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Author: Subject: The Bleeding Edge

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[*] posted on 2/4/13 at 22:55 Reply With Quote
The Bleeding Edge

Over the past year I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by a group of friends, a group of hardcore anglers, who have not only inspired me, supported me, but most of all challenged me to work harder and push beyond what even I didn’t know was possible. In retrospect, it was the very thing that frustrated me about finding solutions, what frustrated me about other people, that I have found some of the most glorious aspects of not only being an angler, but furthermore, just merely being alive.

I recently spent a few days on the Lower Owens with my friend Joe Libeu, who in many ways has not only taught me how to be a better angler, but more importantly, how to be a better human being. We have caught many fish together, he has continually offered me his wisdom despite being a bad student at times, and in the end, I think that we have both enjoyed the pleasant surprise within the process. As we took a mid-day beer-thirty break on the side of the river Joe told me, “it has truly been fun for me watching you go through this learning process over the past eight years”, and in many ways that just may be the single best moment in fly fishing I will ever experience.

In March of 2012 I sought the council of good friends and fellow anglers, who I respected, and shared my idea of making a 1000 grain line that I could cast on a 10 wt. rod, up to ten hours a day, three days in a row….ya right! Some quietly laughed, some offered the constructive criticism that I just may be a whack job for real, and some people down right got mad. Looking back, I think if I would have stopped there, I may have never landed the breadth of quality fish that I did this past year. But on a bigger perspective, I don’t think I would have had half of the rich experience of struggling through harsh criticism, and coming out on the other end in tact, with better results than when I started. It is for exactly that, the experience of trying what others would not, could not, and especially in the face of the unknown, that has not only enriched my angling experience, but for those around me as well.

Recounting this wild year, I have observed others in our niche fly angling community take similar leaps of blind faith, who have been met with all sorts of results. However the results may be, I feel it is in the pursuit of one’s passion, one’s determination to achieve, to make their own mark, and especially the desire to leave our beloved sport better than when we found it, is what gives me a glimmer of hope for the future of fly fishing.

Last Sunday, Bill Mathews e-mailed me a picture of his girlfriend Lori holding a pending IGFA World Record Calico Bass and I was not only stoked for the two of them, but more so, I was inspired by their “just shut up, go out, and throw down” attitude. I believe that when people blindly follow what is in their hearts for the right reasons, good things happen. I hope Bill and Lori keep at it and try to break the 16# class record of 8.02 lbs. Just because she’s a woman has no bearing on her chances, but it’s her intent and passion that can guide her into the types of opportunities to catch that one special fish, and I truly hope that she does.

As I develop as a fly angler, the more I become an information junkie, scouring the internet, reading blogs and forums for information. In many instances it’s a lot of the same, “hey check me out holding this fish”, which is a great aspect of keeping the stoke alive, but for me has become redundantly redundant. Then I read the story about the guys who explored that un-fished atoll out in the middle of nowhere, without the slightest idea of what they will find, or how to actually get there, is where I feel the future of the sport may reside. I’m not saying it’s about the physical aspect of going on these trips, trying new tactics, or pioneering new equipment, but more importantly, the journey we all take in our hearts and in our minds that pushes us to close our eyes, throw our hearts over the fence, and actually get ourselves to do what we want to, regardless of what we “feel” others may think of us. Let’s face it, the fly fishing industry is slowly dying and probably not for the reasons that most people think.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analytics the Outdoor Recreation and Sports category has never been better, tipping out at $646 billion in 2012. As this industry booms the sheer inertia pulls with it all the peripheral vendors, all the equipment makers, services providers, etc….yet the Fly Fishing category steadily declines….why?! This may be “the” question of our industry, but as we all pontificate in idle mode, a quiet consolidation begins. Soon there may be fewer rod makers, fewer shop owners, and a general discord within the fly community could begin….are we there now?

As we all go forward, pursuing our angling passions, is it really up to all of us to collectively question the status quo in order to help evolve our industry? Who’s to say that “we all must” participate in finding solutions….believe me I’m not trying to. However, what I want to believe is that the spirit of adventure, exploration, and the unfiltered desire to continually innovate resides in most of us, and that it would be prudent to responsibly cultivate and nurture that side of ourselves to further our sport. So if any of you have some crazy idea for a trip, outlandishly obnoxious fly, 2000 grain line, or whatever nut job idea that swims in the back of your head, I truly hope that you just go out and do it for a change, and not to worry about what you “think” the pundits would say. Maybe the answer for fly fishing really doesn’t live in the industry, but within each and every one of us acting without the fear of criticism that “inspires” fly fishing to change for the better instead of the other way around.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a few pictures that represent the inspiration for me to keep on keepin’ on despite the obstacles, the haters, and the general fear of what we do not know….life on the ragged, bleeding edge.

Tight Loops & Tight Lines – Keith M.

01 by CalicoSyndicate, on Flickr

02 by CalicoSyndicate, on Flickr

03 by CalicoSyndicate, on Flickr

04 by CalicoSyndicate, on Flickr

04.1 by CalicoSyndicate, on Flickr

05 by CalicoSyndicate, on Flickr

06 by CalicoSyndicate, on Flickr

TheCalicoSyndicate by CalicoSyndicate, on Flickr
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[*] posted on 3/4/13 at 12:19 Reply With Quote

Well said, Keith. Well said indeed.

Life is good. Eternal life is better!

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[*] posted on 3/4/13 at 13:20 Reply With Quote


The worst thing you can do is be safe and boring. Some of us are watching, enjoying, and getting a kick out of all your trials and tribulations. All I see is success. Keep on the bleeding edge. Keep on keeping on.

Thanks for the ride - Kevin
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[*] posted on 3/4/13 at 20:29 Reply With Quote

Great BW pic of you and Joe. He started me fly fishing, something I will never forget.

Craig McLaughlin
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[*] posted on 3/4/13 at 22:11 Reply With Quote

Spot on Keith! Sometimes we get too close to see our sport (and the very essence of our lives, for that matter!) to see the proverbial "forest for the trees;" you've absolutely hit the nail on the head! :)

Kim Z.
p.s.- what a great shot of you and Joe
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[*] posted on 4/4/13 at 11:55 Reply With Quote

Great inspiration, makes me want to invest in more gas cans and head for the Cortez bank in search of the elusive fly caught Pacific BFT. But it's not the season yet.

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[*] posted on 11/4/13 at 10:33 Reply With Quote

You are a blessed man!
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