Jul 30 2012 7:31 pm

gravel and chatter

We saw five or six lake trout or steelhead or coho or maybe big browns working bait against the inside of the break wall in Frankfort a few weeks ago. They were in about four feet of water and they would cruise along tight to the boulders and dart away and then back, occasionally turning on their side and slashing forward in a silver arc. I never saw anything like this in Ludington. I’m sure it happens there too, but I never saw it.

The two lane road from Thompsonville is in pretty good shape and rolls through old pine plantations, stands of big aspen, and some cedar swamps. It’s easy to hit seventy five miles an hour and it’s just long enough, about ten miles from there to here, to tune out. I was using the big dune buggy as a landmark. It sat exactly across the road from my turn. They wanted six thousand dollars for it. Someone must have paid them because it’s gone now. The other day I shot past my turn and hit 31 before I knew anything was wrong.

The roads to the upper Manistee are all gravel, dirt, chatter, and sand wallows. They eat trailer lights, wheel bearings, and license plates. The dust has worked its way into everything on my boat. It’s not easy to love, that river, mainly because it’s hard to get to. The lower Manistee is fine, I guess. It actually has boat ramps and paved roads and lots of smallmouth. But it’s big and everybody rips around it in their sleds like gasoline is going out of style.

I’m having a hard time tearing myself away from the Pere Marquette. Not like I have to, but I feel like I should. Not that I’m some old salt on the PM, far from it, but it only takes getting thrown into something big and intimidating to make me appreciate the human scale and the familiar.

I’ve moved twelve times since 1997. I’m pretty fucking sick of moving. I seem to be circumnavigating some point in Ohio, and not entirely on purpose. At least the last two moves have been in the right direction: north.

I’m still guiding. You should book a trip. I’m also working on a movie about cedar drift boats and mousing for browns with the hardest working guide in Michigan, Center City Philly Croff. Everybody relax.


comments 19

May 27 2012 12:46 pm

Dirty Dickies and Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac Arrest stopped at a diner somewhere just west of the Palisades Parkway at three in the morning. It was one of those glass and steel and vinyl diners, the kind that get wiped down a lot but never cleaned. Everything is always greasy.

He’d been up early fishing and drinking and doing a reasonable amount of recreational drugs for the past several days. He was strung out and sun burned. He’d kept himself awake for the drive with amphetamines and cigarettes and Mountain Dew. Surely the caffeine in the soda pop was overwhelmed by the amphetamines and completely unnecessary as an alertness aid, but he liked the mechanical action of drinking out of those wide-mouthed liter bottles and he liked the taste of Mountain Dew. He really liked the last half of the soda, when it was flat and warm and got really syrupy. The best cigarettes were the ones after that last bit of soda.

Cardiac Arrest walked slowly through the parking lot and climbed the long concrete ramp to the door using both handrails, sliding his hands one at a time with each step. The handrails were greasy, but he didn’t care.

There was one woman working behind the counter. It was not Ellen Barkin. Cardiac Arrest did not have a large folding knife. He did have a pistol, though, which was stuck in the waistband of his pants, but he probably wouldn’t ever use it.

There was one man sitting at the far end of the counter eating pie. He was wearing a dirty blue Dickies work shirt and dirty blue Dickies work pants. He had big brown dirty work boots on. He looked up at Cardiac Arrest for a moment and then went back to his pie.


“No. Thanks. I’ll just have a water please. Where’s the bathroom?”

Cardiac Arrest was wearing a sweatshirt and some lightweight fleece pants that were tucked into some wool socks which were crammed into some old sneakers that were untied. He dragged his shoelaces through a lot of grease and urine in the bathroom.

“Miss? I’ll have whatever pie that gentleman at the end of the counter is having.”


Dirty Dickies looked up and over at Cardiac Arrest. “Why would you do that?”

“Well I don’t know, you look like a smart guy.”


“What are you trying to say?”


“Nothing, nothing, I’m only trying to say that I bet your pie choice was sound. That’s all.” As Cardiac Arrest sat down on his stool his gun fell out of his waistband and clacked loudly on the tile floor behind him. He scrambled to grab it and put it back in his pants before the waitress noticed. Dirty Dickies noticed. He put some cash on the counter and pushed himself up off his stool and walked out of the diner.


The waitress brought the slice of pie. It was key lime, which struck Cardiac Arrest as kind of odd, because he knew it was going to be key lime before he woke up that morning. He muttered to himself, “Well, anybody that knows anything knows that.”

When he finished his pie he put some money on the counter, pushed himself up off his stool and walked out. Dirty Dickies was waiting for him in the parking lot. “You are one goofy mother fucker. I think you were trying to say I look dumb.”

“Hey man, I wasn’t trying to say anything like that. I’m a little strung out and I just figured you knew what you were doing in terms of pie. I guess that’s kind of weird, but I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“I know you have that gun, but I also know you’re not going to use it.”

“You don’t know that.”


comments 18

May 9 2012 3:43 pm

the river and the bar

The river looked like very strong tea. Sand plumes roiled over the steeper drop offs. The sky was sky blue. The sun was yellow. The wind blew hard sometimes and felt like wind. The boat went down the river just like a boat should.

The wind was blowing and I was in the bow fishing and then there was a loud but muffled clapping sound in the woods and I looked up thinking it was weird gunfire or maybe a turkey flying but then I noticed the big tree just in front of us on the left start to fall. Fred started back rowing and the tree crashed down not more than ten feet in front of us.

The guy was well dressed, and drunk. He took his tie off at some point during the evening and I only ever served him one drink directly. The bar was crowded like a crowded bar. Our faces were about a foot away from one another and we were both yelling like you do in a crowded bar with a loud band playing.

He was asking me to explain his bill. He was looking at the credit card slip. I asked him if he wanted an itemized receipt, but he asked me again to explain his bill. I said I didn’t know what he was talking about. He demanded that I explain his bill. I asked him if he wanted an itemized receipt again. He told me to not be a bitch. He had crazy eyes and he spit a little when he said bitch and then halfway sucked in his lower lip behind his front teeth after he said it, like some sort of weird challenge. He was drunk and had crazy person drunk eyes. He looked at me and said, “Don’t be such a fat bitch. You're a fat bitch.”

I punched him hard in the nose, really hard, and I knew quite distinctly that something cracked in his face. He fell backward into the crowd and slowly crumpled to the floor, at first to his knees and then, as people moved out of the way, he slumped backward awkwardly with his feet under his ass and his left shoulder on the floor. Blood was pouring from his nose and he was blowing bubbles in it with every sleeping breath. I know bartenders should never punch patrons, but I am an animal and the chemicals coursing through my body made me do it.


comments 32

Apr 15 2012 12:58 pm

Blood Root and the Dutchman's Breeches

The mesh of dead gray leaves and brown sticks and briars, opossum bones, and everywhere leeks, the beacons of spring, they shine bright green through the forest. The mechanical power of cell division allows morels to push through the leaf litter and hold it up in some places. Blood Root and the Dutchman’s Breeches: that’s the name of our new band. We only play post-apocalyptic Celtic funk.

The small creek empties brown tannic water onto the turquoise flats of Lake Michigan and flows south tight to the shore for almost a mile. It was easy to stand on the beach on the weird 70 degree late March day and shoot big baitfish patterns out fifty feet and strip them back into the dirty water. Big fish rolled on those flies but they wouldn’t grab them, for whatever reason. It should be said, though, that rolling big salmonids in the surf is almost as good as catching them. 

Then it got cold and the east winds blew and only now is the lake finally setting up again for good surf fishing. But of course this coincides with the arrival of my new boat, so I have to go fish the river.

Tough decisions. Don’t worry. I’ll make them.


comments 25

Apr 2 2012 9:56 am

Pulp Fly Volume One

Pulp Fly Volume One was released yesterday on Amazon for the Kindle (this is not an April Fool's joke, I swear to you). I know absolutely nothing about electronic books, but apparently you can read this thing without a Kindle. Learn how here and here. It is also apparently coming out in Nook and iBook formats some time in the near future.

Go here to buy it. It costs $4.95. Apparently it is the #8 #3 #1 best seller in the fishing category right now, which includes both printed and electronic books. Jeremy Wade, your reign will not endure is over.


I have a piece in Pulp Fly Volume One. It features everybody's favorite weirdo, Frank. You can read more about Frank (and even Nelson Rockefeller) here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.


And to give you a better idea about what Pulp Fly Volume One is like, I've taken the liberty of excerpting my favorite quotes from each piece in the volume, in order of their appearance in said volume. The number or length of quotes excerpted does not necessarily represent my opinion of a piece, but probably rather something like their quotability. And if I found one quote really striking, that's the only one I grabbed. Though I should say that Ralph Bartholdt's piece, "The Least of Things," is probably my favorite.


Matt Dunn: "Frank was alone on the road in the dark heading north and ten minutes out he fished a pill from the pocket of his jeans and slipped it between his lips and worked it to the back of his mouth and pulled a can of beer from the six pack ring on the passenger’s seat and peeled the tab and it foamed up and he had to hold it out awkwardly and stretch his head out over the can and purse his lips to slurp the foam and finally he got to actual beer and swallowed the pill and forgot about Lisa and forgot about her mom and by the time he hit Newaygo he was feeling pretty good."

Bob White: “The bat shrieked as it hit the water and continued screeching as he reeled it in. He cut the tippet well above the big Hexagenia pattern and watched in silence as it floated away struggling in the surface. When it reached the bend, the big fish took it in a swirl that sounded like a calf being tossed into the river.”


Davin Ebanks: "The next few seconds unfold like frames in a poor animation. The fish seems to elongate, stretching into a dark blur a split-second before I hear the explosion of its departure. Line is jumping through my rigid fingers, disappearing in a series of frozen scribbles in the air, like the squiggles you see after trying to write your name with a sparkler."

Michael Gracie: "'Cool! I was told to come here for tackle, but do you have any tips for a newbie?'


'Tackle? Dammit kid...tackle is for bait fishermen! Do you have a clue what we’re doing here?'”


Alex Landeen: "Leah thought about someone throwing vegetables at her while she was trying to watch the television or read a magazine and laughed to herself."


Bjorn Stromsness: "He looked hard at that fish. So many times released fish almost instantly were obliterated as a clear and distinct memory. He wanted to remember this fish, and so he held it just below the
surface, trying to make an enduring image."


Alex Cerveniak: "Every fight started the same. Some arguing, I’d get shoved in the chest, I’d shove back, and then punch them in the throat. I never meant to punch anyone in the throat; I guess I just had bad aim."


Ralph Bartholdt: "I was making things up. It had been a while since I called someone to fish and I had forgotten how."


"My dog, a small pointer who preferred to sleep out here among the scents of summer - the waders, fly boxes, the boots with silt stuck in their soles - drummed a tattoo with her stub tail on the floor. Her eyes waited for a kind word as I stood blankly in the doorway with the last cast of autumn now a tactile disconnect like a dream in which you're savoring a three course meal, but you wake with a taste of dead spiders in your mouth."


"I had my hair cut in a shop north of town and the barber recommended shampoo she had on a shelf. I used it for three weeks and nothing. My dandruff hung on like the winter, big as field mice, white as the owls that came down from Canada to chase them."


"Around the middle of February I started running as a means of exercise and to stave off gunfighter intentions. I was beginning to crave loud noises and the smell of cosmoline."


"The afternoon was sheet metal and the water was higher than we imagined. He made a long, awkward cast and his streamer smacked the current like an appliance. He turned to grin at me.


'Tank parts,' he said."


[ED. NOTE: fucking tank parts dude]


Bruce Smithhammer: "This is not to be confused with the sort of ego-driven blood lust and trophy focus you see so frequently depicted on 'horn porn' hunting shows, or their fishing equivalents. It has nothing to do with a feeling of superiority over another species, evidenced by the fact that, more often than not, I am left empty-handed, feeling decidedly inferior."


Matt Smythe: "High-speed, low-drag. The combat mind."

Pete McDonald: “'When you called last night, told your father to lick genitalia.'

'Suck balls Jackie,' Rory’s father had stormed in from the patio. 'He told me to SUCK BALLS!'

Rory threw up his hands and walked back to his old bedroom and saw the day’s inspirational note from his Dad. It read, 'Underachievement is not a form of rebellion.'"

"'I should get a job.'


'Nah, we should go to Everglades City.'

Rory pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and threw it on the bar countertop. It was in a woman’s handwriting and displayed a series of numbers corresponding to the players at Dania.

He took another sip, 'The Rod & Gun Club is cash only.'

'We’ll need a week to get the tide patterns down.'

'Can your dad give me a job?'


'He thinks you’re sleeping with my mother.'”


Thanks to Bjorn Stromsness for getting the ball rolling. Thanks to Pete McDonald for getting me involved. Thanks to Pete and Bruce Smithhammer for editing Pulp Fly Volume One. Thanks to Michael Gracie for doing some electronic stuff (?). Thanks to Kirk Deeter for writing the introduction.

comments 11