Montana-based photographer Dušan Smetana captures a hunt on 14,000 acres of bluegrass farmland.
[by Dusan Smetana]
[by Dusan Smetana]
Today, YETI is proud to reveal its new V Series™ hard-sided cooler.
Featuring a kitchen-grade stainless steel body, the YETI V Series is vacuum insulated, offering the best thermal insulation that science allows. Additional highlights include a single-center stainless steel loop latch, providing a durable and easy-to-use closure, as well as a leakproof, deep seal drain plug.
“There’s only one way to say it: this cooler offers the best thermal performance that science allows. Using vacuum insulation with the support of our proprietary PermaFrost™ Insulation, The YETI V Series™ Hard Cooler is a testament to first-of-its-kind innovation and offers unprecedented ice retention in a cooler. Stylistically, it’s a nod to the past, but built with downright futuristic technology.”
The YETI V Series will be available for purchase starting Thursday, December 5, 2019, via yeti.com ($800).
Break out your Plus 2’s, flashings, and Wellingtons as there are a few shooting dates left on the calendar at The Preserve.
We’ll begin the morning with breakfast in our clubhouse featuring an omelet station, eggs served any way, Applewood smoked bacon, waffles, and coffee, tea and juice. Or, shoot our compact sporting clays to warm up.
Our shoot orientation begins mid-morning followed by a 1,500 bird release. Twenty-six shooters rotate between our 12 shooting pegs and 13th peg warming station.
Dinner follows with a filet and lobster combination, mini bison meatballs, roasted pheasant with endive and a Scotch and cigar pairing. The all inclusive cost per Hunt is $2000 for the day, with lodging being extra.
The Preserve’s 12-Station Compact Clays Course features manicured shooting stations set amid naturally tall field grasses. These 12 wood-framed stations take thoughtful advantage of the landscape’s changing height elevations to provide sporting enthusiasts varietal shooting positions in a picturesque and natural setting.
Whether rain, shine, or snow, members may enjoy the Preserve’s two covered and heated 5-stands that provide 10 shooting positions and are beautifully built into the wraparound deck of a rustic and inviting hunting lodge. Positioned high on a hill, this lodge has an impressive prospect on the clays course providing incredibly over 250 different target presentations! Views of the surrounding landscapes only add to the enjoyment of this popular sport. The unique design of this clays course and hunting lodge also provides the perfect setting for 5-Stand tournaments, as well as corporate clays events year-round.
Specially designated fields are available where man and dog unite to meet the challenges of bird hunting. The Preserve is home to 8 new bird hunting fields, with the smallest being 300×100 yards. Whether you are shooting clean-up after one of our European Tower Hunts or choose to reserve a morning for you and your friends to shoot stocked game, we here at The Preserve can accommodate nearly any and every shooting experience.
“I’ve shot around the entire country and this is by far the best tower shoot and some of the best shooting grounds in the United States.”
– Larry Martin CEO & Founder Field and Stream Products
Our NEW European tower stands the tallest in the Northeast region at 210’ above its lowest station. With 12 stations, 24 shooters, and enough guides and dogs to support all of the fun, The Preserve is the latest and greatest in driven tower hunts this country has ever seen.
“The shot presentation was unlike anything I had ever experienced, the bird soared higher than I had ever seen in America. Myself an avid wing shooter and this is type of European hunt everyone should experience. The great sounds of shotguns firing and friends applauding surrounded us, echoing over the high rough pitch of crackling roosters all around. For a moment it was quiet, we all took a breath and glanced over the wall to take it all in.”
-Todd Corayer; The Double Gun Journal
Being host to numerous fields, ponds, and obstacle course settings, The Preserve is a great location to express all of you and your companions needs. Its said that sometimes hunting is isn’t about hunting at all. The Preserve’s many upland fields double in as the prefect settings to test both your dog’s physical and mental toughness. Relax in our tranquil settings with just you and your dog, working together on our private 1000 acres.
Join us Saturday, December 14, for a dove hunt at the Morris family’s Millhaven Plantation. Included in this daylong event are hors d’oeuvres, libations, and transportation to and from Millhaven.
Tickets for this exclusive experience are $250 per hunter. Space is limited. Proceeds benefit the Morris Museum of Art Gala. Each hunter is required to have a current Georgia hunting license and a Georgia migratory bird stamp. If accommodations are needed, we can secure you a special rate at the downtown Augusta Marriott Hotel. To reserve your spot for the hunt, or for further details, call Lauren Land at 706-828-3825
Image: Aiden Lassell Ripley, Quail Shooting, undated. Drypoint etching on paper. Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia. Gift of the Robert Powell Coggins Art Trust
[by Reid Bryant]
THE FLIGHT OUT OF BUENOS AIRES WAS THE LAST LEG IN A MARATHON OF TIGHT CONNECTIONS AND STIFF-NECKED SLEEP, over a day or maybe two, wherein moments had become indistinct. The plane traversed the broad pampas and a few hundred turbulent miles, and pushed me against the spine of the Andes. Far below, sunburned grassland gave way to brushy slopes and then to scree. Dropping through a low ceiling over Esquel, the plane banked between mountains and slid sideways, dropped onto a slot of bare runway, and rushed to a stop. I rubbed my eyes and grabbed my pack, and walked out onto the tarmac in a spitting afternoon.
We wedged ourselves around a conveyor in a room that quickly grew warm with bodies and waited for our bags. Having come so far and traveled so long, I felt wholly deconstructed within a frame of time and place and distance; awash on the swell of lilting Spanish, my immediate present still seemed remote. I had come to central Patagonia in search of red stag, on an adventure that yet loomed in my imagination, despite its narrowing proximity. Stag were, to my mind, so decidedly exotic, and Patagonia so decidedly inaccessible, that I’d held this hunt outside the realm of plausible reach, presuming that in anticipation lurks the liability of disappointment. Nonetheless, there I was, waiting for my gear, coming around to an acceptance that the surreal has a way of making itself manifest. A few weeks prior, my host, Rance Rathie of Patagonia River Guides, had sent a note describing heavy-beamed animals sifting out of the high timber to assemble their harems for the short breeding cycle. He’d said that if I was lucky, and could get myself there, I might get a crack at one. And then just days before, Rance had written to announce that in the bowls of Estancia Vieja, on the outskirts of Trevelin, stags were roaring actively through the shortening days, and several big specimens had been taken in the first two weeks of the three-week season. “We’ll figure out a way to get the horns home,” he’d written, nudging at my priggish superstitions.
My friend Brian Grossenbacher met me at the airport, shook my hand, and shouldered one of my bags. He’d arrived a few days earlier with his camera gear in the hopes of capturing the roar in full swing, shooting in stills what I maintained hope of shooting a bit more decisively. If all went to plan, Brian would follow my hunt. My hands shook a bit as I zippered my jacket and considered all these facts abstractly, then grabbed my remaining luggage and followed Brian to the truck.
Rance was himself out hunting, but one of his pals, Alejandro Jones, was waiting for us, stacking gear in the bed of the pickup. A lanky Welshman in his late 30s, Alejandro embodied all my notions of Argentina’s ethnic incongruence, his blue eyes glittering beneath the brim of his gaucho’s beret. He hoisted my bags into the bed, smiled, and encouraged us along, clearly eager to speed up the trivialities of our reunion in order that we get to the roaring grounds before evening. We rode through Esquel and up into the hills, stopping briefly for a cold Quilmes beer, which I held between my knees as the truck tires slid, switching back across gravel roads that traversed foothills of rangeland and broken fence lines. We could have been in Wyoming had the riverside poplars not been going fast to gold, even though it was barely April.
RUTTED TWO-TRACKS WOUND INTO THE ESTANCIA VIEJO BOUNDARIES, through sheep and cattle range collected into 40,000 acres. To say the region felt remote would be a masterful understatement. Windblown and dust-dry, yellowed clumps of grass and sandy soil gave way to bands of dense brush and stunted trees known colloquially as nires, and in turn to high timber called lengas, where the stags spent winter. At the terminal gate of the estancia road, an effigy hung draped from the posts, a scarecrow figure made up of threadbare jacket and a twist of matted hair. Alejandro asked that we place some coins in the jacket pocket. I dug in my pockets and produced a few pennies, handing one to Brian. Pressed on the subject, Alejandro explained that the jacket had belonged to a gaucho who’d watched over Estancia Viejo in the many years before his death. He’d died some years earlier, alone in his shack, and his passing had been discovered weeks later by friends who’d noted his smokeless chimney. The story went that a group had approached the shack only to be run off by the dead man’s dog, who menaced in the doorway. Eventually, and without alternative, the dog was shot, and the corpses of both man and dog were carried from the home and laid to rest in a common grave. The offering of coins was encouraged in behalf of constancy and devotion, a small price to pay for the opportunity I’d begun to envision. We placed them in the pocket that appeared nearly empty, unsure if we’d given enough. After years of adhering to this ritual, Alejandro couldn’t tell us where the money eventually wound up, though the pocket never seemed to fill, and the other estancia gauchos never seemed in want of Malbec or loose-leaf tobacco.
Farther up the valley, a verdant swale cleaved the space between the knobs, and a cabin stood in a clearing. Pulling up beside a corrugated shed, Alejandro announced that this would be home for the next few days. We got out of the truck. Woodsmoke and lanolin and wet earth scented the dust motes that danced in dappled sunlight on the porch. We wiped our feet on the sill stone and stepped inside. Rance emerged in rumpled hunting clothes to welcome us, sleepy-eyed from a nap. He shook our hands, flattened his hair with a palm, and lit a cigarette. “Welcome. Grab something to eat if you like.” He gestured toward a plate of meat, cheese, and olives on a table by the fireside. “We’ll be leaving to hunt in an hour or so.”
Rance shuffled over to the stone patio and grabbed his bow and nocked an arrow, holding for a moment, and then letting it fly at a target on the hill beyond. He watched the arrow thwack stiffly a few inches left of the center target, and he shook his head.
“I’ve been trying to get close to an animal with the bow this year. I’m stuck on it. There’s a .300 Win Mag inside for you, though.” He nodded toward the porch. “Probably worth shooting it a time or two before we head out.” He drew another arrow, shifting his cigarette well left of center, where it poked from the side of his mouth, opposite the bowstring. Through pursed lips, one eye squinted, he added, “These animals are impossible to pattern. Just hope they are roaring tonight. If they are quiet, it could be all but impossible.”
The arrow flew, a bit left still but closer than before. Rance looked at me and smiled, shifting his cigarette back to center and speaking past withheld smoke. “I hope you put some money in the gaucho’s pocket.” A few hours later, Alejandro, Brian, and I crossed the river ford and crept up toward a brushy plateau. We left the truck with Alejandro’s friend Nico, who promised to pick us up just past dark. Alejandro led the way, his long legs swinging, taking a tireless line up and across toward the nires. From a slurry of exhaustion and travel and the magnetic pull of an unfamiliar pole, I tried to tease some focused intention, some understanding of the reality beneath my feet, and the prospect of a big rusty deer that roared. I scurried up the hill behind Alejandro, aware of loose stones and sticks, even as they shifted and snapped. He stopped once to look back and made sure I saw his gesture of instructed silence, finger-to-lips. We carried on.
At the hilltop we stopped and caught our breath, and stood among the calafate bushes to glass. Beneath us, scrub meadows stippled a massive valley, broken by bands of nire and timber. Against the far ridgeline, dark clouds had begun to stockpile, and soon enough a rumble echoed through the lower flats. We continued to glass.
“Hinds,” said Alejandro. He pointed, and I tried to follow his line with my binoculars. Scanning the broken and darkening landscape, I saw Hereford cattle that stood out red and stark white against the ground.
“Where?” I asked.
Alejandro pointed again. I looked and couldn’t see, and looked harder. “Gone now . . . into the brush.” A faraway flash of lightning preceded another low rumble, and I continued trying to pick apart the valley, wondering if in fact we were looking for ghosts.
With night came bigger, closer lighting that buzzed among the squat timber. Fat raindrops splattered in the soil, sporadic at first, then more urgent. We followed Alejandro back into the nires, counting wordlessly the seconds between flash and rumble. The rain came in earnest. On the ridgeline, lightning flared all around, and the crack of thunder became something felt as well as heard. I turned the rifle barrel-down, and looked back at Brian, who was scrambling to cover his cameras. I was glad when he called to Alejandro and made clear that it was time to take refuge, as our exposure was ludicrous, and the lightning strikes were coming fast and close. Alejandro shrugged a concession, and we retreated into a shallow bowl, finding a semblance of cover under a calafate. We squatted there in the rain near an hour, listening and counting, if not saying quiet prayers, then at least trying to evaluate the karmic debt or surfeit we’d to that moment amassed. I looked at the ground. Water ran down my jacket and into the gulf above my belt. My thighs burned from squatting. I looked down at the ground as though to look up would be a welcome to a shaft of electricity, and opted to believe that in ignorance I might find safety. After an hour or more, the storm moved on up the valley, and we backed out into the dark space it had left behind.
Back at the cabin, Nico had the fire blazing.
FOR THREE DAYS WE CHASED THE POTENTIAL OF STAG. The lightning had, to Rance’s mind, punctuated the end of the roar, atomically spinning the animals through one turnstile on their procreative track and on toward the next. They seemed, at least, to have vaporized. Tracks led up into higher ground toward the lengas, and Rance had seen a few animals but far off. Alejandro and Brian and I saw nothing at all. We were up each morning at dawn and out, circling back after dark each night, albeit with a frenetic midday regroup back at the cabin, a recapping of animals seen and not seen, and some earnest Spanish dialogue among Rance and Nico and Alejandro. Through it all I felt myself growing increasingly disoriented. Turned upside down longitudinally, early to rise and too late to sleep, in a land of wine and salty meat and begging effigies and roaring deer that refused to roar. I spent many footsteps considering silence and distance and the foreign place to which I’d come, convinced it was too big a gift, and too unfamiliar, to be meant for me after all.
There was a point late in the third day where I found myself dozing on a glassing knob, starting to feel the afternoon chill seep in. Somewhere between waking and sleep I saw myself hurtling south in a jet plane from my native New England. I could see my innermost self as though in arcing out over the hemispheres my outer layers had begun to sift away like windblown sand. In this daydream of teletransportation my emotive form seemed destined to rematerialize last, after the fact, allowing my intention to become intact and present too slowly for the task at hand and too late to make a stag material in the crosshairs. Somehow I’d not yet fully found the ground in this place, despite the cold creeping up my back, and that until my bits and pieces, my heart and soul and body, were firmly situated up against the spine of the Andes, I’d not see an animal, at least not one destined to become a part of my story. Perhaps my intentions had been foretold in the few pennies I’d left in the pocket. Perhaps I’d not wanted this enough. Perhaps we were chasing ghosts after all, chasing lessons in faith and loyalty and landscape, proving once more the superior secrecy of wild things in wild places. I woke up then and drank some water, and looked over at Alejandro. “Let’s walk,” he said. “We won’t see a stag today.” Seems Alejandro had been watching me dreaming.
THAT AFTERNOON WE PACKED, leaving left Rance to his bow and his devices, and headed back toward the Patagonia River Guides lodge near Trevelin. We stopped at the gaucho’s jacket and Brian opened the gate. We didn’t say anything or leave any more money. Through the evening we played out our options, which were getting somewhat thin due to schedule. Rance had left Alejandro with an ace, however, a cribbed possibility of animals still roaring through the shallow canyons of Estancia Escondida, closer to Trevelin.
We slept in the lodge and rose early to the steady thrum of rain on the roof, and gusts of wind that drove drops against the windowpanes. We drank coffee and dressed in our hunting clothes one last time, and made a last departure with stag in our collective conscience. This time there was no magic, and no offering. It was just a rainy, windy dawn, and three guys hunting, and a slim but dancing flicker of possibility.
We walked out across a wide plain with Alejandro in front, stopping periodically to listen and glass. The wind came in gusts that ripped over the ground, pushing clouds tight against the hillsides and squeezing them of their rain. Alejandro signaled us close. He told us that if there were animals about, they’d be deep in the cover of the canyons, and that we’d need walk the edges with dedicated caution, as our movements would be silhouetted against the sky. We eased on to the rim of the nearest canyon, and peeked over the edge.
A band of grass filled the lowest ground in a ribbon of green, and tongues of gray sand rose up to the rim and to the level where we perched. The wind blew and the rain came, and we scanned the canyon floor. A single hind flicked an ear and shifted weight halfway up the far slope, sending a silent slide of gravel down to the bottom. She was the first red deer I’d seen. I looked at her hard through rain-muddled glass and looked around for others. There were none. The rain came harder. Alejandro signaled us along the canyon rim, and we walked well back from the edge to make our move, so as not to disturb what might have been lurking below.
A hundred yards on, Alejandro bent low and approached the edge at a crawl, with me beside him. The rain was real now, and pattering, and the sticky soil filled the treads of our boots. We crept to the edge, hand over hand, knee by knee, the rifle laid out in front of us. Alejandro, his profile broken by scrub, scanned through raindrops down canyon. I rested my elbows on a neneo bush and looked up toward the shelf where we’d seen the hind. Against the very bottom of the canyon, wedges of ruddy brown broke apart and re-formed, and I wiped the bino glass. There were hinds all about, where I’d looked before and seen none. It was as if they, like me, had materialized in that place all at once, taking clearer definition as I watched. I knew nothing of red deer except that there had to be a stag somewhere near.
I hissed at Alejandro and pointed. Together we broke the canyon floor into component pieces, and I saw at last a single grand body, more gray than brown, shoulders humped, neck and head shoved into a bush. I waited. I watched.
(from Backbone Media)
Today, the brand unveils its first-ever YETI Presents Book, The Tarpon Book, featuring a timeless collection of stories and imagery curated by YETI Ambassador and renown fishing guide, David Mangum, that delves deep into the culture of the “Silver King.”
Tarpon is over 130 pages of stunning photography and short essays from some of the sport’s most influential writers, including Thomas McGuane, Randy Wayne White, and Diana Rudolph.
Mangum will be hosting a silent auction of some of the photography in the book at YETI’s Charleston retail store on Friday, November 15th. All proceeds from the auction will go to Captains for Clean Water.
(from Trout Unlimited)
Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited CEO, (571) 274-0601
Nelli Williams, Trout Unlimited Alaska program director, (907) 230-7121
Trout Unlimited sues EPA over removal of Bristol Bay protections
Sportsmen argue EPA ignored sound science, prioritized advancement of Pebble mine over fishing industry.
ANCHORAGE, AK – Trout Unlimited, represented pro bono by Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its recent decision to withdraw protections for the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. Called the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination, the protections would have limited the scope and scale of impacts from the proposed Pebble mine to the world-class salmon, trout and water resources of the region.
“The practical effect of the EPA’s decision was to help out a mine that would devastate a fishing and hunting paradise,” said John Holman, who grew up in the area and is a second-generation owner of No See Um Lodge, a Trout Unlimited member business. “I cannot in good faith pass a business down to my family that will become a financial burden if the Pebble mine is built. Who does our government work for? This decision made it seem like the EPA and our elected officials are writing off thousands of American jobs, and businesses like mine so a foreign mining company can obliterate the land I depend on, then walk away.”
Trout Unlimited’s lawsuit alleges the EPA ignored science and the potential impacts of developing the mine when it withdrew the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination, and in doing so violated the Administrative Procedures Act and Clean Water Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot issue a permit to Pebble if the EPA’s decision on the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination is overturned.
“Billions of dollars have been spent in attempt to restore salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, Bristol Bay sets records for its salmon returns year after year. All we need to do is have the humility and common-sense to leave this landscape alone,” said Chris Wood, CEO of Trout Unlimited. “Sacrificing a place as such as Bristol Bay for some gold is a short-sighted fools-errand. We are not a litigious organization, but we and millions of other sportsmen and women will not allow greed to compromise the most important salmon fishery on the planet.”
The Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska supports the world’s most abundant sockeye salmon run, Alaska’s best Chinook salmon run, and a world-famous trophy rainbow trout fishery. These fisheries are the foundation for a robust sportfishing industry, a rich cultural history and subsistence way of life supporting more than 30 Alaska Native Tribes, and a valuable commercial fishing industry. Bristol Bay fishing—including sport, commercial and subsistence—accounts for thousands of sustainable local jobs and more than $1.5 billion in annual economic activity.
Citing this unique and wild character, and the economic and cultural importance of the region, the EPA prepared the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination after years of scientific research and multiple peer reviews, with many thousands of Alaskans and millions of Americans voicing support for protecting the region.
“Any action that jeopardizes this fishery and extremely unique place is unacceptable,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director for Trout Unlimited. “The proposed Pebble mine is widely opposed by anglers and hunters across Alaska and the country. This lawsuit is a step to hold the EPA accountable to their own science and American sportsmen and women, not a foreign-owned mining company.”
“Look at what’s at stake and the maddening progress Pebble is making here at our expense,” said Nanci Morris Lyon, local resident and owner of Bear Trail Lodge, a Trout Unlimited member business. “Contrary to science, the will of the people, and common sense, Pebble is advancing toward their key permit, thanks in part to agencies giving them handouts. This lawsuit calls that out. We can’t afford Pebble in Bristol Bay, and that means we need science, oversight, integrity and persistence.”
“Removing the Proposed Determination was one of the most poorly justified decisions in the history of the Clean Water Act and is an affront to the fisheries, local communities, and sportsmen and women around the world,” said Wood.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. In Alaska we have worked in the Bristol Bay region for almost two decades along with thousands of members and supporters including dozens of businesses that depend on the fishery of the region. Follow TU on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation. For more information on the Save Bristol Bay campaign go to SaveBristolBay.org.
On a fateful February day in 2007, in the remote Northern Wisconsin woods, a solo independent logger named Gary Edinger severed his left leg off while felling a tree. Twenty miles from help and in forty below temperatures, Gary summoned the remarkable willpower to crawl to his pickup, and attempted to drive to safety. Gary’s struggle for survival, however, didn’t begin on that frigid winter day in the hardwoods. His whole life had been forged from adversity, rising above a meagre upbringing and brushes with death as he learned to hunt, trap and fish alone, on his own terms.
Will to Live: the Gary Edinger Story provides a glimpse of a unique perspective gained by cheating death and chasing the call of life-long adventure as only Gary can. The tough-as-nails logger, champion dog sled racer and hunting guide also has a creative side writing poetry, singing cowboy songs and calling square dances. Now, 15 years after the accident and approaching the age of 70, Gary discovers his quest to live a full life and looks back at the impact of his decisions and how they weigh on the loved ones around him.
(from Quail Guard)
Decline of the quail population in the Rolling Plains, its impact, and a solution for the future.
Lubbock, TX — February 18, 2019 — “The Bobwhite” film shares the mission of a West Texas family focused on wildlife conservation and management. Through the team effort of Park Cities Quail Coalition, the Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation, and Texas Tech University, the Kendall family tells their story of tribulations and creating real world applications from scientific research at TheBobwhite.com.
Charged with a mission to think outside the box, Dr. Ron Kendall and his team have identified parasites that seriously impact wild Northern bobwhite quail. The Wildlife Toxicology Lab at Texas Tech University has been conducting research over the past three years in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to formulate and gain approval for the first medicated feed developed for a wild quail in North America. With pilot study ranches in Texas and Oklahoma, the results are promising for a future of sustainable quail populations.
“This is not just a bird we all appreciate, they are highly valuable economically,” states Dr. Kendall. “The film highlights how quail hunters come to Texas and bring thousands and thousands of dollars into our economy. And as is all wildlife, they are a barometer for human life. There should be a longterm concern from us all.”
The Solution Products:
Quail Guard™ is the first medicated feed developed for treatment of parasitic infection in wild quail in North America. In the development phase this feed has been shown to be very effective in treating parasitic infection including eyeworms and caecal worms in wild quail. Pending FDA approval, this feed is expected to hit the shelves in the near future.
Quail Safe™ is the first feeder designed to target Northern bobwhite quail. It’s a predator proof feeder designed to safely administer supplemental and medicated feed to wild quail. It can be utilized for use with Quail Guard.
[by Scott Sadil]
I CALL THE TOWN I LIVE IN ALBION.
The pretty steelhead river that runs through town, and the valley above, I named the Beulah.
Good, figurative, allegorical names.
It’s not exactly Yoknapatawpha County.
But you get the idea.
For years I wrote features and a fly tying column for a California fly fishing magazine, even though I haven’t lived in the state for more than a quarter of a century. Trying to remain relevant or authentic to readers on my native turf, I settled for phrases like just across the border, north of the state line, east of the mountains, or that grand catchall, the West.
Or, for somewhat different reasons, and in different venues, I might just make up a name—a form of lying I squared with a practice that seemed widespread and socially acceptable considering what was at stake. Until the day I left California, I was a serious surfer, where for decades tribal localism in the form of broken windshields, slashed tires, and fisticuffs was real. You looked at a photo of some guy tucked into a gnarly barrel that you would give an eyetooth to surf, a spot identified in the magazine as Acidolphilus Acres, and you knew exactly what was going on.
I run into guys all the time who tease me about the Wolf River. A weird and remote desert tailwater, with big brown trout that always look up, even when they’re snooty as stuffed figs, the Wolf has been hammered and written about for at least two decades now. It’s nobody’s secret. But I still can’t bring myself to spell out its real name—an act, in this case, I equate with scratching a phone number inside a bathroom stall, after beginning with something like for a good time, call . . .
Not that I can legitimately claim any moral high ground. Self-interest colors the finest lines. If I get far enough from home, I don’t seem to worry so much about stating a name. In some backhanded way, it’s like those guides who will never take you to the best water if they know you live within easy striking distance. Or you have your own boat. Decades ago in New Zealand I was shocked a guide and I could hold a stretch of public water for ourselves simply by showing up the day before at a nearby hospital and signing our names on a list of a half-dozen or so mile-long beats. Of course, I eventually realized the guide showed me this system only because I was leaving the country soon, not returning to a house in Auckland.
And staying tight-lipped, for whatever reason I might have, doesn’t always help. Once I spent an entire short story, events and characters pure fiction, trying to bring to life my favorite steelhead river without actually naming it. This was back when I had stumbled upon a series of wee muddlers that rose so many fish over the next few years that I look back now and wonder if it was all a dream. Nothing much to my credit; I just happened to be at the right spot before the crowds showed up. But when the story was published, the title I had given the piece had been changed to include the actual name of the river—right there in bold letters on a two-page color spread. Or maybe that’s just how it’s etched into my memory. This same editor, I should add, previously had demanded I delete a passing reference to another river we both fished, made by a character in an earlier piece of fiction.
“If I printed that name,” he explained, “my buddies would kill me.”
It gets complicated. Most anglers I meet are actually happy to share inside dope on favorite waters; they just don’t want me to run home and post the whereabouts information—along with photos of me drooling over mouthwatering fish—on social media. The picture’s not the real problem. You add the name of a place, however, and that thing between our ears clicks, wheels start turning, and the search engines and Google Earth light up.
And there’s this: Is there anything more delicious in this sport than walking blindly into a feast you never anticipated or even heard of? Discovery remains a profound pleasure at the heart of the sport. A couple of summers ago Joe Kelly and I backpacked into a wilderness drainage that really is out in the eastern part of the state. A fisheries biologist and high school science teacher, Joe claims now he knew we had a chance for bull trout. I’d been down into the canyon twice before, on the other hand, and what I understood we’d be up to was fooling wild and rarely disturbed rainbows with size 10 Humpies, a style of unsophisticated trouting I’d be happy to indulge in long after I can no longer shoulder a pack.
We went in light. For the first time in my life, I hiked, while backpacking, in sneakers; I’ve reached an age when every inch of my body can prove suspect if I fail to warm up for three and a half days. Still, I’d had to convince Joe that we carry our boots and waders; wet-wading was out of the question in these cold, crystalline waters, the sort of habitat that could have tipped me off about the bull trout—if only I’d seen them there before.