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 FlyAnglersOnLine.com
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
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 far too
seriously and producing dull, wooden themes. Agonizing far
too long over this, I finally decided that insanity is the
best policy and sent the following:
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:
Brad Pitt shadow casting from "A River Runs Through It"
Dave Micus casting in the crashing surf. kidding, dude.
"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"
We were given, as they say in the biz, the greenlight. ~ Dave
To be continued...
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.