Part I: Greenlight
by Dave Micus
I’m one who thinks in words, not images, and this is something of a curse. Thinking in words makes it difficult to recall pleasant times; when I do reminisce it seems more as if I’d read about the event instead of actually having experienced it. And this is largely the reason I write stories—it’s a way to not only recall things, but to place them in a context.
While this is my own compulsion, I share my stories, though each one is “a defenseless child,” as Edward Abbey so aptly describes writing. Sometimes my defenseless children get a clout on the ear; mostly they are ignored. But every now and then I’ll hear from a reader who affectionately pats one of my children on the head, and Mick Faherty from Montana was one such reader.
Mick, it seems, had read a few of my stories on the web and thought that the itinerant striped bass fisherman was an interesting character. Coincidently, Mick is a producer for “Fly Fishing America,” a program on the Outdoor Life Network, and thought that I, of all people, might make for an interesting story. He contacted me and asked if I had any ideas for a television segment.
So here was my chance for my proverbial 15 minutes of fame (well, 22 minutes without commercials), and I didn’t want to blow it. I brainstormed ideas, taking myself much too seriously and producing dull, wooden themes. Agonizing too long over this, I finally decided that insanity is the best policy and sent the following:
'Brad Pitt' shadow casting from
"A River Runs Through It"
Dave Micus casting in the crashing surf.
I went on to suggest that he consider doing a program on the fall blitz and the striper fanatics who put everything on hold for one month and spend every waking moment in the brine, hoping to catch the fish of a lifetime. My proposal, particularly the beginning, resonated with Mick. He wrote back:
I broke into this crazy business by walking onto the set of "River" as a sophomore at the University of Montana and insisting that I be involved in any effort to make my favorite novel into a movie. It actually worked. Spent the whole shoot crashed on Brad's couch, and let me assure you, that while he is a great guy, NONE of those shots are him fishing. It was always Jason Borger, son of Gary Borger. Thanks again for your great writing, your advocacy for our sport, and your willingness to be involved with Fly Fishing America.
And thus began a collaboration and, more importantly a friendship with Mick that continues to this day.
The logistics, at least from my end, were fairly simple: I was to line up the ‘talent’ and determine where and when we’d fish, Both were no brainers. For talent (using that word ever so loosely) I’d ask Richard Kahn, a renaissance man who in past lives was a gourmet chef, professional opera singer and Broadway actor, and who has been pursing striped bass in the surf with a fly rod for 50 years (or long before many thought you could catch a striper on the fly).
And there is no way one could have a program about Massachusetts striped bass fishermen without including Mike Tolvanen, a raconteur and fly fisherman who is acknowledged by all who know him to be the “best fisherman I’ve ever known,” with 40 years of fly fishing for bass under his wading belt, and who once told me he had only one fight with his wife over fishing—seems she couldn’t understand why he would need to go fishing on their wedding night.
For location, we’d do the “127 Shuffle,” cruising Route 127 which snakes the length of the coast of Northern Massachusetts parallel to the shore and many a good fishing spot, looking for diving birds and bustin’ bass. When you spot either you stop and fish; otherwise you move on to the next spot. You can cover a lot of ground doing the 127 Shuffle. We’d start fishing at dawn, and quit when we dropped.
I was concerned, though, that the striped bass, major actors in this passion play, might not arrive on queue, something over which I, dammit, have no control. The fall blitz can be ephemeral; here one day, gone the next. Two years ago, on the beaches of Gloucester and Beverly and Manchester by the Sea, the greatest blitz of striped bass seen in 40 years took place. The schools were huge, fishermen were getting a fish on every cast, and anglers took up to 100 fish. Most impressive was the size of the bass, with many stripers in the 30's and 40's taken. Last year, nada. I shared these concerns with Mick.
“The show is about ‘striper culture’ not how to catch stripers,” Mick responded, becoming the first person in history to put “striper” and “culture” in the same sentence. “That is the most important thing to remember.”
I checked my fishing logs, consulted with Mike T., and decided the last week in September might be good; even if the migration wasn’t peaking, there would still be bass around. I contacted Mick with the proposed dates. He checked his schedule (Mick also produces Fly Fishing the World, Elk Country Journal, and Ducks Unlimited TV) and found that his “best crew” was available.
We were given, as they say in the biz, the greenlight....
CONTINUED 1 | 2 | 3
The show that resulted is titled "The 127 Shuffle,"
"By late September, with the bass soon to leave, the obsession becomes frantic. We follow three fishermen as they cruise up and down route 127, testing every beach and inlet for the increasingly elusive, but always exciting, striped bass. For the fly fishermen who chase them, this easy come, easy go cycle is deliciously painful."
Dave Micus lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts where he was an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer, instructor and "star" of an episode of the outdoor show, Fly Fishing America. In 2006 he made the move from sea level to the Rocky Mountains of Montana where he has taken up fly rodding for trout, hunting and enjoying life in the "Big Country."
Copyright © 2003 - 2013 David Micus, All Rights Reserved