Fishing History

8 posts

Jack Gartside’s Philosophy on Fishing and Traveling

From The Great Bonefish Giveaway:

To be fair, I should note that we only fished Xcalak (it’s pronounced (“Shka-lak”) for four days, and that we pointedly ignored suggestions to hire a guide; on a Gartside expedition, one survives on one’s own skills, going fishless if necessary. Hiring a guide is considered both decadent and an admission of failure — akin to having a pizza delivered while scaling Mount Everest.

Exactly my philosophy, with occasional exceptions.

jack_and_geraldEvery year, when the weather gets cooler and gray, I go through the Jack Gartside fly tying books I’ve bought and try some new patterns. The guy was a fly tying genius. Very sad that I never had a chance to meet him.

Famed Presidential Fly Fishing Retreat for Sale

Hoover Fly Fishing
President Hoover on a stream that is way too wide to be Little Hunting Creek.

On this Presidents Day holiday I tripped over this article about Trout Run, a property in the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland that is now for sale, $9 million asking price. This former presidential retreat and highfalutin “rustic hideaway” is very close to Camp David and was actually preferred by a few of our presidents due to its proximity to Little Hunting Creek.

Herbert Hoover, though he is known to have spent more time fishing at his camp on the Rapidan River in what is now Shenandoah National Park, was the first president to spend time here. Following him were Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower (although he reportedly preferred watercolor painting there more than fishing). Hoover, though, was the only real presidential fly fisherman to have visited:

He reported — “with a slight egotism!” — that only he, Teddy Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland “had been lifelong fly-fishermen before they went to the White House.”

I literally stumbled onto Trout Run last year on one of my Catoctin National Park area fishing explorations. I inadvertently followed Little Hunting Creek upstream until I was on the Trout Run property line, complete with a chain across the stream and a sign warning against further intrusion. I can tell you that even though I caught nothing there that day it’s a beautiful place. Is it worth the price? I have no idea, and fortunately that’s not relevant for a man of my means. But you — you may be more interested. Click on the first link above for more info…

Derek Watkins: Mapping Generic Terms for Streams in the United States

US Stream Names

Ever wonder why your favorite streams are named “run” and “branch” but your friends in other parts of the country talk about their “brooks”, “sloughs” and “forks”? Here is a cool map and blog post about the U.S. distribution of how these things commonly called streams are named.

This a very well done graphic.

Here in Virginia, runs and branches are common. In New England brooks are widespread, and where I grew up (New Jersey) that’s what we tended to call small streams, too.

Derek references a couple related blogs, including one that shows terms for UK streams (including terms heretofore unbeknownst to me such as “burn” and “afon”) as well as an exhibit of maps with smaller sets of data for common stream names on flickr, which makes comparing some of these terms a little easier.

All of these blogs illustrate really cool ways to use publicly available data sets — these all use data from the US Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database.

Manhattan as a Paradise for Trout and Fly Fishing

Upriver and DownstreamFriends gave me this nifty book for Christmas, “Upriver and Downstream.” It’s a collection of essays published in the New York Times‘ Outdoors column over the years, from well known authors including Nick Lyons, Thomas McGuane, Ernest Schwiebert, Nick Karas and many others. Being the middle of winter, with our local streams iced up pretty well, it’s good substitute entertainment.

The book has several essays that talk about brook trout fishing. One in particular grabbed me last night, “Manhattan as a Paradise for Trout and Fly-Fishing,” by Nicholas Karas. Karas also happens to be the author of the book, “Brook Trout.” The title of his essay from 1998 is more than catchy, in 1998 or in the year 2011, or in any year within the last hundred. What he describes is incredible. You can get the same sense of how things once were throughout eastern North America by reading many old texts about fishing. I’ve highlighted one such old book that talks about brook trout fishing NEAR New York City before. But actually IN New York City?

Apparently Manhattan used to be a “sportsman’s paradise” and a destination for brook trout fishing. Yes. Manhattan. In the 1700’s, Freshwater Pond became a unique spot in what is now the Big City when the City Council restricted fishing there to the use of only “angle-rod, hook and line,” sort of like our modern single hook barbless artificial lure regulations in various pieces of streams. Freshwater Pond was located in the area between what are now Duane and Canal Streets. It was fed by Collect Pond (near Federal Plaza and The Tombs), and drained into the Hudson River. Sea-run brook trout (“salters”) were abundant here, too.

The English, who were avid fly fishers since Izaak Walton published “The Compleat Angler” over a century before they were defeated by the Colonists, popularized the sport on Manhattan. After the Revolutionary War, the area remained a hub for sportfishing for decades. Throughout the island there were streams filled with brook trout.

I just can’t even imagine that right now. Or ever. But then I came across The Alley Pond Environmental Center. For the past ten years they have been reintroducing brook trout into Alley Pond and Alley Creek, near the Long Island Expressway and the Cross Island Parkway (not Manhattan, but still New York, NY proper), with the help of Trout Unlimited.

View Larger Map

While Long Island is known for having good brook trout fishing (something I did not know until recently), the idea of brookies in New York City shocks me. That’s just really cool.

A Man Without a Hobby is a Much to be Pitied Individual

Illustration from Outing, vol. 14
Illustration from Outing, vol. 14

It’s fun to skim through these old books and read how familiar some of this sounds even today. In Outing, Volume 14, which is a collection of essays written in 1889, the pieces cover all kinds of outdoor pastimes. The fishing section of the book starts with a chapter titled, “The Pleasures of Fly Fishing,” by W. Holberton:

“It is generally admitted that every man should have a good, healthy hobby, and if he can ride it out of doors, among the grand old forests or along the sparkling trout streams, so much the better for him. A man without a hobby is a much-to-be-pitied individual.”

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Bamboo Rod Builder Jeff Hatton on Cork and Old Fishing Rods

I saw this link to a video of bamboo rod builder and historian Jeff Hatton on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog. Some interesting stuff. Jeff says the introduction of cork handles in the past century is the worst thing rod builders have ever done since it reduces the feel of the rod, and since so much about fishing is feel, from casting to detecting strikes he regards this as a setback in rod design. He builds what look like beautiful and I’m sure expensive pieces using a large diameter wood handle, which he says results in a fast action bamboo rod. Gets me thinking about all the choices we have in rods and how something like this would work for catching brookies on small streams. Even more fascinating are some of the old rods he has in his collection. A ten minute video, well worth watching.