Wednesday, January 27, 2016

pavo real suburbano

Sam Demarco. If I had a little brother, I would want him to be him.

Sam picked me up in Miami for the drive to the Keys. Somewhere along the way he mentioned we might have time to look for some peacock bass on the way back to the airport. I was intrigued.

The next four days were a blur of boat ramps, thousands of casts, Cuban sandwiches and Budweiser at various temperatures. Based out of Joe and Lindsay Babino’s house on Grassy Key we had fished long and hard. Tom’s Harbor, Summerland, Ramrod, Colony Key, Cudjoe, Key West; we covered a lot of water. We dealt with the wind and a cold front as best we could. The fishing, or rather the catching, had not been what we had hoped for but as there should be when three friends set out for adventure with no specific plan, there had been some cluster-f moments that became epic memories.

The morning of my return to Boston the wind continued to blow. We opted for a casual breakfast followed by a ceremonial beer (or two) and a bucket of bait at Robbie’s. Joe had been given some Miami peacock intel by Alex Woodsum. We plugged the numbers into Sam’s GPS, said good-bye to Joe and headed north.

We had two hours. It was odd gearing up in a shopping mall parking lot and dodging traffic to get to the water. But there it was. At first glance I was not optimistic. Sam and I walked the edge of the canal for a while just blind casting. Finally we just stopped and watched the water. We both found some peacocks hanging around what structure there was on the bank. They were so close we were basically jigging flies in front of their faces. They showed just enough interest to keep us interested.

And then I saw an orange torpedo moving slowly down the canal. Sam told me it was a goldfish. I had never seen a goldfish that big. Neither one of us knew if it would take a fly. It didn’t matter. Dogs chase cars. And their own tails. I wanted it.

While I chased that goldfish back and forth, Sam stayed on a pair of peacocks who were either bedding or lying up. They only moved enough to keep Sam’s attention. For well over a half hour Sam kept at those two fish. Giving up on the goldfish, I watched him there on his knees literally staring those two peacocks in the face. Persistence paid off. He finally got one to eat one of my nasty orange striper flies.

And then I was back on an airplane. Looking out the window at the day’s last light falling over Miami I wondered if Sam had gone back to that canal, if he was there at that moment stalking more peacocks.

I hoped he was.

From the library
27 January 2016

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Home Shop

I’m sitting at the vise. It’s after midnight. If I could sleep I’d be awake anyway because of the thunder rolling above the river. Lightning flashes outside the window and the phone rings. 

I look at the number and answer, “What’s up, dude?”

“I’m at the shop. What do you think about…?”

The late night calls are more frequent than daytime calls. Like most small business owners, Scott Wessels never stops working. Even in his downtime he’s thinking of ways to make his shop better, not just for business purposes, but for his customers and ultimately, the sport of fly fishing. I could write page after page about the man. But it’s not his style so I won’t. I’ll just move on by saying that Scott is the most genuine, solid guy I know inside and outside of the fly fishing industry. 

Scott Wessels
Photo courtesy of Bears Den Fly Fishing Co (Capt. Joe Leclair)
Scott started the Bears Den Fly Fishing Company in 1989. He was a kid with an idea and innate street savvy business sense. In the years since he has built the Bears Den into one of the leading shops not just in the northeast, but known throughout the US and abroad. And I have to mention that his sister Sarah has played a large part in making the shop what it is.

I started going to the shop in 1999. The first time I walked down those stairs at the old shop on Summer St. I was overwhelmed when I opened the door. There was more gear and fly tying materials crammed into that basement than I knew existed. Over the years I’ve been to most fly shops in the northeast. I have yet to find one with as much inventory and product knowledge to go along with it.
Photo courtesy of Bears Den Fly Fishing Co.
A few years ago when Scott moved the shop to the current building I found out just how much stuff was in that basement. Jeff Iadonisi, Seth Nickerson and I helped move everything across town. We started on a Friday night at 6:00. After several trips with three trucks and trailers we stopped just before daybreak to get a few hours of sleep. The new shop was filling up quickly. Walking back into the old shop it looked like we hadn’t moved anything. Eventually we got it all out but I can tell you that if the Bears Den doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you probably don’t need it. But ask anyway because Scott and Sarah will find it for you.
Photo courtesy of Bears Den Fly Fishing Co.
February 20th, 2016 will mark the 18th Bears Den Expo. The Expo is free to the public and brings together manufacturer’s, guides, local and well known fly tiers and fly fishing celebrities in a low key, intimate environment. Attendees can watch a local fly tier spin a fly for their own water, turn around and bump into someone like Dave Skok or Bob Popovics and then have a quiet conversation with Lefty Kreh in the corner of the room. Personally, I like rooting through Jamie Boyle’s cooler for smoked bonito.

I’ve been with Scott while he plans the Expo. He agonizes over it for months because he wants to put on a great show for the benefit of his customers. It’s not for the vendors or the celebrity guest’s, it’s a thank you to the shop’s customers for their loyalty and support. Mark February 20th on your calendar and check back here for updates.

In the meantime, Scott will be at the Marlboro and Somerset Fly Fishing Shows with a scaled down version of the Bears Den Road Show.

Without appearing too mawkish (I’m a farm kid, I had to look it up), I’ll end by saying that the support, friendship and knowledge I’ve been given by the crew at the Bears Den over the years has helped me do what I do, not just at the vise but out in the backwater. I know it’s the same for a lot of other people in fly fishing. The Bears Den is not just my home shop it is part of my life and truly part of my home.

North River, MA
13 January 2016