The Offbeat Angler
Hardbound : 160 pp.
Flat Hammock Press $18.95
Could it be that our attitudes of what constitutes proper fly fishing are just that--attitudes? Precious little theories and myths we accumulate as we look for validation in the mouth of a fish? You might begin to believe so after snooping around in the Brown Water Boys' collection of offbeat fly fishing adventures over the kind of water you and I pass up on the way to the destinations we see praised on the glossy covers of the usual fly mags.
The Brown Water Boys is the nome de plume of Christopher Arelt and Sabastian O'Kelly, a couple of flyfishers bent on discovering what lies under the film of everything from ditches, rock quarries and urban train trestle water, to spillways and nuclear power plant effluents. Apparently, some very fine fish indeed can be found in these familiar currents. After all, a fish doesn't pay attention to what books and magazine stands say it ought to swim in. And the Brown Water Boys know this well.
After reading their chapters, it becomes clear they also know that it takes more than some courage and valor and an offbeat attitude to fish off the beaten dirt and asphalt paths. Your powers of imagination and observations have to be strong. This rule doesn't change, whether fishing for brook trout in Patagonia or small mouth bass behind Wal-Mart. I get the impression that the Brown Water Boys would do as well in distant creeks and ponds in South America, New Zealand or Alaska as they do in their familiar home ponds, spillways and ditches--and with their strong fish sense, probably do better than the usual vacationers to distant waters.
I'm reminded of other offbeat anglers in the history of our sport--Skues, LaBranche, Gierach--and all those who learned to trust their own flyfishing muse. And, if they can write and entertain as well as the Brown Water Boys, they often acquire a following. Not that the Brown Water Boys want lots of people following them to their favorite back water haunts. Instead, I suspect they wish for us to find our own special waters, and to not let ourselves become too conditioned by books and shop people into thinking what constitutes proper fishing. In turn, when you find your own waters and fish them on your own terms and not by anyone else's, you are placing yourself in the best position to learn about fish. Otherwise, you run the risk of fishing as other people fish and talking like other people talk, and Lord knows, we have too much of that.
For myself, looking at a map of an upcoming fishing trip, I see a water treatment plant, and my imagination gives me pause. Could it be worth wetting a line? Why not? Hopefully, in the spirit of the Offbeat Angler, it won't be too easy either. Maybe some barb wire, a thin animal trail, a little danger, a homespun crawdad or caddis pattern. And a fish.
--Toney J. Sisk
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