Better late than never.
My intention was to keep up with this newsletter on a monthly basis- and I’m hoping this gets me back on track. However, life has taken on two profound changes in the last two months. First, we got a new puppy- Griswold- and we were totally and wholly unprepared for what it would be like to have to provide 24-hour care to an 8-week old, 4.5-pound, puppy who had never been outside or away from it's brothers and sisters. Since I work at home, and Carly is pushing through the Hell that was the final months of an 18-month slog of teaching in a pandemic, I took the brunt of it.
But that has resolved now; and he’s growing up fast. Couldn't be happier with the little clown.
The next change has been the one that will take far longer to get over.
On May 17th I lost my grandmother to a systemic infection as a complication of a blood condition and a prolonged hospital stay. The blood condition (with a somewhat serious heart condition) had almost killed her at least 10 times over as many years. It was a rollercoaster three months leading up to her death, and while I was prepared every day for the worst, the timing and speed in which it happened was shocking. And I couldn’t be there when she ultimately left us.
She was as much a mother to me as my own, as well as a best friend. I talked to her seven- to ten-times a week for the last couple years, and in the last ten years it’s been at least three days. She was one of the only people in my life who stayed up past 11:00 pm, so she was the one I would call on the way to, and way back from, fishing. Sometimes we’d talk until 1:00 am. Once we talked until 2:15- she was 85 at that point. She loved to talk politics with me, and we talked about society and what had changed in her 87 years. We also discussed everything from silly TV shows (in the last year of her life she discovered Netflix and was obsessed with it) and music, to God and the afterlife, and everything in between. While we had very little in common in terms of past-times, she was the best listener and always enthusiastic about whatever it was that I was excited about at that moment.
Jean (grandma) was also one of the most supportive individuals in my life; perhaps the most supportive if you exclude Carly. After watching me go through a tumultuous period in my life, she insisted I’d found something that I wasn’t just good at, but that I was happy doing: writing. She said it to me almost every time we talked; she always wanted an update, and had me read her various stories I had written. Even had me send her some fishing instructional pieces. She didn’t even like fishing. She just wanted to know what I was up to.
Last year, during the peak of the pandemic, I got a copy of Fly Fishing Journal issue 11.4, and decided to sit down and read it after it had been sitting on my desk for months. It was 11:55 pm, a rare night I was home from fishing. I was beat up, burnt out, and exhausted. But I couldn’t sleep, with my circadian rhythm so fucked up. Fly fishing Journal is an incredible magazine of the highest standard, and every piece is typically a knock-out. However, in this edition was a piece by Nathaniel Riverhorse Nakadate called Seedlings and Earth. I read the piece twice in a row, with a bit of a respite in the middle to recover. It was one of the best pieces of fishing writing I’d ever read; no, it was one of the best short pieces of non-fiction I’d ever read, period. And I read a lot. It moved me to the point of my default thinking pose: laying flat on the floor staring at the ceiling. There were tears with this one. I’m a sucker for animals, and if you find the article- which you should- you’ll get a glimpse into the softy I am. It was profound, and sad, and I identified with Nathaniel on a level I rarely feel with other humans.
After I recovered a little, I had to call grandma. In the glow of the weak 40-watt bulb over the stovetop, I read the article to her in a hushed voice, not wanting to wake Carly or disturb the dog. There were moments this time that were even harder to get through; I guess since I was reading it to her. I could hear her clucking her tongue, and several times she just uttered quietly “Oh, God!” I can hear her doing it even now; both hallmarks of her personality.
When I got to the end, she was still choked up, and I was, too. I remember missing her so very much at that moment. I hadn’t seen her since August 2019, and in this instant I felt the distance like a sharp blade in my chest. I just wanted to hug her.
She stuttered and stammered a little bit, repeated “that was just beautiful!” several times, while I just stayed silent. The, finally, I replied that I knew she’d love it, and I had to share it with her as soon as I could, that’s why I had to call her right then. I didn’t want to wait.
Don’t ever wait on things like this.
We then discussed why the piece was so good; the loose thread of it, the real feel, the gritty nature of the phrases. It wasn’t polished, it was real. The rawness of Nathaniel’s personality, of his nature, poured out of the pages in the short piece. He was unapologetic about letting something real- but to many, inconsequential- impact him to the point of profundity and a wandering search for solace.
The next words out of her mouth will stay with me forever, and as I write this, I struggle to keep from weeping.
“Jerry, you can write like that. You already do. So stop worrying about if others will like it, and start sharing it. We all want to read it. We want to know you.”
That night, the words stuck for some reason. She had said similar things to me so many times, but this time they stuck. I did want to share things the way that piece did. That’s the kind of writing I love; the instruction is fun, and it helps make connections with other anglers, but the stories, vignettes, philosophy, ruminations…that’s where I thrive.
But, then, these things also take time. I’m sitting on five pieces right now- all either totally completed or almost- that just need to be submitted with a tiny bit more polish and accompanied photos. At least as many are in various states of composition.
Grandma’s memorial service is on July 2nd. I’m writing and reading her eulogy. I won’t be upset that I couldn’t say these things to her- about how much her support and love meant to me- because I told her all the time. She knew.
However, I’ve been dragging my feet on these pieces (and many, many more) that she never got to read. That you, reading this, have never heard. It’s time to start pushing myself to get out of the comfortable- the straightforward technical pieces, instructional writings, and safe, cliché stories of good and bad fishing- and start doing writing what I’ve always wanted.
To write like grandma always said I should.
It is with great pride and excitement that I announce I have taken the position as managing and content editor at Surfcasters Journal. I have taken over for Dave Anderson, who is now the regional editor for the New England edition of The Fisherman. Those are big shoes to fill, but I’m ready to take up the challenge. Surfcasters was the first place I ever had a piece published, and I remember being more excited for it making it into the magazine, than I ever was for my first scientific paper being published.
If you’ve been fishing for a while, and have an idea for an article, I’d love to hear it. We’re looking to bring in new authors, with new ideas, while also holding onto those you’ve come to expect. Specifically, we’d love to hear your lifestyle pieces, and are always looking for photography to accompany pieces. Have an idea but not sure it’ll work? Contact me, and I’m happy to discuss. firstname.lastname@example.org
In the current edition of Surfcasters I have an article entitled “The Faux Moon”, where I go through my ideas about how to get around the full moon. The full moon can be really challenging for pluggers, and the general advice is usually use lighter leaders, slower/faster retrieves, and more realistic offerings (or bait). Yet, there are opportunities to get around the brightness of the full moon, using some of the scenarios I detail in the article. I tried to make sure these suggestions weren’t the same-old, same-old. Instead, I focused on some of the concepts we talked about in Surf Scnearios- so if you missed the series, you get a tiny glimpse of the “moon talk” in this one.
Next, if you missed it, I had my first ever in-print cover on the May edition of On The Water. You can find the photo on the New York and New Jersey editions- the New England cover is different (which is pretty funny). The photo is of me, taken by me, all by myself. While I’ve made the cover of Surfcasters five times to this point, this one is a big one. The 25th anniversary edition of On The Water is an incredible place to start. I’ve been sitting on that photo since September of 2019, and I’m so happy it’s finally being used for the purpose for which I had saved it.
And, as part of the May edition of the On the Water, I have an article entitled “Northern Flats” where I detail some of my experiences fishing for smallmouth bass in special places in New England. These places are eerily similar to waters you might find in places like the Florida Keys- expansive, sandy flats with some vegetation, where you can wade in shallows and cast to large fish that cruise looking for easy meals. You won’t find these conditions in every body of water in New England- in fact, I really only fish four lakes that constitute what I’m talking about. They’re very unique. However, I’m sure many, many more exist, and if you enjoy fly fishing for any species, I encourage you to give the piece a read and try it out. Indeed: I was just fishing one of these waters last weekend, and found another equally good that I didn’t know existed. And in this new body of water, I landed a 21-inch monster of a smallmouth on my own, homemade cork poppers. After I was annoyed by a factory one, cut it off as the light was fading, and put on my own. What a moment…one I hope to write about soon!
Next up, and to the point of this post, I’m beyond excited to announce you can find an article entitled “Shadows, Spokes, Surf, and Stripers” in the summer edition of Strung magazine. This- very new- magazine is really amazing, and I’m thrilled to be (what I believe) is the first striper piece of its short history. The article is all about fly fishing at night, specifically focusing on how I adore using my bike to access hard to reach places. How biking and fishing all culminate into something special that’s hard for me to capture in any other part of my life. Strung is cool, because it’s the only magazine I know of (besides maybe Grey’s) who has really great stories and lifestyle pieces about hunting. I don’t hunt (anymore) but I find the articles entertaining because they fit in so well with what I (we) do as surfcasters.
Finally, in The Fisherman, I’ve had a whole bunch of stuff in May and June. Remember, all of these magazines have digital editions that allow you to go back and review pieces you missed. This makes magazines a remarkable value, far more valuable than they ever were before: not need to store stacks of magazines, just go online!
First, I had a couple weekly columns about footwear (May 6th "Customize your Surf Boots" and May 13th "Surf: Extend Your Korkers Life" ) in the online editions. The first was about choosing proper studs for your boots, and the other was about increasing the durability of your Korker over-shoes. Both are pet-peeves of mine; that is, seeing anglers not using the proper equipment. You can die so easily out there; your feet are your first defense. Don’t skimp on traction.
Next, I had a fly weekly column out recently (June 14th edition) called “Feed em’ the fly”, focusing on small streams. In the article, I discuss why casting is often not necessary, and when the perfect drift is the goal, sometimes it’s best to just feed the line down the current.
My final and most recent weekly online column (June 14th edition) discussed how to properly revive and release large fish in the surf, and from boats (but focusing on surf specifically) (When They're Ready). I see so many well-intentioned anglers doing this wrong, that I’m definitely going to post that article up in full after the six-months exclusive rights expires. So look of that as a stand-alone piece this winter on this blog.
I also had a full-length, regional article about fishing small streams in the print May edition entitled "Simplicity on the Fly: Small Streams, Big Dreams" and how to make it more simple and efficient. I focus on how to get started, or drill down to the most productive spots. I talk about leaving all the bulky gear behind, and the limited number of flies I rely on. It’s a GREAT piece if you’re just starting out fly fishing, or you want to focus more on tiny bodies of water. This is one of my favorite kinds of fishing, and you should look for more of this from me in the future in more magazines.
I then also had a “glossy feature” (what they say when it’s featured in all-three regions) that I wrote way back in November of 2020 but is just getting out now. Well, it was in the May print edition anyways (it’s almost July as of writing this!!!) It’s a compilation article entitled "A Reel Drag: How Tight and Why?" where I interviewed a bunch of anglers up and down the coast, and asked them about drag settings in the surf. I have anglers from Cape Anne in Massachusetts, all the way down to the South Counties of New Jersey in this one. I LOVE compilation articles and found this one really interesting on a personal level. This is a “must read” in my eyes! Graphics and all!
I believe that’s it- I’ve got more coming for July, and some big things are in the works going forwards (the wheels are already turning as to the next Surf Scenarios seminar series). This is already long, so I’m not guilty about not talking about my season so far. However, suffice to say freshwater fishing has been one of my best years to date, but the surf is by far my worst season ever. Without a doubt. However, we’re only through stage 1, part 1 (early May to early June), and about half-way through stage 1, part 2 (early June to mid-July) of my season- so lots of time left. It only takes one cast, and you have to stay in it no matter how bad it was yesterday, because no fish are caught from the couch.
Until next time!