Appropriate for this time of year is the free download currently being offered by The Dirty Guv’nahs. We profiled the Guvs here, when they contributed to the soundtrack to the fly fishing film The Waters of the Greenstone, which was an official selection of the 2011 Fly Fishing Film Tour. (Film still recommended, by the way.)
The Guv’nah’s have only increased their momentum since last we had them on RG. They’ve been selling out theaters and bars and shows at Bonnaroo and SXSW. The band has also shared the stage with folks such as Wilco, Zac Brown Band, Levon Helm Band, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and Train.
The song here is a demo version, but it’s a solid acoustic track. Take a listen below and make sure to grab your copy while you can.
Three hours east-northeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, you cross over onto Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton accounts for about 19% of the total area of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The island’s largest river is the Margaree River. For a century, the Margaree has been known the world over for its Atlantic salmon fly fishing – the river’s gravel bars offering themselves as spawning grounds for the hard-fighting fish.
In earnest and reverential tones, Damian Welsh — writer for Hatches Magazine — describes his relationship with the big river.
Thoughts and images rush through your head as you anticipate that first trip of the season to the Margaree’s banks. The anticipation quickly turns into hurried excitement as you begin to make your way into the valley over winding roads, and past the familiar landmarks along the way. You turn off the air conditioning, roll down the windows and feel the rush of a fresh Margaree breeze pass under your nose; you breathe it in deeply and that wave of unmistaken familiarity overcomes you, telling you that you have finally arrived, and another season is about to begin. Like the Atlantic Salmon to their native streams return, I, likewise, return to the Margaree River year after year in hopes of landing my first Margaree Salmon, the elusive Salmo Salar.
Back in Halifax is a great local band . . . that’s sorta not that local anymore . . . Wintersleep. Wintersleep’s song “Weighty Ghost” is one of my all-time favorites. It appeared was on the band’s Welcome To The Night Sky album — which released late 2007. Wintersleep released a new album, Hello Hum, earlier this year. That spurred me to reach backward to one of my favorite songs . . . one not yet profiled here.
Here is “Weighty Ghost.”
Spirit Family Reunion definitely deserves a place on the Davidson River Playlist — our list of bluegrass/country-focused tunes. These guys strike a new and distinct balance between old and new . . . between established roots and vibrant, new growth. This is a tricky thing to do, but one that Spirit Family Reunion does in its own, unique way. Paste Magazine describes the balance thusly:
Dusty acoustic guitars, wailing fiddles and weeping accordions, with a woozy-yet-skintight rhythm section– and topped off with burr-edged vocals that sound like they’ve been soaked in a Mason jar for generations — it’s the type of music that blurs the line between past and present so thoroughly, and so deftly, that time feels irrelevant.
These guys are also a lot of fun. Their music is stuff to which you can “stomp, clap, shake and holler,” according to the band — whether in barrooms, ballrooms, farmers’ markets, festivals, street corners, or subway stations.
Here is “Green Rocky Road” from No Separation.
Mumford & Sons started in 2007 by playing the streets and humble venues of West London, offering indie folk and bluegrass behind strong songwriting. The four members, Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall, and Ted Dwane, came together around a shared love of roots music. In 2009 and 2010, however, things changed. With the release of their debut album, Sigh No More, Mumford at al. began an adrenaline-inducing ascent. The album hit a cord with fans the world over – ultimately reaching number one in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand; and number two in the UK and the Billboard 200 in the United States. To top things off, Mumford & Sons got to perform with Bob Dylan and the Avett Bros. at the 2011 Grammys. Quite a rise, indeed.
The band now tours tirelessly and that makes them much more difficult to catch in their hometown. For fly fishermen and women that do catch them there (they’ll be at The Roundhouse on September 24th), there is a nice side-benefit: though entirely too massive to be thought of as a fly fishing town, London’s still got a bunch of nice fly shops and some excellent fly fishing right nearby. This from Dave Martin and Steve Rhodes, proprietors of Go Fly Fishing UK, a guide service that serves England, Wales, and Scotland:
There are . . . top class Trout fly fishing waters . . . only a 60 to 90 minute travel time from central London in the counties of Hampshire, Berkshire, Surrey, West Sussex, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. Such famous fly fishing waters as the River Test, River Itchen and River Kennet are within particularly easy reach of London.
On September 25th Mumford & Sons will release their sophomore effort, Babel. Here is “I Will Wait,” a single and a preview from the upcoming album.
We’re expanding things a bit and adding a new playlist. It’ll have strains of folk, gospel, country, Americana, and rock & roll – as all of the songs on RG do, in one combination or another. The unifying theme for this new list, however, will be bluegrass . . . that wondrous blend of English, Scottish and Irish traditional music and American jazz . . . that singular sound that sprang out of Appalachia in the late nineteenth century, which is now being modernized by some amazing bands.
The new playlist will be called the Davidson River Playlist. The Davidson is an Appalachian river and one of Trout Unlimited’s 100 Best Trout Streams. It’s also the major river near the town of Asheville, North Carolina . . . one of RG’s very favorite towns for fly fishing + music.
We’ll poach a bit from existing RG playlists. We’ll pull in songs, for example, from Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck, Hoots & Hellmouth, The Brothers Comatose and The Breakmen, which have already been profiled on RG . . . but we’ll add a whole bunch of new songs too . . . like this one: “120 East” from the brand new Comatose album, Respect The Van.
David James Duncan, acclaimed author of the The River Why, calls Jeffrey Foucault “a living bard and national treasure.” Quite an endorsement . . . especially from an artist the caliber of Duncan. Foucault deserves it though. He’s a unique, talented and accomplished singer-songwriter. “Jeffrey Foucault sings stark, literate songs that are as wide open as the landscape of his native Midwest,” says The New Yorker.
Foucault is also an ardent fly fisherman. He chases steelhead on the Midwest tributaries of the Great Lakes, but the rivers out West have clearly gotten a hold of him too:
When I lived in north-central Wyoming one Fall some years ago I promised myself, sitting on a rock in the Little Horn river and drinking a beer I’d stowed to cool before fishing, that I’d try to get back west by hook or crook every year for as long as I lived. I’ve missed a few but not many. It’s the kind of country that bleeds the self delightfully away, or it can.
Here is “4 & 20 Blues” from Jeffrey Foucault.
A Banquet for Ghosts, the new album from Matthew Mayfield, is one of the year’s best. Mayfield is the real deal as a singer-songwriter, having toured with the likes of Needtobreathe, Switchfoot and The Civil Wars . . . but, still, this album came as a (great) surprise.
Mayfield is from Birmingham Alabama. Though only 29 years old, it’s like he’s lived a whole lifetime in the music world. Eight years ago, as lead signer for the band Moses Mayfield, he signed a major deal with Epic Records. Shortly thereafter, though, the group disbanded amid multiple internal and external disagreements. At that point, he struck out on his own and began a productive solo career. “When the band broke up, I knew I had to keep pushing,” says Mayfield. And push, he has. Since the breakup, he’s self-released eight solo EPs and two full-length albums. Banquet is the latest of those two albums.
Now . . . Mayfield’s hometown might not immediately conjure images of flies and fishermen and trout. However, less than an hour away from Birmingham lies the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River. It’s known as the “Sip.” A warm water tributary until September 1961, when the Lewis Smith Dam went into operation, the Sip is now a cold-water tailwater . . . capable of supporting trout. In 1974, rainbow trout were indeed introduced and the Sip has become Alabama’s only year round trout fishery.
Listen to the sounds of Birmingham below with “Heart in Wire” from A Banquet for Ghosts. (Warning: explicit lyrics)
The band Trampled By Turtles is an oft-suggested one from the fly fishermen and women on our What are YOU listening to? page. That is, by itself, reason enough to post about this unique and gifted group. But . . . I also promised to do a post about TbT back when we profiled Dave Simonett’s other musical endeavor, Dead Man Winter. So, here you go . . .
Dead Man Winter is Simonett’s electrified band. (There’s actually a pretty good story behind DMW, which you can read here.) TbT is his acoustic band. Crawdaddy Magazine calls TbT “the real deal, American bluegrass taken to its righteous extreme,” and says that, “the awesomeness just pours out of the five-piece and into one’s ears like that welcomed sting of the whiskey cure.”
TbT just released its newest album, Stars and Satellites. Speaking specifically about that album, Simonett had this to say:
We wanted to make a record that breathes. We wanted it to feel and sound warm and more like one piece of work than several pieces put together. We took our songs . . . to Soleil Pines, a log home outside of Duluth and within the gravitational pull of Lake Superior. We moved the furniture, set up some mics, worked, slept, and ate all in the same space.
Judge their effort yourself. Here is “Alone” from Stars and Satellites.
Okay . . . so . . . this is a little bit of a departure for Reel Grease . . . in a way. In another way, it’s not. Bear with me. Phillip Phillips just won American Idol last night. Not the typical artist of focus for this blog. That said . . . everything around here is about discovering great music. One of the songs Phillips did on the show – “Home,” written by Drew Pearson (who’s worked also with Zac Brown Band) – definitely falls into the category. It’s really quite good. Already lots of comparisons to Mumford & Sons. I can’t wait to see what happens when Phillips breaks free of the American Idol apparatus. I think he’s got one hell of a career ahead.
The song also fits well into the RG Fall River Playlist. That playlist is meant to represent Americana-influenced, heavily-acoustic mountain music. Or . . . maybe better said . . . mountain town acoustic Americana. Maybe that’s not better said. Whatever. It’s the acoustic version of the music that you’d hope to hear live . . . as we say often . . . in the bars and saloons of the mountain towns and trout towns of America.
Here is “Home” from Phillip Phillips.
Ben Howard lives in the town of Totnes, on the west bank of the River Dart. Totnes is in the county of Devon in southwestern England. RG took at look at Devon here and here because of the remarkable convergence of good fly fishing and good music that’s occurred in the area of the West Country. Howard, indie folk singer-songwriter, is one more example of that convergence.
The River Dart begins its run as two rivers actually, the East Dart and the West Dart, high on the wild, upland moors of Dartmoor. The two rivers converge at Dartmeet and become the River Dart proper (or Double Dart to some). The river finishes at the sea, at Dartmouth. Along its journey from the moors to the sea, the Dart offers anglers opportunities to catch wild brown trout, sea trout and salmon, all on the fly.
Though he lives in Totnes, Ben Howard spends tons of time on the road. He’s scheduled to perform in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Boulder, and Salt Lake City in the next few months. Here is “Old Pine” from Howard’s new album, Every Kingdom.
Amos Lee is from Philadelphia. He still lives there too . . . for at least for part of the year. He spends the rest on the road. He’s played with Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Norah Jones, Van Morrison, John Prine, and the Dave Matthews Band. The New York Times describes him as having “a honeyed singing voice — light amber, mildly sweet, a touch of grain,” with songs that are “rooted in a soothing style descended from 1970s folk rock and rustic soul.”
Not too far outside Lee’s native Philadelphia – about 20 minutes, actually – sits the Valley Forge National Historical Park, where General George Washington’s Continental Army encamped during the winter of 1777-1778. Running through that venerable ground is Valley Creek. For fly fishermen and women, Charles R. Meck, in his Trout Streams and Hatches of Pennsylvania, puts Valley Creek into historical context:
What a great history this stream holds! Just a little over 200 years ago the lower end of Valley Creek sheltered Washington’s discouraged, desperate Continental Army. Some of the most productive pockets and pools on the stream lie within a few feet of Lafayette’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. The very spot you’re fishing could be a spot where Washington, Lafayette, or one of their soldiers crossed.
Fly fishing on Valley Creek is an experience in history. No doubt. But then, there is some very good fishing to be had, as well. According to the folks at TCO Fly Shop of Reading, Pennsylvania,
Valley Creek is a wonderful Class “A” wild brown trout fishery located just a few miles from Philadelphia. Valley Creek has good access, including a long stretch that flows through Valley Forge National Park and Historic Site. This little jewel is protected with catch-and-release regulations it’s entire length.
Though only about 25 to 30 feet across, it’s common for anglers to pull up to 16 inch wild browns out of the creek.
Here is Amos Lee in a live performance of an old Gospel song, “Cup of Sorrow.”
“In the West Country you can catch trout from after breakfast till sunset, and enjoy the open air and the country for as long as the sun is in the sky”
Dermot Wilson, Fishing the Dry Fly, 1957
This post is a companion to one from last week on British folk-rocker, Seth Lakeman. Last week’s post featured a favorite song from an older Lakeman album; this week’s features a song from his brand new album, Tales from the Barrel House. The Tales songs are rustic, authentic. They are filled with what Lakeman calls “dirty viola” . . .
banjo, bouzouki, a booming bass heartbeat from an old Salvation Army drum he rescued from a junkshop, and a jangling array of percussion made up from bits of old iron or discarded tools found down the mine and around the Morwellham workshops.
Lakeman actually recorded some of the album (including the song featured below) down in that old, abandoned mine, carved into the granite under Devon, England – Lakeman’s home. And, in fact, it was that West Country granite that inspired the new songs: “This album is like the granite bedrock . . . solid, hard and uncompromising.”
Here is “More Than Money” from Tales from the Barrel House.
(Also – since last week’s post – I learned that Lakeman is himself a fisherman of the rivers of the West Country . . . not necessarily with a fly, nor particularly avid . . . but a fisherman nonetheless.)
Seth Lakeman, songwriter and purveyor of English folk rock, hails from Dartmoor . . . in the county of Devon, in southwest England. It’s an area of captivating natural beauty . . . characterized by moors – wild, windswept upland hills, covered with granite rock formations and low, hearty grasses. Dartmoor was the inspiration and setting for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and is protected as a national park.
The area is also known for its fly fishing . . . for brown trout, sea trout and salmon. Unlike the famous English chalk streams, the rivers of this area – the River Teign, the River Taw, and the tributaries of the River Dart – are freestone rivers . . . fed not by springs, but by runoff . . . surface water flowing over hard granite. As a result, the rivers of Dartmoor are relatively less productive and fly fishermen and women must work hard for their grabs.
Annalisa Barbieri of the UK newspaper The Independent offers the following on Dartmoor:
It’s difficult, you can’t take it for granted and it can change in a moment from a place of gobsmacking beauty to one of brooding menace. Obviously, then, it is female. Every year, at least once, I come here to breathe pure air and gaze upon her wild, abandoned magnificence. Dartmoor brownies are also magnificent. Small, shaped like torpedoes and as wild as they come.
Here is “1643” from Lakeman’s album Freedom Fields.
We talk here of intersections . . . musical intersections . . . of blues, rock & roll, country, alt-country or Americana, folk, bluegrass. A lot of good stuff happens at those intersections. The Brothers Comatose are yet one more example of that fact. Based in San Francisco, “Los Hermanos Dormiendos” is a band that’s positioned itself at the particular intersection of Americana, folk, and bluegrass. The band’s strongest influence is bluegrass. And . . . like most bluegrass-influenced outfits, these Brothers are anything but Comatose. Here is a description, from No Depression, of a live show:
Screams. Tambourines. Chopsticks tapping against broken beer bottles. An inflatable alligator knocking around like a beach ball . . . This is the kind of atmosphere you get at a Comatose show.
These clearly conscious comrades (sorry) tour the western states – California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho – and often play small towns . . . some of which happen to be in the vicinity of notable fly waters – Kemmerer, Groveland, Oroville. What’s more, a few of the members of The Brothers Comatose are actually fishermen themselves – fairly avid ones, apparently.
Here is “Church Street Blues” from the band’s debut album, Songs From The Stoop.
Vancouver Island was home for Roderick Haig-Brown, fly fisherman and famed author. He was born in southeast England, but moved to the Pacific Northwest in his mid-twenties. He married Ann Elmore of Seattle and the couple settled on the banks of the Campbell River. There they raised a family and there he wrote.
He wrote about the waters of British Columbia. He wrote about fly fishing. He wrote about the importance of family and the land and the sea. He knew how to write about these things and he did it well. His A River Never Sleeps has become a fly angling class. Though published in 1946, the book remains relevant and popular today. “Roderick Haig-Brown remains strong in the hearts of those who knew him, whether personally or through his books. We remember him because he put us in touch with our sport more deeply than any other writer this century.” (These words were written by a friend and fellow angler a decade after his death.)
One band that plays the towns of Haig-Brown’s Vancouver Island is The Breakmen. The Breakmen bring a combination of acoustic roots and bluegrass to small, local establishments like Hermann’s in Victoria, Joe’s Garage in Courtenay and The Waverly Pub in Cumberland. They know how to play roots music and they do it well. Says Vancouver newspaperman Tony Montague, it’s the “meticulous craftsmanship of the songwriting, the strength of the lead vocals, and the tightness of the harmonies distinguish the quartet from other Canadian outfits mining a similar vein . . .”
A River Never Sleeps is very much worth a read and The Breakmen are worth a listen. Here is “Back to the Start” from their latest album, Heartwood.
Brandon Reid is from Fairbanks, from the great interior of Alaska. According to the folks at the local paper, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Reid has “a tattoo of a star in the middle of his right hand. When he curls his fingers and makes his hand the shape of Alaska, he can clearly show off his hometown.” I love his devotion and sense of place. Why, though, should flyfisherfolk care about this city that is so close to the Arctic Circle?
Well . . . how about this . . . Fairbanks owes its very founding to a fly fishing river. About 110 years ago, a steamboat carrying Captain E.T. Barnette, who was looking to set up a trading post somewhere else, ran aground at a shallow place on the Chena River. Two gold prospectors saw smoke from the steamboat’s engine, clearly saw an opportunity, hustled over and met Barnette when he disembarked at the site of the grounding. The two men – then and there – convinced Barnette to change his plans and establish his trading post at that site, instead. He did. That was 1901 and that was the founding of Fairbanks.
Today, the Chena flows right through the city and offers fly fishermen and women blue ribbon opportunities to wade or float and fish . . . mostly for Arctic Grayling. The following comes from the Fairbanks-based Arctic Grayling Guide Service:
Arctic Grayling are found only in northern latitude clear water systems that are clean and pollution free. They are the primary sport fish in Alaska’s vast interior region. The arctic grayling is in the salmonoid family and is a distant relative of the trout.
Getting back to Reid, why should flyfisherfolk care about his music? Well . . . how about this . . . it’s good. He won best local album of 2011 from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for his new EP, Stuck In The City. Take a listen below. Reid’s music is mostly an alt.country rock. The Daily News-Miner calls it “a mixture of Reid’s church hymnal roots (he first played guitar for his grandma’s church) and stomp-folk rock ’n’ roll style.”
Here is “Dead Bones” from Stuck In The City.
Chris Wollard and Chuck Ragan are fellow conspirators in the punk rock band Hot Water Music and it’s acoustic-folk side project Rumbleseat. Ragan is a Reel Grease favorite, both because of the quality of his solo work (here are some examples of that: Lost And Found and Bedroll Lullaby) and because of his passion for fly fishing. Does Wollard fish? No idea. I do know, however, that I like his solo music too. He released Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves in 2009 and there are rumors that he might be getting ready to release another album soon.
There are more than rumors, but actual announcements from the band, that Hot Water Music will release a new album this year. In late January, Wollard, Ragan & Company spent some time at Blasting Room Studios in Fort Collins to record the new album. I wonder whether Ragan, during that time in Colorado, ever snuck off to fly fish the nearby Cache la Poudre or Big Thompson Rivers. I bet he did. I wonder if Ragan pulled Wollard out for some fishing, too. I hope so.
Here is “Reason In My Rhyme” from Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves.
An oasis of expertise, inspiration and camaraderie, the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club is also the home of the world’s premier fly casting facility. A special place where many of us have learned to love learning.
The Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club is as unlikely as it is remarkable. I mean, what a surprise to find casting pools of such size and history in . . . San Francisco. What a surprise to find the Angler’s Lodge – with its rustic beams and stones – not in the mountains, but right in the middle of the second-most densely populated city in the United States. And, what a surprise to find a club with Gilded Age lineage that is today not a closed, snobbish thing, but an open, friendly place where world champion casters stand next to — and give lessons to — kids and novices.
The first part of the mystery of the GGACC is solved easily. The place is a direct beneficiary of FDR, his New Deal, and the Work Project Agency. Club history says that some members got wind that the WPA built, as one of its many public building projects, casting pools for a fly casting club up in Portland, Oregon. Why, they thought, not here in San Francisco? And so, in 1938, the GGACC Angler’s Lodge and casting pools opened in Golden Gate Park.
The second part of the mystery, as to why the club is so welcoming and genial, is also solved by looking back to club history, back actually again to the 1930s. It was then that the GGACC split from the San Francsico Fly Casting Club. The SFFCC tended toward blue blood, the GGACC toward blue collar. Good thing they split the way they did. Today the GGACC regularly offers free casting classes, open to the pubic, and its membership is available to “[a]ny person evidencing an interest in casting as a sport or in sport fishing.”
One person who showed an interest was a young Steve Rajeff, whose parents lived close to Golden Gate Park in the late 1960s. He wandered over, picked up a fly rod, began winning casting championships at age 16 . . . and seemingly couldn’t stop. His casting was/is amazing, but his membership in the GGACC was/is not that unusual. Since its inception, the club has had in its global membership rolls the best fly casters in the world.
The last part of the mystery of the GGACC is just that. Why, here in San Francisco, did a place develop where champions are made? In The Longest Silence, the great fly fishing writer Thomas McGuane ventures a guess:
[T]he California fishery . . . was the best of them all, the most labyrinthine, the most beautiful. A great river system initiating in purling high-country streams, the whole thing substantiated by an enormous and stable watershed. . . Ironically, it is the greatness of the fishing lost that probably accounts for the distinction of the Golden Gate Club: it has bred a school of casters who are without any doubt the finest there has ever been.
Changing directions a little . . . while San Francisco is rich in fly fishing history, it is richer still in musical history . . . the Grateful Dead, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Journey . . . One recent surprise find for me — and a fitting extension of that rich musical history — is Josh McIntosh. Josh began his career in San Francisco twenty years ago as part of the jam band, Blew Willie. His solo music is straight ahead Americana, roots-rock. Here is “Before I Go” from his most recent album Three.
Good music; not-so-good movie. I am not going to pile on and hammer Matthew Leutwyler, John Jay Osborn Jr., and Thomas A. Cohen – director and writers of the movie The River Why, respectively.* No need to go point-by-point on how their film was disappointing and a missed opportunity. Suffice it to say that I am a fan of David James Duncan’s quirky, irreverent, well-written novel The River Why – as are a great number of flyfishermen and women – and it, in terms of art, is just in a different category than the movie. (If you want to read more, Tom Bie, over the The Drake, did a fair and thoughtful – albeit negative – review of the movie.)
Now, for more positive stuff . . . Of the handful of artists that provided a musical backdrop for the film, one caught my attention – Brian Vander Ark. This guy’s story is interesting. Early in his musical career he co-founded The Verve Pipe. He and that band released a few successful records and had one big hit, “The Freshman,” which reached #5 on the Billboard singles list in 1996. After that, though, the band struggled. Going through all of that – the up-and-down of early commercial success and a subsequent fall from popularity – has clearly brought wisdom and maturity to Vander Ark. Primarily a solo artist these days, he’s a guy that seems to know who he is, knows what he wants to do, is humble about it all and doesn’t take any of it too seriously. Now . . . that’s someone I want to listen to.
“Survival” is a good song from BVA – actually, though, it’s one not from the movie. And, it’s best enjoyed in the live version.
* Note: I am not familiar with the other gentlemen, but I actually very much like and respect John Jay Osborn Jr. as a writer. He wrote one of my favorite novels, The Paper Chase. He just missed the mark with the screenplay for The River Why.
The chalk streams of England are, because of their ecology and geology, particularly suited to fly fishing . . . and especially to dry fly fishing. The reason is simple. Chalk is porous. It holds and filters rainwater. Chalk hills, therefore, act as big aquifers, with springs emerging down slope. As all aquifers do, they regulate both stream flow ( ~ constant) and temperature ( ~ 50°F). Chalk streams are also typically – like spring creeks, in general – relatively free from sediment and relatively rich in sources of food. All of these things combine to make great trout habitat.
The River Itchen, in Hampshire, England, is thought by some to be one of the ultimate chalk streams. It’s world famous for its clear water and its Brown Trout. Because of the extreme clarity, the game for the fly fisherman there is one of stealth and sight casting, either to rising fish or fish visible below the surface. And those fish, at or below the surface of the river, are all wild. There’s been no stocking of Browns since 1951.
The history of the Itchen goes a bit further back than that, though. It actually reaches deep into the annals of fly fishing. According to the guides at Go Fly Fishing UK:
G.E.M. Skues – the father of Trout nymph fly fishing techniques – fished the River Itchen in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Other famous fly fishing writers such as Sir Edward Grey and Frederick Halford also fished the river regularly during this era. Izaak Walton is buried in Winchester Cathedral close to the Itchen.
If you care about such things, that’s quite a pedigree indeed . . . Another Englishman who’s spent some time in the vicinity of the River Itchen (though this guy a little more recently) is Matthew Hegarty. Hegarty’s hometown of Aldershot is just 20-30 miles from the river. Hegarty is the heart and soul of the emerging Matthew and the Atlas. MATA brings us English folk rock with strong Americana and country influences. According to the website:
Hegarty filters his textured and dreamy take on Americana through a distinctly English folk sensibility, and – with his bruised and raw vocal to the fore – tells stories that sound like they’ve been handed down through the ages.
Listen to “To The North” and you’ll see exactly what all that means. It is the best song so far from MATA.
This past summer, I got the chance to float the Snake River with guide Boots Allen. Boots is the real deal. He is the third of three generations of Wyoming fly fishing guides. His familial fly fishing legacy goes back to the 1920s. He started out guiding with his father and uncle when he was in high school. He’s now been guiding for over 20 years. Most of that time has been on the streams and rivers of Wyoming and eastern Idaho, but not all. According to Boots, his “passion for fishing and guiding has taken him to some of the furthest reaches that a rod can take an individual.” In his words:
Guiding for 25 lb. sea-run brown trout in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, is one thing. But [I have] also swung tube flies to 30 lb. steelhead in British Columbia, stalked 40 plus-inch Taimen on the streams of Mongolia and Kazakhstan, skirted mouse patterns across Siberian streams in Russia for 30 inch Lenok, and stripped bucktails in Costa Rica for Giant Roosterfish.
Not only a fly fishing guide, Boots is also an author and filmmaker. He wrote Snake River Fly-Fishing: Through the Eyes of an Angler, which was published in 2010; has contributed numerous articles to publications such as The Drake, Sports Afield, Fly Tyer; and co-produced a set of fly fishing films for JahTrout Productions.
After spending time with him in a drift boat, two things about Boots become obvious: (1) his love for fly fishing (and fish and water) and (2) his love for music. Though our musical tastes didn’t always overlap – he’s more of a psychobilly, metal fan – music is still what we talked about most that day in the shadows of those big granite peaks.
On the subject of music, another Jackson Hole gem is Isaac Hayden. Hayden is an emerging acoustic/folk rock/blues artist. He recently won “Best Musician” from the JH Weekly in its 2011 Best of Jackson Hole Readers’ Poll. Hayden is unique and a little bit of a contradiction. His music is rustic, but current. He’s mellow, but with tons of energy. Whatever he is, he is a solid artist. According to the folks at Rock On Together: “Isaac has this strong, clear, almost perfect voice. It reminds me of water gliding over smooth rocks in a stream…clear with a little texture for beauty.”
I am not exactly sure if Boots would agree (he probably would), but Hayden is worth listening to and “Cruel World” is his best song so far. Here is a live version.
Homebase for Chuck Ragan is the Gold Country of Northern California. Gold Country is also the name of his second solo studio album. That area, which drew the attention of the world, and waves of fortune hunters, more than a century-and-a-half ago, lies on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. It runs roughly north-south from Sierra County down to Mariposa County and is dotted with former mining camps, now small and medium-sized towns, such as Sierra City, Downieville, Rough & Ready, Nevada City, Dutch Flat, Auburn, Fiddletown, Drytown, Railroad Flat, Copperopolis, Chinese Camp, Knights Ferry, Mariposa and Oakhurst. And, actually, there used to be many more dots on the map – many more mining camps. But, those others faded into history when the gold ran out, places with names like Hell-out-for-Noon City, Gridiron Bar, Jackass Gulch, One Eye, Whiskey Bar, Tin Cup, Graveyard, Hell’s Delight.
The Gold Country is also striped horizontally with fly waters – freestone rivers and creaks flowing out of the Sierra Nevadas, with a number of dams and resulting tailwaters. The rivers include the North Yuba, the South Yuba, the Lower Yuba, the forks of the American River, the forks of the Stanislaus, the Lower Stanislaus, the Mokelumne, the Tuolumne, and the Merced Rivers – as well as many, many smaller rivers and creeks that feed these larger rivers. The area is also dotted (though much more sparsely) with quality fly shops – Nevada City Anglers in Nevada City, Yosemite Rivers in Oakhurst, Mosquito Creek Outfitters in Placerville (formerly “Hangtown” in the Gold Rush days), and the small Blue Heron Sports in Mariposa.
The Gold Country is a beautiful area with some good fly fishing. Chuck Ragan’s brand of acoustic Americana just seems to capture the place – the texture and history, the sounds and the feelings. Here is “Lost And Found” from his newest album, Covering Ground.