Pulp Fly #1, Reviewed

Pulp Fly Logo

Well, I promised you a review of the inaugural edition of Pulp Fly, and, lo and behold, it appeared on my iPad a few hours ago. I managed to put it down through one long couch session this morning.

It’s good. If you’re here reading this, you should buy it. For a few reasons. One, it’d reward the hard work of the many contributors, if only in beer money. We’re not talking Louis C.K.-next-generation-content-economics here, but if everyone makes out well enough for a nice dinner (or a good bottle of bourbon) it’s a success.

Second, a win in this first effort would compel everybody to put time and energy for another few trips. The Pulp Fly concept, if I have understood it correctly, is to foster the same sort writer-friendly environment the original pulp magazines did, but for a fishing audience. While lots of magazines like that eventually published work by dozens of amazing authors, they didn’t start that way; the writers were the product of the framework which allowed them to dash off quick work and get paid for it. So drop your $4.95 and get on with it. “I don’t have a Kindle” isn’t an excuse. Any computer or smartphone can play that content, same with most tablets.

As to the stories, they’re up and down. Mostly decent. A few standouts. I tended to like the ones looking forward, or at least at the present, better than the ones that looked back. Anachronism is a disease in our sport. It hangs like a knotty priest, awkward and ugly. Heritage and tradition and sentimentalism prevent us from putting it away and making new, contemporary paths.

Field & Stream‘s editor, Kirk Deeter, introduced the collection, and wrote “there are many fly fishers who write, and a scant few writers who fly fish.” Leaving aside the titans of literature who have cast along shadow and force a lot of fishing fiction into cliched territory just because they’ve done the same thing much, muc better, the key to Deeter’s sentiment is being able to tell a story, with real people in it.

We get caught up in procedure in teling stories, because it’s natural. It works like this, a lot of the time: Wake up. Go through human household rituals. Start character/drama setup. Drive. Rig the rods. Fish. Fishing struggle bit full of metaphor for earlier character/drama setup. End character/drama setup. Thankfully most of Pulp Fly‘s debut stories move away from this paradigm.

This is pretty clear, too, in most other media devoted to our sport, which split fairly predictably between Mashable-SEO wizardry “10 Nymphs … ” how-to, and fish porn power riff braggadocio. I saw the same thing at the Fly Fishing Film Tour a few weeks ago. The standout there was about a group of old duffers who’ve come out from the darkness of Chicago punk clubs to fish. (Spoiler: they aren’t very good, and that’s part of the fun.) I’m sure the “sweet trip, bro” sentiment moves a lot of units, and everyone’s liable to click through to find out how to mend their nicked fly line, but a venture that’s more about helping elevate new voices can take time and not worry about that stuff.

I think Pulp Fly will have found its stride when the stories aren’t all necessarily about fishing, or don’t feel the need to insert an obligatory fishing scene, but just work in the magazine’s context. This sport has a lot of breadth. It takes all different kinds of people, from the East Coast dry purist, to the burly Oregon steelheader to the sun-soaked cajun flats guide. Here’s the big question for Pulp Fly to probe: Does it have depth? Is there something, more than just fishing, we have between us?

If you helped put this together, good job. Pat yourself on the back. And keep looking for those voices that’ll shake up a community that tolerates the status quo. We’ll keep buying it if you do.

Posted in Culture, Digital, Media | 5 Comments

Opening Day

Fun was had by all on the Willowemoc yesterday. Unfortunately, more covered bridges than fish were spotted. Low flows. Pray for rain.

Posted in New York | Leave a comment

Public access and the ethics of fishing trespass

Public access is the greatest gift fishing enthusiasts enjoy from the State, and it comes with many conditions attached. It grants equal ability to enjoy the world’s most prized environments to anyone with a fishing license and means to arrive. But it’s always under fire, and comes with increasingly murky definitions of exactly what’s at stake, and where you can or can’t go.

The fishing world, in its advocacy and activism for the environment, is continuously stretching out to thwart the interests of those with money and power as they seek to keep everyday folks from using public waterways. The idea that real, unfettered wilderness land use expands our citizenry’s notion of its stewardship better than visits to safari parks is very compelling. But powerful interests continue to try and keep lands for themselves.

Last year, Montana’s HB 309 tried to re-classify many rivers as ditches to keep people off them. It was ultimately defeated in March after major public outcry. In Virginia, developers are drawing back to regulations from the state’s time as a British colony to sue anglers for trespass, even after after the state would not prosecute them. Michigan’s government is currently attempting to stop the its Department of Natural Resources from acquiring more land, which would ultimately limit fishermen. There are any number of other cases in waterways near you, and you’d be wise to join those following their progress.

But for all the earnest, above-the-board activity keeping bureaucrats and developers in their offices honest, reminding them there’s a whole lot of citizens out there who love to fish, it may be time to rethink what exactly is at stake, morally and ethically speaking, with river trespass.

Lots of opinions in this area stretch back to our antiquated notion of poaching. Of course, taking game illegally is a major issue, and should be condemned and frowned upon.

There’s still mystique around the gentleman poacher, the throwback hallowed in books like Danny, Champion of the World, where a put-upon village conspires to relieve a wicked landowner of his pheasants. This warm idea of a kindly fella with a flat cap persists, despite the overpowering reality that most American sporting poaching consists of deer hastily-gutted and de-loined in the dead of night. Poaching is an ancient-feeling thing, and certainly not what catch-and-release fishermen ever practice, by definition. So, abandon the idea of poaching, of sneaking around and furtive theft. If you’re not keeping fish, you’re not stealing.

And trespass, especially one leaving no trace, is not environmental crime. A fisherman practicing catch-and-release with barbless hooks is nowhere near as damaging as a trawler hauling a miles-long tuna line. It’s a crime against private ownership, not against a fishery or a community. It’s unlikely minor disturbances of river bottom has any lasting consequence to fish, to their homes, or to anglers who’re coming afterwards. In fact, given the amount of movement we know fish do along rivers during their life cycle, taking fish from anywhere on the river is likely to be just as detrimental to landowners along that stretch.

It’s better to think of open access as going out-of-bounds in the backcountry skiing sense than poaching or environmental crime. You’re not really harming anything, but it’s a liability issue, an issue of legal documentation, and one of personal conduct.

If you want access, you learn every letter of your state’s law, you stretch it to every applicable angle, as a lawyer would. But don’t be a jerk. Even if you have the right to be in the water, wading through an area surrounded by private property, don’t walk through water others are fishing, or float through and fish directly in front of someone’s picnic. Try to be invisible to other people using the water.

If that won’t get you where you want to be, find the landowner and ask. Maybe they’ll say OK. Maybe you can let them know about the group of volunteers stewarding that river’s good health, and let them know instituting a flies-only, catch-and-release section would buy them good favor and status as a patron of the sport. Maybe they’ve been thinking about developing a conservation easement but don’t know how.

If you’re truly shut out and run out of other river to enjoy, at least develop a system and priorities. One group of Iowa rafters has written its ‘Ninja Camping‘ guide to work with potentially dangerous laws about where and when you can stop for the night on the river. Their conclusions? Avoiding nuisance, damage, destruction and the like can help keep the spirit of the law when the letter gets a bit obscured by necessity.

Posted in Conservation, Culture, Exploring | Leave a comment

Dapper Don’s Manifesto

Fly Fisherman has a great story about a true trout stalker named Don, who, with his 14-foot noodle, daps for trout all through the glory zone in western Montana and Idaho.

Even if you doubt you’ll ever try that technique, check it out if you’d like to consider a bit more about how to move to a more sight-fishing, patience oriented trout approach.

I’m in awe of how he’s rebuilt his approach around patience, from gear to the cycle of his day (he often comes to a spot twice a day, to pre-scout in high light and fish in low light). This is such a great value to apply to any outdoor pursuit, especially the appreciation of large brown trout.

Posted in Culture, Exploring, Idaho, Montana, Technique | Leave a comment

More Fly Fishing Wedding Photos

I’ve had a couple requests for more photos from the fly fishing wedding I attended this season on Henry’s Fork, so here’s the whole set. Feel free to check out the original version of “Lawfully Wadered: A Fly Fishing Wedding.” Don’t worry. This won’t become a wedding blog. I’ve got enough of that in my day-to-day life, no need to sully my haven.


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Somerset in January: Reminders of Fish

I spent yesterday horsing around at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey. It’s always a nice thrill to get to break out of the winter doldrums for a day and get to feel some good fishing vibes.

A trio of us headed down from NYC, about a 40 minute drive, to hang around with the Veteran Anglers of New York folks and spot some bargains, refill the gear bins and limber up our wallets. I made it out of there relatively unscathed, with a ton of hooks and the feathers and fur you see above (grouse, starling, hen grizzly, muskrat) and not a whole lot else. I picked up Jay Fullum‘s new book, and had a few words with him.  I met Rob Snowhite, and can’t wait to check out his podcast. I listened to Lefty Kreh run through some hilarious anecdotes while he waited to start his casting demo. And talked to a fellow who can introduce me to the right outfitters, should I wind up in Argentina later this year. And I saw good old Al Haxton and Charlie Gregory from the Michigan Fly Fishing Club, which once again represented en masse at the show.

Mostly it’s a good reminder of how close-knit the fly fishing industry is. Everyone seems to know everyone else, and once you get beyond the mere punters you realize that it’s a business built on relationships, like any other.

Notably absent was Orvis, which was a little strange. Orvis’ frontman for community stuff, the venerable Tom Rosenbauer, was there, but the brand had no real presence. Rob and I chatted about this briefly, but I’m not sure entirely why this was. Perhaps because there were 5-6 fly shops there that stock Orvis products, and it doesn’t want to mess with its dealers? But certainly a corporate booth, with some new prototype rods, and some super sport-specific stuff would make sense. Same with Patagonia. One of the shops had a load of coats and clothing, but I saw no Patagonia waders. Being a leader means being at things like Somerset, which is why core users might gravitate to Simms or TFO and leave Orvis and Patagonia to dilettantes.

Posted in Bugs, Business, Culture, Gear, New Jersey, Offseason, Tying | Leave a comment