the big fish

I caught this monster fish with a fly. This guy had enough of a fight, for me to notice it and bring it out of the water. This guy holds the record for the smallest fish I have caught. I had to let it go.


to eat or not to eat...

I had a chance to fish in Phuket over the past summer, and I caught some tuna and ate it on the boat with nothing more than some soy sauce & wasabi. OK.

While I usually don't eat the fish I catch, there was a certain satisfaction from eating something I just caught, perhaps it's the hunter nature in me (maybe). As fishermen, we are rarely ever in a situation where we must eat our catch for survival reasons, so I think it's safe to say that most (if not all) catching and eating is for that satisfaction of eating what you have caught (fresh fish or man thing), unless you fish for a job. I love sashimi and have to come to realize a long time ago that sashimi tastes a lot better in restaurants, served at the proper temperature (of food). For me, the only thinking about eating fish from the ocean (ocean only) is that I feel in touch with my fishing family/ ancestor roots...well sort of, they were farming people from a fishing village. My kids refused to eat the fish we caught that day, and my wife gave me an earful about the bacteria from the knife & cutting board we used to sashimi the fish. I told her that was the reason I was drinking the vodka, to counter that.

People have been practicing catch and release for more than a century in order to prevent certain species from disappearing. Catch and release is mandatory for many species in many parts of the world. However, there is and always will be the debate about catch and release... about the capability of fish to feel pain, about recreational fishing in general and ethics surrounding it. I have my opinions about this, but I prefer to stay out of the debates. Regardless of ethical position, I am convinced that catch and release is a conservation practice, and is necessary to prevent extinction of some fish. I've heard of people that will cut up the tires on your car if they see you take fish (even if it's legally allowed) and that kind of thing is just plain stupid, not to mention hazardous to their health.

This (the subject of catch & release) is a good thing to discuss, and I am sure my fishing mentors have their point of views on this.


more stripes

Another striper in the hand of Charlesthefishfinder. These are suppoesed to run only till the end of November, which means I need to get my ass out to New York soon.


a fish to think about

Throughout our lives there are things one wants to own, to taste, to feel, to encounter ... to experience. For me, with my new found passion for fishing, I have come to a point where I think about specific fish I want to catch. There's different reasons for wanting to catch specific fish - there are some I want to catch because they are big and the physical challenge of brining it is the attraction (like the fish my friend caught below). There are fish I want to catch because they are selective in bait they take, so the challenge becomes the pursuit & sophistication of the presentation. Then there's the fish you want to catch because they are familiar to me (like the large mouth bass), and you know what to expect. I guess fishing and meeting fish can be a lot like meeting people or pursuing a career. However, today I am going to write about a fish I don't know much about, have never seen one (live), but one that I have started to think about a lot (I even had a dream about it). It is a fish called Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus).

Like some objects in design, I am pretty sure that I am mainly attracted to the aesthetic value of the artic grayling. From the pictures and illustrations I have seen, artic grayling possess a visual quality that is clearly more flamboyant than most fish. From the dynamic overall shape of the body to the signature dorsal fin, the fish is beautiful in form. The color of the fish seems fairly neutral, but have accents of color on their body which creates a very sophisticated combination. They are said to have once been a common and abundant fish, with feeding pattern that makes them easy to catch. This combination of simplicity in character (or feeding pattern) and a common presence are definite attributes that make the artic grayling attractive to me. I also read that they can no longer be found in north America, which is unfortunate - but to some extent, I guess that's the reason why I think about this fish.

I think about going up to Alaska where these fish lives with my fishing friends, and discussing the aesthetic value of the fish when we actually catch it and hold it in our hands. To discuss how they are different from when we saw them in photos, and see them with a background of mountains and water that is picture perfect. Perhaps all this thinking about the artic grayling will lead to disappointment when I actually catch one in Alaska, but then again, perhaps not. I will leave that up to that moment. For now, I have declared the artic grayling as my mascot fish. There is one other fish that competes with the artic grayling in status for me, and that it the "cherry trout" (Oncorhynchus masou), which is native to the Korean peninsula. According to the guide James Card (best fly fishing guide in Korea) "They return to their home rivers when the blossoms of the cherry trees open in spring, hence the name cherry trout." It is through his website ( that I first learned about this cherry trout. The story of both fish are poetic and worth thinking about.


that's what I'm talking about!

One of my closest friend, Charles (left) caught this striped bass near New York City. Holy cow, Now that's a striped bass worth talking about! I didn't even know bass got to be this large, and just imagining this at the end of my line gets me all worked up. There is definitely something fascinating about catching fish that's as large as your thigh. Well done Charles, certainly a record for my blog. Hopefully, I will soon be on your boat to also get some of this monster action.


Sad eyes on Mr. Bigmouth

The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) is in fact, not a bass. It is a member of the sunfish family. I am always amazed by their toughness, able to withstand repeated catch & release without compromising their ability to feed and get back to whatever fish do (due to their tough, large mouth). They put up a good fight, and respond well to a variety of lures, including "poppers" on a fly line. While I still have many other fish species to experience, I am convinced that the largemouth bass will remain on the top of the list as one of the most exciting fish to catch, especially when it comes to striking on lure. The strike of a largemouth, especially when it takes a lure/ popper off the surface of the water, is something that continues to shock me each time it happens. (it happened a lot for me this weekend) The amount of "splash and gulp" always seems larger than I expected.

The largemouth bass is also somewhat personal to me, as they are the first species of fish I have learned to catch consistently. They sort of "taught me fishing" in a sense. Their aggressive nature and abundance of them around here makes it a perfect "training fish" to catching sizable fish on fly rods (although I regularly go back to spinning rods when I need more frequent action). They are visually macho/ masculine in appearance (I see fish masculine & feminine ... as I do most things - living and not) and their behavior reaffirms that. However, there is something about the expression in their eyes that I still am trying to figure out. Their eyes are not masculine (nor feminine) ... they are blank, shallow, and very sad. Most would say the expression is the result of the fish being shocked, pulled out of water with a hook in their lip, but still, they have more expression than expected from a fish. Whatever the reason, that expression urges me to place the fish back in the water as soon as possible, and I often find myself rushing to unhook to release the fish. It's a complex feeling, trying and catching a fish but feeling rushed to release it. Fishing is simple at times, yet not so simple at other times ... "Fly fishing is not only an event, but also an abstraction. The fly rod and the way it behaves is a concept romantic, graceful, feminine in both it's creation and it's performance" (Donald J Goodman). I will have to think about this for a while. (why the eyes on largemouth bass looks sad).


your blog needs more manly fish pictures...

A friend advised me today that a fishing blog site needs more pictures of fish (larger, meaner, and more macho photos). The "spirit" of catching fish and all that stuff is great, but it ain't much without big honkin fish photos. So here is one picture of a large mouth bass (is this one manly enough?). Nothing more macho than Northerns and Muskies of course. I bought myself some bite guards and pike flies at Orvis. Hopefully I will soon be able to load that photo of me holding that musky I will catch on the new fly.

Stay tuned (it might be a while, but stay tuned anyway).


Macrostigma from Nera River

Today, I received a note from an old friend , and it put a smile to my face all day. He is a Italian angler who admits in his own words that he has "suffered from the disease for nearly twenty years". It made me smile, because it brought back vivid memories of him speaking of flies and creeks, nearly 10 years ago back in New York City. At the time, the stories did not make much sense to me, but the passion and dedication in his words, must have left a lasting impression with me. Come to think of it now, those words might have planted a small seed in my mind to my own destiny with fishing. Funny how these things work, I would have never been able to foresee this coming at that time. It's like reading a book for the second time, and discovering new things in it that you did not see the first time. It's a good state to be in (fishing) - so that's that.

He sent me a nice photo of a small trout he caught, a special native brown from the mountains of central Italy, a subspecies called macrostigma. He described the Nera stream where he caught it as - "a tough river but those who love it, fish it with dry flies only". He says he likes this river "even more than the Madison or the Firehole in Wyoming", which probably means he really loves to fish there. The Nera River is 116km long, and flows mostly in Umbria, Italy. It flows southward and joins the Tiber near Orte. Other people who have fished it describe it "pocket water" type fishery. People also described fishing in Nera River as a place requiring short & accurate casts. It sounds like a perfect place for my friend to be catching his fish. Perhaps I will consider going there someday to meet some Italian fish. But I will have to wait a while if I want to fish Nera River with my friend ... at least until he gets back from his new "habit", which involves free diving in the ocean with spears. Please note the hexagonal bamboo Hardy Marvel rod & matching Hardy Featherweight reel from the 60's he's holding. I am sure that my friend has a nice story on that rod & reel as well.

Go spear on brother, spear some big ones. Watch out for those sharks.


Discovering Diamond Lake

Sometimes you luck out and discover a smaller local lake that has a lot to offer. Diamond Lake is one of those lakes. Many of us drive by it everyday, and it's humble appearance doesn't call much attention to it. This is one of the healthiest local lake I have seen, and each fish we catch there proves it to be true. The fish out of Diamond Lake are full of life, exceptionally beautiful in color, and the wide variety of the species there still amazes us each time we go out. There is one very special species there that I have not seen yet in other local lakes near by, the striped bass. I didn't catch any striped bass that I would consider giant in size, but I have seen my friend bring out 2-3 pounders out of the water, and that plenty good for me. I've caught a few smaller ones, and discovered that they are generally more aggressive and hard hitting when they strike. Pound for pound, a better fight. That on a fly rod leads to some good times.

" The striped bass is a typical member of the Moronidae family in shape, having a streamlined, silvery body marked with longitudinal dark stripes running from behind the gills to the base of the tail. Maximum size is 200 cm (6.6 ft) and maximum scientifically recorded weight 57 kg (125 US pounds). Striped bass are believed to live for up to 30 years "

It's a unique lake in the fact that you need to be in the water to be fishing (unless you own a home there). So some mornings, my friend and I will throw on our waders and hit the water for some Diamond Lake action. We've fished from our friend's dock and have canoed the lake as well, but Diamond Lake has been most memorable for the wading we've done there. Here's what I find unique about it: we are usually wading waist/ chest deep in water. When you catch and bring the fish in, it's at an angle that is entirely different. It almost feels like the fish is flying to you, because they arrive at an angle that's much higher than when you would normally experience elsewhere. For me, that slight change in angle/ height makes the experience feel completely unique and worth going back for. Hopefully I'll be able to wade this lake a few more times before winter rolls around and ice become too thick to wade through.


the first catch

It's a wonderful feeling, to catch a sizable fish for the first time. I received a note from my close friend in Korea that he caught his first bass from the Han River. It's especially nice since we spent many early hot mornings this summer trying to catch from that river. It's a "win" for all of our friends who fished there this summer without much success. We had many discussions late into the night (over many soju and beers) discussing our failed tactics, and wondering why it wasn't working. It was such a relief to hear that my friend caught a good fish (more than one at this point) as it gives all of us hope of the next trip out by the banks of Han River. I remember the last morning we fished together in August, sipping the bitter coffee of defeat in the intense heat of Seoul summer sun. We departed and I said to me friend - "brother, you need to figure out the urban fishing of Seoul. We will be back, and when we come back, you will teach all of us how to catch fish here. You figure this out for all of us". We all departed with a pretty serious sense of determination and mission.

I don't know for sure, but I am thinking that talking about fishing tactics is a lot more fun when you are a beginner. I guess we'll know one day when we become seasoned anglers who catch fish all the time, and lot of them (I trust that will happen to us one day). We spent a lot of time waving the chop sticks casting our invisible fly lines through the cigarette smoke. Bragging to our non fishing friends about the importance of loop control and being in harmony with the environment around us (wind, water temperature, points). We talked like we were old time experts and the amazing things is, when you have enough soju, you actually become one. A few more shots, then you actually became the fish. There were nights when we knew we had our gear in the cars and basically headed toward bars that had bodies of water near it. Later in the night, we fished next to the "no fishing" signs in the urban rivers that ran between tall buildings of downtown Seoul. Not the big Han river, but the smaller streams that run between the buildings. There's fish in those smaller man made streams (in fact pretty huge carps), and the sight of drunk guys fly fishing there certainly drew a crowd. We stayed just long enough for a crowd to gather, then we would have to run away before the authorities arrived on mopeds. To this day, I'm not sure if those people were there to watch us catch fish, or simply waiting to see some drunk guys fall in the water. None of us did either.

This summer basically proved to me that we can fly fish anywhere. If you can do it drunk in the middle of downtown Seoul, you can pretty much fish anywhere. Now that my friends have deciphered the landscape there, next time we will actually catch something. Maybe.



I have always thought that my first writings in this book would be next to a riverbank. In some sense, it's okay that I am sitting on an airplane, far away from the river. When I close my eyes, I am next to that perfect river, the one with the perfectly sized tree. The sun sits west of me, slowly drifting into the sunset, whispering to me, of all the things to be thankful for. The prairie that runs across as far as my eye can see, shows the first signs of seasons changing. The sounds of the flowing river, slow yet powerful, reflects the undeniable passing of time. Time is measured different here, a hatch, the direction of the wind, and sometimes a glimpse of a fish relative to the shadow cast by the tree. It's a place I have never been, but as warm as the bed I sleep in every night.

I guess I like fishing, and most of the stuff that comes with it. I like to catch fish, but I like it just the same when I don't. I have a special place in my heart why I like fishing, but I will share that some other day. The uncertainty of fishing is philosophically something that appeals to me. The possibility, the hope, and the reality (of not catching fish sometimes). It is always a humbling experience, sprinkled with hope exactly where you need it most. I find the time spent sharing the stories of fish you've met, as pleasant as catching one (and sometime the catch is a pound or two larger). I have had the good fortune to meet some good friends in fishing, some of them which I have known for a long time. I am also fortunate that my closest friends have agreed to give fishing a try, and so far we have been walking a road together that leads to lifetime of good fishing.

The horizon that spans in front of me looks different with a fly rod in my hand. I like what I see.