barely reach the fish and insisted that they have a go at the fish. Art waved me over, reworked my leader, put on a fly and sent me back out. I did catch the fish and had a few pics taken with him. I ended up planting the magnolia beside his driveway and lost 2 jobs one spring due to spending 3 days a week with Art learning the Beaverkill and East Branch. Galen Mercer (Art’s buddy and painter) joined in often and that guy could throw an entire line on the old Orvis 1wt. They both could really fish.

I expanded by Catskill fishing to try new waters little by little while still meeting Jack for the Hendricksons. I continued to learn more and more about different hatches, timing of hatches, casting and techniques specific to the area. Once the trout freestones became too warm to fish, I’d turn to the target smallmouth in the Susquehanna or creep around on the limestoners.

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some very nice people through fly fishing and was surrounded by beautiful scenery most of the time. I’ve started others into a sport that they’ve really come to love. Having others share techniques, flies or their ‘home waters’ with you and being able to return the favor. Although I haven’t caught everything on a fly, I’ve have taken steelhead, trout, bass, stripers, panfish, catfish and carp on flies. Over the years, I’ve seen many posts referring to strippers on the fly but I’ve never gotten that lucky. My biggest accomplishment was getting my nephews into fishing and they are true addicts. Believe that I’ve always been very open to helping out those just getting started in fly fishing. My willingness to help newbies has got to be a direct result of others being so kind and helping me get started.

Now to face the facts…… It’s likely that age / health will end my fly fishing (as I know it) in the next 20 years or so. Poor weather conditions and abnormal flows often kill hatches. This means that I’ll see a great Blue Quill, Hendrickson, March Brown, Drake or Grey Fox once every 5-10 years when all conditions fall perfectly into place. Mix in the possibility of a fish kill or health issues and I may only get a few really good days over the next 20 years. I realize that and don’t take any of my time on the water with friends for granted. It’s all stored in the memory for when I’m not able to do it anymore.

Anyone else taken a really good look at their fly fishing past and what the future may or may not hold for them?

Posted on: 2017/1/4 14:32


Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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2011/5/3 12:22
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Great post kray. As much as life does its best to get in the way, days fishing with friends are the best. We all should get more of them than we do.


Posted on: 2017/1/4 15:07


Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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You lost me at margarine. I only use real butter.

Happy Birthday!

Posted on: 2017/1/4 15:30
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Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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2009/2/10 16:30
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My grandfather had to stop wading at 87 and fishing at 98. Died a few months short of 100. You may well have more years than you think.

Posted on: 2017/1/4 15:54


Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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"Anyone else taken a really good look at their fly fishing past and what the future may or may not hold for them? "
constantly----
unquestionably made my life livable-one of those types that needed an escape from the boring realities of everyday and unavoidable losses of loved ones.
well,truth be known I built my life around flyfishing--anyone thinking about loading the wagons and heading westward-do it..

Posted on: 2017/1/4 16:16
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Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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2011/9/13 11:13
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When Bill Hayes (one of my best friends ever) died about 3 years ago out of nowhere, I pretty much realized that, at our best, we are just high riding fish hoping to avoid a heron or osprey. At our worst, we sulk in the deep in the hope of avoiding detection and thus also avoid any risk (read: life). It took me 2 years just to start fly fishing for stripers again, because for 15 years, saltwater fishing meant fishing with Bill. Before that, I never thought about Death. After that, and the too-early death of my father-in-law, Death seems to have a place in almost everything I do. Might as well just fish.

Posted on: 2017/1/4 16:44


Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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2015/6/1 16:22
From Burke VA
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Great post, my father who taught me to fly fish is in his late 70s, he still goes out with me every now and then. Don't fish alot of water, we stay at one spot in the stream, but I cherish every opportunity I get to fish with him. I use to take great pride in my ability to move through the water quickly and get to spots others could not, being 6'4" helps. However, I don't move like I used to but that's okay, I'm not in as much of a hurry now.

Posted on: 2017/1/4 17:02


Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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2009/10/15 12:02
From Dispositionally, one mile south of Lake LeBoeuf
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Well, you know what they say... "50 is the new 37 1/2..."

Keep a blood pressure cuff and a set of paddles handy, but I think (knock on wood, etc.) you've got a ways to go yet before you reach the hill top where you can see the sunset.

Beware gingivitis though, its systemic and can start all the dominos tumbling...

Umm, can I have your boat?

Nice thoughtful essay...:)

Posted on: 2017/1/4 17:26


Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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I fish a couple times a year with a guy in his eighties. He wades slowly and uses a wading staff and makes short casts and almost always catches more than me. He has taught me a lot over the years. More than once he has stepped in after I could not catch a fish and he has caught it. He is a great tier too. He was doing things 30 years ago that some of the so called professional young hot shots today think they invented.

When I hit 50 I really started feeling different (worse). Aches and pains galore. Probably arthritis. I'm 58 now. I go slower but am enjoying everything more. Had my best season this past yr. Still learning. I still have the same fire I had when I started this game. Probably more actually.

Posted on: 2017/1/4 17:36
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Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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2009/5/26 8:36
From York & Starlight, PA
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Hello Andy,

Quote:
I reflected on the pleasure fly fishing has provided in my live and how little time there is left in front of me for the sport I truly love.


Great story about how you got interested in fishing. My interest started during my 12th summer. Lucky for me my Dad had fished as a youth in Lopez, PA and took me to many local lakes and streams in NJ until I was old enough to drive. When I was 17 I took up fly fishing in earnest (but still reverted to worms once in awhile) My Dad made the switch to fly fishing at the same time and we fished the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, and the Delaware for about thirty-nine years together. He wade fished until he was 83.

Relax my friend! I've got 23 years on you and fished at least 100 days in 2016. I fish at least three days a week from late April to the end of June for trout. Then two weeks on the Missouri in Montana. After that I fish the Delaware one week and the Susquehanna the next week until late September. In early October I start fishing for steelhead and continue chasing smallmouth until early November. I wind up steelhead around Thanksgiving.

From December to February I do all my tying for the coming year. I knock about 500 flies every winter for trout in PA, NY, and MT. Then tie steelhead stuff and more Clousers.

I do feel I'm slowing down some and can't walk as fast as I used to and surely use a lot more caution in my wading. I used to charge across rivers and do a lot of risky stuff. I fell in more times than I like to admit and about half a dozen of those times it was only through God's grace that I didn't drown. Now I won't wade without my staff.

I have two kayaks but am afraid to use them because it takes some dexterity to get in, and out, of them in moving water and I'm always thinking I'm going to fall in when getting out. But I still use my pontoon boats and my Hyde on the Delaware and the bass boat on the Susquehanna. The Susky has really good ramps and there is almost always enough water to let the heavy boat slip right off the trailer with just the lightest push. On the other hand I've been having issues with getting the Hyde off the trailer and back on at the end of the day when the river gets low at two of my put in's and take-outs. I figure that when it gets too hard for me to man handle the boat off and on the trailer I hope I can find some youngster about 50 to help me with the boat and row for me.

Of course our health is a big issue and we never know when it may hinder our love of fly fishing. Back in 1993/1994 I had my bout with cancer and had three surgeries and four months of chemotherapy so I'm hoping those ill health days are over. If I can make a suggestion it would be to retire as soon as you are financially able to do so. I retired when I was 61. It has been a great 12 years and I'm thinking, based on my current health, that I'll probably get another 8 good years of wading and who knows how many more in the Hyde??? Hopefully a bunch!

So don't count yourself out of the game too soon my friend as you have plenty of casts to still make God willing.

Matt

Posted on: 2017/1/4 18:15
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Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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Quote:



Relax my friend! I've got 23 years on you and fished at least 100 days in 2016. I fish at least three days a week from late April to the end of June for trout. Then two weeks on the Missouri in Montana. After that I fish the Delaware one week and the Susquehanna the next week until late September. In early October I start fishing for steelhead and continue chasing smallmouth until early November. I wind up steelhead around Thanksgiving.


Matt


Matt you're living the dream!

Posted on: 2017/1/4 18:29


Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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2006/9/20 21:44
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I turned 65 today. I walked 7 miles on the local rail trail this morning, as I do several times a week. I'm gonna fish like hell until I can't.

Posted on: 2017/1/4 18:59


Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality
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Quote:

ryansheehan wrote:
Quote:



Relax my friend! I've got 23 years on you and fished at least 100 days in 2016. I fish at least three days a week from late April to the end of June for trout. Then two weeks on the Missouri in Montana. After that I fish the Delaware one week and the Susquehanna the next week until late September. In early October I start fishing for steelhead and continue chasing smallmouth until early November. I wind up steelhead around Thanksgiving.


Matt


Matt you're living the dream!


Indeed!

You're an inspiration Matt - here's wishing you 23 more years and hopefully we can all follow your example.

Posted on: 2017/1/4 19:02


Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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2009/5/26 8:36
From York & Starlight, PA
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Dave & Ryan,

Thanks for the kind wishes! I fished today at the Tully, didn't touch a fish. Flow was up around 350 cfs. I know I wasn't getting a good drift with the nymphs but it was a pretty nice day to be out. Another two decades would be awesome!

I'm fortunate to have a wonderful wife who is okay with my frequent forays for trout, steelhead, and smallmouth.

I can still throw 60' with just two back casts when pitching Clousers. I really like the Wulff Triangle Taper line for throwing far with a minimum of false casts. I pick up the line and fly when there is at least 20' still in the flow. I lengthen the cast on the back stroke and bring it forward and let it plop down in the river maybe 35' - 40' out. Then pick the whole shebang up and make a single haul back cast and shoot another 20' on the forward haul. It's not pretty, but it is effective. Who wants to be false casting a big old Clouser back and forth?


Posted on: 2017/1/4 20:34
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Re: Fisherman mortality.....not fish mortality

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This is awesome. I got my first fly rod from my godfather when i was 14. Just flung it around all summer catching sunnies in a local pond. Until he taught me to cast, and then i was catching sunnies 50' out in front of me. When i was 15, a vacation to Mountain Springs Lake in Reeders Pa started my fly fishing career. Being from Long Island, trout fishing just plain sucks. On that vacation we were in Dunklebergers in Stroudsburg and I asked the guy behind the counter where i could catch trout. It was the dead of summer and he said basically nowhere right now. I was pretty bummed out looking at the wall of all these expensive Orvis items id never be able to afford, and a kind man walked over to me and asked me if I would be fly fishing. It was Ben Turpin. He had told me immediately where I would be able to catch trout that day. Unfortunately I didnt catch any but was able to get his number. For my 16th birthday my parents booked a trip with Ben. In two days of fishing with him, i was able to land over 50 fish. From those two days on, I know I was hooked. Over the years I booked trips with Ben from Allentown up to the Delaware, and everywhere in between. Eventually I didnt need to fish with Ben anymore because I knew what to use and knew the waters pretty well. I can now row a driftboat, fish anywhere in eastern pa, and catch fish successfully on the Delaware. I am 22 now and hope my next 50 years of fly fishing will continue to be what it is today. I have met some great people fly fishing and have had some really cool experiences with the outdoors, and the nature itself. Great post Andy. This is the best post I've read in a while.

Posted on: 2017/1/5 3:20
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