Aug 17

First there was Harvey… and now come Irma

Man… Harvey has been a real sonofabitch. I have read by the time he’s done the storm will have dropped over 20 TRILLION gallons of water. That’s enough to raise Lake Michigan by 3 feet. The flooding is bad, and appears to be getting worse.

Thoughts going out to all those in the path of that beast.

As Harvey starts to lose strength there is another monster brewing in the Atlantic. Irma. She’s looking like she has some real shit-kicking potential, although she’s so far out right now no one can really predict where she’ll end up.

That doesn’t look good.

Maybe it is partly attributed to Global Warming, maybe not, but whatever it is, even if it is just “the fates,” it sucks.

Stay dry out there people.

Aug 17

My leverage

I had a plan. It was a great plan.

See… I have two kidneys (you probably do too).

My mother-in-law needed one, just one.

I was going to give my kidney up so she could get one. I was worked up as a donor, entered into a kidney swap program and was waiting for the call.

The way this relates to fishing goes like this.

Is there any fishing trip I couldn’t take if I had donated a kidney so my mother-in-law could have one?

I mean… Christmas Island maybe? “Honey, I really need to get out there and see Christmas Island, ya know, to savor life after my kidney donation. How is your mom doing anyway?”


Yesterday though, thanks to the really wonderful last act of an anonymous organ donor from New Mexico, my MIL got a new kidney. This is, of course, great news. I will continue to be able to take Advil (you can’t do that on one kidney) and come Thanksgiving or Christmas, I will be able to brine the turkey (salt a no-no for someone on dialysis).

My “I can take any trip I want” plans are in ruins, but, I guess it may be worth it. I’ll just have to negotiate the old fashioned way for trips to come.

Aug 17

The Nadir

Bonefish are awesome.

My last trip is in the books for 2017. It is done for the year. I won’t have another chance to wade, mid-calf deep, across a broad flat, of sand or turtle grass or broken coral, looking for bonefish silhouettes slipping silently through wind and tide disturbed water.

That’s a little bleak.


It got me thinking about what I like about it, about bonefishing. I got to thinking about what stirs my soul about these fish.

I love being there.

I love the gear. The flies I’ve tied. The leaders I’ve put together. The knots I’ve tied.

I love the act of searching, not as much as the instant of recognition, but I love the looking.

I love that moment when you realize it is all going to come together. You are going to get a shot. You can’t think about it. You have to act. You have to make it happen.

You get to see the eat. You get to see the fish light up. You can tell, from 50′ that the fish is going to eat you fly.

That little capsule of preparation and skill and luck and action… that is why I love bonefishing.

I’ll see you again, bonefish. Here’s to fishing trips to come.

Jul 17

The very worst thing you could do

What is the very worst thing anyone you know has ever done?

You really never know what people do when they go home and shut the door. I mean, you might think you know, but you don’t. You never really do. I have a way of assuming people just go about their lives in more-or-less normal ways, peacefully, without much going on. However, behind closed doors many people are dealing with all sorts of demons and issues from addiction to mental health problems to domestic abuse and you likely have no idea… well, unless you are dealing with those things and then I’ll tell you, the folks on the outside don’t know. They can’t help if they don’t know.

John was a fishing buddy of mine (on the back of the boat in the picture above). We met at a conference a couple years ago and when he told me about spending time as a kid at the fishing lodge his dad owned in Alaska, we kind of hit it off. We were very different people. He was a gun-loving Las Vegas Republican who voted for Trump. I’m a gun-liking-but-still-believe-in-gun-control Liberal Democrat from the SF Bay Area. Still, fishing has a way of letting people with very different views of the world share the view from a skiff (I’m looking at you Aaron). So it was with John and I.

We had some dinners together and we shared fishing stories, talking about medicine (he was a pathologist, I’m in medical testing sales) and our families. John had a new, albeit unintentional, son and he was trying to make it work with the mother, although it was not sounding like a great situation. He seemed resigned to the relationship not panning out. Still, he loved his little boy.

He went to Hawaii for his 40th and he caught his first bonefish, texting me pics, excited about a new species. I texted him pics after I finally broke my O’io curse. That was just about two weeks ago.

So it was jarring today to get a message from a mutual friend, asking if I had talked to John recently. They had heard something horrible, but didn’t know if it was true. I followed up. No answer on the cell phone and so I called another mutual friend who confirmed the absolutely shittiest news I could have imagined.

John, at some point in the past couple days, snapped. I’m guessing something about the end of the relationship with his girlfriend and custody of his son, but that’s just because I can’t imagine anything else provoking this kind of response. It looks very much like my fishing buddy John took one of his many, many guns and shot his dog, his girlfriend and his son, John Jr., before killing himself. He killed every living thing, everything that meant anything to him, in his home.

I’m kind of spinning. I don’t know what to make of it all. I’m sad for John and furious at John and none of it matters very much at all. What’s done is done and a line from a poem written by a Vietnam vet comes to mind… “there is nothing as dead as a dead child.” Children, the embodiment of the future, of hope, of dreams, of love and laughter and joy… when a child is dead, it seems so many other things die alongside them.

I can’t wrap my head around it.

I try and rewind conversations we had to see if there was a clue, but even if there was, would I have seen it? Because, who expects someone they know to do the very worst thing they can imagine anyone doing? I wouldn’t have talked to him at all if I knew he had that inside him, but I also wish I could have been more of a friend and done something to prevent it. We don’t get to wind back the clock, though. It is done and the child and the mom and the dog and my fishing buddy John are gone and we are left to grieve and wonder at the thing and regret its doing and be angry and sad and puzzled and then angry again.

My fishing buddy John, my friend John, did the very worst thing anyone I know has ever done.


National Domestic Abuse Hotline – 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255


Jul 17

Hawaiian Bonefish Exception

Hawaiian bonefish are super, super spooky. But… sometimes, they aren’t.

One fish that fell well outside the norm (the norm here defined by guide Kenny and from my own observations on the day) was a fish that I basically dabbed. (dab. verb. While fly fishing, to present the fly without casting by simply placing the fly in front of a fish)

I had just broken off a fish (something I did twice on strip-strikes) and Kenny was tying on another one of his flies I never would have selected (just totally different from what I cast at bones, not because they weren’t good looking). We were on a narrow little flat, maybe 30 feet wide and a few hundred feet long, connected to a larger flat. The fish were coming up on the flat from the deeper water on both sides and moving down the little flat towards us.

As Kenny was mid-tie, a bonefish of 3-4 pounds came towards us and about 15 feet away, it just stopped and milled around a bit. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so it wasn’t clear if it actually saw us or if it felt us more. Either way, it didn’t spook.

Fly attached, I simply put the fly in front of the fish and the darn thing promptly ate, right there in front of us.

Both Kenny and I laughed pretty hard at that as the fish sped away. What the fish lacked in predator detection it made up for in defensive maneuvering. Off the flat the fish fled and right around some coral, deeper than we could get to. The fish got off, but, it was hard to be upset about that one.

So, you need to lead Hawaiian bones by a country mile, until you find a fish that doesn’t mind at all (there aren’t many of those).

Jun 17

Kids, trying to get to the Bahamas

This story came out a while back. Two kids from Florida went fishing. They tried to make it to the Bahamas. They went missing and months later their boat was found near Bermuda. Their life jackets were in the boat. A phone was even in the boat. The kids were not. They’ve been missing for a long time, too long to still be alive.

Their trip was ill-planned. It was a horrible idea. They paid the price for that under-estimation of the risks. With all of that being true, I still stand a little bit in awe of their spirit of adventure.

As a kid, growing up in a mountain town in a river canyon I had some adventures. I went off trails and played around in the forests, but all those adventured happened within a mile or two of my house. It never occurred to me to think bigger. There are a dozen places I could see from town that I always wondered “what is is like up there?” and I never, ever actually tried to get to any of them.

Maybe, if I had, I would have been attacked by a black bear or a mountain lion or I could have fallen off a cliff, broken a leg far from trails and roads and met the same fate as those two kids. There is a risk/reward calculation here that maybe kept me from seeking out those places, but there is also the “nothing risked, nothing gained” math.

I admire the spirit of those kids, even if the decisions, in the end, were deeply flawed, even fatally so.

Jun 17

What do the new restrictions mean for Cuba fly fishing?

Well… don’t ask me. Ask Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures… because, those guys know.

They put out a detailed piece about the new Trump travel restrictions and what it means to you, the anglers who want to go sample what Cuba has to offer.

Here it is. 

I went with Yellow Dog’s Jim Klug back in 2012 and they had things buttoned down, even back then. Solid operation.

Jim + Cuba + Cameras

Jun 17

Do you podcast?

Did you know The Drake has a podcast?

It is called The Drakecast and it is totally worth a listen.

Here it is.

I really love the format… the story telling… the way you are brought into the stories by the audio. I think you’ll love it.

Jun 17

Father’s Day

I don’t remember the context of the conversation, but I know I said “fishing pole.”

My dad paused and turned to look at me.

“Rod, son. It is called a rod.”

He said it with such seriousness, such utter sincerity. He was not joking around.

That was maybe the most serious I have ever heard my dad.


Happy Father’s Day!

Dad on the Metolius

Jun 17

The tide of life

I was searching for an analogy earlier today for the fast passage of time and it occurred to be that life is, very much, like a tide cycle.

The water comes in and that is your youth. As you grow so do your opportunities. The flat opens up for you. You can explore. You can range fare and wide until the flat itself is full of life. The peak of the tide is middle age, the height of your opportunities and possibilities. Slowly, the tide starts to go out and your opportunities shrink, your world diminishes until, at the bottom of the outgoing tide, you end up where you were in the beginning.

It works, for me, as an analogy for life and I’m not totally fooling myself when I acknowledge that I’m close to slack tide, soon, and maybe already, starting to feel the water flowing back out.

At the start of the outgoing there are still fish to be caught. Those that had used the high water to get up into the mangroves will be coming back out. There are shots to be made yet and with the experience of the incoming tide under my belt, I should have a better idea of where those shots will be.

That’s the hope, right?

That, and maybe for a little off-shore wind to slow down the outgoing tide.