Off The Fence

on the fence In my last post I blatantly stole a topic from FlyTalk because the comment thread was wildly entertaining and I just couldn’t resist moving the party over here to keep it going awhile longer. You all did not disappoint! Your comments have been thoughtful and dishy.

So it’s time for me to climb down off the fence and share my opinions. Although I think you will see, by nature, I am not that vehement about many of these issues one way or the other. Frankly it’s the dialogue about them that interests me more than reaching conclusion or defending a position. That said, here I go.

As for the original question, ‘What makes a fly a fly?’ My response is visceral, not scientific. I like the notion that a fly should be tied from all-natural materials that were once part of a living creature. But I have to admit I love a foam hopper. Or a black foam ant. So I’m letting those in. I don’t care for the gelatinous gummy things, they seem tacky. And nothing with metal discs or added satellite systems clinking around.

And more than one hook? I don’t even understand that. The Lone Star Brewery’s original Hall of Horns Museum in San Antonio had a wonderful collection of deformed animals that had been stuffed and mounted. Deer with drop-tynes coming out of the strangest places. A fly with more than one hook belongs in such a museum. Or on a spinning rod.

Moving on…there seems to be general agreement that ipods are a no-no while fishing. Interesting. Okay, some progress. Everyone’s getting along on this point. Lovely. A glimmer of consensus.

Unfortunately, yall are all wrong.

Perhaps we should break it down a bit further. I would never wade with an ipod. That’s just one more thing to deal with on my person. And I would not listen to an ipod on the boat with the earphones, any more than I would drive in my car using the earphones. That would be too isolating. Plus I am like Barbara Walters on a driftboat. I can get grown men talking and sharing. Drift Boat Confessions.

logitech But I do like to take a little set of ipod speakers on my boat. That’s right, you heard me. Ipod speakers on the boat.

Now obviously I’m not blaring music. And I don’t play it when other boats/fisherman are around. But trust me friends, you can catch trout with some background music. I like floating down the river with Faron Young and vintage Buck Owens. I like to think about the pretty rainbow that was caught while I was rowing to James Brown. Or how a switch to some Willie Nelson was just the momentum change we needed to end a fishless dry spell.

And I am here to tell you Kelly Willis’ voice can literally make a hatch happen. One summer evening she literally sang the caddis into the air.

That is the word on ipods. Perhaps I should move a little more quickly through some of these other points…

Upstream, downstream, right hand in, left hand out, do the hokey pokie, turn yourself around. I don’t know, I’m no purist here. In fact, I actually love looking in front of the boat and eyeing the next chunk of juicy water. Downstream is all about the future. That appeals to me.

Obviously I love trout. I cut my teeth on freshwater fishing, but I have to say I am pretty hooked on (obsessed with?) bonefishing. I just like who I am when I’m out there on a salty flat. Saltwater fishing doesn’t seem to bring the weighty self-critical thoughts that trout fishing sometimes does. Life is just shiny and bright. And damn good.

I hope more and more saltwater is on my horizon. It’s certainly getting more and more of my mental real estate these days. Just last night I made an ISLAND playlist on my ipod. Sadly I have no salty trips planned, but hey, as I just read in ‘The River Why’ sometimes the time spent not fishing is just as important as time on the water.

Dries or nymphs? Dries. Dries. Dries. I learned to fish on dries and didn’t think there was another option for a long time. My mother is such a dry fly snob that if someone dares to suggest nymphs, she will set down her rod, cross her arms in protest and retire for the day.

That said, I am earnestly trying to learn to be a better nymph fisher. I will admit the first time I rigged up my own rod with two weighted flies, an indicator and split shot, my heart was ready to sink as well. Suddenly my line had the grace of a teenager’s smile with a mouth full of braces. But I got my ass kicked on the river that day and my respect began then and there. The more I have fished with anglers who can truly make magic happen with a nymph system, I get it. I really do. And, humbly, I am working on it myself.

Bananas But no bananas on the boat. Period.

As an aside, you should know bananas are very good if you are shooting a gun. They have nutrients that naturally improve hand-eye coordination. Curious how I know this?

When I was in high school some friends discovered that our very small, very conservative, all-girls prep school had a Rifle Team. Who knew? We were bored and decided to try out our Junior Year as a bit of a gag. I feel bad to this day because we all made the team and the three Goth girls who started it quit in protest.

We were excited because the team practiced on a nearby college campus — a surefire opportunity to meet cute fraternity boys. We would boldly traipse across their campus in our plaid kilts and saddle oxfords…carrying a rifle case. Can you imagine? After practice we’d dip into this nearby college dive bar. The barkeep was nice enough to serve minors without blinking an eye and would stash our target rifle behind the bar while we played the jukebox and drank beer in our high school uniforms.

But when we had an actual Rifle Meet, we were laser-focused. Our coach made us eat a banana 30 minutes before each round. I think it worked! In the regional finals we beat our brother school like a drum – a victory which turned out to be infinitely more gratifying than meeting any cute college boys. Which we never did. Well, at least not through the Rifle Team.

But I digress. Yes, if you touch the leader and get a visual of the fish it counts.

If more people had a low-key attitude such as this perhaps we wouldn’t have such a healthcare crisis in America. I think less stress is the answer. The cost of a monthly massage should be covered in the most basic health insurance plan. Problem solved.

corleone I love the Godfather Trilogy as a complete package. If forced to choose the best of the three, I would say Godfather II. But there are scenes from the first that are sublime. When Michael returns to the house after the attempt on Vito’s life. His mouth starts to take on the shape, sound and cadence of his father’s. The restaurant scene as Michael stumbles though Italian then forcefully takes control in English.

And I have to say, I think Godfather III is just as it needed to be. Michael alone in that garden similar to his father when he died. But Vito died with his grandson, Michael was alone, having outlived his daughter. Ugh! So tragic and rich. I have no ill will for Godfather III as many people do. I think it was the perfect last panel in the triptych.

BBQ Which brings us to barbecue. Barbecue. As a young tot I grew up in Dallas and remember getting sliced beef brisket sandwiches at Peggy Sue’s Barbecue in Snyder Plaza. I was in heaven. I had no knowledge of other kinds of barbecue. I had no knowledge of any barbecue debate. I just loved a sliced brisket sandwich.

I was in the sixth grade when we moved to Tennessee. At one of my first sleepovers in Nashville, the girl’s parents offered to take us out for barbecue. Cheers from all the kids. The establishment was familiar in feel. Casual, hearty, rough around the edges. I was still clueless.

Nothing could have prepared me for the meat they placed before me. It was flesh-colored. Chopped fine. And the color of human flesh. And the sauce! Had they watered down the sauce? Why was it so thin?

Of course I had manners and didn’t make a stink, but hell if I didn’t tell my parents all about it the next day. And that’s when my father had to sit me down and have The Talk. I was no longer innocent and unspoiled in the ways of the world. Now I knew. The dirty truth. Pork Barbecue.

I avoided Tennessee barbecue for the most part. I would eat it only if the situation required me to do so in order to avoid being impolite. When I went off to college in North Carolina, the problem became more palpable. Every football game started with a pig on a spit at a fraternity house pre-party. My freshman year I read a wonderful piece by southern writer Roy Bount Jr about the great barbecue debate. I decided to get off the fence and take a stand. I was going to defend Texas Beef loud and proud.

And I did. Texas Beef or bust. I ruffled many feathers. And got very drunk at many UNC football games sucking on Bourbon & Coke, having had nothing to eat at my date’s pre-party.

But then something strange happened. Somewhere along the way. Something biological took over that defies logic or values. I developed an actual taste for pork barbecue. I really like it! Could it be there is just good and bad pork barbecue? Good and bad beef barbecue?

So my venom for pork barbecue has faded with time. Now that I am back in Texas I am covered up in all the beef brisket I can handle. And ironically nostalgia for my southern upbringing has placed pork barbecue up on a pedestal. Sort of the same way I revered beef barbecue when I lived away from Texas. So for me, I suppose barbecue really has less to do with culinary pride, and more to do with being a little bit homesick.

Either way you slice it – or chop it – the fiery barbecue debate has settled to a slow cooked simmer in my mind.

Texmex food on the other hand…don’t get me started. I fear I cannot even be polite on this topic. I’m glad all of you in other states love it so much, but please stop trying to imitate it. You can’t. Texmex food belongs in Texas. And when I visit Tennessee, Carolina, Georgia, New Orleans, or NYC the answer is No Thank You. No, I don’t want to try the new Mexican restaurant that just opened in your neighborhood. For heavens sake I get grouchy when I travel to Mexico because they can’t even get it right.

breakfast tacosTexmex food belongs in Tejas. Period.

So while you chew on that, let me say once again how much I loved all of your responses in the previous post. Thanks to FlyTalk for letting me steal their idea and thanks to all of you for keeping the party going. On that note, Little Chick and I are out the door for some migas and bean & cheese breakfast tacos. And rest assured they will be proper refried beans. Not black beans.

Via con dios muchachos.

16 thoughts on “Off The Fence

  1. Howdy FFC,

    As another Austinite and native Texan, wherever I travel and see folks trying to sell “Texas style” BBQ, it is always a disaster. They’re not even close to what you find at Smokey Mos, Green Mesquite, Pok-E-Jos, Southside, Iron Works, Salt Lick, County Line or any of the other fine BBQ establishments around Austin. I say let them stick to what they developed of their own accord and know like Kansas City BBQ or whatever they call it. I went to London once and the first night had dinner at a restaurant near Piccadilly Circus and they had Texas BBQ ribs on the menu so I ordered it just to check it out. They brought me these tiny pork ribs! Bah!

    I’ll also say that as for Tex-Mex, well, most of the popular places (like Chuy’s) that claim to be Tex-Mex are in fact serving New Mexican cuisine. I grew up in the Valley and never heard of sopapillas or chimichangas. The first time I ordered fajitas and they brought them out sliced and smothered with green peppers and onions I told them they made a mistake on my order. We eat them as steak where I come from (skirt steak). Plus you never ever used to find restaurants with such gaudy color schemes and decor like these Tex-Mex restaurants around here. I could go on but you can tell I am picky about my Tex-Mex food though I have gotten used to it. I will say that Chuy’s makes a really good chile relleno!

    On the subject of what constitutes a fly, I am not that picky. I’ll use whatever I think will work. Besides fur and feathers, I will construct flies with synthetic materials like cactus chenille, krystal flash, and the artificial streamer materials. Sometimes they work just as well as a pure natural materials and are easier to work with and more durable. I did try the sili skin to make some gummy minnows once but it is a heavy material and doesn’t move naturally or cast well so I sold off what I had. I like to experiment. Dry flies are fine for the purist coldwater trout angler but I find sub-surface flies catch many more fish. I have gone for coldwater trout maybe three times in my four years fly fishing with the largest hooked only being about 19 inches. I prefer variety and prefer the native species that are available in this great state of Texas. Redfish, speckled trout, and largemouth bass are probably my favorite three but I will go for anything that I can (carp, gar, ladyfish, etc.). With that said, I’ll use whatever works. That also includes conventional tackle and at times even live or dead bait. I much prefer the fly rod nowadays but I also like to be successful (doesn’t everyone?). I have a profound appreciation for the outdoors but if I just wanted to get out to be around nature, I would be going hiking and just take a camera. If I am going fishing, well, I want to catch something.

    I enjoy your blog and it is good to find another fellow Texan that appreciates the art of the fly.

  2. Years ago I was quite the dry fly snob. Nowadays I dry fly when and where I can (based on water and conditions), and nymph the rest of the time.

    The main thing I love about nymphing is that you don’t need to wait for rising fish to be fishing, giving you a lot more time on the water.”

    Other than that, you are spot on with the rest of your comments. I am not native to Texas, but even Left Coast folks can appreciate the difference in BBQ and TexMex – provided they have been properly schooled through significant exposure to the REAL DEAL in Texas.

    Hey! Shouldn’t you be due to fly off to Montana right about now? And pictures! Send us some pics of your fly fishing prowess while back home.

    Here’s to tight lines, cool beers, and family and friends.

  3. Kelly Willis on the water, oh man, that’s gotta work wonders for any fly fishing funk…
    Fly tying is a creative enterprise in my book so I am for experimenting with whatever is around. We are basically modifying the same patterns that have been around for a long time, just dressing them in new clothes.

    I prefer Drys but I am slowly learning to be a better Nymph fisherman. If I go to the river to fish I don’t want to go three and out because of some narrow minded philosophical issue about Nymphs being just for dummies.

    I am a babe in the wood when it comes to real BBQ and Tex Mex. I do know that the further south you go the better the Mexican gets and if you want a real pizza or calzone its New York all the way. Go to the source.

  4. Yep, grew up in the Valley (Brownsville.

    Have lived in 6 states and how live in Pennsylvania.

    Went to North Carolina for a stint and was taken to “eat Barbecue”.

    It was PORK – ugh.

    Still can’t stand it.

    And there ain’t a chicken in the world that has fajita. It’s a CUT OF MEAT, not a style of cooking.

    Now I live in Hershey, PA and there isn’t Bar-b-cue within 30 miles of here worth the gasoline.

  5. It is refreshing to see that there is at least one other person in this world that has the entire Godfather triology ranked as one great movie. Cheers to all…

  6. I laughed when the trilogy came out, only in the boxed set. My initial reaction was thinking “well, that is one way to get people to buy III”.

    Watch all 3, then watch again with commentary on.

    Regarding ipod, I don’t listen on stream, but do listen while driving to the stream – when I tire of the single scratchy country station that the radio receives. I also listen to fly fishing podcasts while commuting, at least I can vicariously fish while stuck on the 101.

    I put a list of fly fishing podcasts on by blog, Whiskey Creek : http://wcflies.com/blog/?p=9

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