Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

January 17th, 2005

S.A.D.
By Dave Micus

I suffer from extreme Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). When the striped bass season ends, I am extremely affected and disordered. "Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off-then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can," observed Ishamel. And fish for striped bass, I would add.

Unfortunately, it will be four long months before I feel the tug of a linesider on the 9 weight, and there's not much I can do about that short of driving to the Chesapeake. I try to fill the void with other interests, like skiing (for you Florida guys, skiing is attaching two long planks to your feet and sliding down snow covered mountains. Mountains are these big mounds of dirt and rocks and trees, and snow is this cold white slippery stuff that falls from the New England sky in the winter). But my psyche is such that, rather than enjoy skiing, I see it as an apt metaphor for my life-going downhill fast. And this morning I awoke to a foot of snow on the ground, and the salt-water estuary in front of my house frozen solid. I half expect to see a polar bear lumbering among the floes. It is during what F. Scott Fitzgerald called the "real dark night of the soul" that you turn to that which comforts you most. No, not family, nor faith, nor friends, but fly fishing catalogs.

Having once been a subscriber to fishing magazines, I'm on every sportsman's mailing list imaginable, to the point of getting a signed photo of George Bush, along with a letter asking for my support even though I grew up in Chicago and am descended from a long line of Democratic ward heelers and union organizers. But along with the dire warnings from the NRA about my waning Right to Bear Arms, I receive a significant number of fly-fishing catalogs.

I mentally divide the catalogs into different categories according to their use. For the longest time my favorite was the Redington Tackle Company, not for the equipment, though it is fine, but because it featured a friend of mine in fishing poses that only a non-fishing photographer could have conceived. One full-paged photo was so silly that I had it framed and presented it as the prize for the most unusual catch in the gag fishing tournament I host every year. The awarding of this prize would always earn me a good-natured cussing out from both the recipient and the subject of the photo, but since Redington has been absorbed by Sage this particular image is, regrettably, no longer used.

There are those catalogs from which I actually purchase something, such as Orvis. Within its covers, amongst the pages filled with beautiful fishing photos, you can find everything a fly fisher could possibly want. The copy writing leaves something to be desired, with too many items described as 'adding twenty feet to your cast' (we joke that purchasing any two such items will allow you to cast forty feet without lifting the rod), and in one recent spread a rod was described as excellent for 'multi-tasking,' a sell-out to the MBA Wall Street crowd. But the quality of the equipment is undeniable, and I can sit for hours staring at the beautiful glossy photos, imagining the purchase of a high-end rod to use at one of the exotic locales featured in the booklet.

The L.L. Bean fly fishing catalog ranks right alongside Orvis. I own a number of Bean rods and reels and the quality is undeniable and backed by the best guarantee in the business, yet for some reason Bean always ends up playing Salieri to Orvis' Mozart. But the catalog provides a welcome respite on a cold winter night, and I will sit in front of the woodstove, thumbing through its pages and always manage to find something I need (well, probably want is more accurate, but why quibble?)

There are also catalogs that, while I don't buy from, I'll use as a reference. The Umpqua Feather Merchants catalog features pages of glossy photos of beautiful flies, and though recipes aren't included, you can usually discern the dressing from the picture. I peruse them all; Feathercrafters, Dan Bailey's, Abel, and while I'm unlikely to make a purchase, they fan the fly-fishing embers that smolder during the off-season.

The magnum opus of catalogs is the Cabela's seasonal catalog. Though more hunting than fly-fishing, it's as enjoyable as a hefty, well-written novel and provides a welcome escape in the throes of winter, and portends upcoming wilderness adventures.

"Fly fishing catalogs are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for fishing," Robert Louis Stevenson might say. But thumbing through pages of catalogs can provide a modicum of solace until I am once again chest deep in the Atlantic, casting large, colorful flies to voracious striped bass. ~ Dave

About Dave:

Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.


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