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About the Author:
John Merwin lives in Vermont, where, when he's not tying flies, building lures, or digging up worms with his backhoe, he writes the monthly Fishing Column for Field & Stream magazine.

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January 09, 2009
Merwin: Why I Don't Ski

I used to go skiing a lot until my knees got too wobbly with advancing age. Now I tie flies or even go winter trout fishing instead. That inclination was substantially reinforced by some news this week from Colorado.

Some poor guy was skiing at Vail when he got tangled up and dumped by a chairlift seat. As reported on The Smoking Gun website, he was left not just hanging upside down from the lift, but also with his pants pulled down around his ankles...bare-assed in the wind.
Of the many accidents I've suffered while fishing, hanging upside down and naked has not been among them. There's some pretty good winter trout action available not far from Vail, which obviously is what this guy should have been doing instead of skiing. He might get cold and wet in the river, but at least he'd be able to keep his pants on.

January 08, 2009
Cermele: One Out of Five Ain't Bad

I've decided I'm going to jump on the New Year's resolution band wagon. Merwin already posted his (fish more, work less), which I totally agree with, although for me that's more a life mantra than a resolution. But I'm going to play off it and go a step further by presenting the five fish I resolve to catch this year. I am, however, realistic enough to know that I'll be lucky to get one out of five, but it's fun to pretend. If you want to understand more about my picks (and kill a little time at work), click on each species for some video explanation courtesy of YouTube.

Atlantic Salmon: No, not those wannabe stockers that certain New England states are dumping in rivers that are just as polluted as they were when all the native salmon died the first time. I want the real deal in Newfoundland or Quebec. I think it's the history of this fishery that makes it so attractive.

Mongolian Taimen: They're the largest member of the salmonid family and to catch one, you need to be guided on camel back by a Sherpa or some such over Siberian peaks to rivers with names that sound like they're from the 1988 film "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" (gimme props for a severely off-the-wall movie reference!)

Giant Trevally: The biggest of the big I probably wouldn't have the strength or stamina to handle, but these fish are just brutes, and as luck would have it, they live in fun destinations, like Fiji. Plus, they're suckers for topwaters and the takes are just sick. Total toilet flushers.

Delaware River Muskie: This is a personal quest. I live five minutes from the "Big D" and I know there are plenty of muskies swimming around in there, but what I gather from the few people that target them seriously, they're even tougher to catch than the muskies in Lake of the Woods. I've even seen them swim by while wading in the summer, but couldn't hook up. Most people catch them by, the dudes in the video, which is the only video I could find of a muskie from the Delaware. This is who I'm up against.

50-pound Striped Bass: This is my year. I will conquer the beast. I've come so close...just three pounds shy. But

So lay it on me. No matter how far away or how weird, give me the five fish you'd love to have in your catch log by December 31, 2009.


January 07, 2009
Merwin: On Hats and Heads

As problems go, this might not seem too significant but it's still a pain in the neck. I have a large collection of gimme-style ball caps that have come from various tackle companies over the years, and virtually all of them are too small. Because I have a larger-than- normal head size (no comments, please), I have a difficult time finding hats I can wear comfortably and that won't blow off when I'm running the boat.

I finally found a company called the Big Hat Store in Troy, Michigan, that sells oversize ball caps. So I bought a bunch of their hats, which turned out to be the first I've owned in years that actually fit well.

This also got me thinking that perhaps because of my large skull that I must be of equally large talent and intellect. But then maybe not. In searching around, I discovered that both Winston Churchill and Abe Lincoln had relatively small hat sizes--both were 7-1/8. Henry Ford's was even smaller at 6-7/8. ( For more about hats, hat sizing, and history, click here.)

So much for my dreams of grandeur. Anybody else have trouble finding a fishing hat that fits?

January 06, 2009
Cermele: The Worst Fishing Video Ever

Originally, this blog entry was to be titled "What I did on my Christmas Vacation," and the video was going to showcase me and my buddies banging ling, cod, and pollack in the frosty seas off New Jersey. However, a bum offshore forecast and severe lack of fish changed the plan. Although I wasn't going to post this, I put the video together anyway as a documentary of real-life fishing, which so often results in trampled hopes and destroyed expectations that were high in the first place because of shear stupidity. Besides, if you want to see loads of fish being caught, go watch Bill Dance. I keep it real.

Two notes about this video: One, my favorite part is my friend Chris standing on a icy bow in 7 to 8 foot seas, in 25 mph winds gusting to 35, trying to hang on while also attempting to execute the dropping of an anchor I swear is heavy enough to hold a boat three times the size of the one we were on. We enjoyed this from the relative safety of the cabin. And two, I promise my feet were numb during the entire filming, and my optimism and vigor in the beginning while filming at 4:15 a.m. are just as genuine as my complete demoralization and extreme fatigue while filming back at the marina at 3 p.m. Give me an "AMEN" if you've had trips like this. Enjoy!


January 05, 2009
Merwin: Going Bail-less

I happen to like manual spinning reels, meaning those with no bails. Instead of the typical ungainly bail wire that flops back and forth, there's just a round line button in front of the line roller. Line is put on or off the line roller by hand (or your index finger) for casting and retrieving. Here's an ultra-close-up of what the line button looks like on one of my reels.
There are fewer line tangles because there's no bail to throw loops of slack line against the spool. You won't snap off any lures when casting, either, because there's no bail to close prematurely and unpredictably.

Unfortunately and until very recently, the only spinners available with manual bails have been the high-end Van Staals. Otherwise, you were left to modify your own reel by cutting off or otherwise removing the bail while trying to keep the line roller functionally intact. To its great credit, Shimano has introduced a manual-bail option on two spinning- reel lines for 2009. Both the Saragosa ($190 - $300) and the Spheros ($110 - $180) saltwater series allow the addition of a manual-bail kit ($20 - $30) in reel sizes 5000 through 18000. The kits include a line button, counterweights, screws and directions. If you're a surfcaster or inshore-saltwater angler, this is a very big deal for a fairly reasonable price.

Now if only Shimano would make some freshwater versions....

December 31, 2008
Merwin: Easy New Year's Resolution

Fifteen degrees and snowing hard here in the North Country this morning, a very wintry New Year's Eve.

Today brings thoughts of New Year's resolutions, of course,  but I have to say I'm not big on resolutions I already know won't be kept. So instead of promising myself things like weight loss or more rigorous exercise in the new year ahead, here's my one resolution: Fish more, work less.

Sounds pretty good, huh? I have not yet figured out just how I'm going to make that work, but I'm going to try. It's not that fishing is necessarily so important, but, as the late John Voelker once said, that so many other things are equally unimportant and not nearly as much fun.

Don't party too hard tonight, folks, and drive safely. Happy New Year!

December 30, 2008
Merwin: Shark Candy

This is just incredible. Here's a video of an encounter  between some kayak fishermen and a very large great white shark off  the coast of Australia. It was originally posted by BBC News on Sunday. As a kayak angler myself--sometimes in saltwater--it just scares the bejesus out of me.

It also reminds me of a very sick and very old joke. Why do  sharks like kayakers? Because they're crispy on the outside and soft  and chewy on the inside. Funny, I suppose, unless you're a kayaker like these guys!

December 29, 2008
Merwin: Boating Blues

While our crippled economy is making headlines every day, its painful effects on field sports do not. They should, though, and the current state of the boating industry is a good example.
Those same boats we as fishermen depend on are generally viewed as expensive luxury items. A fairly simple walleye boat with a 75-horsepower outboard, for example, runs $10,000 to $20,000 or more now when new. Major-brand center consoles in the 20- to 22-foot range are hitting $75,000 or so fully rigged. And when a high-end freshwater-bass boat tops $50,000 then I'm really scratching my head in wonder.
Afford them or not, many people were buying such things until the recent credit crunch put the boating industry into a dramatic downward spiral. Home-equity, once often used for boat-buying, has evaporated. Major companies such as GE Capital that financed boat-dealer inventories, meanwhile, are rapidly pulling back.
As an angler, I don't think a boat is a luxury. But at the same time I don't think this is the year when I'll be trading in my fully-paid-for skiff for a newer model. As a matter of fact, maybe I'll look for a new pair of waders instead. Waders get really good gas mileage, too....

December 26, 2008
Merwin: Saltwater Licensing Set For 2010

Just a day after I posted the news that a new federal saltwater fishing license was being postponed, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a release stating that implementation of their "Angler Registry" will begin on January 1, 2010. It had been set to begin in just a few days, on January 1, 2009.

The reason for the delay, as I was first told, was a hang-up in getting the proposed rule approved by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). That OMB problem isn't mentioned in the release, which instead says the delay is intended to give coastal states that don't have saltwater licensing--generally from New Jersey north to Maine--time to develop a way of accurately counting their saltwater anglers. That will for the most part mean adopting their own saltwater licensing systems before the feds do it for them.

Read the links above for an excellent explanation of the federal plan. Understand also that if, for example, you live in Illinois or Ohio and travel to fish stripers in Massachusetts, then the licensing requirement will also apply to you.

December 25, 2008
Cermele: Santa Brought Me Instruments of Death!

Actually, it wasn't Santa, but my fiancee, Christen. You know you've got the right girl when she spends her hard-earned coin on a new AFTCO flying gaff for you for Christmas. So here I sit, Christmas morning in my jammies admiring this new addition to the ever-growing arsenal.
I don't expect anyone will read this today, but I was so excited, I had to share. On a side note, it's 60 degrees in Jersey this morning. Do I sneak out to the trout stream for a few hours before Christmas dinner? Or would that just be wrong? I can't decide, and that, my friends is my problem. I imagine normal people wouldn't dream of fishing today.

Merry Christmas!