On the water

THE INTERVIEWS: LEIF MERMAGEN – STREAMWALKER NETS

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Talk to most any hunter or fisherman about what they rely on in the field or on the water and you’re inevitably going to come across a fly rod and reel, fly box, shotgun, rifle, chamois shirt, bird vest, or the offspring of a beloved and loyal gun dog that was handed down a generation or more, along with a stable of stories to accompany them.

It puts the butter in the basketThat’s how I felt when I first laid eyes on the fly fishing landing nets that Leif Mermagen crafts by hand at Streamwalker Nets here in upstate New York. Like I was looking at a piece of outdoor sporting nostalgia that had already stood the test of time, and still had generations to go.

There are only a small handful of guys around the country that are doing the small batch, custom-built, handcrafted artistry that Leif does. Guys like John Parise at Riversong Nets or Denny Carson at Bitterroot Nets. Each has his own unique style, process, materials, and attention to detail. And each has found an audience that appreciates the story and inspiration behind each net, as well as the mileage they’re going to get out of them.The boys

I know that I’ve got a pretty substantial pile of hunting and fishing gear that my kids will ultimately inherit when I’m no longer around, or simply too old to enjoy. It makes me happy to know that the two nets I have from Leif will live on with them and be as full of stories as they were full of fish.

You can read Leif’s story below.

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Streamwalker Nets

Photo credit: Denver Miller
This story first appeared in POST Magazine.

THE INTERVIEWS: PAT SMITH – WEST HOLLOW BOAT CO.

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It doesn’t matter if it’s fly rods, guitars, furniture, homes, duck decoys, or myriad other custom-built items, when it comes to crafting things with your own two hands, for those that make their living at it (or the experts that keep the fires of their passion burning in their free-time), there’s only one way to do it – as close to the old fashioned way as possible.

cedar canvas works of artFor some it’s the challenge. For some it’s honoring the process. In some instances there’s simply no better way available. But in every case, the quality, attention to detail, and unique characteristics that come with the finished product are the hallmark of the craftsmen that settle for nothing less than doing it right.

In Pat Smith’s case, as the owner of West Hollow Boat Company and maker of custom cedar-canvas and lapstrake canoes, the old-fashioned way is the only way as far as he’s concerned.

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Pat Smith

Photo credit: Grant Taylor
This story first appeared in POST Magazine.

BRECKENRIDGE

Posted by | In the woods, On the water | One Comment
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In just a short couple weeks, I’ll be heading out to Colorado for the 2015 Breckenridge Film Festival. As some of you may already know, our film – A Deliberate Life – was selected for the festival as part of their Adventure Reel (we’re in with some seriously fast company). That said, the film managed to get some fantastic coverage in the Festival’s official trailer.

Here’s to a great showing in the mountains. I’ll be sure and post pics.

HARDWOODS

Posted by | In the woods, On the water, Poetry | One Comment
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I unearthed my old grad school poet’s notebook this morning. Cracking the cover, I found a sheaf of paper that held several iterations of a poem (c. ’00) I remember sweating over for months. My handwritten revisions scrawled on the printed pages a glimpse into the mind of a young, hungry, hopelessly romantic, and obsessive poet trying to find “the thread,” as William Stafford writes impeccably about in his poem The way it is. I’m emotional here, finding these artifacts of myself, and re-discovering Mr. Stafford’s poem. So much time has passed in the last 15 years. So much life. Love. Loss. I’m amazed, heartbroken, grateful, and open-armed for today, and the rest of the days that I’m given while on this planet. I may be a little older, but thankfully I’m still hungry, just as hopelessly romantic, and (slightly) less obsessive. And I guess that’s the point. Somehow, I’ve managed to hold the thread. 

Whether or not the poem has done the same (let alone found the thread the first place) is another story. Anyhow, I thought I’d share the finished (as it were) piece with you.

I

Exhaled from routine like birth into warm water I cannot see where I’ve been. Trying to climb from here the trees reach their nimble fingers & arms & backs & roots accept me. Hold my weight & rock me as I climb. They won’t break as I won’t break. There is always energy in the tree and myself. A will to stand.

Into the tree I am absorbed & moved with the xylem & phloem & I can see with leaf-eyes & feel with bark skin & intercambial intuition & my feet are warm & moist in the summer & cool & dry in the winter.

I will stand when I climb on my father’s shoulders or my mother’s fierce love & leap for the ring of blue sky over a field of yellow wheat & valleys of wild craning sunflower necks with their collective corolla-eyed sun-mane as they face the sun until it goes down.
II

Without fail I will swing on those rings over the river that grew to swallow towns & fill harbors with driftwood & dreams & styrofoam & people who could not hold on & now float & twirl in the eddys roiling off upstream rocks to the harbor (always back to the harbor). A meromixis. Our bi-annual aqueous rotation from sediment to surface. We hold on though, for all we’re worth in spite of ourselves. 
III

Steam that rises from super-hot lava super-cools in saltwater forming islands that can only serve as places to stand or tie off our boats while we bob & glass the horizon for any signs of life & look at our broken oars with longing & angst that we weren’t better prepared & all of the focus in the world isn’t making me feel as though I’ll sustain the black clouds that are passing to the north of us drawing cloud buckets of ocean to distill & carry & deposit on parched, thirsty Mid-Western ground. We’re all so miraculously connected.
IV

Through the course of a sunrise
the philosophies of a full coffee pot
& a yawning stretch make sense.
The front door starts the deer from their beds,
flagging through swale, slow bounding into
the stand of hardwoods east of the house like a list of poems I have yet to write.
Familiar & unrecognizable people mouth silent words
& then disappear into a lingering sense
that something important happened while I slept.