Catch More Fish By Listening To Vinyl

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Is there a link between vinyl records and fly fishing?

I’m prepared to make a completely unreasonable argument. Whether or not you agree with it, it might actually help you catch more fish. If not, it will absolutely make for a better music listening experience. What have you got to loose?

I became aware of this obtuse connection on my first steelhead trip to Oregon to fish with my buddy Jeff Hickman. We spent the cold snowy evening tying flies, drinking Irish Whisky and spinning old vinyl LPs. The sizzling, popping sound of The Doors became the soundtrack for my first steelhead on a swung fly. To this day music and steelhead are inextricably linked.

Music has always been an important part of my life. I wore through the grooves of a hundred records when I was a teenager. I still remember seeing my first CD player and its shiny silver disks. In the mid 80s, when CDs were unavoidable and vinyl hard to come by, my faithful Bang and Olfson 4002 turntable, bought with paper route money, went into a box.

Fortunately, I never lost track of it and, twenty-five years later, after that trip to Oregon I pulled it out. I’d forgotten how good vinyl sounds. How warm and organic. What’s more, I’d forgotten that listening to music was a ritual. It was a production, something you set aside time to do. You couldn’t just put on a playlist and go about your day. There were buttons to push and records to be flipped. Music demanded your attention and that made you appreciate it.

Cahill's Horney Cadis

Cahill’s Horney Cadis

The last week or two I’ve been tying woven nymphs. If you’re not familiar with the technique, it involves weaving intricate, two-toned bodies from colorful embroidery thread. It’s tedious and time consuming and in the end the patterns are not necessarily more effective than much simpler patterns, but creating them and fishing them is a real joy. When you tie on a carefully woven nymph you fish in different way, or at least I do. It’s as though the time and care that’s put into each fly culminates in a more mindful fishing experience. Each cast becomes a special occasion.

During these tying sessions I’ve been listening to vinyl records. Brian Jones era Rolling Stones, mostly. I’ve worked it out to where each fly takes about an album side. At that rate I’m not exactly stuffing the box but that’s not the point. I put on side two of “More Hot Rocks” and start tapering the body to “Out Of Time” and I’m whip finishing somewhere toward the end of “We Love You.”  I’ve crafted a beautiful trout magnet and witnessed an important evolutionary period in The Stones music. Absolute perfection.

I got into fly fishing very young. I don’t think my path was at all typical. I was never a good gear angler and I’m still not. I was an outsider and fly fishing was an outsider’s game. I’m self-aware enough to know that I was drawn to it because I like doing things the hard way, even when I’m not very good at doing it the easy way yet. I got one casting lesson from my grandfather and everything else I learned up to about age 40, I learned on my own. I don’t recommend the method, that’s just how I did it.

I do think most fly anglers do have a few things in common. We like to do things the hard way. We enjoy the process and the challenge and we are comfortable being outsiders. Our interest in doing things a particular way generally outweighs our interest in catching fish. It’s a contradiction we all practice and seldom understand.

The division between fly and gear anglers was highlighted for me at this year’s IFTD / ICAST show. On the way to register for the show, Charlie Murphy and I shared an Uber car with a super nice Midwestern guy who runs a website devoted to walleye fishing. Once at the show, we ran into Dave Grossman, from SCOF, and a couple of other friends. Before he knew it our walleye friend was caught up in fly fishing version of “Fear and Loathing.” By the time we made it back to the hotel he was like a small town boy who ran off to follow The Dead.

My point is this. We fly anglers are a lot like devotees of vinyl. Whether we are drawn to it by tradition or the drive to innovate and be different, we are dedicated to the process, more interested in the experience than the outcome and, solidly, on the outside. We should own it. The things that make us different are the things that make us stronger anglers.

It’s our slightly askew outlook on fishing that makes us creative, passionate and dedicated to bettering ourselves. David Bowie once said that he looked for the flaws in his music and turned them into strengths. That’s exactly what I think fly anglers do. We use the challenge that comes with fly fishing to make ourselves better anglers. So if you don’t have a turntable, get yourself one and embrace the process. I’ll be shooting a video soon on weaving nymphs. You get to work finding some old Stones LPs.

Released as the B side of the “Dandelion” single, “We Love You” is one of my favorite Stones songs from this period. It was recorded as a response to Keith Richards’ incarceration for drug offenses. Enjoy!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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8 thoughts on “Catch More Fish By Listening To Vinyl

  1. good post Louis.
    I laughed a bit internally, was tying yesterday with Bach’s Mass in B minor blaring through the house. not vinyl, but an excellent recording. Whichever music one fancies, there are few things that are more complete than using your five senses while tying a fly. That is, of course, assuming you are drinking something tasty 😉


  2. Tying season is quickly approaching here in Northern Minnesota.

    Nothing better than waking up to a crisp -50F morning, getting a fire going in the tying shack stove and making a day of it.

  3. Jeeze, well with a Soundsmith Cartridge you’re clearly going to be in good shape for listening… did that come stock on your B&O??

    Those guys fixed my Tandberg a few years back… they make amazing cartridges that I could never afford, hope you got it in 1980’s dollars? 😉

  4. You and I must think alike. I have sat down and done some tying to the Rolling Stones myself. Although, Gimme Shelter is my favorite Stones song.

    And does anyone tie without a cold, refreshing beverage?

  5. This is a really cool post. I’ve been a casual gear angler since I was a kid, but once I tried fly fishing and fly tying, I was addicted almost instantly.

    You hit the nail on the head: “We enjoy the process and the challenge and we are comfortable being outsiders. Our interest in doing things a particular way generally outweighs our interest in catching fish.”

    This blog is great. Thanks for doing it.

  6. Pingback: Catch More Fish by Listening to Vinyl | MidCurrent

  7. Louis, muy buen artículo !!! La música es parte fundamental en la vida de la gente, o por lo menos debería serlo. Ahora en este momento escucho a Piazzolla, Eliane Elías, Ahmad Jamal etc. Buena pesca y mejor 2021 !! Cordialmente desde la Patagonia Norte Argentina, Alejandro

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